The Pros and Cons of MLMs

MLM
An MLM can be just the thing…or not.

A couple of years ago, I signed up for an MLM (multi-level marketing) program. If you don’t know what that is, let me give you some examples: Rodan & Fields, Lularoe, Juice Plus, Beachbody or (old school) Avon. Basically, it’s a business in which you sign up to be a representative, sell products for the company and receive a commission. You also recruit other people to sign up and receive some sort of bonus for that. MLM’s are sometimes called “network marketing” or “direct selling.” Some MLM’s are reputable, some are not.

I got involved in Beachbody, because I loved their workouts and products and I really liked my local team. I enjoyed the camaraderie, group exercise aspects and getting to know new people. That’s what kept me active as a coach for several years.

But then, I started to feel stressed. I felt pressured, mostly by the more centralized leadership, to sell more, recruit more people. Not only is the structure set up to encourage that with discounts and incentives, I felt the pressure on conference calls and company-wide videos. I have never been the sales type, but I stuck with it because I loved my local team so much, and I believed in the product.

It wasn’t rewarding anymore. I felt pressured to post on social media three times a day, call or message people every day; it made me crazy. I hated trying to recruit people. I know there are people out there who make it work for them, but it just wasn’t me.

I took a step back. I had gone out of my comfort zone and tried something new. I was glad I gave it a chance but had to admit it wasn’t for me. I then remembered something a friend told me once, when I approached her about becoming a Beachbody coach. She said, “I told myself I’d never do another MLM.”

It’s not that I think they’re terrible; they’re just not something I can be successful with, at least not without compromising my principles and making myself crazy. Having been approached about several others, I now can’t help but thinking it feels somewhat akin to “drinking the Kool-aid.”

I buy MLM products from several of my friends, because I want to support them and because the products are high-quality. But I can’t in good conscience get more involved, partially because I’m not really your “rah, rah, make it the best day EVER!” kind of person, and MLM leadership seems to be comprised of a lot of those people.

MLM’s can be great for some people. They allow people to be their own bosses to some extent, work out of the house, and sell quality product without high overhead.  If you do want to participate it one, be sure to do your research so you know the in’s and out’s of what you’re committing to beforehand.

For me, though, the tradeoff — having to adhere to the MLM structure in order to be successful — isn’t worth it. If you’re like me, maybe do your own thing. Take what you need, leave the rest.

 

Photo credit: Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_tashatuvango’>tashatuvango / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Working for Yourself (Esteem)

Rejected_Stamp_shutterstock_65298541_260Freelancing is hard. I got a rejection email yesterday, for a project I thought I was perfect for. I was surprised and disappointed. It caused me to question myself, my career choice, my direction, my abilities. A bit of imposter syndrome snuck in. I don’t have a degree in journalism; I don’t have an MFA; I didn’t write for the school newspaper. Maybe I’m just a hack.

It’s easy to become insecure when something you truly want and think you’re good at doesn’t work out for you, especially if you get no feedback as to why. It’s even more likely you’ll question your worth if you’re taking an unconventional path.  You read what other people in your field are doing, what official qualifications or experiences they have, and you contrast yourself against them. You don’t have what they have, and that breeds self doubt.

Of course you don’t have what they have, but if you are pursuing you passion, don’t let doubt creep into your brain. If it is your calling and you are committed, you DO have something to offer – likely something unique that springs from your own path to where you are now. There’s a reason you love this thing – photography, graphic design, real estate – and it’s probably not because you suck at it. And, if you love it, you breathe it. You read professional journals, talk to others in your field, go to seminars; you are constantly learning and growing. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a PhD in underwater basket weaving. Grab your snorkel and raffia and dive in! (unless you’re a surgeon, in which case, we all kind of want you to have gone to school)

In your quest for knowledge in your chosen field, you may…no, you will come across experts that give you six tips on how to be successful in the biz or the “one habit every successful person has.” That does not mean you have to do it that way. Read up, by all means, but not all advice applies to you. Take what you can use, leave the rest. Above all, be true to yourself. If going to every godamnned networking meeting within fifty miles of your house makes you want to vomit, don’t do it. Find another way that suits you. We all have to do things we’d rather not from time to time, in order to be successful, but we still need to be ourselves.

It takes bravery and a thick skin to freelance or run your own business. It takes the kind of person who can get knocked to the ground repeatedly and get back up and move forward again, even if it makes said person kind of feel like shit. You don’t have to have a positive attitude all the time. You don’t have to pretend that rejection doesn’t hurt or cause you to question your abilities. You just have to keep moving forward. Keep fighting the good fight and stay open to opportunity. Something good will happen, and it may or may not be what you expect.

If you’re an unconventional aspiring writer (or aspiring anything) check out Jeff Sommers blog, The Unconventional Writer.

The Balancing Act: How to Stay Focused Working at Home

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An inviting workspace can make all the difference.

I love working from home, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it comes with its own unique set of challenges. Officing out of the house, I don’t have to put up with morning rush hour or comply with workplace dress codes, like having to wear pants. But there are a lot of distractions at home, so I’ve developed a few techniques to keep me focused:

Set up a designated workspace.

We form associations with places. You want to associate your workspace with work, whether you have your own room for an office or a little nook off the kitchen. Take time to tidy and organize it; clutter is distracting. Decorate it with attractive objects — photos, artwork, plants — so it’s an inviting space. If you have a door to close when you need quiet, all the better. Similarly, it can be useful to avoid working in your bedroom, so you associate that space with sleep, not busy brain work.

Make a schedule.

Write it down, and stick to it, as if your boss were watching you. Working from home affords us greater flexibility, but allowing yourself to get distracted by washing dishes or going down the Facebook newsfeed rabbit hole isn’t conducive to getting things done. I put not just my work hours but individual tasks on my calendar, color-coded by task type (work, family, personal). That way, I can ensure I have a balance of each. Yes, it has to be flexible; unexpected things come up. But then I can rearrange my predetermined tasks for another time, without worrying I’ll forget something. I actually print my calendar page each day, so I can take notes on it and have it visible to me at all times. Avoid wandering into your office after hours to do “just one thing.” Write yourself a note for the next day, if you’re afraid you’ll forget it. Not working during off-hours is just as important as working when you’re supposed to.

Pick the right time.

I work most effectively while my children are at school (no surprise there). I delegate tasks that require the most focus to those hours. If I feel productive during the day, I can relax and enjoy my kiddos when they get home. On busier days, I save the tasks that require less focus for the time when the house is lively with the laughter and occasional fighting of children. Some people work best in the evening when the rest of their family is in bed. There is no one right time; the key is to pay attention and find your own most-productive hours.

Turn off your phone.

Texts are a constant distraction. Ever end up on a group text with 26 other people? Turn off your ringer, or leave it in another room when you really need to focus. Even if you aren’t checking it, hearing the constant buzzing and beeping shakes your concentration. This extends to the TV and any other distracting noises.

Working from home can be wonderfully flexible. You can more often work how, when and where it suits you. But, because you aren’t living by someone else’s rules, you have to be intentional and make your own. And, when your rules cease to work for you, the beauty is you can change them or throw them out altogether. Rules weren’t made to be broken, but they were made to bend and be reshaped from time to time.

 

Two Tools For Your Small Business: Simplicity and Intuition

I don’t normally make New Year’s resolutions, but this year, I made an exception. My personal goals for the year are to to focus on simplicity and listening to my intuition. This works in business life as well, and it’s not a huge leap to see how.

Simplicity

There are millions of tools available to help grow, maintain and organize your small business – CRMs, finance software, newsletter programs…It’s a long list. How do you know what will truly help you?  While there are a variety of useful tools out there, some will actually make your life harder and cost you money, because they are designed to be much more complex than what a sole proprietor needs. Simplification: does this app, feature, program, gizmo make your business life easier or harder?  Does it save time, or does it waste it? My father and I owned a consulting business for a number of years, and I was often dragging him, kicking and screaming towards new technology, but I learned something from working with him. Sometimes, the latest and greatest is not what you need; sometimes simpler is better. This is why I track my business expenses on an Excel spreadsheet instead of with QuickBooks (or whatever the kids are using these days.)

Intuition

Do you ever get a sense about a particular project – a bad feeling? Oftentimes, we ignore those feelings and jump in anyway, because we are programmed to ignore what we can’t immediately explain. Sometimes, when your gut feeling tells you not to accept that client or that you don’t have the bandwidth for a new project, you need to listen. One of the beauties of working for yourself is you can choose what and whom you work with. Exercise that right and try to get past your people-pleasing tendencies. Don’t be a “yes” person; if a client asks you to do something that’s outside of your expertise – something that deviates from the intent of your business – don’t do it simply as an effort not to disappoint them. People you want to work with will respect you for setting clear boundaries. And, you can develop a referral list. A lot of people ask me about social media marketing. I am a content writer, but I know a good social media consultant, and I refer people to her. That way, everyone wins. I don’t have to post to Facebook for people, my friend gets business, my clients gets what they need, and it comes back to me in the form of referrals she sends me for people who need content.IMG_7279

Simplicity and Intuition – they are two aspects of life that are hard to find under all of the information, advice and products we are exposed to, but if you trust your intuition and search out the simplest answers to your problems, business or otherwise, everything is a lot less daunting.

Do It Again: How to Cope With That Task You Hate

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I have never liked calling people on the phone. Save a couple of teenage years when the receiver was permanently affixed to my ear, I’ve always avoided phone conversations when possible. When texting became prevalent, I and a billion other introverts jumped for joy.

So, imagine my chagrin when I found myself in an occupation – one I love – that required an occasional phone conversation. Not only that, but (cue scary music) I HAD TO CALL PEOPLE I DIDN’T KNOW. I would put off these phone calls repeatedly for more important things…like picking lint off the carpet or lining up all the notebooks on my desk. And then, oh look, it’s really too late to be calling people now.

You may not fear the phone, but we all have business tasks we are required to do to get our jobs done – ones we’d pick a root canal or a fork in the eye over tackling, necessary though they may be. I’ve overcome my anxiety about calling people I don’t know with a few tactics that apply to any hated task:

Just Do It. Then, just do it again. The more you practice that task you hate, the more you’ll do it automatically without wasting energy on mental excuses. I have even called people by choice on occasion, just for the phone practice. The more the calls go well, the less I fear making them.

Do It First. I make calls in the morning, so I don’t have time to come up with avoidance tactics. It takes self discipline to do chores (whatever you view as a “chore”), and self discipline takes mental energy, which I have more of in the AM.

Break It Down. Divide the hated “to-do” item into smaller chunks and approach them one at a time, so it feels less overwhelming. For example, instead of calling a long list of people, I do a few at a time and take breaks to do more palatable tasks in between.

Reward Yourself. It worked on Pavlov’s dogs, and it works on humans, too. For example: “After I make all my calls, I’ll fix a second cup of coffee.” This way, your brain is focused on the reward and more motivated to get the task done.

Farm It Out. Hire someone else to do that thing you hate. Odds are, there’s someone out there who loves it as much as you revile it. Then, you can spend your hate energy drumming up more business for yourself.

You may never learn to love that thing you hate. I still don’t get giddy over calling people to solicit content for the magazine, but I don’t get hives over it, either. Once you get over that hurdle for the thing you avoid, you can spend more time and energy on the things you love. And, if that thing you hate is writing blog posts or content for your website or newsletter, well, you know who to call.

Woman & phone image: Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_bowie15′>bowie15 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>