Friday, 7 August 2020

The Basics of MLMs - The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

If there's one thing that's really nostalgic for me, it's flicking through an Avon catalogue. I remember being a kid and my mum buying her lipstick from there, picking the catalogue up from the doorstep and filling in the little form, only for it to appear a few days later. When we were older, our cleaning products always came from a similar catalogue. Then, in my teenage years; pyramid schemes fell out of favour. (and rightfully so). But, how did it happen? And what changed that lead to the rise of the multi-level marketing scheme?

Simply put - under the consumer protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, pyramid schemes were made illegal. They were considered 'unsustainable' and it was deemed that 'the only people that usually profit from a pyramid selling scheme are the ones who create them in the first place' (Monzo.com, 2019). Pyramid schemes rely on you paying an upfront fee to sign up, and thereafter convincing other people to do the same (wherein you take a cut from the sign up payment that they made). It took a few years after the new legislation, but the premise of the scheme was soon redeveloped and made popular once again as a scheme known as Multi-Level Marketing, or MLM; and trust me, you'll have been sucked in by at least a few, have DMs off at least a few representatives, and you'll likely have bought from at least one or two.

A picture of a work from home set up

Though they're often billed as a quick money making scheme, readily available income reports for most MLM companies online show the realistic numbers that often a heavy percentage of people signed up make the lowest bracket of money possible within the company. It's not just about sales though; time and time again MLMs have proven that being predatory works and, to climb to the top bracket of that money making, you need to be willing to have people you know, respect, or once met at a party in University also join this scheme.

So what separates an MLM and a Pyramid Scheme?
Short Answer;
'Even though pyramid schemes might sometimes look like an MLM business, they don't actually sell a product or service.' (Monzo.com, 2019)

Long Answer; 
You can no longer gain a specific bonus from signing up another member and adding them to your team as this is considered illegal. The focus for an MLM comes from earning money selling their available product or service. That's not to say however that you don't make money from them in other ways - you can make money from their purchasing or selling products, likely at varying levels of commission and you still also likely earn a level of commission from anyone that they then sign up, but only when they make sales and not just for purely existing as a part of the business hierarchy being created. This may, however, include when they buy a kit that is required at sign up; thus creating a hidden sign up bonus that has been disguised as something else.

Can you make a real wage from an MLM scheme?
Short Answer; 
'The vast majority of commissions paid by MLM companies go to a tiny percentage of TOPPs (top-of-the-pyramid promotors) at the expense of a revolving door of recruits, 99% of whom lose money.' (Taylor, 2011)

Long Answer;
There's a reason that even people within MLMs often call those making profit 'The 1%'. There are, of course, many ways that people can become profitable however, especially without recruiting and earning commissions from other people's sales, it's very unlikely. A very popular fragrance MLM is currently completely free to join and displays between just under £5 up to £20 (numbers may vary, however these are those found readily online) commission per product on one of their distributors websites. With the lowest average monthly income in Liverpool coming in around £1,791.66 (Salaryexplorer.com, 2020) you would need to sell around 359 of the lower commission items, or 90 of the higher commission items (or some mix of both) every single month to earn the commission needed to meet this lowest average on your sales alone. Some other popular MLMs offer a base rate of 25% commission per sale, meaning total monthly sales would have to consistently equal £7166.64 to meet this lowest average, without including the sign up or 'kit' fee needed to pay into the company to begin with. This is an example of course, many of us live on less and some commissions can be slightly higher, but it's still an alarmingly large amount of sales to need to consistently make in order to comfortable bring in a reliable salary. The fact is, even at a 50% commission, you would still need to sell £3583.32 worth of product to match the lowest average salary detailed above.

This is, of course, where hiring other people come in. If the money needed can be split across commissions made my six or seven people that you have hired, this becomes much more profitable in a much more hasty fashion. However, that relies on them also being able to sell a huge amount of product, and for them to become profitable also hire a huge team to help them do so. As stated above, unless you're close to the top of the pyramid, your earnings are likely to be minimal.

Is an MLM a viable long term option?
Short Answer;
'Over a five-year period, at least 95% typically have left the company; and usually after ten years, nearly all but those near or at the top of their respective pyramids will have dropped out.' (Taylor, 2011)

Long Answer;
95% of people participating within MLMs don't seem to think so. The very best case scenario for the average MLM distributor is that income will be variable and sporadic in a way that doesn't allow for any real financial security for the long term. In fact, at the bottom of every single contract or leaflet I have read with regards to becoming a distributor the exact same warning is printed; 'do not be mislead by claims that high earnings are easily achieved' and yet, typically, this is exactly what distributors in messages are trying to sell; the idea of an easy, remote home job, where income is readily available. Statistics seem to show that for most people, just like their pyramid scheme predecessors, MLM options continue to be unsustainable, at least over any substantial period of time.

And so you may be asking yourself; if statistics show so little people earning money, at the very least consistently and in an ongoing way, why does the MLM scheme seem more popular than ever?
In my opinion, that one's easy. With people currently furloughed, redundancies being commonplace, and more people that ever being settled and comfortable working remotely it seems obvious that people will be more likely to be won over by a pitch that promises good money, your own business (which is debatable, but we'll come back to that another time) and the option to work when you want, where you want in whatever way suits your needs. MLM schemes are now preaching to a captivated audience that need exactly what they're promising, and their (arguably intentionally) confusing materials and explanations of practises help to sweeten a deal that's already sickly sweet during the current times. Though I really do hope that anyone out there already part of, and happy within, an MLM is doing well, it seems to me personally that the facts don't lie, and for most people partaking it could be a really slippery slope to something genuinely dangerous and potentially financially damaging.

If you've ever been part of an MLM I'd love to hear your stories, good or bad, so feel free to drop me a line on twitter or instagram.

Sammy xo.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

My Top Nostalgic Disney Plus Picks

I have to admit that a huge part of getting Disney Plus for me was their newer offerings. I think Coco is one of the best films that they've ever made, I love watching the new Disney shorts when they come out, I was really excited to see the new documentaries that were created or curated for the service. However, when the whole premise is creating an archive of both old and new Disney offerings, it's hard not to come across something that reminds you of the good old days, and so I thought I'd share my top picks to watch when you'd like to be a little more nostalgic.

Recess
Possibly one of my favourite cartoons of all time. There is possibly nothing better to pass the time than weirdly shipping TJ and Spinelli, hating on Randall and wishing you were one of the Ashleys (they're just so, so, so... scandalous!) Seriously, this is every bit as good as I remember it being as a kid, it's probably the one show that I've watched so far that gives me that warm, nostalgic feeling in my stomach. They also have all of the films and spin offs, so it's good if you're looking for a long term watch when you've finished running through just about everything on Netflix and Prime.

Flubber
Is this film absolutely ridiculous? Undoubtable. Is the plot the oddest thing that's ever been proposed? It's definitely up there. Did I sit and watch it anyway this week? 100%. It's a known fact that any film with Robin Williams in is always worth a watch, however this genuinely is a great film that takes me back to my childhood. If you've never seen it before it's odd, stupid and really, really hard not to love. Just trust me on this one.


Cheaper By The Dozen
A classic, old school favourite. I'm pretty sure I remember going to see this in the cinema and it always reminds me of me and my friends doing the stupid lie detector scene to each other. Not only is it brilliant to see so many Disney film stars as children, but it's also just so fun to watch in general. Plus, when you've finished it and you're really sad at how quickly it was done? They have Cheaper By The Dozen 2 so you can keep the vibe going (at least for another hour and a half or so, and that's an hour and a half closer to the end of lockdown!)

Honey I Shrunk The Kids
This used to be my brother's favourite film (well other than Toy Soldiers, but anyone that watched that as a kid will tell you that it's genuinely horrific) and so I always remember it so fondly. I haven't actually gotten round to watching this one again lately, but it's right there at the top of my list. It's probably not nostalgic to you guys in the same way that Disney Princess films are, but it's definitely worth a revisit and I can't wait to do it.

Freaky Friday
The more I think about this film, the more I think it genuinely may be one of the best films ever made. Okay, so I'm being dramatic, but this is a comedic masterpiece. Every part of this is so well thought out to create a film that I remember all of my family constantly reordering on LoveFilm's DVD service when my brother and I were a lot younger than I am now. Plus, the soundtrack to this is lowkey really, really good.

So there's some nostalgic favourites I definitely think that you should go back and revisit, but what nostalgic favourites can you recommend to me?

Sammy xo.

Monday, 30 March 2020

How To Support Freelancers Right Now

I am one of the lucky few who worked from home even before the current lockdown and so, though I have lost a small part of my wage, overall I am in a good financial position. However, a lot of my friends are freelancers or self employed, and so I've been reaching out to them to see how we can help so I can compile a list and as many of us as possible can help as many of them as possible.

1: Share as many of their posts as possible
Now more than ever our freelance friends are sharing their work and skills on a lot of social platforms, I know it's likely not possible to share them all, but share as many as you can as you see them. You never know if one of your followers might be able to provide a little work for your friends or family, and so it's always worth the three seconds it takes to retweet.

2: Consider paying freelancers that you would regularly pay
Pay to have your hair and nails done every few weeks? Now is the time to consider paying your freelancers even if you can't be there to have the treatments done, if you can afford to. I know many people are facing financial troubles now and it's not always as easily said as done, but if you are in the financial position to, and you'd usually give the money to them anyway, consider doing it now so they'll still be there in the job they love - and ready to do your gels or roots - when all of this starts to calm down a little. Even if you can't afford the full amount, a little donation goes a long way to help people during this time.

instagram header of @rebxrat
@rebxtat - a fantastic tattoo artist and great human based in Liverpool

3: If people offer gift vouchers, buy gift vouchers
Probably going to want a tattoo in the future but can't get it now? Buy a gift voucher. Hairdresser offer gift vouchers and you're going to need your ends trimmed at the end of all of this? Buy a voucher. Where possible, if a service that you're going to use in the future offers a voucher and you can afford to do so, buy it. It's win win, you help to keep a freelancer a little further above water, and you get a little treat for yourself on the other side of this (and you deserve that).

4: Pay your fucking freelancers
We get it, times are hard right now, but pay for work that's been done. There's absolutely no excuse for it, if you had the budget and they did the work under that agreement, you owe them the money.

Twitter header of @katygilroyblog
@katygilroyblog - A content writer and social media specialist based on The Wirral

5: Need something doing and can afford a freelancer to do it?
Get them on board! Need a new blog template and got some cash spare? Need something writing?Hire a freelancer. Obviously don't go beyond your means or get pointless jobs done, but if you've been putting off a job for ages and you can afford it now? Now's the time to get them in to help. They'll appreciate the work, and you'll get that niggly job you've been putting off done!

6: Consider giving work to freelancers with no other income
I am really lucky to still have consistent work during these weird times, and yet weirdly I still get a few stray offers of paid posts etc. Where I can, I've been trying to recommend other freelancers who I know don't have this work coming in, and no steady income. I know we could all use the extra money, but I don't need it nearly as much as other people, and so definitely throw someone a bone if you're in a position to do so.

Instagram header of @benjofbagend
@benjofbagend - A brilliant photographer and filmmaker based in Liverpool

Like I said, it really all depends on your position, times are difficult for everyone, but we rely on freelancers more than we know and so if you can afford to help a freelancer? Now's the time.

Sammy xo.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Why Come Back Now?

From an admin point of view, coming back to blogging now seems like a weird choice, right? Especially given that all I've read for the last month is how blog views are down across the board. To me, though? This seemed like the obvious time to come back to blogging. As I write this it's the first morning of lockdown, things feel different and - just like when I first started Little Fickle - all I really want is a place to help, if I can - a place to speak, given everything. I feel like I should preface this by saying I am aware I am lucky right now, I have managed to keep a job that I normally work from home in anyway, I have good open spaces that are ours privately, I am within walking distance of shops that are seemingly fairly well stocked. However, in times of uncertainty like we're in now? It's okay to still feel down, or upset.

Already missing the boys.

Mainly, though? I feel completely hopeless. Not only because the wellbeing of myself and those around me still feels out of my hands despite lockdown, not even because I can't see my partner, mostly because I want to do more for people if I can and I just don't know how. So, I've decided to write. Like every other time that I've written when I felt like I couldn't or wouldn't get through something. Little Fickle has always been a home for me, and now feels like the exact right time to come home, if there ever was one. I'm going to share what I'm doing to keep my head above water, what I'm doing in order to help businesses around me and literally what I'm doing to get through lockdown every day.

I know it's been said so much that it doesn't feel like a real phrase anymore, but we really are in unprecedented times. We've never gone through something like this before, we don't know how to act in this situation, and that's okay. Do whatever helps you get through this. For me, that's writing, and so welcome back to Little Fickle.

Sammy xo.
 
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