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Pros & Cons of Commission-Based Careers

Updated on May 26, 2014

For Employees

In a down economy, commissioned-based jobs remain relatively easy to find. Employers risk little when they bring on commission-based workers. If the employee produces, - well and good. If not, they don’t last long. If you are considering a commission-based job opportunity, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that the advantages of this kind of job are weighted heavily in your employer’s favor. For him it’s all win. For you? Not so much.

Employee Pros:

Commission-based jobs are generally sales jobs. The money can be significantly higher than for a salaried job requiring the same level of education, experience and training. The more you sell, the more you make. You can, if you have a talent for sales, give yourself a pay bump simply by working harder. How much you take home is largely up to you. As a commission-based worker, you generally don’t face a lot of employer hassles about your work style, so long as you’re generating profits for the company. If you make record sales while wearing a clown nose and knee britches, the boss is not likely to complain much.

Employee Cons

You don’t get paid if you don’t produce. You may have nothing to worry about if you are one of those congenital I-love-the-smell-of-order-sheets-in-the-morning kind of people. If you don’t love selling things, however, commissioned-based work can be a soul-destroying ordeal with relatively few financial rewards. Benefits may or may not be included. Vacation time may be treated like a week without pay. If you are new to a commission-based job, it can adversely affect your ability to get credit. If you aren’t successful, your boss may let you hang on till you give up and quit, so you won’t be eligible for unemployment. To succeed at commission-based work, you have to produce constantly. You cannot coast.

Good Idea?

It kind of depends on who you are.  If you love sales. If you're like a shark that needs to keep moving in order to keep breathing, then raw commission work may be just what you are looking for in a career.

Shy people need not apply. 

If you don't like sales, it's not likely that a commissioned job working for someone else will do more than give you ulcers. Selling is a gift. Not everyone has it.  God bless those who do. Their energy drives our economy as much as almost anything else.  If you look at the desk in front of you, you will not see a single item resting there that was not sold by someone to someone else. 

They're everywhere!

The Commissioned!

He's coming!  Run away, run away!
He's coming! Run away, run away!

For Employers


A little training money and some non-producing office space is really all the financial risk you take in hiring a commissioned worker. If he doesn’t produce, you can simply hire others and marginalize the poor producer till he quits on her own, saving you the unemployment insurance cost. If she turns out to be a big producer and you have to pay her a lot of money, you don’t mind. The better she does, the better you do. The bigger his wages, the more money you make. The system provides incentives for good producers and consequences for poor ones. You can be sympathetic and supportive either way.


A commissioned worker’s primary concern is his own bottom line. This makes him focused on short term gains rather than the long term good of the company. Given a choice between closing a lucrative sale now and not pressing the sale in order to nurture a long term relationship that will benefit the company years down the road (but may not benefit the salesman directly at all), the good, effective commissioned worker will nail down the sale every time. Commissioned workers don’t have a reputation for loyalty. Focused on their own bottom line, commissioned workers are more likely to jump ship for a better deal if someone makes them an offer.

Good Idea?

Cheap to acquire, cost-effective to maintain, self-starters who will ditch you in a heartbeat for a better deal. How great is that?  The major downside is that you have an employee working for you, who by his very nature, could just as easily bail on you and be your competitor next week.  And it's awfully hard to get a high-producing salesman willing to work entirely on commission to sign a non-compete agreement. The good ones know it's just not in their best interests. That's why so many employers go to a base salary with commission strategy, keeping the incentives while giving up some of the advantages to themselves. Sometimes loyalty has to be paid for, but then that's your decision as an employer.


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    • twayneking profile image

      twayneking 3 years ago from Puyallup, WA

      It is likely, then, Zapatazos that you are one of those people who shouldn't go to work on commission. Not everyone is cut out for it. I wish I was sometimes because I'd make a whole lot more money in a commission-based job than in a work for hire situation. I've kind of gone that way as a self-employed freelancer. No work, no pay, but then I'm the evil boss who has no loyalty to his employee (me) and refuses to pay him (me) when he (me) isn't selling anything. I am an evil boss. I'll admit. I work my employee like a veritable slave. It's shameful I know, but then if he (me) wanted a regular paycheck, he (I) should start getting up and dragging himself (myself) to work somewhere across town every day for some kindly employer who will love and appreciate me.

      I don't think so.

    • profile image

      Zapatazos 3 years ago

      I have a big problem with this concept. It is like working for free. It is a legal way to take advantage of people. With no "skin in the game" by the employer there is a win-lose situation. Clearly the employer does not believe in loyalty in any form or shape.. Good work ain't cheap, cheap work ain't good. Just imagine FREE WORK where the levels of pressure to close a sale are in direct relationship with your own blood pressure. It is insane...

    • twayneking profile image

      twayneking 4 years ago from Puyallup, WA

      Working on commission only is like being a Flying Wallenda. You're working without a net. If you make a misstep, it's a long fall down. The rewards can be high, but the pressure is always on and never lets up. You're only as good as your next sale. I understand why anyone might not want to do it.

    • profile image

      The idiot 4 years ago

      I worked commission only for 2 days and quit. I'm a man who believes if you work, you should get paid for it, no matter what you do. It's a basic human right. I'd rather work at mcdonald's instead of a high profile commission job.

    • twayneking profile image

      twayneking 5 years ago from Puyallup, WA

      Very carefully. I recommend getting a tax accountant if your company doesn't figure it and file for you.

    • profile image

      Bonnie 5 years ago

      How is filing tax information dealt with for a straight commission job?

    • twayneking profile image

      twayneking 6 years ago from Puyallup, WA

      Of course, as a free-lance writer I'm in the same boat. Fortunately, as I'm getting my writing career going, my wife is on full disability and our living costs are low because we're sharing space with her sister and brother-in-law. Three in the house are disabled and one retired. This gives me time to finish projects and wait to be paid. Gradually I'm building up ad revenue for my weblogs and book royalty which provides some steady income to go with the cash. I'm self-employed so I have the tax headache and stuff, but it's worth it, doing what you always wanted to do. I wouldn't want to work commission only for a boss though. Like Wueenite, I'd hate to be in the position to have to sell to pay my bills. It's better if you can survive on some steady income source and do your sales work unencumbered.

    • profile image

      Wueenite 6 years ago

      Been there – done that. I think it is awfully hard to focus on your job when you have no money coming it. I am a relationship seller (in it for the long term). I felt awkward trying to sell stuff just to be able to eat. Commission only is not for me.

    • profile image

      Tom King 7 years ago

      Thanks Theo. Me too!

    • Theo Burggraaff profile image

      Theo Burggraaff 7 years ago from Kuta, Bali

      Thanks for this informative list of pros and cons. I also wrote about working on commission in one of my hubs after having 'worked' in it for awhile.. Definitely NOT for me this kind of work!