Usborne Books at Home is the direct selling division of Usborne Publishing. Usborne Publishing was started more than forty years ago in the UK by Peter Usborne. (Usborne Books and More is the name if you are in the USA. In Canada it is also Usborne Books at Home). In this review I will concentrate on Usborne Books at Home.
For Usborne Books to be your only source of income, you will need a very big team or several hundred personal recruits.
I worked for them for a total of nearly ten years and it was very hard work, physically, for not enough reward. Over my last six years I was top Organiser for three years, joint winner for another year and runner-up twice. I also won Top Team Leader award, was a Group Leader for a while and won their Travel Incentive, but still couldn’t make enough money to justify the effort.
As Top Organiser I had personal sales of more than £40,000 per year, with the average Organiser doing less than £5,000 per year. The daily, weekly, monthly anxiety and worry whether I was going to get my override commissions, just became too much for me. So I looked at alternatives to earn sustainable income without breaking my back carting heavy books around.
I will walk you through my personal experience with Usborne Books at Home and my personal recommendation.
These are the aspects of Usborne Books that I will cover:
- Their business model
- Commission structure and payment
- What will it cost you to join?
- Training available
- What I like about them
- What I don’t like about them
- My opinion about them
- The turning point for me
- Is Usborne a good way to make money? in a nutshell NO
- My recommendation – click here if you want to see it now.
The Business Model
Usborne Books at Home is a Multi Level Marketing (MLM) company which is at the end of the day direct selling. You will be selling directly to friends, family, schools and libraries, through home parties, book fairs, fundraisers, community events and now also social media. I hated the side of having to ask friends to host a party for me and that is where they suggest you start.
As with most MLM businesses, a big emphasis is placed on building a team. You will only earn more money through building a team and then earning from their sales as well. Whether you are based in the USA, Canada, UK or Europe, the principal of team building is the same. Usborne in Canada and USA call their sales people Consultants, whereas in the UK they are Organisers.
- Team building: The structure goes from Organiser progressing to Team Leader (TL), then on to Group Leader (GL) then to Divisional Leader (DL) and finally to an Executive Leader (EL).
- Incentives: there are incentives like “Passport to Success” and an annual travel incentive and seasonal others. Most of the incentives are based on team building and what your team members are achieving, rather than your personal sales and achievements.
Commission Structure – how much can you earn?
The commission structure is very complicated, even organisers that have been with them for a very long time don’t always understand it. The basic commission is 24% based on a “party” order, but only 20% on a “school” order. (This refers to the type of order that you place). If you choose to recruit more organisers and become a Team Leader, you can earn more from their sales.
You can earn 6% commission on any organiser that you personally recruit, called a “Mentor Bonus”, however you will only get that override commission at the end of the month if you, and your recruit, have both placed a minimum order of £120 during the same month. And it has to be a 1 x £120 and not small orders that make up £120. So if you are on holiday, or away at a funeral, and do not place an order, you will LOSE commission from your recruits.
To promote to a Team Leader (TL) you have to achieve these:
- You, together with a minimum of 4 organisers that you have personally recruited, need to place orders of at least £1,800 sales volume during the same calendar month, plus
- At the same time each of the four recruits must place at least a minimum £120 order to be active for the month.
You will find that you will need at least 20 recruits in the hope that 4 of them would place orders to qualify as TL. And once you have promoted a personal recruit to be a Team Leader, she will not count as one of your active recruits for you to maintain your own status. You will need a different 4 to be active.
To promote to a Group Leader (GL) you have to achieve these:
- Two of your personally recruited first line Organisers have qualified as Team Leaders, plus
- As a TL your total sales volume is £6,000 during a calender month, plus
- You have personal sales of at least £240 during the month, plus
- You qualify as a Team Leader yourself in that month, plus
- At least one of your new Team Leaders must have promoted in the month(s) prior to your promotion and must qualify as a Team Leader in your month of promotion.
Promotion to Divisional Leader takes place when, as a Group Leader you achieve these:
- Your total sales volume is £18,000 or more in a computed month, plus.
- Four of your first line personally recruited Organisers have qualified as Team Leaders, plus
- You have achieved £240 Personal Sales, plus
- You must qualify as a Team Leader in the month
You will then earn a 5% Team Bonus and a 6% Team Building Bonus, but only get paid the month after you promoted. At GL, DL and EL level you can earn another 2% or 4% bonus as well. If you don’t maintain your levels over a rolling 3 month period, then you demote and have to qualify again.
Promotion to Executive Leader is even more complicated. Usborne Books at Home had been in business for more than thirty years before they had the first EL.
The average life span of an Usborne Organiser is eighteen months. Start building a sustainable business now without wasting the time. For Usborne Books to provide you with long term sustainable income, you need at least 500 personal recruits.
How much will it cost you?
To join Usborne Books at Home your need to buy a Starter Kit. For Usborne Books and More In the USA you currently have a choice of two starter kits:
- New Consultant Mini Kit @ $75 plus tax – you will get 10 titles and promotional material valued at more than $175
- New Consultant Kit @ $125 plus tax – you will get 20 titles and promotional material to the value of more than $280
- Additional add-ons are available – but of course it will cost you more.
Costs in the UK: the Starter kit will currently cost you £48 and if you are in the EU, you will be charged an additional £12 delivery so a total cost of £60.
Promotional materials like catalogues, flyers, bookmark etc. all has to be paid for which can cost you a lot of extra money.
You can purchase an on-line marketing package at an additional cost of £72. Personally I would only recommend it if you plan on recruiting and building a team, as you can then send them a link to join on-line. Otherwise, I never saw any other benefits from my package.
You get charged for delivery of your orders. In the UK it is quite a small amount, but deliveries to EU is very expensive. You could be paying out an additional £40 and as much as £120 on shipping costs, depending on where you are and the value of your order.
Organisers have access to online tools which is all self-help and self-study and once you join, you will have access to an Organiser Handbook. There are videos that you can watch, but at the end of the day, your support is only going to be as good as your mentor (the person that recruited you).
I first met my mentor more than three years after I joined Usborne, which I found very unsatisfactory, and I hardly ever spoke to her on the phone.
If you achieve certain levels, then you will have access to mentoring calls from the office. They also run Leadership Academies three times a year, but once again you have to fulfill certain criteria or pay to be there.
What I like About Usborne Books
Usborne publish beautiful books and new titles are being published on a monthly basis. With every order that you place, you can order one new title at half price. You can either sell this at full price, or keep it for your family.
If you want to join Usborne Books and More to build up a library for your family, you will have the opportunity to do so cheaply through free titles that you can add with each order that you place.
What I don’t like about Usborne Books at Home
There are many negative aspects to working for Usborne Books and More and for me it felt as if I was running on a treadmill and couldn’t run fast enough.
- You have to continuously maintain your status otherwise you have to re-qualify.
- You don’t get paid the override commission during the month that you qualify as Team Leader or any new status, but have to repeat it again the following month. And if you don’t, then you have 3 months in which to do it. So every 3 months you have to “re qualify” to maintain your status.
- If you want to take a break, you will be deleted from their system after six months. You can then not go back to them for four months and then have to rejoin, pay again and re-qualify.
- Usborne doesn’t tell you who else is working in your area. So you can waste a lot of time and effort contacting schools, only to discover that they have somebody else looking after them. Or they are not interested in Usborne Books because they use Scholastic or The Book People or another supplier.
- You do not receive your override commission until al least 10 days into the following month. With me it was often even more than that.
- Although Usborne says you don’t need minimum monthly sales that you have to achieve, if you don’t do the minimum £120 per month then you don’t get any override commission.
My opinion about Usborne Books at Home
So, you can be a very good sales person and have brilliant sales figures, but if you don’t have a team under you, or your team is not putting in enough sales, then you won’t qualify.
Every month I used to worry whether my team would put in the orders that were required for me to get my override commission. I always knew that I would have enough orders and sales to fulfill the £ side, but would I have four team members working? If you don’t have four team members PLUS yourself working, then even if you have the minimum sales volume, you will not get the override commission.
The big season and earning potential is obviously in the run-up to Christmas, so from September to December. Amazon would still be delivering two days before Christmas, but Usborne would not guarantee delivery for as long as fifteen days before Christmas. That means you are loosing out on last minute orders.
The other big season is around World Book Day and Easter. Suddenly come January and it is all quiet. Although the Sale is on, nobody has money and plead poverty. The schools that had you around for events before Christmas will not have you back in January. Business might start picking up in February, but not enough, which means you earn very little during Jan/Feb.
Long summer holidays (3 months plus) and no income. Can you afford that? I certainly couldn’t, which is why I had to look at more sustainable sources of income.
I often had comments that Amazon has special offers, shorter delivery lead times and you have to try to answer that and justify your prices. For Usborne Books it would be easy to give their Organisers access to the same specials and deals.
The Turning Point for me
The turning point for me came when one of my Team Leaders missed the deadline for placing a qualifying order by 22 seconds. Why did she miss it? She had flown to the other side of the world because her father was dying. By the time she arrived to be with her mum, her dad had passed away and she was making funeral arrangements.
For her, the trauma of getting on the plane, not knowing if she was going to make it in time or not, and then finding he was gone, made that she wasn’t putting Usborne first. When she did place her order to earn her extra commission (she was the breadwinner for her familiy), she was 22 seconds late. Yes 22 seconds.
What was Usborne’s attitude? You missed it so NO, we cannot make any exceptions. With that she not only didn’t get the additional income, but she also demoted. Did Usborne care? Of course not.
She completely lost interest and motivation and I lost my respect for Usborne Books.
I understand there needs to be a deadline, but surely there are extenuating circumstances, such as a death in the family.
For Usborne Books it would have been easy to have shown empathy and sympathy.
Is Usborne Books at Home a good way to make money?
No, it isn’t! So how much more do you need to sell to make money? And yes you can make more by having a bigger team, but you still have to put in your own minimum orders every month to get the override commission.
You never know before the time what to expect at an event. Just when I thought I had established contact and continuity, the librarian would leave and the new one doesn’t know me. Or the head of school or the Principal changes and the new head has a policy of “new broom sweeps clean”. There you lose all your hard work and have to start again with that specific school.
Or if you are working in non English-speaking schools, it would often be the English teacher that is responsible for arranging book events and ordering English books. If that teacher leaves the school, then nobody else knows how to continue.
Down the drain goes months of working on building relationships. And of course the big impact was on the sales, which means the earnings. Lower sales = lower earnings.
For Usborne Books to become a sustainable source of income, you have to be build up a huge team over a number of years.
Please leave any questions or comments below and I will get back to you.