I’ve worked from home full-time for the last four years. I love everything about it—in fact, I have always known working from home would suit me much better than your typical 8 to 5 day job. But working from home is not the right fit for everyone. If you’re thinking about launching a career out of your home, here are some tips that will help—and five awesome direct sales companies that can quickly get you headed in the right direction!

Helpful definitions

One of the biggest hurdles to launching your own business is simply untangling the terminology. Here is what you need to know.

  • Direct sales company: Selling your own or another company's products or services to a prospect on the go (such as through hosted parties, in one-to-one meetings, online.) You can work by yourself or recruit others to work underneath you (see next definition).
  • Multi-level ("network") marketing company (MLM): A specific type of direct sales company where you sell to prospects and also recruit others to sell to prospects, and you get paid for your own sales and also get a percentage of what your recruits sell.

Direct sales perks

Direct sales represent a $31 billion dollar marketplace annually. According to Forbes, launching your own direct sales consulting business has plenty of perks.

  • Entrance requirements are low (i.e. no age or educational barriers).
  • Start-up costs tend to be minimal.
  • You can set your own hours.
  • You can work from home.
  • You can direct your own career (including whether you work solo or hire a staff).

Direct sales drawbacks 

In the same way, a direct sales career has its drawbacks. Forbes highlights the biggest of these.

  • You must be comfortable with selling, period.
  • You must be willing to ask family, friends, peers, colleagues, strangers, etc. to buy from you.
  • You must find the right product/service to sell (there are plenty to choose from).
  • You must be willing to wear many hats (i.e. accounting, invoicing, selling, marketing, web).
  • You must dig in and put in the time if you want to see the profits.

Meet the DSA 

The Direct Selling Association (DSA) is the governing body for an ever-growing network of successful direct sales companies (200+ to date). Before signing on as a consultant for any direct sales company, be sure to consult the DSA website, learn more about how to evaluate a company, and verify that the company is a member of the DSA (this protects you from falling prey to pyramid schemes). 

5 Direct sales companies to consider

These five companies are all up-and-coming direct sales superstars. Plus, they are the "real deal"—legitimate DSA member companies with a lot to offer their consultants.

1. Scentsy

Founded in 2004, Scentsy is fast becoming one of the most respected names in home fragrance. As of 2014, the company ranks #25th out of the top 100 direct sales companies, with annual sales of $483 million. Scentsy is a DSA member.

  • Join: http://scentsy.com/become-a-party-consultant
  • Start-up costs: $99 (it all comes in one kit worth $200)
  • Start-up perks: Get a personal website free for 90 days, then pay just $10/month; use Scentsy's online workstation free to run your business; world-class training and phone support.
  • Commissions: Earn up to 30% (depending on how much you sell each month and whether you work alone or with a staff—view the graph on the Join page for more detail).
  • Growth opportunities: Can expand to become a MLM with staff and earn more.
  • Reviews from consultants: Jenny (featured in Scentsy's current consultant online video) says she could have chosen any company, and she chooses Scentsy because the scents bring back good memories for her and her clients. 

2. Thirty-One Gifts

Founded in 2003, Thirty-One Gifts was started by Cindy Monroe based on Proverbs 31. As of 2014, the company ranks #17th out of the top 100 direct sales companies, with annual sales of $763 million. Thirty-One Gifts is a DSA member.

  • Join: http://www.thirtyonegifts.com/join/
  • Start-up costs: $99 (it all comes in one kit worth $400)
  • Startup perks: Get mentoring from experienced consultants and plenty of support from the team.
  • Commissions: Earn 25% commission on every sale you make plus special incentives (i.e. earn an extra $450 worth of kit supplies in the first month, sales permitting). View Thirty-One Gifts' 2013 income statistics to get a sense of what you can earn.
  • Growth opportunities: According to Thirty-One Gifts' income statistics, potential exists to earn up to seven figures without breaking a 40-hour workweek.
  • Reviews from consultants: Read current (as of summer 2014) success stories online.

3. Project Home / Tomboy Tools

Founded by three women in 2002, Tomboy Tools is all about empowering women to feel confident about doing their own home repairs and save money. As of 2014, Direct Selling News reports the company is on target to gross $24.6 million in revenues. Entrepreneur magazine called Tomboy Tools (now newly rebranded as Project Home and annexed by CVSL Inc.'s family of companies) "one of the top 100 brilliant companies." They are members of the DSA.

  • Join: http://www.tomboytools.com/join-our-team/
  • Start-up costs: It ranges from $29 to $289, depending on your budget and goals.
  • Start-up perks: You also get a free website for the first 30 days (after, it costs $12.95/month) as well as access to the free online business management system.
  • Commissions: The website does not say, but 3rd party sources state an average 30% commission for every sale.
  • Growth opportunities: With the rebranding and annexation to CVSL Inc., there will likely be other new opportunities for growth!
  • Reviews from consultants: Read Kate Julien's story (she earns $32,000 per year to supplement their family's income by working just 25 hours per week).

4. Silpada Jewelry

Two best friends launched Silpada Jewelry in 1998 (and their daughters have now started their own jewelry line together!). Silpada is a member of the DSA.

  • Join: https://silpada.com/public/join
  • Start-up costs: $149 for a starter kit, plus a 50% discount for any additional jewelry you purchase.
  • Startup perks: Free coaching, a free website and social media tools, the option to participate in 100 Days to Greatness (which awards you plenty of freebies and discounts).
  • Commissions: 30% commission on each sale you make.
  • Growth opportunities: Incentive trips to successful reps who aspire to more, unlimited ability to add staff and form a MLM.
  • Reviews from consultants: Read Ginny Fiscella's story (she earns $200,000+ per year working for 4 days and 2 nights per week—and her husband now works with her to handle the administrative side of her business).

5. Essential Bodywear

Essential Bodywear specializes in helping women find comfortable bras sized perfectly for their body. Two women launched the company in 2003 to help women have fun shopping for undergarments that would make them feel confident. The company is a member of the DSA.

  • Join: http://www.essentialbodywear.com/join/
  • Start-up costs: $249 for a starter kit.
  • Startup perks: Training, support with marketing materials and new business start-up.
  • Commissions: Earn a 25% commission on every sale you make.
  • Growth opportunities: Earn free products, trips, and prizes; grow your team into a MLM with unlimited earning power.
  • Reviews from consultants: Read Carrie Steuer's story (she earns $69,000 per year working 25-35 hours per week).