Everyone seems to have a direct sales side hustle these days, right? Five years ago you may have had one or two friends hocking jewelry or skincare. Now you may only have one or two friends who are not selling something.
There are lots of reasons why direct sales and multi-level marketing businesses have taken off. Sellers are looking for flexible work and the opportunity to make some money on the side. Buyers are looking to save time shopping and get personalized service. And non-traditional retail channels like social media are making it easier than ever to get started.
I was part of the first wave of the resurgence of direct sales in the late 2000s. I sold a jewelry product for over 6 years and achieved a high-level status in my company. So I know a few things about the direct sales game.
And the truth is, achieving success in a direct sales business, at the core, requires a lot of hard work. Can you make money at it? Yes. But to be successful, you have to grind it out, just like you would in any independent entrepreneurial venture.
A direct sales business may seem easier when looking in from the outside, but you still have to take measured and deliberate steps in order to achieve sales and earn income.
Here is my top advice for anyone considering or already working in direct sales.
1. Define your own success
Remember that success is whatever you want it to be. Comparison is a common trap many fall into in direct sales. Effort in usually equals results out, so if you are only working it a few hours a week, then your results will reflect that.
Everyone is doing the same lather-rinse-repeat steps, but some will be doing it at a different pace than others. Stay away from comparing yourself to others in the same business and stick to your own barometer. That will help you to achieve your own level of success in the long run.
2. Understand that your friends and family will not sustain your business
Not everyone in your inner circle will support your business. And that is okay. The sooner you learn and accept this, the better off you will be. It is actually easier to sell and work with people that are not in your circle.
Starting off with friends and family is common practice and quite accepted. But your friends and family, however supportive in the beginning, will not sustain your business. If you are selling a great product that you love and believe in, you simply must get out there and find other people that do too. It’s as simple as that.
Looking back, I am a bit ashamed at how I blatantly spammed my friends with my ‘buy-my-product’ posts in the early days of social media. It did help me in the early days of my business, but then everyone else started doing it too.
3. Be realistic
Just like any start-up, inevitably there will be lots of lean months with inventory that goes unsold, mistakes made and money down the drain. And while many savvy business sellers may earn income in month 1, 2 or 3, when weighed against their expenses, many may not. Factor in kids at home, and even another job, and it can be hard to make the time to properly build a direct sales business.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t succeed. If you have joined a direct sales business, you can be successful even if you have some failures along the way. You simply need to be realistic about the work and expenses involved.
4. Make sure it’s the right fit for you
A healthy amount of enthusiasm, business savvy and self-awareness can take you very far. There are no magic answers in direct sales. Extroverts that love people and are positive in nature often tend to rise to the top. Branding yourself with your expertise and experiences will help you differentiate yourself amongst the sea of others promoting similar products.
You must keep selling, marketing and prospecting new clients even when you feel like quitting. It’s a little bit like running a marathon – a lot of the time those who end up finding success have simply outlasted others that have come and gone from the business. Be honest with yourself about your time and your limitations.
Direct sales can be an excellent side gig to help supplement your income. But don’t quit your day job yet – try it out for while, and observe others that have achieved success. Be measured about your purchases and sales, and run it like a business, not a hobby. Remember, a side hustle is still a hustle.