Mary Kay Ash decided that she wanted to do something different in the 1960s. It was still a “man’s world” back then, so after retiring from a lucrative career in direct sales, she created the first iteration of her company in 1963 – calling it “Beauty by Mary Kay.” She used her life savings of $5,000 in those first days, working with just nine independent beauty consultants.
Those first consultants would pave the way for millions of women to enjoy the advantages that Mary Kay’s home-based model provides them. You can choose to pursue this opportunity for a part-time income, while others use it as their primary income source.
Mary Kay is a top beauty brand in almost 40 different countries with its direct sales format. Now with over 50 years of experience empowering women, entrepreneurship continues on with the legacy that Mary Kay envisioned so long ago. The Mary Kay Foundation has also given more than $50 million to domestic violence prevention and invested over $26 million for cancer research since 1996.
If you’re thinking about an independent career option, then here are the pros and cons of being a Mary Kay consultant to review.
List of the Pros of Being a Mary Kay Consultant
1. You can get started very quickly as an independent contractor.
There are few administrative hurdles required for you to complete if you wish to start working as a Mary Kay consultant. You must sign the consultant agreement while being recruited by a current representative. The one primary purchase you’re asked to have is the $100 starter kit, which serves as a way to keep your samples, demonstration products, and marketing materials. You’ll gain access to your own May Kay website, receive encouragement and support from established sales professionals, and have a product which you can sell with confidence.
2. It provides you an opportunity for independence.
You become an independent distributor of Mary Kay cosmetics and products when you become a consultant. That means you have the complete freedom to set your own hours and dictate your level of commitment. If you have family responsibilities or work commitments that make other side hustles a challenge to manage, then you’ll discover that the independence of operating your own business creates real opportunities for success which may not be available to you otherwise.
3. Your business moves with you.
Military families often choose a career as a Mary Kay consultant because it is a status which doesn’t change if you’re asked to move. If new orders come through, you can pack up your inventory, then establish a new set of customers through prospecting. That makes it easier to keep the needed side income flowing when compared to other forms of full-time or part-time work that are available. When a spouse is on deployment, the flexibility built into this opportunity allows you to keep working even when there are greater demands on your time.
4. You can earn a vehicle through this sales program.
One of the biggest incentives in the Mary Kay sales program is the ability to earn a vehicle. The top independent sales directors in the company can qualify or requalify for a vehicle based on their overall performance. The first (and most popular) option was their pink Cadillac. You can also opt for a Ford Mustang, Chevy Cruze, Mini Cooper, Chevy Traverse, or BMW 3 Series. Each comes with the Mary Kay letter on the doors.
Since 1963, over 163,000 sales members have earned or re-earned the right to have a career car. There are currently more than 4,000 Mary Kay vehicles on U.S. roads today, with over 1,000 of those being the famous pink Cadillac.
5. It gives you an opportunity to learn a valuable skill.
Mary Kay consultants must prospect in their communities to earn new sales opportunities. If you decide to pursue this opportunity, then you will begin to learn how to effectively cold call potential customers. Many representatives get started by selling cosmetics to their family and friends, but if you want to make a robust income, then you’ll need to practice using the tools offered by the organization to start the relationship-building process.
Even if you decide that selling Mary Kay isn’t the right fit, you’ll find that the skills you learned during this experience will translate over to other careers.
6. You receive high levels of personal satisfaction with this work.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “You are what you eat,” but have you heard this saying: “you feel how you look”? When you decide to become a Mary Kay consultant, then the emphasis is on self-care and beauty. Your work will help you develop makeup application skills that you can use for your own looks while helping others feel beautiful too. By using the products that you sell, an authentic sales experience begins for the consumer. This process often leads to more sales. If you look and feel like a million bucks, then that’s the way you’re going to start selling.
7. It offers commissions through more than just sales.
You receive a 50% general commission on all the products that you sell as a Mary Kay consultant. There are no minimum purchase requirements placed on you to begin earning the top rates either. You can trade inventory with other consultants in your region too, although that does negate a re-purchase if you decide to leave this opportunity. Your downstream provides additional residual income, plus there are commissions from online sales you can earn too.
8. It is an opportunity for both men and women to start a career.
Although the consultant figures released by Mary Kay (and other parties) refer to only women, there are men who excel in this line of work. Fewer than 1% of them are men, however, but some – like Paul Ritter, Jr. – found that they are excellent at it. Ritter’s mother earned a pink Cadillac in 1991 for her sales activities. He hustled to sell inventory too, even stopping women at bus stops to see if they’d want something.
Paul claimed a burgundy Pontiac Grand Am in 1993, at the age of 20, with the sales tax, insurance, and registration all paid for as well. He qualified because he and five of his recruits all sold a total of $3,600 worth of products each month for four consecutive months.
9. This job will help you find the good in everyone.
You’ll discover several different personality types during your prospecting efforts as a Mary Kay consultant. You must learn how to deal with each person to establish a reliable customer base with each sales opportunity. It can be a challenge to work with others who don’t share the same likes that you do, but this exposure to different ideas, cultures, and perspectives will enhance your networking abilities over time. You will learn how to spot the good in everyone you meet. Each person is unique in their own exciting way.
10. Your customers don’t mind waiting for an order they have placed.
There are recruiters who want you to purchase a large amount of inventory upfront because that will help them earn a quick commission on it. You don’t need to respond to that pressure whatsoever. Even if someone tells you that your “customers don’t want to wait for their orders,” this is not the case. People understand the need for shipping and delivery. They’ll wait for their items from you just as they would with an order from Zulily or Tupperware. That means you’re not forced into that first large unexpected purchase.
11. There are men’s products you can sell as a consultant too.
Even though men make up a small portion of the active Mary Kay consultants and their overall customer base, there are a few products available for sale that help you tap into this part of the market in your community. You have the option to sell shaving creams and foams, aftershave lotions, sunscreen, face soap, and cologne. The products sometimes rotate to introduce new brands, scents, or items to encourage more sales. Although you would need to purchase inventory at some point (or at least samples), this part of the product line is often untapped by most consultants.
12. You can set your own prices for the products you sell.
When you purchase inventory items as a Mary Kay consultant, you receive a 50% discount on the full retail cost of each product. Then you sell the item at 100% retail for the full profit. If you discover that your customer base isn’t keen on paying that full price, you can negotiate something different. It is up to you to determine the final price since you are an independent contractor with the company. If you purchase something for $4, but think it sells better at $7 instead of $8, then you can make the sale. Remember: Mary Kay tracks wholesale orders for revenue figures – not the retail sales that you make.
13. There are fewer layers of multi-level marketing that you must navigate.
There are several multi-level marketing (MLM) companies which require you to fulfill multiple requirements to earn downstream revenue, like filling a specific “leg” or completing a “matrix.” When you start selling Mary Kay products, then your total sales volume and the active number of recruits you have are the important figures. Then you can earn 4% commissions on all downline sales if you have one active, receive a promotion to “Senior Consultant,” and as you move up, earn 13% in commission at the top of the scale.
14. You can earn bonuses when working as a Mary Kay consultant.
One of the easiest ways to supplement your income as a Mary Kay consultant is to earn the team-building bonuses which are available. You can earn up to $3,000 per bonus, depending on the leadership level you’ve achieved and your overall sales performance. The stipulations for the bonuses can change, so you’ll need to review the documentation provided by your recruiter to know what stipulations you must meet to have a successful experience.
List of the Cons of Being a Mary Kay Consultant
1. It requires a lot of self-discipline to be successful.
When you are a Mary Kay consultant, you’re working as an independent contractor. That means your income is based in part on the amount of personal motivation you have. You get to be your own boss, but that also means you must stay dedicated to the trade instead of staying at home, pursuing hobbies, or taking trips with family and friends. You’ll be on weekend presentations, need to recruit others to create a downstream, and continually prospect for new opportunities.
2. You do not have a guaranteed income with Mary Kay.
You receive a 50% commission schedule for all the products that you sell when working as a Mary Kay consultant. It is a gross revenue commission, however, which doesn’t account for any administrative costs, marketing requirements, or kit purchases. If you don’t generate sales, then there won’t be any income for you either. Although the average consultant does earn about $30,000 per year, much of that potential depends on your ability to establish a customer base where other independent consultants are not working.
3. It is a non-refundable purchase that’s required when you start.
If you decide to start selling Mary Kay cosmetics, then there are some non-refundable purchases (some of which are optional) that are part of the establishment process. If you decide to enroll in the personal web site program, for example, then you’ll pay $30 plus sales tax where applicable. You must also pay tax, shipping, and handling on your $100 starter kit before you can start selling.
Although there are some refund opportunities, they only involve original and unused Section 1 retail products which you purchased directly from the company within 12 months. Qualifying products will be repurchased from you at 90% of your original net (not gross) cost, so it isn’t a full refund at all.
4. You can get nickel-and-dimed by the various fees.
All of the Mary Kay consultants in a specific region will often meet at about once per week to discuss company updates, sales opportunities, and other relevant information. These meetings are sometimes held in the homes of each consultant, rotating through the region until every member has hosted an event at least once. Other directors will rent space and require the group to pay their share of the fee for it, which is a cost that falls between $5 to $10 per week. That’s an extra chunk of income that can be a challenge to replace if you’re just getting started with this opportunity.
5. It requires more money to get started than just the $100 starter kit.
Once you decide to go all-in as a Mary Kay consultant, you’ll quickly realize that the expenses of getting started go well beyond that one starter kit and the website fee. You’re going to need business cards, a credit card processing program, and other incidentals that all begin to add up very quickly. You’ll also need to purchase inventory, where some directors may encourage you to buy a significant amount to get started.
Then there’s the fine print in your consultant agreement to remember: you must place $400 in retail orders every quarter to remain in an active status. If you fail to do so, then you lose the Earned Discount Privilege – which means you’d need to purchase new inventory at retail instead of wholesale.
6. You’re working for a private company, so published figures are not always available.
Some recruiters talk about the fact that a new Mary Kay consultant could host one skin-care class per week to earn an extra $17,000 per year. Some people can earn about $100 per hour with this type of work. With over 600,000 consultants active in the United States at any given time, however, about 0.5% are actually earning at least $100,000. Most of the people who choose to sell these cosmetics earn minimum wage or a sub-minimum wage for what they do.
The only figure published about the sales data from Mary Kay is that about $3 billion in wholesale orders are tracked each year. There are no retail sales metrics tracked by the company.
7. Some recruiters try to get you to take out a credit card if you can’t purchase inventory.
When you go through the orientation process, learning that you’ll need to purchase some inventory to start selling products as a consultant, some people cannot afford the extra $400 right off the bat. Some sales directors even discourage their reps from using cash to purchase their inventory. They suggest that you apply for a Mary Kay Rewards Visa credit card instead.
As Virginia Sole-Smith described her personal situation to Marketplace Money, she told the director that she wasn’t looking to go into any credit card debt. “Oh no, no, it’s not debt,” the director told her. “It’s an investment in your business.”
8. You must pay for all of your marketing products.
Because your title as a Mary Kay consultant means that you’re an independent contractor, it is up to you to pay for any marketing efforts that can grow your business. You’ll be purchasing advertising space, decals for your vehicle, brochures with product listing, samples, and anything else you might want. Although that is the same process any other business owner would face to grow their opportunities, Mary Kay consultants don’t have the option to look elsewhere for many of their needed supplies. They must work directly with the company to grow their brand and presence.
9. It often becomes a sales opportunity to only your family and friends.
There are many women (and some men) who excel at sales when taking advantage of a Mary Kay consultant position. Their networks allow them to approach many people in their communities, giving them natural levels of brand exposure. If that isn’t you, then your only option is to rely on your personal networks to grow this opportunity. You’ll be selling to family and friends. Some bring their products to church with them. You can see consultants selling to parents while waiting for their kids to be released from school. This process can be a fast way to alienate the people you know.
10. You may not be able to keep the car you’ve earned.
Although it seems like Mary Kay gives you the career vehicles when you qualify for them, the company maintains ownership. You receive a 2-year lease on the car you select instead. If you fail to meet the minimum sales requirement for the month, then you must pay for the lease out of your commission check for the month. Your only other option is to return the vehicle to Mary Kay to avoid the cost.
11. It is a job with a high failure rate.
There aren’t any turnover rates officially published by Mary Kay about their consultants, but several reviews from industry experts place the figure somewhere between 80% to 90%. That means you’re about twice as likely to fail at this opportunity in your first year when compared to the creation of a more traditional business. You can escape the 9-5 daily grind with this opportunity, but it requires you to often put in more work than you were before with a full-time job – and without any of the extra benefits.
If you’re reviewing the pros and cons of being a Mary Kay consultant, then it is essential that you remember one thing: you are the only person who can recognize your best interests. No matter how strongly the opportunities offered by this company are presented to you, it is always your decision to make. That means you must fact-check everything. Speak with current and former consultants. See if you’re willing to push hard with sales to get rid of your inventory each quarter. If you are, and this opportunity feels true to yourself, then pursue it. If not, then don’t.
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