How much money can you earn with MLM Usborne Books at Home?
Thinking about joining direct selling company (aka MLM) Usborne Books at Home? Find out how much money you can expect to earn.
Since we started investigating MLMs nearly three years ago, we’ve heard many people say, “My MLM is different.” But we have yet to discover an MLM that has a business model we’d recommend.
One company that often gets cited as ‘not like other MLMs’ by their reps is Usborne Books at Home (hereafter referred to simply as ‘Usborne’).
Perhaps because they sell children’s books, and we see their products in high street and online shops (which, ironically is one of the reasons why the MLM arm of the business doesn’t appear to work for many people) and schools, it’s easy to assume the company is ‘nice’ and even respectable.
But we’ve not yet investigated an MLM that was different. So we were curious about how Usborne did work.
(Another MLM also believed to be a ‘better’ company is Avon – find out why we believe that myth isn’t true here.)
We decided to find out if Usborne was really a ‘different’ MLM
Our curiosity was piqued further after we were approached by a woman who’d just been recruited by an Usborne Mentor. This woman was a typical MLM target – she finds it hard to find work to fit around her caring role and is worried about money.
She told us that she is generally suspicious of MLMs, but the woman who recruited her managed to convince her that (surprise!) Usborne was different and a safe bet.
She was promised that she didn’t need to recruit, nor that she had to make any sales quotas or buy stock. As a result, she saw it as a risk-free investment.
But we were suspicious. From our experience investigating MLMs, we didn’t believe it was that different, nor that there would be no pressure to sell (or personally buy) books from her upline once she was selling.
So we decided to investigate Usborne and find out how much you can earn with them – and what kind of experiences their Organisers really have.
You can buy the books cheaper elsewhere
The first thing that struck us was how expensive Usborne books are if you buy them through an Organiser full price. Especially as you can easily buy them much more cheaply elsewhere. Surely that would make them a difficult sell?
To illustrate just how much more expensive books are through Usborne Books at Home, if you were to join Usborne in the UK right now, your £48 starter pack would include these books:
On the right Usborne list the retail price of each book, and claim the total retail value of them is £144.82. But we know you can buy Usborne books much cheaper in shops and online (we often see them in TK Maxx and discount retailer The Works). So we decided to price the Usborne starter pack ourselves.
To make the comparison as fair as possible, we only priced new books, at full price (no offers) from well known retailers like Amazon (not eBay or discount shops).
Even so, we were able to buy all the above books, brand new and not on offer, for £101.97 – saving £42.85. If we’d have included new books on special offer we’d have saved even more.
Of course, even with the price comparison, it feels like a good deal to get all these books for just £48 in your starter kit (the kit also includes business stationery valued at £10.50).
Are Usborne Organisers the REAL customers?
But is it really? We know one of the accusations levelled at MLMs is that the reps are the real customers. Is that possibly true in Usborne too?
A clue to the answer to this is in the Usborne Books at Home Organiser Handbook:
“In the unlikely event that you do not submit orders to the total value of £120+ within 12 weeks of joining Usborne, you will be invoiced for the difference between the price you paid for the Starter Kit and the retail price.”
So, if you don’t manage to sell £120 of Usborne books in your first three months, Usborne make you pay their full retail price of these books.
If we exclude the marketing materials from this, you’ll end up paying Usborne £96.82 (£144.82 – £48). And remember, you can easily buy ALL of these books cheaper elsewhere.
So who is the real customer here? Why do Usborne insist that ‘failed’ Organisers pay the full retail price for the books? Especially as they know their books are sold for less by retailers?
Our guess is that it’s a pressure tactic to ensure new recruits to make enough early sales. Or to make personal purchases to bring them over the £120 if their sales don’t reach it.
After all, if you’re going to be paying Usborne back £96.82 for books you’ve already had (effectively getting nothing for your money) you might as well spend that money getting extra books by placing an order for stock yourself.
You need to sell £120 a month every rolling three months to stay active
Pretty much every MLM we’ve encountered has a minimum sales requirement for reps, in order to remain with the company and/or qualify for commission.
And Usborne is no different. If you want to maintain your status as an Usborne Organiser, you need to sell £120 worth of books in any rolling three month period:
If you don’t, you’ll be ‘inactive’. And if you don’t achieve the minimum sales in any month in six months, you’ll be automatically withdrawn without notice:
“…we will automatically withdraw without notice any Organiser who has submitted less than £120 sales in any one month in a rolling six month period.”
How much commission do you earn with Usborne Books?
So how much do you actually earn with Usborne Books at Home? As an Organiser you earn 24% of the total sales value of each order. So if you sold £100 of books you’d earn £24. And if you sold £40 you’d earn £9.60.
But you’ll also need to pay costs out of your commission:
So, from your sales you’d need to pay for shipping and towards the cost of any party host benefits. This means that if you sold £100 of books, the actual amount you’d earn would be £18 (£24 less £2 party costs and £4 carriage charge).
And if you sold £40 of books your earnings would be just £2.10 (£9.60 less £2 party costs, £4 carriage charge and £1.50 extra handling charge).
How much effort and time did that £2.10 take to earn? Let’s say you held a party for one hour. And spent a total of two hours preparing for it, making arrangements with the host, and packing up and travelling to and from the venue.
That’s a total of three hours spent to earn just £2.10 – or 70p an hour. Even if you sold £100 of books at the party your hourly income would be just £6. To contrast, the current national minimum wage in the UK for someone over 25 is £8.21.
Do Usborne Organisers pay to stay active?
One reason why so many MLM reps end up in debt is because they end up buying products themselves to remain active, qualify for commission and earn bonuses and promotions.
This same former Usborne Organiser also reveals that, after tax and expenses her net income was ‘low, next to zero.’
‘After five months of working I ended up losing £2.43’
And she’s not alone in finding it difficult to make money with Usborne. Here’s what another former Usborne Organiser said of her experience:
“After five months working my arse off I ended up on -£2.43 and I only managed to claw that much back because I found another local organiser to buy all my stock at half the price it was worth.
They don’t exactly lie but omit stuff to get you to join… they don’t tell you that you have to pay for postage and you lose most of your commission if you make orders of less than £100.
That there’s so many organisers in your area that are even on the bloody marketing material! That every toddler group or event will charge you money. That the exact same books are cheaper elsewhere so the only way you can sell them is by slashing prices and making no profit.
That you can’t work with schools (to get better comission) until you’ve sold £600 of books. Oh yes, which I eventually achieved two days before I left. Except it doesn’t count because they weren’t 6x £100 orders.
[In total as an Organiser] I sold £600 of Usborne books. My mentor made approx £30 out of that and I end up on a minus. Sometimes working 12 hours a day on it too planning online parties etc. The thing that really got my goat though… every time I said this isn’t working or complained about how hard I was working for no money, I was told it was because I was being negative!”
Sadly, everything in this woman’s experience is familiar across the board in MLMs: overpriced products that are hard to sell, saturation of other reps competing against you, costs eating into any money you make, being told you’re the one who failed if it doesn’t work for you, and losing money.
Just as we suspected, Usborne Books at Home appears to be just like every other MLM, with no discernible difference we can see.
How much money can you make selling Usborne Books to schools?
One carrot that is dangled in front of Usborne Organisers is the opportunity to sell books to schools and libraries. Many hopefully reps we’ve spoken to believe that this is where the real money can be made.
But is this true? If you sell to a school you earn 20% commission on the total sales value of each order. The commission isn’t overly generous, so Organisers must be banking on large volume orders.
However, in order to be able to sell to schools and libraries, you need to have submitted six £120+ party orders. And as we’ve seen from the experience of the Organiser above, this isn’t apparently easy to achieve.
Also, even once you’re allowed to sell to schools and libraries, you’re competing against genuine reps for other companies, and established online companies like Book People who are able to sell books in bulk to schools – including the same Usborne books as you – for much less than their retail price.
For example, See Inside your Body is listed as a £9.99 retail price on the Usborne starter kit, but schools can buy it for £7.99 from Book People. And Looking After your Mental Health is available for £2.99 – £4 less than the retail price listed in the starter kit.
To compete with this established retailer, you’d need to offer your books for less that their prices. Can you even buy books for that little from Usborne in the first place? And even if you do, your commission would be miniscule. For example, 20% commission on £2.99 is just 59p – and that’s before you deduct any costs.
Usborne is also not mentioned on this list of suppliers of books to primary school libraries.
So, even if you do manage to sell 6 x £120+ orders of books (without buying any yourself to make that magic number), how much success do you think you’ll have selling to schools and libraries to give you a consistent income?
And if you do manage to establish a relationship with your local schools and libraries, you’d need to offer your books at a significant discount in order to compete, and then you only make 20% commission less costs.
Is Usborne Books at Home a pyramid scheme?
Many people believe that MLMs are pyramid schemes. But what about Usborne Books at Home? Could that be considered a pyramid scheme?
In order for an MLM to not be classified as an illegal pyramid scheme, participants need to earn money from sales to the public, rather than from recruitment. So it it possible to earn a living from Usborne from sales to the public?
Let’s say you hold four parties a month, and in each party you sell £100 of books. This will earn you £72 in commission. (This is before general business expenses are deducted.) Even if you held four £100 parties a week every week, you’d only earn £324, which is pitiful. And for this, you’d need to have sold an eye-watering £1,800 of books.
So no, we don’t think it’s possible to earn decent money with Usborne Books through sales to the public alone. You need to recruit.
If you recruit someone under you as an Organiser, you can earn a permanent 6% Mentor Bonus on the sales of anyone you recruit. But (there’s always a but with MLMs) in order for you to get this bonus, you and your recruit must both submit a minimum of £120 sales a month.
So what do you do if you’ve hit £120 in a month, but your recruit has only sold £80? Buy stock off them to top them up? Or pressure them to make more sales (or buy stock themselves)?
Even if they did hit that magical £120, your Mentor Bonus would be just £7.20.
The next rank up from Usborne Organiser is Team Leader. To get promoted to this level, you and at least four Organisers you have personally recruited must achieve £1,800 or more of team sales in a single month.
And you and at least four Organisers you have personally recruited must each have sold orders worth a minimum of £120 that month.
Again, imagine that you’re close to promotion one month, but one Organiser fails to make their £120. What do you do? Just let all that hard work go to waste, and start from zero again the next month? Or do you place orders through that Organiser yourself, or pressure them to buy more books (for ‘stock’) to get you the promotion?
You need to put in a LOT of effort to earn very little
Let’s say you make it to Team Leader. You automatically get a Rank Advancement Bonus of £120 (doubled to £240 if you’re promoted within four months of joining).
From then on, you earn 5% commission (called a Personal Team Bonus) on your team sales every month, providing:
- You make £120 in sales that month.
- Your team collectively makes £1,800 in sales that month.
- Four Organisers under you are ‘active’ (which means they’ve made £120 in sales one month in every three rolling months).
So what does this mean to you financially? Let’s work it out, assuming you just qualify:
- If your £120 is from one party, you earn £22.80 commission.
- You earn £90 commission on your collective team sales.
- You earn a £28.80 Mentor Bonus because four of your team sold £120.
Your total income? £238.80 before expenses. For the stress of building and running a team that collectively sells over £1,800 in books for Usborne. If you had a minimum wage job you’d only need to work six hours a week to earn this.
We don’t know about you but that seems ridiculously little for the hours and effort you’ll be putting in – not to mention the expenses of running your ‘business’. No wonder research into MLMs published by the FTC proves that, on average, 99.6% of participants will lose money when business expenses are taken into account.
Oh and to keep your rank, you need to be paid at this level at least once in every rolling three months. Just to maintain the pressure.
We calculate the basic daily income at the top of Usborne is just £84.71
But what happens if you climb right to the top of Usborne, and reach the heady heights of Executive Leader, their top rank? How much can you earn then?
To qualify as an Executive Leader, you need three things:
- You need to qualify as a Team Leader (but your personal sales quota doubles to more than £240 a month).
- Your team needs to make £30,000 sales that month.
- You need eight qualified team leader ‘legs’ (this means eight people you personally recruited need to qualify as Team Leader that month).
And you need to achieve this once in every rolling six months to keep your rank.
So how much can you earn if you make the minimum requirements for this rank? From what we can see from their VERY complicated compensation plan, this is what you’ll get:
- £45.60 commission from two personal parties. (If it’s from more parties your earnings will be reduced.)
- £1,500 commission on your collective team sales.
- £230.40 Mentor Bonus because 32 of your team sold £120.
- £130 (.5%) Executive Leader Bonus.
The first month you make Executive Leader you also get a Rank Advancement Bonus of £1,200.
So, your total income (not counting the one-off Rank Advancement Bonus) for personally spearheading £30,000 of sales for Usborne books is a miserly £1,906.
Let’s say there are 22.5 working days in a month. This means your daily income is £84.71, before expenses. And remember, this is the top rank of Usborne. (As with our Team Leader calculation, we’ve based this on the bare minimum you can earn at this rank.)
What’s it like working as an Usborne Organiser?
The only way to really know what it is like as an Usborne Organiser is to speak to people who have worked for the company. Here’s what one former Organiser told us about their experience.
“There was a lot of pressure to recruit”
I never managed to climb the ranks in Usborne. There was a lot of pressure to recruit other members which I personally couldn’t do as I couldn’t lie to people and tell them they’d make money, when I myself had not been able to.
I don’t drive and I live in an area where for a lot of kids the only hot meal they get is the free school meal provided five days a week, and the parents won’t even read the school books that get sent home each week so it was difficult for me to find customers.
I’m also too honest for my own good and would tell people if they could buy a book cheaper at The Works, the book people or on Amazon etc.
“I lost around £1,000 in six months”
I was my best customer. I was always out of pocket. Then there are the team building meets that they convince you that you need, which just means more expense on travel and food when you get there etc.
My team mentor pressured me a lot to get more sales; to buy books to build my own collection for book stalls and parties. And to do parties which I wasn’t able to do, even if people had been interested, as I had no childcare and I didn’t feel comfortable hosting in my own home.
She’d told me how she’d made hundreds in sales and whenever I was struggling I was told I wasn’t doing enough, that I needed to travel to other places and do stalls etc.
I had joined Usborne because I home educate my children and I’d heard of the offers they do for schools so thought it would be great to be able to offer other home educators huge discounts and free books. But in order to be able to offer those rates, you need to progress and have lots of sales.
I only worked as an Usborne Organiser for six months (I was inactive for another six until they terminated me) and I lost around £1,000.
“They would encourage people to put their own money in”
I did fairs, book reading groups at play groups, community markets etc. I got maybe a handful of customers after months of Facebooking offers, and all the above, and most of the books that were ordered were out of stock.
My mentor’s mentor even started hounding me about my sales. They never said it was because it lines their pockets but I knew it was. They would encourage people to put their own money in, and when people weren’t doing so well they’d blame them for not putting more into it.
We were part of a group where all of the reps would post. I can’t stand lies and it got me down seeing people lie to new members like that. After a while of no sales they booted me from being a rep.
“Anyone badmouthing Usborne would be taken to court”
They made it clear on the group several times that anyone bad mouthing Usborne would be taken to court, so I’ve had to bite my tongue quite a few times when people have popped up on Facebook trying to recruit others. The bottom line is that you have to put in a hell of a lot of money, time and effort for little to no reward.
And then to get any further you’re required to lie to people in the same situation as yourself. People who are genuinely struggling and looking for ways to earn money for their families whilst getting to spend time with their families.
It really opened my eyes to these pyramid schemes, and I think it’s awful how they are allowed to do this to people.
“All I did was lose money”
Another former Usborne Organiser told her story to Timeless Vie. Here’s an excerpt:
“Eventually, after months of battling to try & get orders from my locality, I decided to quit. I tried selling my stock at a discounted rate to other sellers, including my manager, but all said they didn’t need it. So, wanting rid, I put the whole lot on eBay. It must’ve been worth several hundreds of pounds, and I got about £30 back. And who bought it? Yep, the manager who didn’t need anything.
“So yes I was naive, but even with a decent biz brain & lots of motivation, all I did was lose money. The obsession, as with all these companies was recruit, recruit, recruit, but there was no way I would rip friends off, so I lost out. Moral of the story is don’t assume that these long-running companies have any more integrity than the Youniques and Juice Plus Types, because in my experience, they don’t.”
But I know someone doing well at Usborne!
Every time we’ve published an investigation into MLMs we’ll hear from someone claiming a friend of theirs appears to be doing well from that company. But is that really true?
The clue here is ‘appears to be’. We know that MLM recruits are trained by their uplines to lie about their success – after all, how you you recruit someone if you’re honest about how little you’re earning? And as we’ve seen in every MLM we’ve investigated, you can’t earn money without recruiting.
We’ve also seen MLM reps pretend that the lifestyle they live is down to their MLM business, when in fact it’s funded by their parents’ wealth (as in the case of a well known Nu Skin ‘influencer’) or their husband or partner (again, we’ve seen this happen with Forever Living).
Sadly, we’ve also learned that MLMs, as a rule, don’t appear to encourage their reps to keep proper books of their business, nor register with HMRC, which is a legal obligation if you are selling enough to pay tax. This may be because their reps never earn enough to pay tax.
But it could also be that keeping books, which is a basic good business practice everyone should do, will reveal how little they’re really earning. (Or how much they’re losing.) And MLMs benefit from their reps not knowing their real financial situation; so they can tell themselves they’re doing well when they get a commission cheque for £20 – not realising that commission is on their own purchases, so is in fact a loss.
Almost every former MLM rep we have interviewed didn’t realise they’d made a loss until they left and finally did the sums. When they were in the business (and losing money) they would have honestly told someone they were doing well.
So when someone tells us a friend of theirs is doing well in an MLM, we’re sceptical – and this includes Usborne. As you can see from our calculations above, it appears to be very difficult to earn decent money with Usborne, even if you reach the top rank.
And any money someone at the top of an MLM does make? Sadly, from what we’ve been told, it seems this is likely to come from the poor reps underneath them who are pressured to buy stock themselves to qualify to remain active – and prop up the fragile rank structure of their uplines.
As always, it appears to us that the only people who can possibly make serious money in an MLM is the company itself, and a handful of people in the very top rank. Everyone else appears to be just a customer, disguised as a rep selling for them.
Should you join MLM Usborne Books at Home?
Like all MLMs we have investigated so far, we just can’t see how you can make good money at Usborne Books at Home. Certainly, none of the former Usborne reps who contacted us did.
And, despite some of its reps claiming that Usborne is ‘different’ to other MLMs, we see too many similarities to believe it. Just like other MLMs:
- Usborne Organisers are lured in by reps with the promise that it’s easy to make money.
- Usborne Organisers need to sell (or buy) a specific amount to remain active.
- Usborne’s compensation plan seems complicated, and ranks difficult to maintain – forcing reps to pressure their teams.
- Usborne’s compensation plan encourages and rewards recruitment – you need to build a team to get the bonuses and extra commission.
- Anyone who fails is told that it wasn’t business that failed, it was them; they didn’t work had enough or were too negative.
- Former Usborne Organisers are frightened to speak publicly about their experience.
- The products are hard to sell – identical products are widely available for less on the high street and online.
- The market is saturated – you’re competing against other Usborne reps in your area.
Given all of this, Usborne Books at Home doesn’t seem any different from other MLMs.
Time and again, research shows that the vast majority of participants in MLM will lose money once expenses are deducted. And most MLM reps will work for much, much less than minimum wage – before expenses are even taken into account.
So, based on this, no, we personally would never recommend anyone join Usborne Books at Home.
Want to find out more about Usborne Books?
If you want to learn more about Usborne, and hear from a former Organiser, you can watch this deep dive video:
Read more about MLMs
We’ve published a number of articles on MLMs. If you’d like to learn more about the industry, here are some income investigations:
- Is MLM Amway a scam? And how much can you earn with them?
- How much money can you really make working for Arbonne?
- How much can you earn with MLM Nu Skin
- How much money can you earn with Isagenix?
- How much can you earn as an It Works distributor?
- How much can you earn with Younique?
- How much money can you earn with MONAT?
- How much money can you make with doTERRA?
- The complete lowdown on MLM Juice Plus+
And you can learn more about how the MLM industry works here:
- The 10 ugly truths MLMs don’t want you to know
- Is it REALLY possible to make money in an MLM? We do the sums
- Are MLMs really pyramid schemes? Why you can’t make money selling their products
- Seven lies an MLM rep will tell you – and the REAL truth you need to know
Photo by Alex Blăjan
This article is based on research using publicly available documents from Usborne Books at Home, and personal experiences of former Organisers. If there is anything factually incorrect in this article, Usborne are welcome to contact us and we will revise accordingly.