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 statements from 2016 (and 2017).

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.

Read the 10 ugly truths MLMs don’t want you to know

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 2016:

As you can see, if you are an Arbonne Independent Consultant (56.6% of all active Arbonne consultants) you can expect to earn an average of £433 in a YEAR. Even the top 50 people in this group earned just £2,208 on average – £184 a month.

The next group up – District Managers (32.5% of all consultants) – earned an average of just £1,898 in 2016. Again, the top 50 of these people earned an average of just £7,364.

Area Managers (7.8%), meanwhile, earned an average of £10,413. It’s not until you get to Regional Vice Presidents that you start getting into a decent annual wage bracket, with an average of £45,203. But how many consultants make it to this rank? According to Arbonne, just 2.3%.

That means, with some very simplistic sums, that 89.4% of all Arbonne reps (Independent Consultants and District Managers) in the UK can expect to earn a mean average of £1,165.50 a year – or £97.12 a month.

However, this isn’t the complete story. As you can see from the title of the table, it only includes earnings from consultants who were active (in other words eligible for commission) each month. So if a consultant earned nothing that month, they weren’t counted. This means that the average earnings for ALL consultants is likely to be even lower.

As with Stella&DotHerbalife and Isagenix, the figures in the table 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 let’s recap on the earning potential of working for Arbonne in the UK:

  • 89.4% of all active Arbonne consultants earn a mean average of £1,165.50 a year.
  • This figure excludes any consultants who earned nothing in any given month.
  • This figure also excludes any expenses (such as the Annual Renewal Fee).

(The 2017 UK Arbonne income disclosure statement paints a very similar picture, with the bulk of their active reps, 56.9%, earning an average of just £470 throughout the year. And the bottom 50 earning just £34 in 2017 – all before expenses.)

Read on to find out why Robert FitzPatrick thinks our interpretation is too generous, and why his research shows that most people should not expect to make any money ever in Arbonne.

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 2016:

Using these figures from 2016, if you are an Arbonne Independent Consultant in the US (59% of all active Arbonne consultants) you can expect to earn an average of $767 a year. If you’re a District Manager (30% of all consultants) you can expect to earn an average of $3,336. And if you’re an Area Manager (8% of all consultants) you could earn an average of $16,560.

Again, using simplistic sums, 89% of all Arbonne reps (Independent Consultants and District Managers) in the US can expect to earn a mean average of $4,103 a year – or $341.91 a month.

Add in the next level up (Area Managers, 8% of all consultants) and it appears that 97% of all active Arbonne consultants in the US earned a mean average of $6,887.66 – or $573.97 a month. 

And remember, this doesn’t include consultants who made no money in any given month, nor expenses.

(Arbonne’s 2017 US income disclosure statement makes just as grim reading, with 62% of all active reps earning an average of $788 during the year – and the bottom 50 earning just $17 – all before expenses.)

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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.

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