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How direct selling can help you earn a second income

29 March 2021
5 minute read

Man on cellphone sitting at home

South Africans earned R2.4 billion selling products direct to their networks of friends and family in 2019. Could you do the same, and earn a piece of that pie? We chatted to Imtiaz Ebrahim of the Direct Selling Association of South Africa to find out.

What is direct selling?

Ever heard of Tupperware? Tupperware is one of the oldest and best-known direct selling success stories. Others you may have heard of are Avon, AMC, Herbalife and Botle Buhle Brands, and there are many more.

Distributors or representatives sell these companies’ products to individuals - usually people in their network of family, friends and colleagues. Distributors earn commission on what they sell, and - in some cases - bonuses, such as extra commission if they sell above a certain amount.  

Can you earn money direct selling?

Yes. Over 1 million South Africans are involved in direct selling and earned R2.4 billion in commission and bonuses in 2019. Sindie Silevana, a sales consultant from the Eastern Cape, is one success story. She was a single parent of two boys, struggling to make ends meet selling pancakes and sandwiches when her cousin recruited her to join AMC back in 2009. “I was shocked when I received my first commission of around R3 400 and decided to focus and sell AMC full-time.” She says, “I was able to send my boys to private schools. I have travelled nationally and internationally with AMC. I work flexible hours and this means I have time to watch my son playing sport without asking permission from anyone. And I determine what I earn.”

How much? This depends on the time and effort you put into training, learning about the products and building your business, says Imtiaz.

But - your bank balance won’t quadruple overnight. Direct selling isn’t a get rich quick scheme, it takes time and effort to build your network and sell your products.

Four direct selling myths, busted

Imtiaz Ebrahim of the Direct Selling Association of South Africa dispels four myths around direct selling

You don’t have to be an extrovert to earn money from direct selling

Myth: You have to be an extrovert
All types of people, including ‘quiet’ people, can achieve success in their direct selling careers

Myth: You need a lot of time
There are many people who spend a few hours a week on their business and make some money

Myth: You need to be in a big city
Also, not true, there are many success stories from smaller towns in South Africa

Myth: You need special skills
Reputable companies provide training and share information about their products

Do you need to invest any money?

You may need to invest a small amount to get started:

  • Some companies have starter kits or product samples, which you need to buy so customers can see what the products look like and how they work. Starter kit prices are reasonable, usually not more than a few hundred rand
  • You may also need to pay upfront for orders if your customers only pay when you deliver the products they have ordered

How do you get started?

Pick a reputable brand or company

You want to work with a company that sells good quality products that you are happy to promote, and that treats you fairly. Take the time to do your research before you make your decision:

  • Investigate the company, find out what they do and if their products are well known
  • You may know someone who is already selling. Ask about their experiences and whether you can join them or their team
  • Pick a company whose products people need or want, such as health and wellness products, clothes or skincare products
  • Check what associations the company belongs to and if they subscribe to a code of ethics. The Direct Selling Association of South Africa puts prospective members through an intensive assessment process before admitting them as members. You can view member details here
  • Find out exactly how the compensation plan works – how, what and when you get paid – and what will qualify you for a bonus or incentive

Take care to avoid scams. Direct selling involves earning income on the sale of a product. The sale is where money should change hands - when you sell and your customer buys. If money changes hands for something other than the sale of a product, it could be a scam and not a direct selling opportunity. These are three warning signs to look out for:

  • You are asked to pay to have a training session. Most legitimate direct selling businesses do not charge for training
  • You are asked to pay a joining fee or a membership fee
  • You are paid for introducing new recruits to the business

Complete the training

Imtiaz says this is really key to being able to sell your products - and all the success stories we investigated agreed. Spend time doing the training, get to know the product and people. Many companies will offer ongoing training and support. For example, Botle Buhle Brands say their managers should give their teams training once a week.

Now, get selling!

You already have a network of friends, family and colleagues, and they have friends and colleagues. Use these networks to get your direct selling career started. You can sell online on social media or in person. You can also host an event, like a party or breakfast meeting where you demonstrate and sell your products.

Importantly, always remember that relationships are key. You want your customers to be repeat customers and recommend you to new customers. So, take your time getting to know people, keep them informed of new products, ideas and let them know when they can expect items they have ordered.

Take the opportunity

Direct selling can be a good way to supplement your income or start earning an income, and you don’t need a qualification and or a lot of cash to get started. The right product, and your hard work and contacts are all you need! Start today!

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