Now that it’s November, the inevitable happens. Buy and Sell Facebook groups are inundated with the following posts:

Hey, I’m looking for three team members who are keen to make up to a thousand pounds between now and Christmas. PM me for details”.

“How do you fancy making up to £50 a week from your phone? No experience necessary. Comment below and I’ll PM you”.

“I’m looking for people who want to lose a stone between now and Christmas. Comment below and I’ll forward you the details“.

Now, these salespeople all have a number of features in common:

1) They’re reluctant to tell you what the job is up front.

2) They’re recruiting team members to work below them, without much care as to who they recruit.

3) They will profit from anything you sell, and often from YOU.

4) You’re very unlikely to earn the amount stated, which is why they use the phrase ‘up to’.

What they also have in common, but certainly won’t tell you at the start of the sales pitch, is that more often than not you’ll have to give them money to get going. It’s usually called a ‘starter kit’ and there’s almost always a discount on this kit to win you over.

What’s more, you might need to pay them money to sustain your ‘training level’ but this will be cleverly loaded with ‘incentives’ for doing so. Ultimately it means that the sales people and managers above you get rich simply by YOU investing money so that you can sell products for pennies.

Need some examples of pyramid schemes? Cheatsheet and Forbes have a list that’s certainly worth looking at.

Of course, pyramid selling is just a nickname for these schemes. They will probably refer to themselves as multi level marketing companies, which sounds a tad more appealing. Plus, it’s worth noting that pyramid selling in its purest form is illegal in many parts of the world, which is why the tactic has re-branded itself slightly to include actual sales to actual customers.

So, why am I talking about this? 

Well, it makes me sad, that’s why. Because so many people have genuine talents and skills that can be sold for five times as much as any pyramid scheme claims to offer, yet they’re not being used.

For example, if you were to submit three or four articles to a magazine between now and Christmas, you could easily earn between £400 and £4000. If you were to write product descriptions for an ecommerce site, you could do this with very little effort for two or three evenings per week and have an extra £500 per month to spend on your kids. If you were to write sales emails for a medium sized business promoting their Christmas range, you could charge anywhere between £200 and £1000 for a short email campaign. These aren’t gross overestimates. These aren’t imaginary figures. It’s what people are willing to pay. And what’s more, you keep your profits and the only ‘starter kit’ you need is your own computer and a brain.

So, my message is this. Don’t get caught up flogging makeup or diet pills for pennies when you can make substantially more money by freelance writing. Your words are worth more than you think, you just need to know how to sell them!