If you’re looking for a little something on the side—extra money, flexible work hours—you’ve likely come across direct sales. But can you really earn money and keep your day job? Whether you’re an employee, student, or mom, the quick answer is yes. The deeper answer depends on you.
With low startup costs, minimal overhead, and flexibility, direct selling checks a lot of boxes for great part-time work and small business ownership. In fact, most direct sellers work part-time, bringing in part-time pay. With the right expectations and attitude, it may be the perfect side hustle for you. Take these steps to get the ball rolling.
Know What You’re Getting Into
Generally, when you join a direct selling company you become an independent contractor who sells products for a commission. Enlisting others to help sell will also boost your earnings. Before committing to anything, do your research and consider whether the direct selling retail model is right for you. In your quest to earn extra cash, you’ll want to frontload your success. Start with these questions:
- Do I enjoy selling?
- Am I passionate about the company’s products?
- Do I have realistic expectations about the return on my time and money investment?
- Am I willing to commit to a set number of hours per week?
- Do I have access to a laptop or computer and the internet?
- Do I have a place to work uninterrupted?
At a minimum, you’ll usually get a great discount on some great products. But if you’re looking for income, it takes effort to make it pay. All that flexibility requires patience, commitment, and consistency to build your business from the ground up.
If you’ve got realistic expectations and you’re comfortable “putting yourself out there” and suggesting products for people to buy from you, it can be great part-time work.
Choose Your Company
Not all direct selling companies are created equal. When it comes to matching yourself with a direct sales business, be very choosey. You should have questions—lots and lots of questions. Here are a few to get you started:
- What is their compensation plan—how will I get paid?
- Do they charge large entry fees?
- Do they provide tools and training?
- Do they offer high-quality products?
- Am I excited to use and talk about these products?
- Do they allow product returns?
- Do they make realistic income claims?
- Does the leadership of the organization inspire me?
- Are they a socially responsible company?
- Do they have a strong online and social presence?
- What partnerships do they have both in their community and globally?
Make sure the company you choose is a member of the Direct Sellers Association (DSA). The DSA serves to promote, protect, and police the direct selling industry while helping direct selling companies and their sellers become more successful.
Also, stick with companies that have a proven track record for product quality and integrity, like USANA Health Sciences, which produces high-quality nutritional products. Find the largest 25 reputable direct selling companies here.
Now you know what company you’ll partner with, define what you want from your partnership.
Set Realistic Goals
Your success should be tied to well-defined goals and a commitment to do what it takes to achieve them. In 2021, over 7 million people participated in direct selling in the U.S. Most of these sellers ran their business part-time. As you get started, ask yourself these hard questions:
- What do I want to achieve?
- How many hours will I work per week?
- What will it take to reach my goals?
- Are my goals realistic?
- Can I find a mentor in the business?
- What is my definition of success?
Write down what you want to attain from a growth and income standpoint—and by when. Committing to a firm date is vital for measuring whether you’re willing and able to put in the effort needed to reach your goal. Take ownership of the time, energy, and money it will take. Now you’re ready to put in the effort.
Even as a side hustle, working a direct sales business means showing up. Between social media marketing, building customer relationships, logistics, and other business demands, you’ll come to a crossroads. Decide what sacrifices you’re willing to make.
Try running through some scenarios like, “I am okay missing my cousin’s wedding, but not my daughter’s ballgame.” or “I’m fine with recording videos for social media, but I won’t ask my family to host a party unless they volunteer.”
As with most of life’s opportunities, you get rewarded for the effort you put in. You’ll need commitment, persistence, and grit—all while never compromising your integrity. Reaching out, attending networking events, supporting others on your team, and promoting your product are all on the to-do list—and need to be scheduled around your regular job and responsibilities.
Manage Your Business
Carving out time to share your favorite products is exciting and fun. So it can be easy to put off the “behind-the-scenes” business needs. Schedule a set time to sit down and manage logistics. Is it Tuesday night? Then, block out this time in your calendar. Along with making important strategic decisions, you’ll place orders, handle paperwork, offer customer service, and keep a ledger of expenses and income.
Working a part-time business means working smarter. Take advantage of the free services offered by the DSA. From filing taxes, navigating health insurance, and filing a code complaint, the resources you need are at your fingertips. Access to industry research, government relations, direct selling advocacy, and press releases are just a click away.
Continually Assess the ROI
Take time to review your goals as you manage and grow your business. Are you spending more on products than you’re making in commission? If so, you may find you’re operating like a customer and not an owner. If that’s the case, you’ll want to adjust your business plan and strategies.
If you’re meeting your goals and enjoying yourself, it’s time to pop the question. “What is my plan for the future—will this always be my side gig, or should I grow it into a full-time job?” Only you can answer this one.
Reap What You Sow
Success in direct selling, whether part-time or full-time, is about connecting with people, offering high-quality products, and giving great customer service. If you choose the right company, define your goals, and nurture relationships, you’ll have the best chance for success. As with your regular day job, your future’s what you make of it.