Affiliate Marketing vs MLM: Which One Is Better?

affiliate marketing vs mlm


When I first started working on the internet, I got scammed many times.


After losing thousands of dollars, I really thought that everything is a pyramid scheme. And that was a legitimate thought to be honest.


Affiliate marketing and MLM seemed identical to me. Pyramid schemes and nothing more.


And I know for sure that a lot of people have the same opinion. That’s why I decided to write this article.


If you want to know what are the differences between multi-level marketing and affiliate marketing, then you’re in the right place.


We will go over everything you need to know. Also, we will have a look at which one you should chose in order to make money online safely.


First, let’s go over what they are individually.


What Is Affiliate Marketing?


It’s simply recommending other people’s products or services. If someone buys a product through your affiliate link, then you get a commission.


It’s actually pretty straight forward. You don’t need to pay any fees to sign up.


Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to make money online. Why?


Because you don’t own the products. You are just responsible with the marketing.


If you’re looking for a training program regarding this type of online business, ¬†there are plenty of articles on this topic.


I suggest checking out my review of the best affiliate course that I reviewed on this blog, Commission Hero.


What Is Multi-Level Marketing?


MLM is the process of gathering a bunch in order to sell products. The term “pyramid schemes” was attributed to this kind of business opportunities because really the only people that were making money were the ones that created the company.


In theory, the money is supposed to go down to everyone from the pyramid, but as you can probably imagine, that doesn’t really happen in practice.


The people from the bottom of the pyramid were struggling to get their money back, and sometimes they filed for bankruptcy or even worse.


John Oliver does a very good job in describing how Herbalife works in this video. Herbalife is probably one of the sketchiest companies on the planet.


Advantages of Affiliate Marketing over MLM


As you can probably tell, affiliate marketing sounds much more appealing because it’s much more ethical. Let’s have a look at what advantages there are if you were to choose this business model.


1. There are no fees if you want to join


Affiliate networks and programs don’t ask you for money when you want to sign up and start promoting their products.


Well, at least 99% of them. If I remember correctly, some programs, like Builderall,  do ask for a fee.


It’s better not to join if you see that they are asking for a fee. There are plenty of cool products you can promote for free.


However, MLM companies usually ask you for an entry fee of some sort.


Or, like in the case of Herbalife, they ask you to buy a bunch of they products and try to sell them to other people so that they can sell them to other people.


Related: Is Affiliate Marketing Legal?


2. You Have More Control


MLM companies usually force you to buy a lot of products when you enter, therefore you can’t really choose to not do this. Also, if you were to try and sell those products, you would need to interact face to face with a lot of people.


There are some MLMs that have digital products, which you will need to sell by spamming people’s inboxes with pitches. It’s a very tedious task if you ask me.


On the other hand, affiliate marketing networks make money whenever you make money. If someone buys something through your link, then it’s a win-win-win situation.


The customer is happy because he bought the product he wanted, the affiliate network is happy because they made a sale which otherwise they wouldn’t have made, and you’re happy because you made money.


The customers usually search for products they want to buy. For example, if you were to read one of my review articles and decide to buy through my link, I would make a commission.


That’s the best part of affiliate marketing. You create a piece of content, which then stays forever on the internet.


You can create blog posts, record videos, run Facebook ads, and people who were already interested in that product will see it.


affiliate marketing vs mlm


3. You Can Choose Which Products To Promote


Again, MLM companies have a lot of restrictions in terms of which products you’re allowed to promote. On the other hand, if you choose to start an affiliate business, you can basically promote whichever products you want.


There are A LOT of individual companies that allow you to promote their products. You can even recommend huge brands such as Uber. In that case, you wouldn’t need a lot of time to convince your customers, right?


You can make a website and promote products from Amazon. However, I would not recommend you do that.


At the beginning of 2020, they cut their affiliate payouts A LOT. In some cases, the commissions ended up being as low as 2%.


So it wouldn’t make sense to put in so much for for such low commissions.


The best option, in my opinion, is to promote products from an affiliate network like Clickbank or JVZoo. They mostly have digital products on their platforms, but sometimes you can find physical products as well.


The advantage of promoting digital products is that the seller can’t run out of stock. So you don’t need to worry about not being able to promote that particular product anymore.


The only case would be if the seller stops selling it themselves. And … if the product is making money, why would they do that?


4. It’s much more ethical


For me, this is the most important benefit from the entire list. Why?


Because I got scammed by MLM companies as well. When I first started out, I was just a young kid who was easily impressed by get rich quick claims… because i’m not very smart.


Now that I’m promoting affiliate products, at least I know that the customer is happy.


What happens if the customer is not satisfied with the product that I recommended him?


Usually he can request a refund. Most products have a 30 day money back guarantee. So, there’s no way that you can scam people.


Related: Is Affiliate Marketing Saturated?


Final Thoughts


I’m very happy that you read this article. Affiliate marketing is a great way to make money online.


Getting up in the morning and seeing that you made money is the best feeling in the world. Of course it’s a lot of work in the beginning, but in the end it’s all worth it.


Time passes anyway, so we might as well try and do something with it.


If you want to learn more about affiliate marketing or dropshipping, there are a ton of articles regarding those topics on this blog.