3 Types Of Businesses You Can Start Instead Of Joining An MLM

Mother holding baby while looking at laptop | 3 types of businesses you can start instead of joining an MLM

If you’ve been tempted to join a multi-level marketing company (MLM), it may well be that you want to earn a bit more money, you love the idea of working for yourself, but you don’t have the startup capital for a product, service, or a really good idea that people will buy into.

MLMs seem easy, but you’ll still have to pay to join an MLM, and the startup fees can vary wildly from hundreds to thousands of dollars/pounds.

However, the facts are that MLMs are only really lucrative for those at the top of the pyramid, and most people who join lose money. If that’s not enough for you, then think about how fed up your family and friends will inevitably become after constantly being exposed to your sales pitch!

Breaking down perceived barriers to entry in business

Joining an MLM might sound appealing to people who are prepared to work hard but may not immediately have the skills or money needed to start a traditional business.

You may need to design promotional material, create packaging and branding or set up a website, and these may seem like obstacles that you can’t deal with on your own.

But the barriers to entry have been lowered even for those going it entirely on their own.

Furthermore, you’ll find that the startup fees for traditional businesses are often blown up in comparison to MLM starter kits, the cost of which is often minimised. So what kinds of businesses can you start for yourself with the equivalent of a signup fee?

We’re going to look at :

  • Different kinds of one-person businesses that have low startup overheads
  • Free or affordable courses to teach you aspects of business
  • Free or affordable creative resources to brand and market your business

Business type 1 – selling products

What kind of products can you sell, and where? How about:

  • Selling your own creations on Etsy – even digital downloads for passive income.
  • Sell the materials for others to make their own creations.
  • Reselling on eBay (even selling for others, although that veers into providing a service).

Selling products is the most straightforward thing that comes to mind when thinking about starting a business. You don’t have to buy anything in to start – just begin with your own unwanted goods.

Try this free Skillshare course on e-commerce essentials.

Business type 2 – selling services

What services can you provide? Think of things such as:

  • Training/teaching
  • Cleaning/laundry/gardening/home help
  • Cooking/baking/catering/party planning
  • Hairdressing/makeup
  • Petsitting/dog walking

The list could go on and on… there are lots of simple, everyday services that other people could use a helping hand with. It comes down to figuring out what you’re good at and would be happy to do more of.

Try this free Skillshare course on building a freelance business.

Business type 3 – referrals

Affiliate marketing

With affiliate marketing, you don’t need to have any physical products of your own. You earn commissions from companies whose products you promote – so if you write a review on your website or on social media, and someone clicks on a tracking link to a product and buys that product, you will earn a commission from that.

You’ll need a website or social media profiles to promote your affiliate links. Affiliate Window is a great company to start with, and you’ll find lots more out there as well.

Micro-influencer marketing

You don’t need to be a celebrity to make money from your social media accounts – if you have a fair-sized social media following, even if not astronomical, you can promote brands as an influencer.

Be transparent with your audience when you do promote goods and services that have been given to you, and price your promotions reasonably.

Affordable creative resources for your business


If you have a creative streak, you can design your own flyers or other marketing material on Canva.com, or download GIMP (more of a learning curve, but still powerful and free).

Creative Market is a site that allows you to browse and buy gorgeous photographs, illustrations, patterns, mockups and fonts to use in your products and branding. What’s more, every week you can download up to 6 free goods!

Powered by Creative Market

I’ve purchased fonts from Creative Market myself and used them both on this site’s images and on my other sites. It does help to create a unique brand image.

Design Cuts is similar, and when you register you’ll receive an email newsletter with a link to a free design product every Friday.

Don’t want to DIY?

Maybe you can’t design packaging or flyers, but you can find a freelancer on Fiverr to design flyers, brochures or packaging. Be sure to find prices for commercial use.

Printing flyers and business cards

You can have your business flyers, postcards and business cards printed cheaply at Vistaprint – 1000 flyers will cost you just over £25!


You definitely need a website, but you don’t need to spend more than £5 a month on your first site. In fact, you can start off for free – read this post to find out more about free domain names and websites.

A lot of the magic of effective websites lies in the visuals, so beautiful stock photography from Creative Market or RawPixel can make you look polished and professional, often for free.

Why building your own business is better than joining an MLM

With your own business, you can set your own prices, work in your own personal style, not worry about identical competitors encroaching on your market share… and you can truly be your own boss.

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