How much money can you really make working for MLM Arbonne?

Thinking about joining Arbonne as an Independent Consultant? We take a look at their UK and US income disclosure statements to see how much you can realistically expect to earn. 

We recently published an article looking at the reality behind MLMs – also referred to as social selling, networking marketing and other names:

It has been so popular that we’ve continued to explore the industry further, looking at how much money representatives are actually earning from these schemes (figures that often contrast dramatically with the recruitment messages).

We’ve already explored how much can you expect to earn from Stella&Dot, Isagenix, doTERRA and Herbalife. Now, in this article, we look at how much you can expect to earn with Arbonne in the UK and US – based on their income disclosure statement from 2018.

We’ve put our sums to a top MLM expert for verification

Before we reveal Arbonne’s income disclosure statements, we have a disclosure of our own. We are were lucky enough to have access to global MLM expert Robert FitzPatrick, President of Pyramid Scheme Alert, and author of the book False Profits. Robert is an expert witness in court cases, and his work has been quoted in CBS 60 Minutes, the BBC, the New York Times, The Times and the Wall Street Journal.

We wanted to make sure our conclusions of Arbonne’s ‘income opportunity’ were accurate and that we hadn’t missed anything, so asked Robert to read this article before publishing. In fact, Robert felt that our conclusions were TOO optimistic, and that the income prospects for Arbonne consultants are much grimmer than we found.

You can read Robert’s expert analysis of the ‘income opportunity’ offered by Arbonne after our dissection of their income disclosure statements.

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How much can you expect to earn with Arbonne in the UK?

So how much can you expect to earn as an Arbonne Independent Consultant? Let’s take a look at their UK income disclosure statement for 2018:

In 2018, Arbonne had 21,000 Independent Consultants in the UK. But according to their income disclosure statement, only 12% each month (a tiny 2,600 people) actually earned any money from Arbonne. (The table above shows only the 12% of reps who did earn any money, or ‘active consultants’.)

So, of 21,000 Independent Consultants, 88% (18,400 people) earned nothing. This means that just 12% of all UK Arbonne reps earned ANYTHING in 2018.

Let’s put this into numbers with the rest of their figures. Here’s what all Arbonne reps in the UK earned in 2018:

  • 18,400 people (88%) earned nothing.
  • 1,544 people (7%) earned £42 a month.
  • 777 people (3.7%) earned £167 a month.
  • 190 people (0.9%) earned £909 a month.
  • 70 people (0.3%) earned £3,445 a month.
  • 18 people (0.08%) earned £12,366 a month.

According to the Office for National Statistics, a person aged 25 and over who works 37.5 hours a week on the new New Living Wage will earn £265 a week after Income Tax and National Insurance.

This means that only 88 people in the UK (the top two tiers of Arbonne’s ranks) earn above the National Living Wage if they are pursuing Arbonne as a full time income.

88 people.

The other 99.6% of Arbonne reps are earning less than the National Living Wage full time. Which, coincidentally is the same percentage of reps, on average, who lose money working for an MLM, according to research published by the FTC.

How does the reality of Arbonne compare to their marketing?

Let’s contrast this with the marketing message on the Arbonne UK website:

On the same page, Arbonne feature testimonials from Arbonne consultants raving about how Arbonne has helped them to build “global businesses”. But underneath these testimonials, Arbonne admits that “The Arbonne Independent Consultants featured have achieved the rank of Executive Area Manager, Regional Vice President or National Vice President”.

In other words, the very top ranks on their pyramid-shaped earnings table. These people are all in the top 1% of all Arbonne reps. Hardly representative of the average experience of 99% of reps, is it?

(We look more in depth at Arbonne’s marketing further down.)

How much does it COST you to be an Arbonne rep?

As with Stella&DotHerbalife and Isagenix, the figures in the Arbonne table above are depressing enough for most people. But it’s in the small print underneath that the real truth hides: “These figures do not represent Arbonne Independent Consultants’ profits, as they do not consider expenses incurred by Arbonne Independent Consultants in the promotion of their businesses…”.

So these are incomes BEFORE expenses are taken out.

So what are these expenses? To join Arbonne in the UK you need to pay a £30 registration fee. Then you need to place your registration order. It’s hard to find out exactly how much the Arbonne starter pack costs (they don’t reveal this on their website), but we did find one on eBay for £140 (if anyone has an accurate price for this, you are welcome to update us via our contact page):

All levels on the Arbonne compensation plan also have a minimum of QV, the amount that is “used to calculate volume from product sales to qualify for promotions and maintenance of the ranks in the SuccessPlan, as well as incentives and other rewards.” Put simply, this is the minimum amount of products that need to be purchased through your account for you to remain active with Arbonne.

Other expenses Arbonne mentions on its SuccessPlan include “Welcome Kits, Business Aids, business fees… [and] sample packs.” You will need samples of the products you are selling for demonstration purposes, and marketing literature to leave with people you hope to convert into customers or recruit into your team. And these all come at a cost to you.

Most MLMs also expect you to ‘live the product’ which means personally buying and using the products you are selling yourself, which isn’t cheap. Arbonne even has an FAQ on its website answering the question “Why are Arbonne products so expensive?”

All these costs (plus other business expenses such as delivery and travel, as well as tax) need to be deducted from any earnings to give real profit.

So those 88% of reps who earned nothing in 2018 are likely to have lost money. As will some of the people who were active, according to research published by the FTC on the MLM industry.

How much can you expect to earn with Arbonne in the US?

Let’s do the same sums on Arbonne’s US income disclosure statement for 2018:

As with the UK Arbonne income disclosure statement, in their US compensation summary reveals that “In the United States, Arbonne had an average of 174,200 Arbonne Independent Consultants during 2018,” but that only 17% (30,100 people) were active on a monthly basis. It’s these people only that Arbonne feature in the table above.

So, of all Arbonne reps in the US in 2018, 83% (144,586 people) made no money.

When you factor the entire picture into the calculations using the table above, this is what ALL US Arbonne reps earned in 2018:

  • 144,586 people (83%) earned nothing.
  • 19,866 people (11.4%) earned $70 a month.
  • 7,224 people (4.1%) earned $321 a month.
  • 1,806 people (1%) earned $1,531 a month.
  • 602 people (.34%) earned $5,987 a month.
  • 301 people (.178%) earned $21,711 a month.

And again, these earnings are before any expenses and personal purchases have been deducted.

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What Robert FitzPatrick thought of Arbonne’s income disclosure statement

So what did MLM expert Robert FitzPatrick think of Arbonne’s income disclosure statement and our conclusions from it?

To start with, he says that the very discussion of ‘average income’, even to debunk it, reinforces the incorrect view that the ‘average’ Arbonne recruit gains any income at all. In reality very, very few people make ANY money from Arbonne.

Arbonne’s income disclosure statement shows ridiculously low chances of gaining a true profit. Yet Robert believes that the true picture is far, far worse than even these terrible numbers indicate. Here’s why:

  • Costs are not deducted so these are not ‘income’ figures at all.
  • The requirements for continued BUYING are not deducted. To get any commission at all, an Arbonne participant must keep buying. This is often called ‘selling’ but the quota can be met by personally buying and that is what the newest recruits will do to qualify for rewards they hope to gain if they recruit others.
  • Abonne’s pay plan is based on recruiting others to become Arbonne representatives. They will have then to buy also, so the word ‘selling’ is misleading. It is all about recruiting and personally buying. There are no retail profit numbers disclosed because they hardly exist at all.
  • The time frame of the ‘average’ is for one year. It should be for a longer time frame. 50-80% of people in all MLMs quit in a year, while the top recruiters are positioned every year. The ‘average’ should include all those who joined and quit over several years to get a truer picture of the odds of success.

Robert also took issue with the way average incomes are worked out. The averages used are mean (total payments divided by total participants). If they were median (half make more and half less), the average income would be zero. A mean average includes the very high incomes of the few at the top, which skews the average. The figure also excludes all those that made nothing, which is the majority.

And finally, the most important data point information is not provided. This is: how many of the people who join each year ever make a net profit? If you join now, that is your peer group.

On ‘average’ no one makes money

The most important fact that Robert wanted to put across is that there is no ‘average’ income. On average no one makes any money. He believes that most people should not expect to make any money ever in Arbonne, based on the real figures when they are fully disclosed – figures that include everyone who joined over a longer period of time.

(If Arbonne disagree with this, we invite them to send their full figures and we’ll pass them onto Robert for analysis.)

This probably seems hard to believe. How can so few people actually make any profit, and how can many lose money in a legally chartered program that advertises that it offers a viable income opportunity?

And what about all those people you know or see on Facebook claiming they’re making money? Are they all lying? According to Robert most are. And they do this because they’re recruiting. They are deluding themselves. They are hoping. They are not telling the truth. There are some very devious deceivers online (this concurs with conversations we ourselves have had people people who have worked inside MLMs).

Robert’s conclusion of our dissection of Arbonne’s income disclosure statement is that the reality is far, far worse than even we realised.

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Arbonne encourages new recruits to spend more than they’re comfortable with

One of the reasons why we dislike MLMs so much is the pressure they often place on their reps to keep spending with them, as Robert notes above – even if that means getting into debt in some cases.

In internal team training documents, Arbonne appear to encourage new recruits to start out by spending more than they’re comfortable with:

The MLM model usually relies on the sunk cost fallacy (investing more in something that’s not working because you don’t want to lose what you’ve already invested) to keep reps in and buying from them. And this seems to be a perfect example of how this is done right from the start.

By encouraging new recruits to stretch beyond their comfort level, you place more pressure on them to stay and try to make their investment back. Despite Arbonne’s own compensation plan showing that 89.4% of all active UK Arbonne reps earn less than an average of £100 a month (without taking into account their expenses – such as “products for presentations and sampling”).

Are Arbonne’s marketing materials irresponsible?

There’s one more topic we need to address: Arbonne’s marketing materials. We already know, from Arbonne’s own income disclosure statements, that almost 90% of UK Arbonne reps who qualify for commission earn less than £100 a month. And in the US, 97% of all active reps earn less than $575 a month (all before expenses).

But when you look at their recruiting marketing, you get a very different impression. Here’s an Arbonne recruiting document that makes it look quite possible to earn $1,000 a month:

And this document even handily has some monthly compensation ranges for each level:

However, according to their own income disclosure statement, Arbonne’s district managers earn an average of $3,336 a year, or $256 a month. So while their quoted range isn’t a lie, it seems very deceptive to us, choosing to focus only on the top earners in that rank. (The bottom 50 District Managers earned a far less impressive average of $88 a year).

They also fail to mention the bulk of their reps in these marketing documents (59% of all reps in the US are Independent Consultants). Probably because their average annual income (before expenses) is a paltry $767. Even their top 50 consultants at that rank earned an average of just $7,423 – or $618 a month before expenses.

Their bottom 50 Independent Consultants earned just $25 in 2016 on average – or $2.08 a month before expenses.

And remember, this only counts active consultants who qualified for any commission at all.

In our opinion, these marketing materials are irresponsible. They appear to be selling a viable opportunity, but cherry pick figures from their income disclosure statement. And, as a result, we believe misrepresent the reality for most reps. As this former Canadian Arbonne rep discovered to her cost.

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It’s “normal” to lose friends and family when you join an MLM like Arbonne

Aside from the fact that most participants in MLMs will apparently lose money, one of our biggest problems with them is the cult-like way they seem to brainwash their recruits.

Starting a new business or job doesn’t usually mean severing relationships with people who love and care about you. Unless of course your new ‘opportunity’ is with an MLM like Arbonne.

Because when you join an MLM like Arbonne you’re encouraged to see your friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances as a potential source of income and start badgering them (sorry, approaching them) with “the gift of Arbonne”. (Yes, really.)

Here’s an example of how Arbonne apparently encourages you to make lists of people you know to start bothering:

It’s strategies like this (and pretty much every MLM we’ve come across encourages you to do something similar) that lead to those irritating Facebook messages from old friends. It also, in most cases, leads to offending and alienating people who care about you.

So what happens when you mention to your MLM upline that their tried and tested sales tactics are annoying people you know?

The ethical response would be to encourage you to nurture and protect your relationships with your support network (the people who love you and will be there for you even if you don’t make them any money). But often that’s (unsurprisingly) not your upline’s respsone. After all, they need you to be selling in order to meet their own commission targets.

So instead they’ll reframe your friends and family’s doubt as jealousy, or lack of vision or ambition. Much like like this Facebook post from an Arbonne rep:

“You will always have the business you ASK for”

Here’s more evidence of, in our eyes, what looks like irresponsible marketing messages from Arbonne to their reps. Despite the fact that the DSA’s own statistics (of which Arbonne is a member) show that the average MLM rep working more than 10 hours a week only has the potential to earn less than minimum wage when you do the sums, Arbonne confidently tells their reps that “You will always have the business you ASK for!”

As you can see, these documents coach Arbonne reps to bother ask friends and family with a scripted sales pitch (cynically attempting to make them feel special). And when they get the almost inevitable “no thanks” they’re then encouraged to push further:

And of course, if you ASK then it’s bound to work, right? After all, if you do you’ll always have the business you ASK for according to Arbonne. And if it doesn’t work for you, then what? Surely it must mean that you didn’t ASK enough or properly? Because it can’t be the business that failed; it must be you.

Friends are just “speed bumps” on your road to success

This kind of behaviour is common in abusive relationships and cults, where any kind of critical questioning is discouraged. In the case of MLMs this is possibly because, if reps listen to their friends and family, they may see the (lack of) opportunity for what it is.

Some MLM reps go even further, referring to friends rather charmingly as “speed bumps” and family “caution lights” on your road to success:

The danger here is that, once you have isolated yourself from people who genuinely like and care about you, you have no critical sounding board, and no support network for when your shiny new opportunity turns out to be a dud – as it clearly is for the majority of reps according to MLMs’ own income disclosure statements, like Arbonne’s above, which shows how little reps earn on average.

And with no remaining support system outside your new MLM, you have no choice but to believe the lies you’re fed, and even continue reinvesting and working for free in an opportunity that will never give you the rewards you want or need.

STILL thinking about joining Arbonne?

We hope the income disclosure figures – shared by Arbonne themselves – and Robert’s expert take on them can help you to make an informed decision about whether or not the opportunity they offer is right for you. (Or even whether any ‘income opportunity’ exists for you at all.)

If, after reading this, you are still considering joining Arbonne, we recommend you ask your consultant these four important questions. If they can’t answer, or the answers don’t satisfy you, we recommend you think very carefully before investing your time and money in a business in which, according to a top MLM expert, the average profit is zero.

“So I have to pay for the Mercedes myself?!”

Watch how Arbonne really works in this short video by consumer affairs show The Checkout:

What should you do now?

If you ARE considering joining Arbonne, or any MLM scheme, we highly recommend you read up on how they operate first. Here are some resources that put an alternative point of view to the recruitment messages you may have heard:

Read more income calculations for other MLMs

If you’d like to read more income calculations for MLMs, we recommend looking at these articles:

And these:

Thank you to fellow MLM expert David Brear for putting us in touch with Robert FitzPatrick.

Please note: This is our analysis of information made publicly available by Arbonne. If we have incorrectly interpreted this information, or you work for Arbonne and have factual income disclosure statements that contradict our findings here we would welcome seeing them, and will happily edit this article to reflect. Please note, we do not accept personal experiences from representatives as ‘factual income disclosure statements’. 

Photo by Pete Bellis on Unsplash