Today I am going to delve into my own experiences within a multi level marketing company, It Works, and look back, in hindsight, and explore what may have been some of the more problematic parts of the industry, and some of the red flags that I can see now but couldn’t really see at the time. I also want to delve into a common question: what led me to leave and how I stumbled on the anti MLM community.
Check out my Youtube videos about my time in a multi level marketing company
If you would prefer, I have two video’s on this very subject over on my Youtube channel, where I am slowly opening up and building a small anti MLM playlist there. I would love you to subscribe if this kind of content interests you. You can also check out my most recent podcast about multi level marketing or check out the shownotes.
It Works Global
Before we carry on be sure to check out my disclaimer* at the bottom of this post. I was part of It Works Global for over four years and I feel like I have a good indication of what the company, team and culture was like while I was there. I reached the rank of Ruby which as per the income disclosure statement when I joined was an income of around $500 per month, but in the more recent income disclosure shows that this has dropped to an average of around $350 per month.
My experience with It Works started when I came across someone on Instagram who was talking about her side business and all the things it was doing for her family or that it would be doing for her family in the future. I don’t know whether she followed me or I followed her, but knowing what I know now and how they train you to follow people and grow your network (so you can either sell to or recruit these people) I am going to go ahead and presume she followed me, but really I don’t have any clue. I was definitely at a more vulnerable time in my life where I could really have done with an extra income and was probably extremely susceptible to an MLM’s messaging. I was working full time in a job I didn’t love, I was studying for my Master’s degree and therefore my tuition, books and materials cost a fair amount and was a drain on the money I did have. I was also in a long distance relationship with my now-husband and so commuting to see each other every weekend was also costly. I was definitely attracted to the idea that I could earn an extra income around the other commitments in my life.
I reached out to her in late 2014 and she replied asking me to email her. I did, but as it happened the email bounced and I did nothing more about it for a while. It would have been great if that is where the story ended but it didn’t, and in February 2015 I replied to something she had shared again and this time I followed it through and ended up enrolling as a distributor. I truly thought she looked like she was having so much fun and I wanted in on that. Of course I now know that is what these MLM’s do, they sell a dream and a lifestyle to hook you in and for more than 99% of people this life will never happen, at least not through the MLM itself. This is how they lure people in to the business opportunity.
When I was in the recruitment phase, that period of time where I was curious about the business, speaking to the person who would eventually become my enroller but I hadn’t yet joined the business, I tried to weigh up the pro’s and cons. I did a google search “reasons not to join It Works” and actually, at the time, nothing really came up. I have done the same search today and there is a lot more information about the company, along with the experiences of others too. I spoke to my now-husband about it and he trusted my judgement and I also spoke to my mum about it too. When I was discussing it with my mum something came up which I think is extremely problematic within MLM’s. I said to her that It Works was a faith based company, built on Christian values and because of that I felt confident, because surely a company with those values wouldn’t screw me over. I now know these companies use faith manipulation and it uses religion, God or whoever and whatever you believe in, to manipulate people into trusting the company to get people to join and to stay. It made me feel more confident in the company itself because of their values.
When I joined It Works it cost about £80, converted from dollars. For the most part while I was there it cost £99 and it is now between £130-£150ish. I put my joining fee on a credit card and although the company alludes to be helping people become debt free, there is to some extent (in my experience) and undercurrent amongst some reps to encourage people to join via debt, either a credit card, borrowing money or (at one point at least) getting people to use PayPal credit.
Once I signed up I was quickly added to a Facebook team page of all our immediate team (uplines, downlines, sidelines etc) where there was a massive outpouring of excitement when I was introduced on the team page. This was always the case when someone was welcomed onto the team page, and I now this is akin to the cult tactic of lovebombing, where participants shower new recruits in love. People would be leaving comments such as “You’re going to do amazing”, “can’t wait to see you run to the top”, “so excited for you” and “can’t wait to see your success” etc. These are people who have known you for about three seconds, they know absolutely nothing about you at this point. They don’t realise they are lovebombing you, they are completely unaware and are just following the way it has always been done. It was done when they started, they do it to you, then you do it to new recruits, and so the cycle continues. It encourages people to sink further into the group ideology.
This welcome made me feel amazing (which is its intention) and made me think “wow, maybe I have found the thing I have been looking for”, which looking back is the entire goal.
How I worked (and yes, some of it is problematic)
There is a lot of “fake it until you make it” philosophy within this structure. I would predominantly use Instagram as my platform of choice when it came to my business, so it was a lot of sharing the products, being a product of the product, sharing the lifestyle of being a rep, adding people to grow my network and sometimes unfollowing people who didn’t follow me back. I was actively an It Works rep above everything else.
It was a lot of staying “plugged in” to the team pages, showing up to zooms, trainings, etc. There is a lot of gaslighting in multi level marketing, telling people that their level of commitment to these things is what will see them success (it won’t) but phrases like you “show up to go up” and calling out the people who don’t show up. It was always hard for me to show up, as most things were EST or CST ( 5-6 hours behind the time here in the UK) and almost always when I was asleep. I don’t know that anyone ever expected me to stay up but I rarely did because despite what MLM’s will tell you (that you should be working over sleeping) I always prioritise my health, wellness and sleep over absolutely everything.
It was very hard for me to stay plugged into a lot of what was going on and actually, in hindsight, I actually think that a lot of this really helped me because I was more of an outsider. I always felt as though some of the things that were trained we not right. I always used to say to myself and my husband “I don’t think that works for a UK audience” but actually what I think I was debating was actual red flags that were showing up in the business model. Things that really didn’t feel comfortable for me. Red flag after red flag, but only things I can see in hindsight. That definitely made me feel like I was disassociated with some of the more problematic parts of the training within the company/our team and I guess at least there is that and I felt like I can hold my head a little higher than I might have done had I been more of a part of these things.
However, I still recruited people into this problematic business model, albeit unknowingly, and ultimately involving them in a system that might lead them to either not making or losing money.
Get your mind right & all that personal development shiz
As there is in most MLM’s, there was a strong focus on personal development within our It Works team and that if you weren’t seeing success it was because you needed to get your mind right. Gaslighting at it’s best and throwing the blame onto you instead of the business model which itself insures that most people fail. You were encouraged to do more personal development, to get your mind right, that you didn’t believe in it or yourself enough or that you weren’t working hard enough.
The problem isn’t people’s mindset or work ethic but a business model where more than 99.6% of people don’t succeed.
Getting fired up
Something I have spoken about before, is that on team pages, trainings, zooms etc, there would be times where top leaders within your team/uplines would come on and speak to you about a certain subject, usually forcefully, sometimes a bit shouty and all in the name of “getting fired up”. It seems actually more likely to be a frustrating release of a sticking point in their business, that maybe they felt frustrated with their downlines over. After all, most are blissfully unaware at just how problematic the business structure is.
What was the focus?
Within It Works I felt, at least on our team and in the company at large, that there was an equal focus on the products and what they did, but also on recruiting people into the opportunity too. I don’t really know, even in hindsight, if I feel like one was pushed more than the other. What I do know is that the products were very hard to sell, were very expensive for what they are, and also I did really like some of them I ultimately cannot support a company (any company) than is formulated as an MLM, whether has been or still is. I cannot put my money into a predatory business structure where more than 99% lose. As for the business opportunity, I feel that was an easier sell but again difficult because people who are interested are the people who need the extra income (that’s wholly problematic in itself in hindsight too, because these people are in a vulnerable position) but they don’t have the money to start, which ultimately does save them!
Earning an “extra income”
Most people in multi level marketing aren’t making a profit, in fact, 99.6% are not making or losing money and the thing is, the companies themselves aren’t hiding this, the income disclosure statements are right there for everyone to see (except in FM World, who still after 15 years of business have no income disclosure statement – huge red flag). Across the multi level marketing industry as a whole, the average earnings of a distributor is £0.
Although these companies put this information right out there the manipulation tactics in these teams is so strong that you could smack people round the face with the income disclosure statement and the facts, and I include myself in this, and they will still be like “Well, my company is different”. But no company with a multi level marketing structure is any different I’m afraid, there might be some that are better or worse than others, but ultimately they are all predatory and unethical in their business model and practises.
How it works day to day, from the inside
There is so much to unpick and it would take me forever to go through everything in a single video or blog post. But let’s unpick some of what goes on within It Works it here.
At the beginning of every month, everyone’s (and this is in every MLM) is reset to 0, everyone is the entry level rep/distributor, then as the month progresses and you run your own order, your customers orders come in (or run if they are autoshipments), your teams orders run, their customer orders come in or run etc all the volume adds up and you will start to increase your volume and possibly your rank. This is why there is such an end of month culture in MLM’s, because that is the last opportunity to rank up before the end of the month and everything is reset.
Something that has never sat right with me in It Works was their rank structure. You can see your current rank but you also have a lifetime rank, which is the highest rank you have achieved but bears no resemblance to where you are now. Effectively someone could tell you they are an Ambassador Diamond (the top rank in the company and earning life changing money) but actually they could have dropped rank and be earning nowhere close. It feels extremely unethical. Let’s also remember that most people are sitting at the bottom ranks of the company, in every MLM company.
So why did I decide to leave It Works?
Looking back there were times where I felt I was totally all in so I won’t do anyone the disservice of saying “oh, I always felt like something was off” but to some extent there was always a lot of questions, and I also felt that a lot of these were explained away to a minor extent. I feel like you were almost encouraged to stop thinking of them and just get on with things.
Sometimes when I was recruiting people and they were asking how much money they could make, I had that question in my mind, that I didn’t know whether I would achieve it and I didn’t know if they would either. I obviously believed and hoped, but I don’t know that I ever felt that confident in it looking back. I knew people who were making that money but I hadn’t seen it myself.
They like to draw you in on this idea of time freedom, but once you’re in you find out that you’re required to work a lot more than anyone ever alluded to. While you do have your own free will, and I always thought to myself I worked more because I enjoyed it, but really working more is expected and encouraged. It isn’t just in the pockets of time in your day that distributors promise when they are trying to recruit you. It requires you turning into an MLM robot (ie, a hunbot), you talk only about your business, the products, what it has to offer, how it’s changing your life etc. You lose yourself and don’t even realise it.
One day, a new mum of a 6 week old baby I had down the outrageous thing (in MLM culture) and not worked since just before I went into labour. This is not the norm in a culture where you are encouraged to work through every single life event. Hello hustle culture. I was not about to do this, but one day when my baby was 6 weeks old I thought I would log onto the team page and see if there was anything I had missed. At this point I had no idea how I word work my business around my baby (in MLM culture they’ll call this “using my why as my excuse”). I saw a top leader on our It Works team was doing a Q&A and I casually asked a question (more to just ask one if I am honest, as I’d been mia for a few weeks) asking how people found the time to work when they were new mums, tired, feeding, being woken through the night. Well, the answer I got was that I should just work, pass my newborn baby to my husband, he should pick up the slack. I live in country where I get a years maternity leave and honestly I am still a bit shocked, but not surprised, that this is the culture. Being a new mama is full of new experiences, experiences that you will never get back. Don’t sell your soul to a company/team/upline that will rob you of those life experiences. It’s 1000% not worth it.
That didn’t sit right with me, being told that my newborn baby was basically getting in the way of my business a little bit and it would be best to get her out of the way.
And that was it for me. I was done.
So I left It Works, I turned everything off and waited for my account to expire. In the meantime almost everyone I was friends with (the like minded community of inspiring women) blocked or unfriended me, or they certainly have done since I started sharing anti mlm content. See that’s what they do, they don’t want anyone like me infiltrating those who were friends who are still in the company. They don’t want people like me putting a doubt in peoples mind or getting them to question anything. It is the reason creators like me are dubbed as haters, people who weren’t successful or people who are just negative. They don’t want the truth to come out so calling us names or discrediting us is all they have. The problem is this: the facts are out there, they are glaringly obvious and staring us all in the face. The reports, the research, the income disclosure statements are all in the public domain. The countless stories of people who have been in mlms, even those who were in the top 1%. You can’t argue with facts so all they have is to try and discredit you.
FTC Resources on MLMs – https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/multi-level-marketing-businesses-and-pyramid-schemes
Report a scam to the FTC – https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/
FCA Resources on schemes – https://www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart/get-rich-quick-scams
Action Fraud: Pyramid Scheme Fraud – https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/a-z-of-fraud/pyramid-scheme-fraud
How MLM’s use the BITE Model (a known cult tactic) – https://freedomofmind.com/multi-level-marketing-and-self-help-cult-groups-learn-the-warning-signs/
Everything written & spoken here is for educational purposes and to spread awareness of my personal experience and opinion. My opinions don’t represent the company I partnered with, or any other network marketing or multi level marketing companies. They are my experiences and not facts.
Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favour of fair use.