If there’s one thing that all network marketers have in common, it’s their vocabulary. From Forex traders to Avon reps, the vast majority of people in network marketing will use the same words and phrases over and over again when trying to promote their company, which makes it really easy to spot a shady or scammy business opportunity!
While it’s never too late to escape an MLM company, it’s always better not to get involved at all, and so here’s a helpful list of network marketing buzzwords and phrases to look out for if you want to avoid these types of companies.
However, just before we jump in, if you’re new here and aren’t sure what network marketing/multi-level marketing is, click here to read about why these companies are so bad.
17 Network Marketing Buzzwords & Phrases That Should Ring Alarm Bells
1. Be your own boss!
Have you ever seen somebody on social media advertising an opportunity that will allow you to ‘be your own boss?’
Chances are, it’s an MLM.
While the idea of being your own boss sounds great, joining a network marketing company will not make you your own boss and you will not own your own company.
What you will actually be is an independent contractor for the MLM company with no control over the products you sell, the commission you receive, and your rank within the company.
You will also find yourself answering to whoever recruited you (you ‘upline’).
This person will expect you to attend endless Zoom calls, workshops, ‘power hours’ and training sessions. If you are not making sales or recruiting enough people to your team, they will put pressure on you and tell you that you are not working hard enough. Moreover, a percentage of every penny you make goes to them.
In addition to your upline, you also have the corporate part of the company telling you what you can and can’t say when promoting products, dictating which rank you are in the company (yes, IN the company) and – wait for it – they are able to fire you at any time.
Kinda sounds like you have a boss, right?
2. Financial freedom
If you see somebody on your friends list talking about achieving ‘financial freedom,’ RUN.
This phrase is a huge one in the network marketing community, and it is SO misleading.
99.6% of people in MLM companies lose money.
Sure, that 0.4% of people are probably making a large amount of money, but in all MLM companies across the board, the vast majority of people either make no money or lose money.
Can we really advertise network marketing opportunities as a way to financial freedom with these kinds of numbers?
3. Working my biz
No shade, but does nobody who legitimately owns a business EVER say this?!
We’ve already established that people in MLMs don’t own their own businesses, and so not only is this statement inaccurate, but it’s also a dead giveaway of somebody talking about multi-level marketing.
Seriously. Nobody outside of the industry EVER uses this phrase!
4. Money mindset
If you are part of a multi-level marketing company and you aren’t making any money, chances are you will be told that you have a negative ‘money mindset’ and that this is the reason why your efforts are not yielding any results.
MLM companies love to push the narrative that anything is achievable if you want it enough, and that with the right mindset, you can hit the top ranks of the company and be making 7 figures a year.
While having a positive mindset is certainly a good thing, there comes a point where this becomes ‘toxic positivity,’ and people find themselves being blamed for not succeeding in an industry where it is mathematically impossible for everyone to be a winner.
In a recruitment-focused business like MLM, the majority of people always have to be at the bottom, funnelling money up to the people at the top.
Having the right ‘money mindset’ has nothing to do with it.
5. Work from your phone
Almost every network marketer out there gushes about the opportunity to ‘work from your phone’ as though this is the opportunity of a lifetime and it doesn’t make sense.
Sure, being involved in an MLM means posting a lot to social media and direct messaging hundreds of people, which you can do from your phone, but so what?
Don’t a lot of people answer work emails and talk on the phone?
When used as a selling point, this sets the bar for MLMs pretty low.
6. Get paid to post on Facebook!
Network marketers will often say that they ‘get paid to post on Facebook,’ but this is an outright lie.
You do not get paid to post on social media or recommend products you love to your family and friends. Unlike influencers, who do get paid for posting on social media, network marketers do not.
Network marketers get paid if they make sales.
There is no base pay or guaranteed income, because the reality is that network marketing is a commission-only sales job.
You can spend 8 hours a day posting about Monat shampoo on Instagram, but if nobody wants to buy, you aren’t making a cent.
7. Time freedom
‘Time freedom,’ much like ‘financial freedom,’ is one of the main things that people use to advertise the MLM ‘opportunity,’ and it’s another big fat lie.
While technically you can work in ‘pockets of time’ and set your own hours, you will never be successful if you do this. People in network marketing work 24/7, 7 days a week, and ‘hustle culture’ is a huge part of the network marketing mindset.
While you may initially be told that you can work as much or as little as you like, your upline will swiftly change their tune when you join the company, because their income depends on your sales.
You will be pressured to spend every waking moment ‘working your biz,’ and this is why we see network marketers working at their best friend’s weddings, while they’re at their day job, and even when they are in hospital going through labour.
8. Girl boss, boss babe, mom boss etc.
Okay, so these aren’t exclusively network marketing buzzwords as you will find people in other industries using them, but they are definitely common in the MLM world.
While referring to yourself as a ‘mom boss’ may seem pretty harmless, it is a guaranteed way to ensure that no real business person will ever take you seriously as a business woman.
Plus, it’s just kinda cringe.
9. Watch me or join me!
This is a popular MLM recruitment tactic that relies on psychological manipulation.
Somebody saying this is trying to create FOMO, or the ‘fear of missing out.’
By making you feel as though you’re missing out on an incredible opportunity and that the only alternative to joining an MLM is staying broke and watching this person grow rich, this phrase is perfect for anybody who may be sitting on the fence who just needs that final push to sign up.
10. Hey hun!
This is the quintessential greeting that every MLM boss babe will slide into your DMs with, to the point where it has pretty much become a meme.
This over-familiar greeting from somebody you barely know is typical of network marketers, and usually represents the start of them pitching you to join their ‘tribe.’
11. Business opportunity
Multi-level marketing companies are constantly being marketed as ‘business opportunities.’
Just as we discussed earlier, no legit business or investment will ever pitch itself as a business opportunity. It just isn’t a term that regular businesses use. The only thing that you should be picturing when you hear the words ‘business opportunity’ is a snake oil salesman who uses too much Brylcreem and wears an ill-fitting suit.
12. Ditch the 9-5
People in MLM companies really seem to throw shade to 9-5 jobs.
Seriously, if you listened to MLMers, you’d think that traditional 9-5 jobs are literally the devil.
Network marketers constantly look down on ‘corporate America’ and say things like ‘your job is the real pyramid scheme,’ meanwhile assuming that everyone who works a 9-5 is desperate to ‘quit the rat race’ and work for themselves.
Sure, 9-5 jobs aren’t for everyone, but that doesn’t make them inherently bad. Some people love the security and the routine of having a 9-5, and that’s fine.
Telling somebody to ditch their stable 9-5 job in favour of joining a company where over 99% of people lose money is ludicrous, and even if you personally aren’t cut out for the 9-5 life, that doesn’t mean that it is objectively bad.
13. Your job is a pyramid scheme!
While we’re on the topic of 9-5s, people in MLMs love to point at traditional hierarchical businesses and say that, because they also have a triangular structure, they must also be pyramid schemes.
Sure, in a regular business you might have the CEO at the top, followed by various degrees of management, followed by the workers, but a business having a triangular structure does not make it a pyramid scheme!
A pyramid scheme is characterised by its constant focus on recruiting people into the company, to the point where the business becomes unsustainable and cannot provide everyone with the returns that they have been promised.
In a real job, you will receive a salary and various benefits like health insurance and holiday pay. You will also not have to constantly recruit people into the company (unless you’re a hiring manager or something) in order to move up the ranks.
They’re just not the same thing.
14. Join my tribe!
We’re no experts but this feels just a little culturally insensitive.
Not only that, but by referring to their downline as their ‘tribe’ or ‘team,’ network marketers are implying that you are all joined together equally, and working towards the same goal, but that just isn’t true.
Sure, you may all be working towards so-called ‘financial freedom,’ but what joining somebody’s MLM ‘tribe’ actually involves is being a part of their ‘downline’ and giving a percentage of everything you earn to them, and to every single person above them.
A more accurate call to action would be ‘join my other recruits’ or ‘join my workforce,’ but that doesn’t sound as appealing, does it?
15. It can’t be a pyramid scheme – pyramid schemes are illegal!
Perhaps the most common thing that network marketers will argue is that their company can’t be a pyramid scheme because pyramid schemes are illegal, while failing to mention that just because something is illegal doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
Both people and businesses do illegal things all the time, and it’s no different with multi-level marketing businesses.
The truth is that just because a company has not been found to be functioning as a pyramid scheme YET, it could still be functioning as a pyramid scheme in disguise.
SO many MLM companies have been forced to close down or significantly change their business models because they have been proven to be pyramid schemes, and it is only a matter of time before the others follow suit.
The problem is that MLM companies are masters of finding and exploiting legal loopholes in order to avoid being closed down, but trust us when we say that if somebody is using this argument, they are absolutely part of a pyramid scheme.
Similar to ‘girl boss’ and ‘mom boss,’ you should never use the word ‘Mompreneur’ if you want to be taken seriously in business.
Imagine a father calling himself a ‘Dadpreneur.’
It just wouldn’t happen.
And also, joining an MLM does not make you an entrepreneur.
17. Independent Business Owner
Just like when MLM distributors say that they are ‘working their biz,’ if you see ‘Independent Business Owner’ listed in someone’s Instagram bio, run for the hills.
The fact that Amway’s recruitment page is the third Google result for ‘Independent Business Owner’ says it all – the term is just a fancy way of saying that you are part of an MLM whilst hiding the fact that you are in an MLM (and also convincing yourself that you own a business).
Network Marketing Buzzwords | Final Thoughts
This brings us to the end of the list of the most popular network marketing buzzwords.
Now that you’re armed with the knowledge of how to spot a network marketing scam, hopefully you will manage to avoid these shady business opportunities and save yourself a lot of time and money!
Just being aware of these marketing buzzwords used by MLMers will make you so much less vulnerable to their recruitment tactics, and therefore less easy to manipulate and suck in.
Did we forget any major ones? Let us know in the comments section below!