When at Home: Making Money {Series}


admin-ajax.phpLet me begin by saying that I support all mamas who thoughtfully consider the best interest of their family and make difficult decisions to create the life they desire. For some, the decision is to work outside the home and pursue a career you love all while caring for your children – kudos to you! For others , the choice is to stay home full time with your children, shrinking your budget to one income and engaging in a whole different type of work – hoorah for you! And some do both; they work at home with children – wahoo for you!

Work, you see, comes in all shapes and sizes, and much of the most important work in the world won’t make you a dime. However, kids (and living in general) cost lots of dimes, so it might be helpful to have a sense of the different ways you can make money while you stay at home, if that’s what you’re doing now, what you’d like to consider, or what you are planning for the future. These ways generally fall into two categories: direct sales and other (real descriptive, I know).

In this post, I’ll be dealing with direct sales, reviewing some (not all – unless you want to be reading for two days) of the most popular companies and what they offer as well as general considerations for those that are thinking about it. It’s important to note that joining these companies, in many cases, offers you much more than income – they can be sources of business training, time with grown-ups (wahoo!), girlfriends, and even fun (gasp!). Those things in mind, I could not possibly quantify the non-monetary investment for all these companies, so I simply listed the primary financial considerations.

When it comes to direct sales, here are the things I recommend considering:

How much are you willing to invest?

  • Almost all direct sales companies require some sort of initial investment which covers the cost of your initial supplies and start-up fees. There are other annual operations costs to consider that are not often included in this initial investment like business cards, a website, a credit card processing method, product carrying cases, storage and display items, and annual fees, etc.
  • Then there’s inventory. Do you want to have it or not? It means having product on hand (which saves you shipping) but then you need to store it, watch expiration dates, etc. With inventory, it’s also critical to know that almost every direct sales company requires minimum orders over a regular time period (often quarterly or bi-annually) to keep your status active. Factor this into your annual costs, for sure.

How much time do you have?

  • Be realistic about this. There’s the behind the scenes work (book-keeping and inventory and ordering and customer service) and then there’s the on-stage work (whether that’s in-home parties, online parties, lunch meetings or girls nights). How many hours a week are you willing and able to be away? Depending on the time you choose to be away, what (if any) changes will need to be made to accommodate that (arranging childcare, cooking and freezing meals in advance, etc.)?
  • Think about your schedule right now, then look three months out and six months out. Does school impact your availability? Kids activities? Regular weekend commitments? I’d encourage you to map out an entire year, then discuss it with your spouse. How will they need to step up to support you? What will need to change to enable this venture?

How much money are you looking to make?

  • Do your math here. What will it take for you to make $100/week or $1000/month. Figure out how many dollars in sales and how many “parties” you will need to make that money. Also, be sure to take a look at the sales model. Some companies pay you directly and all money goes to the company first – others allow you to manage the funds yourself.
  • You will not be successful alone. You’ll need to tap into your family and friends to help you get started. Asking people who already love you to host parties and support your new venture will be important for your success, so making a list of people you already have on your side can’t help.

Do you want to lead a team?

  • In almost every direct sales company there is incentive to make more money for bringing others into the business. If you enjoy leading others and helping them be successful (and have the additional time that takes) then this is a way to make exponentially more dollars.
  • Most direct sales companies boast of leaders at higher levels making tens of thousands of dollars a month. It’s important to remember that it took them many hours and lots of hard work to get there. It’s also very unlikely that they are treating their job like a ‘side-gig’. They’ve more than likely committed full-time to their business and are leading a team of people to have that much success.

How comfortable are you “selling” stuff?

  • In most cases this is as simple as trying the products yourself, finding what you love, and sharing that with others. It also involves some level of researching your company and products so you speak genuinely and answer questions. Another consideration here is whether or not you stand behind the customer service model. For example, will you feel guilty about customers paying shipping costs? Would you like to deliver the product yourself? How much personal interaction do you want with your customers? How do they handle returns or complaints about products? It’s important to pick a company that models the style of service you’d like to offer and that backs you up as their representative.
  • You need to actually LOVE the product you are selling and the causes it supports. You can’t just feel so-so about it if you want to be successful. If you love the product and purpose enough then your own savings on what you would purchase could justify your business, but do the math on this first to confirm.

Here’s a list of fast facts about some popular direct sales companies. Before you review, please understand the following:

•  This list is in no way exhaustive. My intention was to give multiple options for comparison across multiple industries and product types. Also, there were some popular companies that I was not able to find clear information about through their website (like the actual % you make as a sales consultant). If there is a particular type of product you love (like health supplements, for example) please do your research and get those specifics.
•  I found all this information on the company websites and reputable direct sales reporting sources. Some information wasn’t always available (like how many people sell a particular product); when it was accessible I listed it.
•  The % I listed as what the seller “keeps” is the minimum number – many of these companies have a sliding scale. Also, the way you earn money differs for each company; in some you buy the product at a discount and keep the difference, in others you buy the product at retail and receive a check. Be sure to understand how payment works.
•  The cost of the starter kits vary broadly, and some companies have levels of starter kits. I listed the minimum investment that included some amount of retail product, for ease of comparison.

Avon (1886)

  • >6.5 million representatives worldwide
  • Representatives keep 20% of retail sales*
  • Start-Up Fee = $15, Business Booster Kit = $100*

Mary Kay (1963)

  • 3.5 million beauty consultants in 35 countries
  • Consultants keep 50% of retail sales
  • Starter Kit = $100

Pampered Chef (1980)

  • >60,000 consultants
  • Consultants keep 20-25% of their sales
  • New Consultant Kit = $159

Stampin’ Up! (1988)

  • >50,000 demonstrators in the US
  • Demonstrator keeps 20% of retail sales
  • Starter Kit = $99

Barefoot Books (1992)

  • Ambassadors keep 30% of retail sales*
  • Starter Kit = $140

Young Living Essential Oils (1993)

  • >150,000 distributors
  • Distributors keep 24% of retail sales
  • Premium Starter Kit = $160

Pure Romance (1993)

  • >75,000 representatives worldwide
  • Consultants keep 35% of retail sales
  • Standard Starter Kit = $219

Tastefully Simple (1995)

  • < 100,000 consultants in the US
  • Consultants keep 20-30% of retail sales
  • Business Blast Off Kit = $170

WildTree (1996)

  • >7,000 representatives
  • Representatives keep 25% of retail sales
  • Business Kit = $49.95

Silpada (1997)

  • >25,000 representatives in North America
  • Representatives keep 30% of retail sales
  • Get Going Kit = $199

Better Way Imports (2001)

  • >100 fighters in the US
  • Fighters keep 25% of retail sales*
  • Starter Kit = $199*

Rodan + Fields (2002)

  • >75,000 consultants in the US
  • Consultants keep 30% of retail sales
  • Personal Results Kit = $395

Thirty-One (2003)

  • 100,000+ independent consultants in the US and Canada
  • Consultants keep 25% of retail sales
  • Enrollment Kit = $99

Scentsy (2004)

  • 100,000+ consultants in the US
  • Consultants keep 20-25% of retail sales
  • Starter Kit = $99

Stella & Dot (2007)

  • <20,000 stylists worldwide
  • Stylists keep 25% of retail sales
  • Starter Kit = $199

Paparrazi Accessories (2008)

  • >2,000 stylists in the US
  • Stylists keep 45% of retail sales
  • Preview Pack = $99

doTERRA (2008)

  • >5,000 consultants
  • Consultants keep 25% of retail sales
  • Wellness Advocate Introductory Packet = $35 + Family Physician Kit = $150

Jamberry Nails (2010)

  • >35,000 consultants in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico
  • Consultants keep 30% of retail sales
  • Starter Kit = $99

Origami Owl (2011)

  • >5,000 designers in the US
  • Designers keep 30% of retail sales
  • O2 Business Essentials Kit = $149

To see more details on direct selling companies, check out this resource (keep in mind that many of the “commission” numbers assume you will be a team leader). To see more companies like this, feel free to check out this list of the Top 100 Global Direct Selling Companies.

The above information is just a snapshot of what these companies have to offer the mama who’s looking to make a little (or a lot). I’d encourage you to visit their sites, search for articles from different sources that provide you an unbiased perspective, and then confirm with a real representative from each company that works their business at the level you are looking to work. As with anything in life, you get out what you put in, so there is money to be made and good to do through direct sales.

Next up, “other” options for making money when staying at home.


  1. Hi

    I found your post quite interesting. I have worked in consumer research from home for over 20 years and you would not believe the difficulty in hiring people to work at home. When I worked for a local research company before starting my own company, we hired on a monthly basis and the people that applied for “work at home” positions did not want to work. They thought it would be “easy” and they could “work when THEY wanted”.

    I started my own research company earlier in 2015 and have the same issues. We do not sell anything. We would like to hire responsible adults who would like to work from the comfort of their home calling consumers to see if they qualify to participate in consumer research discussion groups. Everyone that participates is paid for their time and opinions (very well) and the “recruiter” is paid by the hour to ensure quality consumers.

    We have tried running ads, contacting local senior centers (for those who retired but still want to do something), referrals, job fairs, etc. We train very well and during the 2 hour “interview”, we explain in detail what we do, how to do it and the pros & cons. Then once the new employee goes home to work, they realize – THEY HAVE TO WORK! We receive calls that “they have to take the kids to school (and don’t come back for hours)”, ” I have to fix dinner (and we don’t hear from them)” and sometimes they don’t call us back at all. I realize some people are not cut out to work from home so don’t apply. The misconception of working from home is you don’t really work. It’s very frustrating.

    Any recommendations on where to hire responsible, friendly adults that want to earn extra money would be greatly appreciated.

    Lori Kolde

    • Lori,

      Thank you for that insight! I can absolutely understand how frustrating that would be. In the next post in this series I’ll be talking about other (non-direct sales) options for working from home.

      Your experience is a fairly common one, and as I have been researching the next post I have seen very similar sentiments from different employers who offer a “work from home” option. I’ll definitely share the importance of clarifying the type of work you want to do and that work from home roles should be taken just as seriously as those that are out of the home.

      Thanks for your valuable perspective Lori.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here