MLM vs Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate Marketing,  make money,  MLM,  Side Jobs

MLM vs. Affiliate Marketing: Which is a Yay, and Which is a Nay for Better Income Earning?

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All of us are somehow in this famous rat race that we have been a part of since the time we have understood the importance of making money or a decent income.

This rat race has always been about earning good money from whatever we do in our careers and make a good lifestyle for ourselves.

Either by doing a job somewhere or by starting our own business. Well, in both cases getting the right work we want to do and moreover earning well from the work that we are doing does not come easy for everybody.

In many cases, some people are tired of earning money from the traditional 9-5 jobs or from working till late nights for business meetings. And this gives rise to a desire to make money from the online medium, which is the new trend right now.

People wish to earn money sitting at home at their convenience doing the work they like. And also take out time for friends and family, which does not happen in regular jobs or businesses.

Need Aditional Income, But Hate MLM?

Many companies online have understood this desire and have given various opportunities for earning money online.

And, the two best variations of earning the same is either through Multi-level marketing, also known as Network Marketing and Affiliate marketing.

Those two marketing types have been on the rise, and the demand to be a part of these businesses are still growing.

Today’s entire topic of discussion is all about MLM vs. Affiliate marketing and which type of marketing one should opt for, for better income-earning opportunities at hand.

Let Us First Try To Understand What Is Multi-level Marketing All About?

Multi-level marketing is also known as Network marketing. It comprises of various levels in a company’s compensation plan where people who become members of it become a salesperson for the company.

Selling the products or services, and the income of the members depends on the pyramid-shaped compensation plan. It is either Uni-level, binary, matrix or all of it in some cases.

Matrix MLM compensation plan

MLM is also called as pyramid selling. Where you are not only selling the company’s products or services, but you also need to recruit more and more members in the MLM structure to build your downlines.

The more the members in your downlines, the more sales they make and, the more sales they make, the more commissions you earn.


Here, you also need to pay sign-up fees for becoming a member plus the monthly auto-ship fees to remain an active member in most MLM programs.

Generally, the salespeople of an MLM structure have to carry out this business through either word-of-mouth selling or by hosting parties and get-togethers at home. It is quite challenging to carry out for many, and not everyone is excellent at doing so.

There is an ocean of such companies that deal in the MLM business and mostly selling the same things as beauty products or nutrition-based products and health supplements.


Still, people become a part of such companies even after knowing how saturated the MLM market is already.

The term ‘Multi-level’ itself means that there are various levels a member will have to surpass to reach the desired amount of income or commissions to be earned.

Let Us Now Understand What Is Affiliate Marketing All About?

If you asked my personal opinion then any day, I would choose Affiliate Marketing over an MLM opportunity.

The reasons for this are quite simple to understand.

Affiliate marketing does not have any level that a member has to reach to earn something – there is no hassle of recruiting anybody.

The amount of money that you earn from Affiliate marketing depends solely on how you perform as an affiliate.

All you need to do here is to promote products or services of your favorite market area on various online platforms. (like social media, websites, blogs, etc.)

When a customer reaches your social media platform or website and clicks on your affiliate link, purchases the product or service, you get a commission for making that happen.

This means even here; you are a salesperson.
Still, the work required to do so does not involve directly selling the products or services or recruiting anybody.

It only requires you to become a mediator between the company and the buyer and earn a commission for doing that every time a sale is made through your efforts.

So, Affiliate marketing pays or rewards you for each visitor that reaches the affiliate link and makes a purchase through your marketing efforts.

There Are 4 Core Players In The
Affiliate Marketing Process Which Are:

  • The Customer – the one who reaches the affiliate links and makes a purchase.
  • The Publisher – the person, who is the affiliate (YOU), is the publisher who publishes the affiliate links on different platforms.
  • The Merchant – the one who is the company, the brand, or the retailer.
  • The Network – this includes the offers that the affiliates can choose from and the payment methods.

Here’s how Affiliate marketing works, explained through a simple process as below:

  • The customer searches for a product or service they wish to buy online or visits social media to do so.
  • They reach your website or social media platform while searching.
  • The customer clicks on the link on your social media platforms or websites to buy the product or service.
  • And finally, once the customer makes a sale, you earn your commission, which is generally between 1-75% per sale through your marketing efforts online.

You can start your own online business without selling or recruiting. 
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Is There Any Difference Between
MLM and Pyramid Scheme?

Well, yes, there is!

There is a thin line between an MLM program and a pyramid scheme. Also, there are already many companies in the market that are only pyramid schemes in the name of MLM businesses.

If it is a genuine MLM business, it will have actual products to be sold plus the burden of recruiting others in the market.

Whereas, if the money comes only through hiring others in the business without any actual products, then it is only a pyramid scheme.

Also, pyramid schemes are illegal to be carried out as a business.

In contrast, MLM programs are legitimate because it involves selling of products and services too.

The Pros Of Multi-level Marketing

  • People good at pitching the products anywhere to anyone can do great with MLMs.
  • It can give you a decent amount of money if done right and start in the early stage of the company
  • The work can be done from anywhere at your convenience.

The Cons Of Multi-level Marketing

  • You need to pay sign-up fees for almost all MLMs plus added monthly payments to remain an active member.
  • You need to depend a lot on hosting parties, get-togethers with friends and family, etc.
  • It is difficult to make a sale since the MLM market is too saturated.
  • Very few are legitimate MLM businesses, and the rest are only pyramid schemes.

What Are The Pros Of Affiliate Marketing?

  • You get to choose the niche or the market area of your choice.
  • It does not involve any direct selling of the products; it only requires the promotion of it.
  • It does not have any sign-up fees or any other extra expenses.
  • There are no investments involved and no hassle of recruiting others in the business.

What Are The Cons Of Affiliate Marketing?

  • You need to put in effort into finding the correct niche or market area of your choice.
  • You need to be active on social media sites, websites, and blogs with your promotions of the products or services.
  • The process of affiliate marketing is a bit slow but is worth the wait.

What Is The Difference Between MLM and Affiliate Marketing?

The main difference between MLM and Affiliate marketing is the fact that in affiliate marketing you have the freedom to choose your niche and you do not have to bother anyone or work on direct sales.

In MLM, you can only sell products that the company is selling, which you want to become a member of.

In MLMs, you need to reach various levels in the company’s compensation plan to eventually get some commissions or bonuses.

Still, in affiliate marketing, there are no levels or a pyramid scheme to be reached to get the benefits. You only need to have your marketing game on with full efforts given to promote the products or services.

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The difference is quite simple to understand here. With MLMs, there are always many more efforts that go into it with many levels to be reached and many recruitments to be done.

With affiliate marketing, you are your boss, and you get paid with only your marketing efforts that you are dealing with or of your choice.

Also, it is entirely at your own convenience of making the work done and receive money in return for doing so.

In Affiliate Marketing you do not depend on how well the downline does your job or how much they earn.

Who Wins MLM Or Affiliate Marketing?

It is entirely undeniable that both these types of marketing have certain benefits attached to it and how to earn these benefits is completely dependent on the individual.

If you are looking for extra income or a side job, or maybe want to make a fortune with these types of marketing, think about you first.

If you are a person who does not like to be sitting at home and is quite an extrovert who loves interacting with others; and also is good at convincing or influencing people into buying things, then MLM can be an excellent opportunity.

For those who are more at ease working at home and do not like direct selling to people and pitching, then affiliate marketing is a much better option.

I would always choose affiliate marketing over MLM because it is a much more simplified method of earning a residual income.

It is not dependent on any compensation plan levels or any recruitments.

When you have an opportunity to earn money through promoting things you love. And you can do it at home, college, cafes through social media, websites, or blogs, then why you would go for MLM opportunities?

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There are a lot of other unnecessary responsibilities involved like hiring people and direct selling things that may not even be of your interest plus who knows whether the MLM program is a scam or not. It is the case most of the time.

Affiliate marketing wins hands down, and you should take this up seriously to earn some decent extra bucks and do some fun work online.

I would really like to hear which type of marketing suits you better and why? Are you part of an MLM company or do you prefer to be your own boss? Have you started your online business yet?

Leave your comments below the image.


Hello, ladies! I hope you liked this post. I started my online business journey in 2003, worked for others or sign in at wrong programs. A three years ago I started with affiliate marketing, and now I am running my own online business, working from home. So, I can help you to start your own business.


  • Jordan

    Hi Jelena,

    When it comes to MLM vs Affiliate Marketing, the debate can last eternally. While MLM appeals to many, my personal choice on this is affiliate marketing 100%.

    The initial costs of starting as ana Affiliate Marketer can be nothing VS a decent amount to start with MLM. In the long run, affiliate marketing can create a passive lasting income due to the endless amount of “buyers” traffic using different mediums to find a product.



  • Md Millat

    Your article on MLM and Affiliate Marketing is awesome and thank you so much for sharing such a beautiful article with us. I learned about MLM and Affiliate Marketing on the Internet to make money online and I also learned how to earn from these two companies. Between these two companies, I personally like Affiliate Marketing and I’m earning affiliate marketing. I have a website of my own and I have been making income through this website for two years. When a customer visits my website through various links and they purchase the product, I get a commission from here. I have bookmarked your website so that I can come back to your website later. I have benefited from online affiliate marketing and I think every person who does affiliate marketing online like me will benefit from it. Thanks again for this post and I wish you the best!

  • JealousLi

    Hi, JELENA
    Pyramid selling is a phenomenon in many countries. In my impression, pyramid selling is a scam, because my country is the same. Many people are cheated because of this, and they also lose a lot of money.
    As you said, I have started working on Affiliate Marketing and making money online through Affiliate Marketing.
    Finally thank you for spending so much time sharing this article on MLM vs. Affiliate Marketing.

  • Mina Kim

    Thanks for the effort of comparing these two– which oftenly misunderstood by some newbies.

    I got involved in a few MLM’s (offline) too back in the day and just few years ago, and it was— hard. Specially for me, I am not a talker and I’m honest, so imagine the difficulties on talking to people (face-to-face) and encourage them to buy the product and promise that they can earn money. Knowing the inevitable hardship of recruiting people, but yet, you don’t get to tell them that.

    As a result I wasn’t successful but my sister did make money, it worked for her.

    So now, I’m digging the Affiliate Marketing world, I believe that this one will somehow work for me. And after reading your post, it convinced me more that I would be able to it. I just hope that it’s not late for me. Because it seems that everybody is into it nowadays!

    Anyways, thanks again for the details and clarification.

    • Jelena

      Hi Mina! 
      As I wrote, there are great MLM companies, but business is not for everyone (though they will say the opposite). As for affiliate marketing, don’t worry, you’re not late.
      Currently, 4.88 billion people are active internet users. Every year more and more is spent on online shopping. As much as $ 600 million more was spent online in 2019 compared to 2018. Statistics and predictions you can view HERE.
      So go ahead and make your dreams come true. 

  • Sebastian

    I did a career in MLM for 3 years, but then I realized that this business model is not for me.
    As you said, your gains in this business model depend on the efforts of your downlines, and the ability (and even willingness) of your uplines to support you. If you don’t have a strong team, you fail.
    However, affiliate marketing gives us possibility to build a real business around our passion or interest and possibility to build multiple streams of income with only one website. And this is the business model I prefer.
    Thank you for this comparison of these two business models.


    • Jelena

      Hi Sebastian, as former MLM marketers, you and I have come to the same conclusions. In MLM, it is difficult to succeed because most of the earnings are in engaging new members, and as you said, it is not easy to affect their productivity.

  • Katja

    I loved reading this post about comparing MLM with Affiliate Marketing, thank you for a good read while I’m sipping on my morning coffee! 😊 Knowing myself, I know I wouldn’t do good in MLM – I’m not the type of a person who feels comfortable selling to friends and family, it would just be too much of a pressure for me. On the other hand, I love Affiliate Marketing – because I was able to choose the niche I am passionate about and can build my business around something I know and believe in it.

  • MrBiizy

    MLM could be a great business opportunity especially for those at the very top. Most persons I know that are into MLM in my area aren’t doing well. They’re going through though times. Although affiliate marketing isn’t easy, one can easily cope because there are no high fees to pay, no products to buy and no inventory. Affiliate marketing is beginner friendly and that’s exactly why I want to go for it + it has a higher potential of making for me full-time passive income in a space of maximum 2 years.


    • Jelena

      You’re right.
      In MLM, they mostly make money people at the top (founders, top managers). What many people do not know before joining an MLM company is how much most people who are already members earn. So it’s good to find the “Income Statement Disclosure” on the MLM site and have a look. I’m sure most don’t realize that wages are miserable and that in most companies like this, only 1% of the top people make good money.

  • Nimrodngy

    Wow. Thank you very much for this article and all the information you have shared with us.
    I have long awaited such a comparison between MLM and Affiliate Marketing. I searched many articles on the internet about these two ways to make money and finally I decided to use affiliate marketing industry. For me this was the best choice and I will never regret it. I became a member of one of the largest platforms called Wealthy Affiliate and here I have truly found success. Now I have my own website and my own business where I promote different products and earn money from commissions.
    If I were to recommend between MLM and affiliate marketing, surely my favorite option is affiliate marketing. Thanks again for this post and wish you good luck ! 

    • Jelena

      I agree. I have been part of several MLM programs, and unfortunately, I was not very successful. Since I was introduced to Affiliate Marketing, my monthly earnings have grown to 4 figures a month.
      Wealthy Affiliate is also my favorite program and I can say that I learned all about your type of marketing there.

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