Best Alternatives To MLM Businesses

If you are new to multi-level marketing, or MLM, you might be wondering if you should give it a shot. While there are a few legitimate MLM companies, there is a good reason why people are skeptical about joining them. If you haven’t already joined one or you have, and it didn’t work out, you might want to consider alternatives to MLM that might work better for you.

What Are Some Alternatives To MLM?

Some of the best alternatives to MLM are affiliate marketing, dropshipping, and freelancing. 

Now, before you dive into any of these, you’ll want to know more about each one to see if it’s something you want to pursue. Each one works slightly differently, and one option might be better for one person than another. However, by the end of this article, you’ll have a solid idea of what direction you want to go. Before diving into the specifics about each one of the alternatives, it’s also a good idea to have an understanding of MLM before completely tossing the concept. 

Keep reading for everything you need to know to help you on your side-hustle journey. 

What Is An MLM Business And How Does It Work?

Before deciding on alternatives to the multi-level marketing business, or MLM, it’s important first to know what an MLM is and how it works. An MLM business has a business model where the workforce is non-salaried. 

Instead, you can generate revenue in two ways:

  1. Sell products and services to earn a percentage of those sales, or a commission.
  2. Recruit other “salespeople” into the company. When you recruit a new person, they will have to purchase the product or service to become a salesperson. Thus, you make a commission on every person who joins the “workforce.”

Other words to describe multi-level marketing are network marketing, referral marketing, and pyramid selling. Click here for more information on MLMs.

Are MLMs Legit?

The answer to this is yes and no. Some are legit, but the majority of them are scams. For signs that you’re getting involved with an MLM scam, click here.  

With that said, there are very few legitimate MLM businesses. The following are the more legitimate MLM companies out there:

Alternatives To MLM - MLM Company Avon

Why Do MLMs Get A Bad Rap?

Before you decide on joining an MLM, you should know that they generally get a bad rap. Below are more details on the reasons. 

Similar To Pyramid Schemes

The reason that MLMs get a bad rap is that they are similar to pyramid schemes. A legitimate company would be making money from selling products to outside customers, and wouldn’t require its employees to be the ones to purchase the product.

However, with a pyramid scheme, the company makes its money from recruiting people. Those people end up buying the product to maintain their status as a distributor. 

Even with a legitimate MLM, most people are going to be making money from recruiting distributors and not selling the product or service.

Best Alternatives To MLM Businesses - Pyramid Scheme

The “Business” Often Becomes The “Product”

MLM businesses sell people on the idea of joining the company itself. They promote the idea that if you join, you could make a lot of money and make your financial dreams become a reality. Therefore, the business often ends up becoming the product. People buy into the idea of making money from joining the company rather than the actual product. 

As previously stated, those promoting or distributing the product are expected to buy the product. As a result, selling the product to “real buyers” becomes secondary to recruiting. 

Promotion Of Unrealistic Expectations

Another reason that MLM companies have a bad rap is that they promote unrealistic expectations. Many MLM companies use simple math to show you how easy it is to make money. The recruiter above you will tell you that if you recruit ten people and those ten people recruit another ten, you’ll be a millionaire in no time. 

The math seems simple, but 99.99% of the time, it doesn’t work out this way. And this brings me to my next point. 

Most MLM Promoters Fail

While your recruiter might make it seem easy, it’s not. As a person working in MLM, you’ll find it hard to convince people to buy into a business or product that they don’t believe in (and many don’t believe in MLMs). You’ll find that most people you approach will be skeptical. After all, why would the employees of a company need to purchase the product? Often, the product or service is overpriced and isn’t something that they’d buy on their own anyways. This makes people even less inclined to buy-in.

Pyramid scheme or not, the reality is that MLMs have a hierarchical structure. The select few at the top make an excellent living, while most people at the bottom make no money at all. Some even lose money!.

MLM Promoters

Best Alternatives To MLM Businesses

Now that you know what you need to know about MLMs, you might be hesitant to join one. Lucky for you, there are plenty of alternatives to MLMs that might be a better fit for what you are looking to do. If you want a legitimate side-hustle to make extra income, below are the top alternatives to MLMs.

Affiliate Marketing

One alternative to MLMs is affiliate marketing. Keep reading to learn how it works, what you can sell, ways to promote affiliate programs, and the various resources available to you.

Best Alternatives To MLM Businesses - Affiliate Marketing

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

Affiliate marketing is similar to multi-level marketing in that you get paid to promote a product, and you get paid a commission on any product sales. However, you do not need to buy the product yourself, nor do you need to recruit people to become an affiliate marketer. 

You’ll be generating referrals to a company’s products through product links. When people click on those links, they’ll be redirected to a landing page where they can make a purchase.  

To become an affiliate marketer, you would need to find a merchant and join their affiliate program. The merchant can be the product creator, seller, or brand.

What Can You Sell?

When it comes to what you can sell, you have many options. You can sell products, software, informational products (like courses), and more. 

For more information on the best affiliate products to sell, click here.

You can also get paid for leads to a merchant’s website. You would have to persuade the visitor to complete the desired action on the site, such as signing up for a trial of a product, subscribing to a newsletter, filling out a contact form, or downloading software.

For information on the best pay-per-lead affiliate programs, click here.

Ways To Promote Affiliate Programs

Now you might be wondering, well, if I have to promote links to generate sales, how do I do that? Fortunately, you’ve got options for this as well. 

One method you can use is creating a blog. If you create a blog around a specific niche, you can promote products centered around that niche. For example, if you have a coffee blog, you can place links in your posts to promote your favorite coffee brands. When people purchase after clicking the link, you get a percentage of those sales. 

Another way to place affiliate links is by creating a Youtube channel. Again, if you do it in a specific niche, you can promote products on your channel and put the affiliate links in the description. Many YouTubers will do product reviews and place affiliate links to the product in their descriptions. 

Another way to promote affiliate links is to build your social media channels. If you grow a following on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest, you can use these channels to place links that your following will see and possibly click. Additionally, when you grow your audience on these platforms, you can also lead people to your YouTube or blog, where you’ll have additional affiliate links they can click on. Ultimately, it all feeds into each other.


If you want to be as successful as you can as an affiliate marketer, consider using the available resources.

First, you might want to consider taking a course on the subject to maximize your chances of success and get a thorough understanding of affiliate marketing. The courses you should consider taking are as follows:

In addition to checking to see if companies that you like have an affiliate program (you can find this on their website), you can also join the popular affiliate networks below. That way, you’ll have access to various products, software, courses, and more to promote. 

Other resources you can use are:

  • Siteground: You can use this to host your blog website. They also have an affiliate program
  • WordPress: You can use this to build your website. They also have affiliate plugins you can use!
  • MailerLite You can use this to create mailing lists to send updates about blog posts, send people to landing pages, and even send out email campaigns with links embedded.


If you don’t want to do affiliate marketing, you could also try dropshipping. Read on for all of the details you need to know about dropshipping.

Best Alternatives To MLM Businesses - Dropshipping

How Does Dropshipping Work?

Dropshipping is similar to affiliate marketing in that you will need to know how to effectively market products. However, it is more brandable. What you’ll need to do is choose a supplier whose products you want to sell. Then, you list that product on your website at a price that would result in a profit. When someone purchases on your site, you buy from the supplier at the wholesale price and have it shipped directly to the customer.

You would profit the difference between the wholesale price and the retail price. Therefore, you can sell products directly from your home without ever maintaining inventory. 

Types Of Dropshipping

Concerning the types of dropshipping, you can go with reselling products from china, print on demand, or custom deals. With regards to selling products from China, you can do that using a website like Alibaba or AliExpress. On these websites, you’ll find tons of suppliers selling products for extremely cheap.

With print on demand, you would work with a supplier to customize white-label products such as t-shirts, baseball hats, and tote bags. You would create the design and sell the product(s) under your brand. The supplier would provide you with the products on a per-order basis. Some popular print-on-demand websites are Printify and Merch by Amazon.

Another option that you have is to do research on suppliers on your own and create custom deals with them. This will require doing your research on various suppliers and the quality of the products they sell. You can also negotiate on pricing. 

Ways To Promote A Dropshipping Business

When it comes to promoting your dropshipping business, you need an e-commerce store. It is essential in order to display the products, list the price, and allow people to make purchases. 

To promote your website, you can use various methods. You can market offline by posting fliers or rely on word-of-mouth marketing by starting with your friends and family. You can also use social media to promote your website. You can do this by creating a following that has access to your posts organically, or you can pay for ads.

Another option is creating a blog and having articles written around the topic of what you are selling. If you use SEO effectively, you can drive traffic to the blog articles, which will drive traffic to your website. You’ll also be able to use the articles to link to products on your website!


When it comes to resources you can use, you could consider taking a course or two on starting a successful dropshipping business. Two of the bests ones are as follows:

To make things as simple as possible, you can use Printify as your print-on-demand website to create customized products and then sell them on Shopify.  With Shopify, you can sell your products, ship them, and manage them. You don’t need to create an entire e-commerce website from scratch. You can also use Oberlo to find products from suppliers and import them into your Shopify store. Oberlo also gives you access to tools that will make your life easier, such as tracking inventory, fulfilling and tracking orders, measuring delivery performance, and more. 


Another option for you is freelancing. Keep reading for all that you need to know about getting into freelancing.

Best Alternatives To MLM Businesses - Freelancing

How Does Freelancing Work?

The concept of freelancing is simple. You get paid for services rendered. You get to choose what services you want to provide and set your rates. You can work on an hourly basis or a project basis. You’ll also get to set your hours. 

As a freelancer, you are an independent contractor. Therefore, you are not an employee. Many freelancers start as sole proprietors, but you may want to change your business entity as your business grows. 

What Types Of Freelance Work Can You Do?

There are various types of freelance work you can do, but you first want to think about the unique skill set that you provide and figure out where you can add value.

You can do both online and offline freelance work.

As for online freelance work, below are various options that you can consider:

  • Writing: You can write company blog articles, books, scripts, and more. 
  • Social Media Management: Companies will utilize your expertise in social media to manage their social media accounts. If you’ve had previous experience in this or have had success in growing and managing your own social media account, this might be your best bet. 
  • Virtual Assistant: You’ll provide support for clients by answering emails, transcribing documents, preparing statements, coordinating schedules, organizing files, and completing other administrative tasks.   
  • Transcription: As a transcriber, you’ll convert speeches or recordings into text documents. You’ll typically be working in the business, legal, or medical field. 
  • Customer Service: You can provide customer service support for companies from the comfort of your own home. 
  • Design: If you studied web design or graphic design, some companies would hire you as a freelancer. 

If you’d prefer to do freelance work offline, you have options for that as well! Below are ideas of what you can pursue:

  • Babysitting: As a babysitter, you are an independent contractor. You take on what clients you want and work hours that work best for you. If you’ve raised children or babysat in the past, this is for you. Here you’ll find the best websites and apps to list your services. 
  • Driving Gigs: Nowadays, you can make money simply by having a car. You can become a driver for ridesharing apps like Lyft and Uber, or you can deliver food for apps like DoorDash and Postmates. You have the flexibility to make your hours, and you also have the opportunity to earn tips! 
  • Handyman/woman: If you are talented at fixing things around the house, there are people that could use your services. 
  • Consulting: If you want to get into consulting, think about what expertise you have and how you can advise people. If you have experience as a financial manager, you can consult people on their finances. If you have experience in the health and fitness industry, you can consult people regarding their fitness goals. You can consult people on various things if you have expertise in a particular area or industry.
  • Cleaning/Organizing: If you enjoy cleaning, you can start a cleaning business where you do the cleaning. Again, you’ll be an independent contractor where your clients (not an employer) will pay you. 

How To Promote Your Freelance Services

Now that you have an idea of what type of freelance work you want to do, you’ll need to know how to promote your freelance services. If you are doing online freelance work, you can use websites like Upwork, Fiverr, and Peopleperhour to promote your services and apply for jobs. 

You can also create a craigslist listing to promote your services for both online and offline freelance work. A more underrated method of promoting your services is utilizing your circle of friends and family. You don’t know who you don’t know. Sometimes your friends and family know someone in their network who might be able to use your services.

You can also consider working for free to build your reputation and gain word-of-mouth referrals. This might work better in some areas of freelancing than others. For instance, with freelance writing, you can guest post on certain websites with a lot of traffic. Guest posting would require you to write content for free, but it would give your name greater visibility. You could also link to your website. That way, you’d have a higher chance of gaining future potential clients. 

Conclusions For Alternatives To MLM Businesses

Now you know about alternatives to MLM that might be better aligned for what you are trying to do. If you are someone with ambition who wants to make money and be your own boss, you’re better off doing something where you can make money either promoting an actual product or service (i.e., not merely recruiting people) or through providing a service. By doing this, you also won’t have tons of people above you like you would in an MLM business. 

While the MLM promise of making quick big bucks may be enticing, it’s unlikely to happen. Plus, it isn’t as rewarding as genuinely working for yourself, making your own hours, and making money from services and products you sincerely believe in or that you provide. 

Now, it’s time for you to start hustling!

Kevin Martin

Kevin is an ambitious entrepreneur that is obsessed with all things related to finance. From a young age, Kevin has always been involved with side hustles ranging from online selling to freelance work. Over the years, Kevin graduated from side hustles and started launching multiple online and offline businesses. Kevin is a serial entrepreneur who loves starting new businesses and exploring all things related to business and finance. He is constantly looking for new ways to save money, invest money, and create income streams.

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