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What Is Mail Order Work?

By Alex Newth
Updated Feb 28, 2024
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Mail order work is a job that allows people to work from home, marketing a product or several products, while making commissions on the resulting sales. In the earliest sense, this was done only by mail but, in the digital age, this refers to any marketing method used without the customer and marketer being near each other. To achieve sales, most mail order work marketers will use email marketing, websites, print and electronic catalogs, and newspaper ads to attract attention. Sales are made either by mail, online or over the phone, so the marketer may have to interact with the customer during the sales phase. Many of these opportunities are legitimate, but others are scams that require the worker to keep paying money while rarely getting anything in return.

With mail order work, a marketer joins up with a company to sell a product or products. During the initial phase, the amount of commission will be detailed or the company will tell the marketer how much each item is worth, and the marketer will increase the value to make a profit. After this, the marketer is able to make custom marketing material, gets a special website address to use in online purchases or receives official marketing material from the company to use in getting sales.

When mail order work first emerged, it was all done via paper mail. Workers and companies would send out catalogs detailing their products, and customers would mail in an order form. In the digital age, mail order jobs are not strictly limited to the mail. Marketers can mail people directly, or they can use the Internet to market a product. As long as the marketer and customer do not interact during the marketing phase, it is technically mail order.

During the sales phase, the customer and marketer may interact, based on how the marketer processes orders. If the marketer allows for mail order forms, or creates a website to process orders, then there will rarely be any interaction. If he or she takes orders via phone, then interaction will be common.

Mail order work has a stigma attached to it, because many of the opportunities are scams, designed to get money from potential marketers. In such a schema, the mail order company will demand initial payment to allow the marketer to sell products and will continually require more money each month. Such companies also will request extra money for paltry reasons, such as increasing commission amounts or giving the marketer a higher rank. Legitimate mail order companies may ask for initial payment, but most only charge the marketer for a product if he or she makes a sale, unless the job is commission based. A legitimate company also may charge for official marketing material.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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