A woman with blonde hair is wearing a mint green outfit and smiling at the camera

It’s the message that many of us have received in our inbox before. 

“Hi hun - I have an amazing opportunity that I think you’d be perfect for… would you be open to it?”

Yes, it’s come from an MLM recruiter. Could be a friend, family member, or relative stranger, and they’re on a mission to get you to join their team. 

MLM stands for Multi Level Marketing. These types of companies have a top-down structure that resemble pyramid schemes, meaning people at the top earn the most money. Reps towards the bottom rely solely on commision from products sold, and how many people they can recruit. This structure can lead to questions about the integrity of these businesses, alongside the frequently aggressive sales and recruitment techniques that are often encouraged, and the high ‘buy-in’ prices.

One of the selling points to joining an MLM is the lifestyle that recruiters sometimes advertise. These include flexible working hours, high earning potential, and the chance to be a part of a like minded team of ‘boss babes’ (because they often target women) providing a supportive network. 

While it is true that some people do very well from joining MLM’s, research has shown that up to 99% in these businesses either lose money, or make no profit. 

Women who have worked for MLM’s also discuss the negative impacts they have on relationships with friends and family, as they are encouraged by their recruiters to continuously recruit others themselves. 

If you are attracted to the idea of running a small business, being your own boss, or creating an extra income, there are other options. Why not start your own business, with your own products? There’s lots of businesses that you can start from home, even cheaply. There are also numerous networking groups for small businesses that offer support and advice for entrepreneurs.

Here are 21 alternative business ideas to MLM’s:

Retail:

Selling Stationery

Starting a stationery company is a great way of starting a business that you can really put your own stamp on! You can choose the theme of the business, for example, childrens stationery, professional office accessories, or quirky and colourful stationery. It’s also the type of business that would allow you to start small, and run as a part time or full time venture if you chose to.

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Accessories Boutique

If fashion is your thing then selling accessories could be a perfect extension to your revenue stream. You can choose exactly what kinds of accessories you stock, or even make them yourself. It’s also the type of business that you can run from home through a website, sell at markets and events, or maybe even expand into your own shop premises if you want to grow your business.

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Two friends are lying down wearing sunglasses and checked shirts

Floristry 

Being your own florist is a wonderful way to start a business. Not only do you get to work with beautiful flowers, but you can continuously build on your floristry knowledge and skills. Running a floristry business could make a great weekend business to work around school runs or another job. It could also make a fantastic full time job if you wanted to open your own shop. 

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Tuck shop

Remember at school when you used to spend your dinner money at the tuck shop? Why not consider opening either an online shop or a physical stall at events and markets? Sometimes the best selling products are the basics, like sweets and crisps! So this could make a great second income or self-employed venture. 

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Secondhand Bookshop

Running a secondhand bookshop could be the perfect way for a literature lover to create their own business. Secondhand books are a lot cheaper to source than new books, and can be found in many different places, rather than through traditional stockists. You could even specialise in a specific niche, such as history, comics or children’s books. 

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Leisure:

Nail Technician

If you love beauty products, or even enjoy arts and crafts, then training to become a nail technician could be a great option for you. Some part time nail artists don’t even do nails directly onto clients, but instead design artificial glue-on nails. This gives you the flexibility to either work with clients from home, or in a salon, or start an online business where people can purchase your nail designs from an online shop.

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Run an Airbnb 

If you do have an extra room, or perhaps even a second home or holiday home, then turning it into an Airbnb could be an almost instant source of income for you. It’s worth considering if your spare room or property may need to be decorated to attract guests, as well as the cleaning and maintenance involved in holiday rentals, but if you have the means then it could be a great business opportunity. 

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Two friends are sitting smiling at one of their laptops

Spray Tanning 

Gaining a professional qualification in spray tanning is an excellent way of either breaking into the beauty industry, or starting a flexible business around other commitments. You can either tan clients from your own home, within a salon, or go mobile by travelling to clients homes. 

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Crafting:

Candle Making

Candle making is a fantastic business to get stuck into if you enjoy making your own items. You can design your own colours, styles, as well as create stunning fragrances for these classic household luxuries. Candles make fantastic gifts and are also the type of product that most people can enjoy, so they can be a great market to break into. 

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Cake Baking

Becoming a professional cake maker can be a really rewarding job. Not only do you get to taste test your own creations, but other people get to enjoy them too. Whether you decide to focus on one type of cake, such as cupcakes, brownies or celebration cakes, or decide to make a selection of them, professional cake making can be a great option for a self-employed business.

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Artist

Whether it’s fine art, pottery, digital illustration or mosaics, if you have an artistic talent then you could use it to generate a full or part time income. With free to use websites and apps such as Instagram, you can build an online platform for your artwork for free, so all you need to pay for to get started are your supplies. You could also visit art and craft fairs to sell your work directly to customers. 

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Two women are surrounded by flowers and smiling at an ipad on a desk

Professional Services:

Cleaning

Starting your own cleaning business is a good way to begin self-employment at a relatively low cost. You can take on work as often, or for as many different clients as you want to at one time. So it’s an effective way to start a business on a part-time basis and possibly build it up into full time hours if you wanted to be your own boss permanently. 

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Copywriting

Copywriting is a great self-employment option for people who are skilled in writing. You can set your own hours and work as a freelancer. You may also get to learn about lots of interesting subjects and work for a variety of clients. All you need to start is a laptop and internet connection. 

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Dog Walking

If you’re an animal lover and have some spare time then a dog walking business in your local area could be the perfect business for you to start. You’ll have to be prepared to be head pooper-scooper and walk outdoors come rain or shine, but if you enjoy spending time with dogs then it could be a very gratifying freelance business that takes little capital to start. 

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Virtual Assistant

Working as a virtual assistant is a really flexible way to run your own business. You can work anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection, and you can choose which tasks your skills are best suited to. If you’re comfortable working remotely then it’s an excellent way to become self-employed or make a part time income. 

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Transcription Service

Professional transcriptionists offer their services by transcribing audio files into text documents. So to start a freelance service offering this you need to be proficient in typing and grammar. But if you have strong writing skills and a computer or laptop to work from, transcribing can be an excellent extra cash flow that works around your schedule. 

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Two women are walking two large dogs through a field on a sunny day

Teaching English Online

Teaching English can be a really rewarding way of working on a freelance basis. You could either set up your own company taking on your own clients, or sign up to an online platform such as Cambly or My Tutor. Often, you don’t need to have previous teaching experience as long as you are fluent in English. You can also choose hours that fit your lifestyle. 

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Delivery Service

Setting up your own delivery service could be a great way of working with local businesses as a way of earning an extra income. Whether it’s takeaway food, materials for other businesses, or, if you have access to a larger vehicle, items such as furniture, you could offer a really valuable service in your local area. 

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Furniture Reupholstery

Crafty entrepreneurs with a love for furniture restoration, or even interior design, might find that starting a business in furniture reupholstery is right up their street. You can both lend your services to customers that would like their own furniture restored, or purchase old and secondhand furniture to give it a new lease of life to before upselling it for a profit. It’s also a small business that could be done in your spare time.

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Gardening

Gardening is a great business for people who aren’t afraid to get their hands a bit dirty and love working outdoors. For a relatively low startup cost you could have your neighbours gardens looking beautiful. It’s also a good business to start on a part time basis, maybe even just weekends, but can build it up if you’d like to be self-employed full-time.  

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Personal Shopper

Freelance personal shoppers both shop for and collect items from shops for their clients. They often advise clients what they should buy and offer advice and guidance in areas like fashion, weddings, or even art. You need to have great communication skills and a keen eye for detail, but if you’re good with people and have an expertise in a certain area then this could be a perfect self-employment opportunity. 

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For more information on how to get started with your business, check out our collection of free startup guides, here. We also have lots of advice on how to market your own business, here. Or, if you'd like to find out more about Start Up Loans, you can find all the information here

(Further information about MLM’s can be found at https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/blog/is-a-multi-level-marketing-scheme-mlm-a-good-way-to-make-money and https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-55145586)


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