Tracking your MLM finances

We’ve put together this Excel spreadsheet for anyone in an MLM, who would like some help in tracking their business money. If you are really committed to giving it a try, we hope you will track your finances properly, as any professional business owner would.

Your profit, or income, is calculated by adding up all your revenue (money you get from sales to end customers), and subtracting your expenses (money you spend on anything for the business, from the sign-up fee, wholesale products, and printing business cards, to postage, food for parties and the petrol/gas for travel).

This spreadsheet does not calculate anything to with tax. It’s just to give you a general idea of how your business is going.

Keep an eye on that Income column. If it’s constantly showing negative amounts, be alert – you’re losing money. Look at trends, and adjust your expenditure as needs be. Hopefully you will be able to stay in the black!

Click on the download link below!

Photo by NORTHFOLK on Unsplash


My Arbonne Tale

Thank you to Trish for sharing her experience of being a senior distributor in Arbonne:

My journey with network marketing (multi-level marketing) started in 2016. The company I signed up to, Arbonne, was launching in my country. It was ‘ground floor’ and they assured me I would go straight to the top!

It sounded too good to be true, but I’d met a mum through an online mums’ group on Facebook, and her Facebook feed looked pretty real deal. She went to lots of parties, drove a white Mercedes Benz, and at only 26 yrs old she was coaching people to live the life they deserved—and this is what got me most. I am driven to help people and genuinely believe people deserve to live the life they deserve.

She had me hooked. I believed I could do it and I had just had my second baby, so I would never ever have to return to work, ever. So I jumped in, I sold my car to raise funds, and spent $2,300 on product to start my business.

Before we officially launched I spent a couple of months going through my 100 people list and offering them this ‘life changing, ground floor opportunity, and on launch day I had a couple of girls signing up with me. I was on my way to the top!

But the moment I signed up, I felt depressed and I cried, and I had this thought of ‘What the f*** have I just done?’ But that was ‘the fear talking’, you see, rather than listening to my intuition.

My upline immediately said ‘Right, let’s get you up and running by the end of the day!’ And I again thought ‘How the f*** am I supposed to do that?’ More tears—but I ignored them, put my big girl pants on, and went at it like a bull at a gate.

Within seven days I had reached the first level of management, and by the end of my first month I was in qualification for the second level of management.

Then month two—yup, just month two, I started wondering who I was going to ask to get more Pamper Parties booked, and who else could I offer the business to? ‘Just keep asking’ my upline told me, ask everyone. You liked a girl’s service at the coffee shop? Offer her a life changing business opportunity (forget that this makes you feel sick—suck it up and do it anyway). The girl at the bookstore likes make up—ask her if she would like to borrow a bag of full-sized products (that you spent hundreds of dollars on and are praying all gets returned), in the hope she will become a client and place a big order.

It was relentless. I started this online health and wellness business for more time and money, but it took over my life, constantly trying to make sales, build my team, motivate/coach/mentor my team, and be on all the coaching calls.

As I mentioned earlier, I had a young baby, and with a young baby comes a lack of sleep. My first experience of being told off/emotionally blackmailed was when I was relatively new. I messaged my upline to let her know I wouldn’t be on the coaching call that night (with time differences, calls were at late at night in my country) because I was tired and needed sleep. Her response was ‘Oh I’m sorry, do you want to fail?’ Of course, she was right, I would fail by not getting on the call, I’d better not worry about the sleep I really need.

Monkey see, monkey do—and I started talking to my team the same way. It was awful. There was a lot of training, most of it free team training, but some training cost a lot of money. Money my family didn’t have. What I was earning helped my family be able to pay bills, although it wasn’t enough to put money aside. But if I didn’t get to these trainings, I would fail.

That’s when the debt spiral started. I asked the bank to loan me money, and they did. I had to get to this training in another country. I got there. I asked my dad to fund the trip, sold my beloved wedding dress (something I never wanted to do, as I have daughters), and sold all my beautiful eyeshadow palettes (who needed them anyway—they weren’t Arbonne, cruelty free, vegan, or free of nasty chemicals—but I loved them all the same). Then I lied to one of my best friends and I missed her engagement party. It (rightly) took her two years to talk to me again after that. I also spent approx $3,000 (that we didn’t have) on all this extra mindset training that I needed so that I wouldn’t fail.

We were always told ‘You’re only a failure if you quit’. When you hear it enough, you truly begin to believe it. We heard it when we chatted to our uplines.When we saw our team members start dropping off, we’d say ‘I always knew they’d quit’ ‘I knew they weren’t cut it for it’ ‘She was a bit weird anyway’ and so on. When friends and family started turning their backs on us, well, we didn’t need them anyway, we didn’t need their negativity in our lives. It just blows my mind that we would so flippantly be told not to worry about those people who had been in our lives forever.

Things started going downhill for me when I worked my ass off helping one of my team to elevate to the same level as me in her business. It was crazy busy for both her and me. It was exciting seeing her succeed, but it was exhausting—we had to hound everyone for sales! She was then no longer in my direct business, it meant I basically had to start again, from the bottom and rebuild an entire new team.

Now there is nothing wrong with hard work, but for that time and financial freedom that we are promised we can have if we just keep going—that comes at a price. You need to constantly (I am talking multiple times daily) offer the business, share the product, build your team, clientele. This takes a lot of time. I was away from my family a lot, I was checked out from my little girls because I had this big team that needed me and now I had to start all over. I would tell myself I could do it, that I wanted to do it—but the truth is l, I didn’t, and if you don’t constantly do it, your business goes backward … fast. But all the personal development we were encouraged to do was starting to pay off. The fog was starting to lift.

That’s one cool thing I found about network marketing: I was encouraged to grow myself, and I think this was really powerful and beneficial for me. Unfortunately for my uplines, it meant my mind grew clearer. I got tired of growing myself so that I could attract better people into my business, so that I was strong enough to deal with all the hate thrown at my MLM businesses. I started loving growing myself for me. There were people I looked up to in the business like they were celebrities—but they weren’t. They were just really good at selling things and that’s OK, but it was then that I decided that it wasn’t for me.

Of all the amazing women I met and connected with in my time in Arbonne, 90% of them no longer talk to me. I thought they were my friends, but they weren’t. I have however met two amazing women who have become a special part of my life and I’m grateful for that, but finally turning my back on the business was one hell of a mental rollercoaster. It took months to actually decide I was done. Our third baby was on the way, and we could have done with the income, but I had lost all my belief and passion. I watched women throwing thousands of dollars at starting their businesses. I no longer felt excited for them, I felt sorry for them but, boy did it screw with my mind. I left what felt like an emotionally abusive relationship. My self worth was so low, I felt like such a failure and I still have $5,000 debt that I have no idea how I’ll pay back—but I knew I was doing the right thing in getting out.

On the whole, I don’t regret giving MLMs a go. It taught me some really valuable skills, and it really showed me how much I genuinely love to help other people. I still use a few of the products because I enjoy them, but for the most part, they’re just too expensive. Do I believe network marketing can sometimes work, for a small minority—and you need to be unwaveringly ruthless to succeed. A lot of money can be made, if you get in early, like I did, but it comes with huge sacrifices. I don’t believe you can achieve time freedom, because the higher you move up the ladder, the greater your responsibility and the risk. You might have greater financial freedom, but you are always on. This is what I have seen and experienced.

As you’ve probably heard a thousand times, it’s not for everybody, but is it for anybody—however, I’d never encourage someone to join an MLM business to earn money, as they’ll most likely just end up another one of the ‘failures’, in a lot of debt, with damaged relationships. It seems so appealing to earn money from your couch, in your PJs while sipping wine but, like most things, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The Anti-MLM Coalition: We at the Coalition really appreciate Trish sharing her story, however we don’t think MLM represents the best vehicle to help others. As Trish mentions, there is a need to be utterly ruthless in the way you sell the products and in order to recruit others. To be successful in MLM, you cannot also be truly benevolent to your downline or totally honest with your customers. If you really want to empower and help others, then being part of an MLM will start to sit heavily on your conscience as you watch your recruits begin to struggle, unable to sell overpriced products, paying for expensive training, and passing on the earnings and lifestyle fiction necessary to recruit yet more people.

MLMs also like to use the ‘get in early and get rich’ line to their advantage and say that their MLM is at the beginning and has momentum and now is the time to join and be a ‘founder’ and so on. But the reality is that people only make money if they have a large downline, irrespective of when they join.

Featured image by averie woodard on Unsplash

My experience with Financial Education Services — Part 3

Here is the final article by Ariel, who was embroiled in the MLM Financial Education Services (FES).  Read Part 1 and Part 2 to get a background about this group, and hear about Ariel’s experience with them.

Looking at the Big Picture

Sometimes in life it can feel like you’re tangled in a web of lies and deception, because in business and in selling (even selling yourself at a job interview), you have to embellish some things, and those embellishments can snowball into outright deceit. It becomes very hard to untangle yourself from these webs, yet some people who have the will can do it, and sometimes it means being vulnerable and opening yourself up.  The unfortunate thing is that FES is right — this information about finances and dealing with money isn’t taught in school, but coaxing people into an MLM is not the appropriate response for it. I’m sure that my upline had some good intentions when he recruited me — he really wanted to help me out with my life. Yet he didn’t see the fatal flaws of an MLM where the chain can’t last forever, and the market will eventually be saturated no matter what, and you’ll just end up with people who owe money.

I like being authentic and expressing myself, and it just seemed like with this MLM, I was doing the opposite of that and it was making me sick. When I was in my upline Stanley’s car, I had a conversation with him about how university doesn’t really give you any guidance in life, and he also talked about how he ended up broke because he didn’t really have that much help in his life either. We spoke about how the education system is messed up and needs reform. I don’t think that anyone wakes up in the morning as a psychopath thinking how they can make a person’s life miserable — they just don’t see flaws in predatory viral systems like MLMs.

Whose fault is this? Well, there is plenty of blame to go around. I wanted to join because I really thought that this was going to help people. I honestly thought that after I joined, I would be changing people’s lives for the better. The people who were customers and agents would have no problem having a better credit score, and making some money.

Another thing that you can’t do is blame some of the people in these MLMs, thinking that they are just terrible people, because things aren’t black and white. I have an Associate of Arts (AA) degree, I have a Bachelor of Arts (BA), and I have six months’ vocational experience in 3D printing. I was giving it my all to find a job that I was going to be passionate about. In these hard economic times, it felt impossible, even with all my experience and education, to find people who were going to give me a chance to do something. I was very frustrated that someone can go through so much and gain skills and try so hard, and just be left out of a career because they are looking for experience, and no-one is willing to provide any. The solution can come by actually being a community and caring about what people are going through. Not shutting people off and leaving them on the sidelines — because that’s when a predatory MLM can come and pick them up, making them think they found salvation, but all that is happening is they are slowly losing their money and sanity.

Speaking of losing money and sanity, I’d like to say that the MLM is like a leech — while sucking your life blood, it also numbs you. First they do love bombing (numbness), then they co-opt your time and your money (leeching). It’s like a black hole. It sucks you in and then you want to suck other people in. The thing is that money makes people emotional — think about how hard people work for money, and when they lose it in gambling, they want to gamble more and more until they get it back. That’s the way I kept feeling. When you’re in a black hole there is something called an event horizon and usually something that goes past the event horizon can’t come out. It takes tons of energy to get past that event horizon. So now I hope you understand when you look at the big picture, there are reasons why people join these things and they may be righteous reasons but, in the end, there is too much lying, bullying, and manipulation.

The Good the Bad and The Ugly

The good news is there are communities like this to fight back against this MLM cancer that has been growing in our society. Even better than that is that you can personally fight back. I felt like I was duped, so I put a complaint on the BBB website. At first it didn’t go through, since it was seen as an employee and employer dispute. Then I went another route, and complained about how I thought I was duped, because I was told that my credit karma score wasn’t my real score, and I really didn’t need the FES services.

That complaint went through, and I was refunded all my money, so that really brightened up my day to know that something can be done.


It’s also great that we can fight back against the MLM narrative that “people just didn’t work hard enough”, because that hard work is really just duping people into gambling their hard-earned money away for a chance at getting rich. Also, it’s a blessing in disguise that everyone I pitched to ended up rejecting me, because I would only further entangle them into a web of these dark emotions.

The bad news is that the experience takes more than just your money. It takes away your peace of mind, and tries to mould you into a new identity. Even my upline Stanley was talking to me about how he curses at his upline (the pushy sales director Brian who eventually got me to quit) and has these arguments with him. Stanley even told me that the events were too expensive to go to, and I should focus my energies elsewhere — so you get mixed signals and messages, and then you start getting frustrated and think you are a bad businessman. I also think that Stanley is a decent person who truly had my best interests at heart, but he didn’t know that eventually a lot of people are going to get hurt in this faulty business model, no matter how good your intentions are. So your peace of mind is messed with when you have these good intentions, and see things are constantly getting worse around you, and you have to hide it under a façade. The identity part is a bit ironic, because FES have a service where they protect your financial identity, but they want to give you another identity, that of a pushy salesman who uses deceptive and shady tactics to lure people into something.

Now the ugly part comes in because bullying and manipulation can sometimes be a part of everyday life, and you can cope with that — but what is very hard to cope is our relationships based solely on money. These people try to pull you so deep into a rabbit hole that you can’t get out. In fact, once you’ve invested, and if they’ve managed to convince you to quit a job and take days off from work, that’s when an “us vs. them”mentality will form.

When they’ve made their personal brand of MLM into a religion for you then that’s whenever somebody insults it or questions, it they’ve basically insulted and questioned your entire existence and purpose in life, so you start full on attacking that other person. What is also ugly is the veil of legality that they like to hide behind. It’s perfectly legal to go online or offline, use your freedom of speech, and tell someone that they are the dumbest, ugliest, and most ignorant idiot on the face of the planet, and that would put someone who is struggling over some edge, but that legality doesn’t make it ethical.

Even things that are legal like using your freedom of speech to say whatever you want whenever you want to has consequences social and ethical consequences,as we see when media personalities get fired for what they say — they are not arrested,though.

What is also dangerous is when people who are truly desperate, like the struggling unemployed, really want an opportunity and want to do something satisfying and get paid and an “opportunity” like this comes along where they are putting their money into a “legal” gambling machine. Our society turns a blind eye to so many injustices in my opinion because, if people in the legal, financial, and educational sectors are involved in stuff like this, then that basically gives these MLMs some kind of seal of approval. Even though you’re not aware of the tangled web of frustration, lies, and manipulation that you’re weaving for your friends, family, and acquaintances once you get involved with one of these things, because your intentions are the opposite.

Anyway it’s been a pleasure to share my ideas and experiences on MLMs. I hope it helps you. You can find me online at my blog, and on YouTube.

Cover photo by Ibrahim Boran on Unsplash

My experience with Financial Education Services — Part 2

[Red Corvette]: Here is the second in a short series of articles by Ariel, who was embroiled in the MLM Financial Education Services (FES).  Read Part 1 to get a background about this group, and hear how Ariel got involved with them.

[Ariel]: Thank you Red.

So, my sales director Brian (second upline) was trying to set up this Private Business Reception (PBR) event at his home.

I managed to get people, but they just flaked and didn’t show up. Anyway, it wasn’t going to go through, because Brian didn’t really give me a specific time for when it would happen, just a date. Then my $89 monthly fee was due, and I hadn’t even had a single person buy into anything. The sales director told me it was because I wasn’t attending the trainings that were all the way up in Glendale (23 miles / 37 km away), and I wasn’t “being serious enough with it”.

Then, to add insult to injury, he wanted me to attend an event called Millionaire Mindset, for about $200, which was coming up in November. When I told him no, he didn’t like that answer. I told him to sign someone up under me first before I attended. I didn’t want to put any more money into a gambling machine. Then I called my upline Stanley, and he wasn’t even attending, and he told me not to let Brian strong-arm me into attending it.

Well, lo and behold, that was exactly what Brian tries to do. At night I get a call from him with my upline Stanley also on the phone, and he goes gung ho into convincing me to go to the event. Brian leaves nothing off the table—he bullies, he manipulates, and lies. I try to tell him that I don’t want to because all those webinars we did bore no fruit. He gives me the spiel on how I have to have more faith yada yada.

Then I tell Brian two very logical things that he counters with bullshit. I tell him that since he’s going to be there, why doesn’t he just take really good notes or even record the event if that’s possible, so I get all the information on the strategy. He says that actually being there in person will “create the belief” — ie more cult brainwashing, and more putting my money into the MLM gambling machine. Then I ask him if he’s so eager to have me there with him at the event why doesn’t he pay for it? He gets extremely offended and threatens to cut me off (mind you I need his help for the webinars to get customers and close deals).

royal-anwar-366898-unsplashAfter a full hour of bullying and manipulating me into trying to get in my wallet to pay for the event, he gets tired. Then Stanley talks about how I have to be more professional by dressing more professionally, and how this is my business and my responsibility and nobody else’s. After that exchange I am more drained and depressed than I ever was before. I didn’t join this so called “financial education services” to be scolded, bullied, manipulated and become part of a dysfunctional family. I joined to help people who are struggling, and ironically they were making me struggle.

Before this episode, I knew a friend from a digital learning program, and he was always talking to me about ways we could find something to do to make money. We were in the program to get jobs, but after the program finished we were struggling to find work. I thought he was the perfect candidate for FES. So in the presentation I found out he had a disability and was on Social Security. Brian wanted to sign up the whole family — three people —this man, his sister, and his mom, all at the same time for $288 each ($864 in total for a family that’s struggling with bills). I thought to myself how I haven’t even achieved getting one customer, and he’s trying to coax these people into all signing up one under another. I justified it because I thought they’d easily know people in a bad financial situation who would want their credit scores fixed.

While Brian was at the event, there was a Facebook Live I could do with the regional vice president of FES, Fiona*. So I went to her Facebook Page at the particular date and time. She was talking about the Bible and I wasn’t even a Christian—I’m Jewish (these people assume a lot of things about a lot of people). None of it was actually a sales strategy, it was all hype. She was reading some verse about how a mentor will appear to the one that is most in need.

Then out of nowhere, like a cheerleader on ecstasy, Fiona told everyone to comment “Pink millionaire” in the comments below. She jumped around saying “Pink millionaire” 30 times in a row.T his isn’t training on sales — this is just insanity, and it’s not helpful at all. Not to mention how narcissistic it is but, that’s the thing with MLMs. It’s all this hype and insane behavior, and you feel that hit of dopamine and the events and trainings (even though I saw through that) then it’s back to the real world where you are shunned by most people.

In fact, before the event at the regular hotel meeting, I met Brian’s upline Dean*, who is a millionaire, and talked about how important it was to attend the event. That was the only thing on his mind because he was selling the tickets to it. He kept hammering away at the whole team about how they needed to go the event. I was thinking “If this man is a millionaire, couldn’t he pay for other people’s tickets? These people were struggling — give them some help. If the company was really about helping people out, then wouldn’t they start with people who couldn’t afford things?”

Dean also talked about how he attended the event when he hardly had any money to his name and he had to sleep on the hotel floor. In fact he said that people who didn’t attend quit within a month or so. I’m sure if I did go to the event, it would just be a hype fest with no strategies on what to do, which is what I’ve come to expect from all of this.

After Brian came back from the event, he started showing passive aggressive behavior towards me, as I hadn’t attended. I asked him what he learned at the event as an actual business strategy and not the usual warm market “friends and family pity sale” garbage I was so used to in Herbalife, and what MLMs are famous for. He gave me such a pathetic strategy (in my opinion): put a post on Facebook and tag ALL your friends in it.

I got one person who was into science interested, but he quickly put a wall up when it came to buying the program. I tried to convince him saying that there is a mayor, a bank fraud investigator, and this company goes into schools, but he still didn’t buy it. This last person was the final straw for me. On the phone, Brian thought it was a sure fire sale, and even told me after we sign him up we could sign my mom up, because she was thinking of joining to help me after I got my first sign up.

Lo and behold Mr. Millionaire Mindset was WRONG! This guy said he had some customers to attend to and left the webinar then Brian messages me, saying that guy was a joke and tells me to move on to the next person. At this point I can’t stand it anymore. I am so conflicted on what to do next. If I quit I throw about $400 of my hard earned money in the garbage, and that’s what makes it so difficult. Not to mention having to tell my upline that I’m quitting. I think to myself, “OK, they’re going to have a webinar on how to deal with real estate agents soon, so I’m going to go on that webinar to get some business strategies”. But the webinar is cancelled, and this is about the third or fourth one that’s cancelled.

That’s when I say enough is enough.

I muster up the courage. I block Brian on Facebook and on my phone. I don’t block my upline Stanley, because I think I can trust him with my feelings, but not Brian the manipulative sales director. The minute I did that, I could breathe a sigh of relief. No more manipulative sales director to worry about, no more putting myself through emotional hell, and no more having to strong-arm people. I felt so free after that.I complained to the BBB, but the problem was they said it was an employee-employer dispute, and wouldn’t handle it. That’s how these MLMs muddy the waters, by saying their customers are their employees. Well, I’m writing this to un-muddy the waters.

[Red]: Thank you Ariel. Stay tuned for Part 3, for Ariel’s thoughts on his experience.

Ariel can be found online at his blog, and on YouTube.

Photo credits: Wallet photo by rawpixel on Unsplash; Man in suit photo by Royal Anwar on Unsplash

*Names have been changed