- A record 20.5 million Americans now make a living or supplement their income with direct sales, according to the latest data available from the Direct Selling Association.
- Here's how to handle the onslaught of offers from your relatives and friends.
These days, it's hard to go on social media without being hit up to buy something, even from your closest friends.
As the gig economy explodes, more and more people are picking up a side hustle to supplement their income, and that often involves selling products, from Beachbody DVDs to Rodan + Fields skin care or Stella & Dot jewelry.
"There are a lot of attractive qualities in these types of jobs that may explain why they are becoming more popular," said Brie Reynolds, a senior career specialist at FlexJobs.
About a quarter of all Americans participate in the sharing economy, according to the Pew Research Center. Of that, a record 20.5 million Americans now make a living or supplement their income with direct sales, according to the latest data available from the Direct Selling Association.
"For anyone who wants or needs to make additional income, the ability to work remotely and on your own schedule is made so much easier because of the easy access to high-speed internet and devices like laptops and tablets," Reynolds said.
"There's also a low barrier to entry — people don't necessarily need advanced degrees or any specific experience to join one of these programs," Reynolds added. "They also have a social aspect to them, where you're taking on work that your friends or family might be doing or might be interested in."
On the upside, direct sales, or multilevel marketing, lets "stylists," "coaches" or "consultants" — primarily women — work from home and at their leisure, while the return is directly correlated to how many hours and how much effort is put in.
On the downside, these popular business ventures are still unprofitable for many people involved with them. At one multilevel marketing company, "92 percent of the 130,000 consultants make $500 a year on average," according to Flexjobs.
That's not the case for Jennifer Bailey, 36. Bailey is a mother of two and an elementary school administrator. She said she makes up to $500 a month selling Stella & Dot, either in person at "parties" or through social media.
But there is an uncomfortable element to hitting up friends. "I never want people to feel like I'm using them," she said. "I am doing this as a side gig, I have no other motivation."
Kerri Byron, 25, is a marketing manager at a data company in Boca Raton, Florida, and recently started selling Rodan + Fields in her downtime. She said the extra income affords her car payment or evenings out.
She also said she avoids the "super aggressive" approach and relies on close college classmates and co-workers for the bulk of her sales.
For those on the receiving end of such solicitations, saying no to a skincare regime or even a bracelet can be daunting, particularly among friends.
"Fielding a sales pitch from a friend can be supremely awkward, especially since it's often disguised as a social event," said etiquette blogger Maggie McAlister.
"Emphasize that you're on her side and wish her every possible side-hustle success, but this particular venture is just not for you," McAlister added. "A true friend will understand and respect where you're coming from, especially if you convey it sensitively and sincerely."