The Original Freelance Economy

By Michael O. Johnson

Picture a platform that lets people work how and when they want to make some extra income on the side—all while providing customers with a product they love.

This isn’t a new idea, but recently it’s emerging in all sorts of new ways. It’s reshaping how millions of people think about the possibilities for flexible career paths-- and the American economy as a whole.

We see it in the driver who can set his own schedule and help customers get from one place to another more conveniently and inexpensively than ever before. Or the older couple that wants to rent out their extra bedroom to help make retirement more comfortable. Or the young professional who can now sell crafts through an online marketplace while keeping her day job.

Companies like Lyft, Airbnb and Etsy may be rapidly growing upstarts that seemingly came out of nowhere. But companies like these are predicated on a well-established idea with a long track record of success: people want to work when and how they want, and do something they can get excited about.

The direct selling industry discovered this a long time ago. Iconic American companies like Herbalife, Mary Kay and Tupperware have been empowering entrepreneurs and providing consumers with valuable products for decades. Our industry is built on a collaborative network of individuals and communities; we were fine-tuning this model long before others were singing this tune at all.

Today, the direct selling industry provides income to more than 18 million people, serves over 120 million customers a year and generates $35 billion in revenue in the U.S.

So why the shift towards a "novel" business model that the direct selling industry has long advocated? One reason: as more traditional opportunities dried up after the financial crisis, hard-working people set out to create their own opportunities. What emerged is a freelance economy, bolstered by platforms that support innovation and communication and allow people to connect over ideas and products more than ever before.

Direct sellers like Herbalife haven't stood still during this exciting new chapter. At Herbalife, we've revolutionized our approach, serving as the pacesetter for our industry. Our recent settlement with the FTC underscores Herbalife's support for new direct selling procedures that will strengthen consumer protections and set new standards for the industry.

This settlement does not change Herbalife’s direct selling business model. Instead, the settlement is an acknowledgment that our business model is sound and underscores our confidence in our ability to move forward successfully; otherwise we would not have agreed to the terms.

Herbalife will continue to pursue our mission: to help improve nutrition around the globe through products that help people live a healthy lifestyle, all while enabling our members to be their own boss and unlock opportunities for part-time income that meets their goals and aspirations.

Our industry has always championed the power of free enterprise and a flexible, entrepreneurial mindset. Now, more than ever, American innovation has pushed this important model to the forefront of our collective economic future.