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.