Why aspiring work-at-home mums are vulnerable

As a mum with young children who is looking to earn flexibly, you are the target of many skilled marketers.

It’s no surprise that there will be scammers looking to take your money in return for business opportunities that don’t exist. But I want to talk about business opportunities that are entirely legal.

In the (almost) three years that I’ve been running Business Plus Baby, I’ve seen  sophisticated marketing techniques designed to snag aspiring work-at-home mums.  In this post I want to shine a light on them so that you can make an informed choice about whether to ‘tune in’ or not.

You see, I’ve been in that truly uncomfortable position where you simply can’t put your baby in a nursery and go back to work, but you have no idea how you’ll pay the bills if you don’t. That desperation makes you open to marketing that you simply wouldn’t have paid attention to before.

There are plenty of perfectly legal business opportunities out there where the vast majority of recruits will make little more than pocket money. The few people who are doing well for themselves will be used as the case studies given to potential new recruits – after all, that’s just good marketing. My problem is that often, their stories don’t show the reality for 90%* of the people who sign up. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll often find that the successful few have a background in sales, which is a huge advantage.

You could argue that a high failure rate is to be expected if people are buying into these business opportunities with little or no business experience and are only working part time.

But I don’t think that’s good enough. If a business opportunity is being offered to you at a price,  your chances of success (and by that I mean at least an income equivalent to what you’d get for those hours in an average job, providing you work hard) should be far more than 10%*(and I suspect the reality is often a lot less).

Here are some clues to look out for:

  • “Recession-proof” – nothing is recession-proof.
  • “Anyone can do it” – not everyone has what it takes to succeed as a self employed person.
  • “Everyone needs to buy these” (e.g. consumables like household cleaners, gas or electricity) – true, but that usually means your competition will be fierce.
  • The founder of the scheme being presented as an ordinary housewife – Look closely and she’ll often have run businesses before. True, she may be working part time for a few years while she brings up her kids- but is it likely that you can replicate this success with your own skills and experience?
  • “I’ll be your partner in…” – you SHOULD get support and training but always keep in mind that you are a customer and you are being sold to. You’re not an equal partner in the usual business sense.
  • Using the lifestyle as a selling point – “I get to travel the world and earn money at the same time” – if you’re starting a business, your focus should be on what you have of value that your customers want to buy. Keep in mind that this ‘lifestyle’ tactic is putting you firmly in the customer role when you need to be thinking like a business owner.
  • “I’m working flexibly around my kids and loving it!” – Great, but are you earning more than minimum wage?
  • Any suggestion that you can earn a full-time income by working part-time hours. This is possible, but it usually takes about five years of hard work to build up to this point. And only a relatively small number of people have the stamina, mindset and skills to do it. Are you one of the few?
  • “No hard sell, just sell to your family and friends” – do you want to be hassling your family and friends on a regular basis to buy these products? Will they want to buy these products?

These tactics are NOT definitive signs that you’re about to be ripped off, but they are indicators that you should keep your eyes open, read between the lines, check the small print and definitely Google the company to see what others are saying about it. It can be hard to tell a good opportunity from a poor value one and you do need to do your homework.

Just to make it clear again, I’m not saying all direct selling schemes, multi-level marketing schemes, franchises or other ‘business in a box’-style opportunities are dodgy or unethical, I just want you to be able to make an informed choice. That’s not easy to do when you’re faced with slick marketing and are worried about putting food on the table.

*These percentages are my estimates. I haven’t yet found any statistics, so if you know of any please do tell me. I’m basing this article on the experiences of mums that I have spoken to over the last few years.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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