Affiliate programs and MLM's are similiar in that you are in business for yourself but to some extent not by yourself. However, that's about it for similarity. As you so eloquently pointed out, you keep the affiliate programs that produce and drop the ones which do not perform up to your expectations. Put another way, "you make the rules" with regard to the affiliate program marketing.
With an MLM's the rules are exactly the opposite. You don't make the rules as to how the game is played. Instead, you find out what those rules are and you abide by them or you are no longer in the MLM.
Here's another difference. Most affiliate programs don't care if you purchase the product or not. If you want to advertise it, that's fine. An MLM will not allow you to promote their product that way. You may not have to purchase everything the MLM sells, but you will have to abide by their marketing guidelines - which usually requires the purchase of their own marketing materials. Of course, the fact that the marketing material may not get the job done for you is rarely a concern of the MLM parent company. After all, they already made a profit when you purchased the marketing material.
Comparing MLM's to affiliate programs is like comparing apples to oranges. Yes, both have a few similarities. Yet, the differences far outweigh the similarities.
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