Can You Make Money With Mary Kay?

Over on my public awareness site Pink Truth, we’re often asked about whether someone can make money with Mary Kay Cosmetics. After all, they’ve got a product that you can retail, and you don’t really have to recruit, do you?

In theory, you can make money with Mary Kay. In reality, most women (upwards of 99%) actually put more money into MK than they ever get out of it. There is a tiny fraction of women (something like five one-hundredths of one percent) who make an executive income with Mary Kay. There’s another fraction of one percent that make a little money…. typically in the neighborhood of $20,000 to $25,000 a year.

Most everyone else is spending more money stocking up on inventory that they have little hope of ever selling.

But what about that retail product? Aren’t women buying it? Not in significant enough numbers to generate a real income. The recruiters push big inventory packages, telling you to “think like a retailer.” Except you’re not like a real retailer. You’re one person with tons of restrictions on how and where you can market and sell the products. You have no foot traffic like a real store. You don’t have any window shoppers who can be drawn in.

It’s extremely difficult to build a client base to a size that will offer you a somewhat stable, livable income. “But I’m willing to work hard!” You might be willing to work hard, but you should know that there have been millions of women who came before you who were willing to work hard and couldn’t build that base.

It’s not just hard, it’s next to impossible, for a variety of reasons:

  • The common opinion of women outside of Mary Kay is that the products are overpriced for their quality. The products are okay, but they’re about equal to drugstore brands. The quality is not up to the level of department store brands, although the reps want you to think they are.
  • Many women are wise to the Mary Kay game. They know if they buy from you, they’re going to have to put up with you asking them to hold skin care classes with their friends, as well as trying to recruit them into MK. They’d simply rather not deal with it. If they need make-up, they’ll pick some up at Sephora, where the employees won’t try to recruit them.
  • The home party business model is out-of-date and a turn-off to most professional women. They don’t want to waste time on your sales pitch. If they need girlfriend time, they’d much rather do something fun with their friends instead of getting your hard-sell about “giving their opinion” on the “business opportunity.”
  • To generate a real income, you’d have to sell in excess of $1,000 a week every week. That just doesn’t happen in Mary Kay. Oh, they pretend it does. Unfortunately, that one $1,000 week the director had five years ago doesn’t count. I dare you to find anyone in Mary Kay who is selling more than $1,000 a week every week and is willing to provide proof.
  • Everyone knows the real money is in recruiting. The product is just the front for the recruiting scheme. Recruiting and frontloading inventory is the name of the game. Get you in, convince you that you need thousands of dollars of inventory, and hope you don’t send it back to the company for a refund. But in reality, most of the women who have recruited aren’t making a whole lot either. Most of them are creating credit card debt for themselves, hoping that “next month will be the month” in which they break out into the “big” income and can pay off the debt they’ve accumulated.
  • If you get to the point where you’re making that $20,000 to $25,000 a year that I mentioned above, you should know that you’ll easily be spending 50 to 60 hours a week to do that. That’s less than $10 an hour. Not an executive level income, if you ask me.

The bottom line is that if you want to make a little extra money… say a hundred bucks a month, you could do it by selling Mary Kay. If you want to make a real income, run the other way. Find a real job, with a real salary, and real benefits. With Mary Kay, you’ll be lucky if you even get to that $20k or $25k level. And even then, you’ve got self-employment taxes and no benefits, which make that income look even worse.

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Comments (27)

  • Chad Bordeaux

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    We owned a salon as a side business for a while, and I know that selling makeup is difficult – even with a great retail location and a neverending stream of perfect prospects. We didn’t carry Mary Kay, but a Salon Professional Brand. I couldn’t imagine ever making a lot of money from it selling it out of my car or house.

    Reply

  • Diane

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    You are an idiot! I am very successful in this business! Write something that you know about, you moron!

    Reply

  • Linda

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    Sir, I’ve been in this business for 32 years, I started when I was 19!
    This business allowed me to stay and home with my children…got me through 10 years of single parenting and now allows me to work around my husband’s teaching schedule.

    What you are saying is very misleading.

    You never mention the 90% buy back policy that Mary Kay provides to EVERY consultant! That is unheard of in business! If you opened a storefront and decided it wasn’t for you, you wouldn’t get to change your mind in a year and get 90% of your investment back!

    The women that decide to become consultants love this product! That 10% they don’t get back would be recouped by what they used personally that year should they decide to get out of business!

    And I have never and will never PUSH women to order. Everyone starts differently…we give them the options and they choose. Inventory is NOT required and never has been. As a matter of fact, my brand new consultant is 20 years old (she needs to make extra income)…her husband wanted her to “prove” herself before he’d let her order any product to sell. She has such an awesome attitude…she sold over $200.00 at her first one on one appointment. Her profit was $100.00 for that 1 hour of work. If she wants to continue to run her business that way, it’s her choice!

    My customers love our product and have reordered from me for years! They love the personal touch and the fact that I help them with all their cosmetic and skin care needs…like choosing a lipstick for that special outfit, delivering to their front door and our 100% money back guarantee. They love that we work with them until they are loving their skin! And for some, they love the fact they can get their products free my being a hostess.

    Unlike many other direct sales, we do not need to do “parties” to make money in our business! The majority of my sales are one on one because that is what I choose to do! Women love the fact that I sit down with them one and one and help them with their needs. Many professional women are my customers.

    I am my own little store and I love the fact I don’t have to sit and wait for people to show up at my store!!!! I meet women everyday and offer them my free service to check out my product. And they love the fact that what they want they can have that day! Isn’t that what you like when you go to the store to buy something?

    I am so sorry that you had a bad experience. I have found that the women who have quit and complain about their experience are those who just didn’t have what it takes to be their own boss. They let little obstacles get in their way. They didn’t show up for the free education and didn’t apply what they did learn.

    This business works when we do…just like anything else in life.

    Reply

  • Noted

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    Nice Diane, very business like. You sure showed me the caliber of woman that’s involved in Mary Kay.

    Reply

  • Doug

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    I was skimming your profile, I was impressed by your credentials. As a fellow academian, however, I must say that I am appalled by this article. You site specific numerical statistics, but you never site any sources. I have not read your other articles, and I hope this is an oversight. As for MLM’s, they are truly not for everyone, but I hardly see them as a scam. Especially the larger companies like Mary Kay, Shaklee, and the like. Some of these companies have been around for years, and don’t you think if they were acting fraudulently, they would have been shut down? Okay, perhaps a very small percentage of people actually get to the “executive level” income, but again that doesn’t mean they’re scams. I have no allegiance to any of these companies, but I “get it” when it comes to how to run these businesses. In my opinion, your one sided article is riddled with logical fallacies and the same half-truths that you accuse these companies of.

    Doug

    Reply

  • Tracy Coenen

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    Doug – As I’ve told everyone else, you can find the source of my statistics on this page. (And that’s “cite”, my “fellow academian”.) I invite you to read the page before launching more ad hominem attacks.

    Reply

  • tudza

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    Perhaps Doug is not aware that the bold type in your article points to other bits of information? I say that, but then I follow most of them and don’t find any pages of figures either except for the one with a table on “executive incomes”. I came straight to this page from a Google search, perhaps I by-passed the figures you refer to?

    I can’t promise I’d understand the data once you put it in front of me, but perhaps a link or two to the statistics Doug wants is in order if another reader says they can’t find them easily?

    The folks at USA Today aren’t helping your case much. Another link I ran into doing a search on “can you make money selling Mary Kay”

    http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/retail/2009-05-13-direct-sales-jobs-recession-unemployment_N.htm

    Reply

  • Tracy Coenen

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    The numbers in the article that are sourced are linked directly to the sources of information. I invite everyone to follow those links and read those articles. Next thing readers will want is for me to telephone them and actually read the articles to them!

    And I don’t expect anyone in mainstream media to “help my case” when it comes to MLMs. They generally do fluff pieces that lack any substance, and there is certainly no verification of any of the earnings claims that are made.

    Reply

  • Krissy

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    I have to disagree with the comment about the quality of the product.
    I have tried several brands of skin care products over the years. Some from drug stores and some from the ‘higher end’ stores in malls and major department stores. I started using Mary Kay TimeWise about 2 months ago, and have noticed results that I had not seen with any of the other products. I also found that because Mary Kay has combined a cleanser, toner and exfoliater into one product, as well as includes foundation as part of the skin care line, I am spending far less on Mary Kay, than I had been on a drug store line that I had been using previously.

    I understand that all products work differently for people, but after 15 years of oily, shiny skin, I am now getting compliments on my skin and my complexion. To me, that’s money well spent!

    Reply

  • Tracy Coenen

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    Krissy – Sounds like you’ve had luck with the products. Just wait until they get you to try all the other steps that they like to call the “miracle set.” You’ll be just as busy as before!

    Reply

  • sarah

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    hi i am a mary kay consultant i just started and i enjoy this job a lot i don’t put pressure on people to buy the products every consultant works differently. i haven’t invested any money. i simply just sell. i introduce myself to men and women and a talk about my products and let them try it and if they like it ‘s their choice to buy them, and if i see that somebody is interested in becoming a consultant i talk to them about and like i say its their choice to get in, i dont put pressure. i love doing this because i like meeting new people and i always tell them that any products work you just have to use them the right way. i know a couple of women that have been in this carreer and have their own cars that have won trips and they get awesome gifts from marykay it’s great and life is way easier like this, you just have to put 100% on it or on anything you decide to do to succeed.

    Reply

  • Tiffany

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    So far I am happy with the product and the way I choose to sell Mary Kay. However, I do feel pressured all the time by higher up’s if you want to call it in the company to constantly buy inventory. I have always been in sales and I owned a business with my husband prior to the economy destroying it. I have told these people time and time again that I don’t need them breathing down my neck. If it’s be your own boss then why do I feel like I work for someone all the time? I will continue to sell Mary Kay, but I will do it on my terms. Most clients of mine are completely fine with me ordering their products online and delivering to them. I don’t need to buy inventory especially when I do not even know what they might order yet. My recruiter texted me today telling me to order $300 more worth of inventory before my party on Saturday. I responded by saying I refuse to put money from my own pocket out. I do not even know what they want yet either. It just doesn’t make sense. I am going to purchase a couple of cheap Mary Kay boxes however to promote my business. My recruiter keeps telling me not to buy those and that she will make some for me because people will see Mary Kay on the box and walk the other way. Well I would rather take my chances and be honest then to be dishonest like that. That just produces negativity towards Mary kay as far as I am concerned. I do love their product though. i use the timewise products and all the make-up everyday, and I have noticed a big difference in my skin. The only problem I have though is that the product is made in Mexico. That I am not too keen on.

    Reply

  • Jana

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    A real job and real benefits? HAH! Most so-called REAL jobs no longer offer ANY benefits, or even a decent wage. My consultant is able to pay her mortgage without help from anyone and she has never pressured me into MK. As a matter fact, I asked her for info and discovered you don’t have to recruit or carry inventory and it’s a minimal requirement to be “active’ (something around $200/year?). I have made any decision about it yet, but it already looks better than what I’m see in the employment ads!

    Reply

  • michael

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    WoW ..it sounds to me as if not a single one of you listened to your Mary Kay rep. when you purchase all your product from mary kay, you do not have sell it in e-bay to make your money back…. you just send it all back to Mary Kay, and you get your money back, and as far as selling Mary Kay of course you need to approach people you don’t know, no matter where you are, shopping at the Mall or going to a Movie, yeah my Wife sells Mary Kay and it drives me crazy , but i listen to her, she may not make alot of Money but she makes enough that she dosen’t need to borrow money from me to buy whatever she needs. P.S. have you opened your own web site to sell Mary Kay???

    Reply

  • Tiki

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    Every industry has bad apple I must say. I don’t agree of you pointing finger to MK products than to those particular individual consultants. I experienced the ‘hard-sell’ ladies from the brand cosmetic counters too. They are just doing their job. It is your choice to make the decision, don’t blame others/ system. Besides, the over counter products are so over price these days too. Not meaning they are no good product – just speaking from the consumer perspective.

    Reply

  • erica

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    I came upon this article while looking to see if Mary Kay can really be a good career choice. I am glad you told it like it is! A lot of times with these ventures, the facts are never easy to extract via the company websites. Although I do agree with another person who said “real” jobs are hard to come by. I am a college graduate and a degree doesn’t get you much these days. A recent study I saw online revealed that the middle class is becoming obsolete with low income jobs replacing anything a college graduate was eligible for in the past. Hence, why I was looking into Mary Kay! But, good honest article nonetheless.

    Reply

  • Scrib

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    “When you purchase all your product from mary kay, you do not have sell it in e-bay to make your money back…. you just send it all back to Mary Kay…”

    While it may sound that cut and dry, it’s not. Many Mary Kay leaders tell new consultants to give the new business a year before they make a decision about getting out.

    Would you like to know what happens after a year? Consultants become ineligible to receive the 90% buyback, which means they’re now STUCK with all this “amazing” product that supposedly sells itself.

    Why the dirty tricks? It’s because everyone up the chain gets a commission on product ordered by the downline. If someone returns product before that year is up, it means all commissions received on that order have to be paid back to the company. Since pushing the higher inventory packages is common in Mary Kay, that’s a decent chunk of change for anyone to have to shell out, especially when so little money is being made in their pretend business to begin with.

    Mary Kay Cosmetics is a recruiting racket, and the only people it “enriches” are the Pharisees parked atop its pinnacle.

    Reply

  • Captain Obv

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    The shills are out in full force!

    God help anyone stupid enough to fall for this scam. The only way to make good money while working from home is to have some kind of highly valuable and marketable skill.

    MK is a scam just like all the other work at home “jobs”. Don’t be a sucker and listen to all of these Mary Kay shills.

    Reply

  • Anglea

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    @Captain Obv. I am not sure what you mean about the work at home jobs are scams. There are a lot of customer service representatives that work from home,just to name a few, Sears,HSN,AT&T,the list goes on and on. Also, there are online teaching jobs, online chat jobs. I am not a fan of MK but I just want you to know that you are completely wrong about the work at home jobs!

    Reply

  • pinkpeace

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    Linda, I was a car-driving, Court of Sales senior sales director for 11 years, and while I was in Mary Kay, I would have said the same things that you are. I WORKED my business – 50-60 hours a week or more.

    You’re giving misleading statistics. While your new recruit may have sold $200 at her first appointment, chances are it was with good friends or relatives who felt like they had to support her new business venture. I’ll wager that she gave away a good deal of free product either as a hostess gift or as incentives for future bookings. That, plus the samples and demo products that she had to use, cut into her profit, so that she really didn’t make $100 for her work.

    As she burns through her warm market, it will take many hours of booking attempts and hostess coaching for her to get appointments to schedule, and it will become harder and harder to find new faces.

    You as a consultant may never pressure your recruits to order, but you can be sure your sales director will – it’s how she gets paid. It will be couched in terms of “running her business smart” and “not selling from an empty wagon,” but your director will definitely push a star order. If you had ever been in a national sales director’s director meeting, you would know that it’s all about the star orders.

    At any rate, I would love to see your Schedule C’s from your Mary Kay business, and find out how else you supplemented your income as a single mother. It couldn’t have been from sales of MK products alone, and anyone who has been in MK knows that.

    I finally left the “top 2%” of all of Mary Kay (as they refer to sales directors) for a real job with benefits. I have more than doubled my income and have cut my stress levels to basically nothing. I really pray that anyone who is considering Mary Kay will check out http://www.pinktruth.com and read carefully.

    Reply

  • Deflated Pink Bubble

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    Michael, the information you are giving on the 90% buy back is misleading. If a consultant has been in Mary Kay for lets say 2 years and in that 2 years she has accumulated thousands of dollars in product (because she bought in at full inventory and maintained her status all along by placing 200 dollar orders each quarter) and then she wants to get out, Mary Kay will only buy back the equivalent of what she has bought in the last 12 months. Mary Kay does not do this because they are a great company. They do this because they are located in Texas and in Texas that buy back policy is State Law. I was in Mary Kay for 5 years. In that 5 years I purchased approximately 7,500 in inventory wholesale. That’s 15,000 retail. When I decided it was time to get out because this product did not “sell itself” nor did it “fly of the shelves” as the Mary Kay upline would like you to believe, I was only eligible to send back $300. in product. Not everything I had in my inventory. So that buy back policy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

    Reply

  • Meire

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    I think this’s a great article, people really try to push MK on others, I personally don’t use MK, because it’s over priced and for me it’s another Avon magazine with a new face on it, not the best quality. If it was a good quality like Clinique, Lancôme, Chanel … They would be selling they product at Nordstrom or sephora. Sometimes you can get the same product with better quality from Lancôme for little bit more, and at least you know you’re buying quality no quantity. I feel that they are ripping of people that never tried a good product brand. Sorry, but if a consultant make 50% on top of each sale, how much MK make on top of it? So how much would the product really worthed?

    Reply

  • John

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    no offence to all the successful Mary Kay business person.
    My wife had sell Mary Kay for two years, she start working also 50 hours a week. selling stuff recruiting people. Making the sales. She reaches the sales director position and they gave her car Chevrolet malibu.
    then they raise the sales limit, she did her best to sales as much as she can, and keeping all her people up with sales.
    there come time she couldn’t make minimum sales which was around $5000. instead of making money i had to gave money from my pag check to cover her minimum sales requriement

    and then they took her car away. now she doesn’t have car to go door to door, and they drop her off from sale director position.
    she end up selling products back to Mary Kay for % not full price.
    Tell you truth, i read about Mary Kay been Pyramid Schemes, and told my wife, but she wanted to tried. But now She said this is worse job/ business experience she ever had.
    sorry for my grammar and punctuation.
    She is working at Health department and making good money, doesn’t have worry about making minimum sales..
    Mary Kay- “rich stays rich and poor trying to become rich”..

    Reply

  • Dan

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    You have not cited primary sources. These are just links to other NON-PRIMARY sources.

    How can we be sure those are accurate? Those contain no links to primary sources either.

    Lrn 2 academia.

    Reply

  • Philip Arlington

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    I have read all the other articles and they are impressive in their breadth detail and integrity. Any gaps in the data are down to the fact that the company is allowed to get away with hiding the truth due to the absence of effective rules requiring disclosure of its finances and the outcomes for consultants.

    Mary Kay is a scam pure and simple. No one who had a legitimate product to sell would use the mlm model because it is a hopelessly inefficient means of selling products. All mlms are preconceived scams.

    The longeivity of these companies simply demonstrates the US government does not do its duty and provide effective consumer protection, and that anyone with money can buy protection.

    Reply

  • kandi

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    I am happy i googled mk…I just became a consultant and ordered business cards..and yes the director came over to my house and asked when I wanted to buy inventory. I think I like the website idea a lot better. …my friends and fam can buy online…I use the product myself and i like it but i don’t think i want to stock up on stuff that i may not sell. Thanks for the article you helped me not to buy inventory.. .which is dumb if you don’t really know what people want and if you don’t have clients yet.

    Reply

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