Is a career in direct sales actually worth it?

By Julie Provost

On January 2, 2011, I signed up to be a Scentsy Consultant selling wickless and flameless candles. I had won a warmer and bar a few months before and loved the product. I decided selling Scentsy would be a fun way to make extra money.

The minimum was to sell $150 once every three months, and I figured if nothing else, I could do at least that. Over the next year, Scentsy took off in ways I never could have imagined. 14 months after I joined, I hit Director status, which was a big promotion within the business.

I started dreaming: One day I would make more than my active duty husband. He would get out of the Army and we would live off of my income. I would continue to grow my team, be the type of sales person I felt comfortable with, and enjoy all the benefits that this business had to offer. I went to the annual conference two years in a row, made some amazing friends while doing so, and felt like I would always have Scentsy in my life.

Then something happened.

I started to lose interest. Those on my team did too, and there were other things in my life taking up my time. As much as I wanted to move forward with my Scentsy business, I hit a wall. As my writing career grew, I had less time for the business and eventually in December 2016, I made the difficult decision to let it go.

According to the Direct Selling Association, there were over 20 million people involved in direct sales in 2015. Some people can rock this business, and others fail–even after years of trying. According to Forbes, in 2011, the median annual income for direct sales was $2,400. That’s just $200 a month. Direct sales and MLM companies are such a popular way to make money in the military spouse community. . . but is it actually worth it?

Success depends on your personality, the product, how hard you work, and your team. Together, these can make for the perfect home business to take with you from duty station to duty station. Your customers can connect with you online; you don’t even have to depend on your local area.

It wasn’t the choice for me

For me, I felt like I hit a point in my business where I had to change things up. I needed to branch out and add new people. I needed to throw more parties. I needed to do more of the things I didn’t want to do. And because I didn’t do them, my business failed. As I look back, I realize that was okay: I am not going to be the person that makes direct sales a career.

I didn’t like having to ask friends to host parties or to join my team. I didn’t like being pushy. I didn’t like that I felt like I had to tell everyone I met about how wonderful the product was and how if they joined, their lives could change too. And looking back I realize that had I done all those things, I probably could have started to grow my business again and make it work. But that type of selling just isn’t me, and it wasn’t how I wanted to develop my career.

If you do want to make direct sales your career, it can be worth the try

Make sure to find the right company for you. Find a product you already use and love. Find a selling model you agree with that works with your life. Some companies are online only; others are party based.

Make business goals and figure out how you will get to them. If you want to make $2,000 a month, figure out how you can make that happen based on the company’s program. When you have a set number of parties or sales that you need to hit, achieving your goals will be easier.

Be careful spending your money. Selling a product you love means you will buy more of it than you would otherwise. Put yourself on a budget for this so you don’t overspend or end up with a lot of inventory you can’t sell. Grow the business slowly and don’t go into debt to do so.

And at the end of the day, if you have tried to make direct sales work and it doesn’t, that’s okay. You can stay with your company and just get the discount, or you can walk away. You can try another company or something else altogether.

Julie Provost is an associate editor at Military One Click and a National Guard spouse. She can be reached at