Everybody hates dry spells: experiments in profitable planning

Everybody hates dry spells: experiments in profitable planning

This is the second post in the summer slump series – view all the posts & read the others here

As mentioned previously, in the past, my business will slow down a little bit (but not a huge amount) in summer, then it picks up again in fall, and then it grinds to a screeching halt in October or November, not picking up again until mid-January.

If you’re in my camp (or if you want to keep this information around for the beginning of next year, to avoid next summer’s slump), this is the first year I’m trying these things, so I can’t guarantee ’em, but here’s what’s in my toolbox. If your summer slump doesn’t hit until July, you might have time to start on some of them if you want to give them a go:

Diversifying: different offerings

In previous years, my Q4 offerings were as follows:

This year, I’m going to be:

  • offering my writing/editing services
  • doing a Kickstarter in August & September to fund paper planners (a mashup of the yearly + weekly planners and the habit-building planners I created that currently aren’t for sale), which will be for sell starting in October, and will be sold through this site, Amazon, and local stores *knock on wood*
  • having the digital planners for 2015 available starting in October
  • offering either a one-day workshop (if I do that route, 2-3 different dates) or a 4-week class for 2015 planning + systems
  • probably (but not 100% for sure yet – we’ll see how the beta round that opens this month goes!) offering the second round of the class on guest posting to rock your biz

Each of these is meant to fit a different type of customer/client – they’re not all going to appeal to the same type of person (as opposed to last year, when the offerings were essentially different levels of the same thing). And of course, the goal of the Kickstarter will be to fund the whole first run of the paper planners – so there will be planners left over to sell, which is a much more Christmas friendly gift than something digital.

My theory – we’ll see how it works out – is that offering a diverse range of things will:

  • let me see which of these performs the best in the fourth quarter so that I know that for next year and can continue to improve
  • give me enough streams of income that it’ll bring in more money overall, and even out the slump

(And of course…those products I mentioned above are all in the summer of systems bundle, if you want to pick any of ’em up! And that guest posting class might or might not be available for VIP presale to newsletter subscribers….just sayin’.) 

Diversifying: different industries

My boyfriend runs an eBay store with drop-shipped products, so that he doesn’t have to keep products on hand and in stock. It isn’t his sole income but is a nice side income stream, although it does require more time-commitment than the passive income gurus would have you believe. I’ve been an eBay user for an ungodly long time now and have a good feedback score, so I’m batting around the idea of finding something to set up a similar arrangement with, and then when business picks up again in January, I can scale it back or stop entirely.

My other thought is that sales across other industries pick up hugely in the last quarter of the year, even if my business usually slows down – 25-30% of yearly retail sales happen in the last two months of the year. (Source) Which means businesses in retail industries or businesses serving those industries will need more help…and I can seek them out. I’m working on building the tech aspects of my portfolio, and I think that’ll come in handy here.

Stack launches

This is probably a fairly basic thing I should have been doing all along…but the idea is that in addition to diversifying, I’m pretty much always in some stage of launching a class, product, or service (and at some points, in various stages of launch with more than one thing at a time). That way, there’s little to no “dead zone” where I’m just relying on my services and on unreliable passive-ish income from my products as my sole sources of income.

The typical advice would probably say that my audience will get “launch fatigue”, and I have no idea if that’s true or not; I’m hoping that since these are different “levels” people won’t get tired of hearing about the products/services/classes. Not to mention, I make every effort to provide really good free content out the wazoo.

By different “levels” I mean either:

  • different audiences/interests (guest posting vs. paper planners vs. a course on business systems and planning for the new year)
  • different levels of investment (a $15-25 planner kit is not the same level of money or time involvement as a 4-6 week class)
  • different levels of promotion (as in, my level of promoting it – the Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing deal, so I’m going to be promoting it on a very daily basis until it, fingers crossed, meets its goal, but a class or course is more like a 2-3x a week promotion)

I’m also making a lot more effort to keep things on a tighter schedule. For example, I’m running the aforementioned summer of systems bundle until June 16, after which I have a class on guest posting opening for registration (which, also as aforementioned, is first-come first-serve to the newsletter subscribers), that will start on July 21. The Kickstarter is tentatively scheduled to start either the first or second week in August, and when it finishes, I might re-run the guest posting class in late October, so we’d move right into launch for that. If I don’t re-run it, I’ll still be debuting the planners for 2015 in October, and start selling workshops for 2015 planning/systems in November.

Will it be exhausting? I have no idea. My theory is that it will, obviously, be a lot of work, but that cycling through launches at this rate and diversifying what it is that I’m launching, I won’t get bored. One of the reasons I respect Shenee so much is that she ran Hot Brand Action, her flagship course, every other month for approximately two years, which means she was essentially perma-launching, always with the same offering.

I think that would make me want to claw my eyes out, but getting to work on a guest posting class, then a Kickstarter, then systems and planning, while possibly trying other new things to see how they stick…that sounds fun, even if hard work, to me.

Projects with a longer turnaround time (work on them now, get the rewards later)

For me, this is going to be my Youtube channel. I have over 300 subscribers there and make something like $150-175 from it every other month or so…and that’s with very, very intermittent uploads. My theory is that if I start updating much more regularly – my goal will be weekly, starting here in about two weeks when I get back from the trip I’m currently on- it will dramatically increase the ad income. This will probably be hit or miss, because some productivity tools, like Trello, are obviously getting searched for a lot more than others (and searches cause most of my Youtube traffic), but it’ll be an interesting experiment nonetheless.

If this works, it will mean more and more regular income, but it’ll take about 3-4 months to actually kick in, because of the delay in payment. Which means if I want to do this with the aim of helping out my income starting in October, I need to start now.

Almost every business owner I know has something like this – it’s bringing money in and it could probably bring a lot more money in…with just a little bit of work. This is me trying to prioritize that little bit of work now and see if it pays off later. Is it going to be annoying to make the time to record and upload videos weekly on top of other blogging, marketing, and client work? Probably – but if it increases regular recurring income, it’s worth it, even if it won’t happen for a few months. Also, I always remember videos being a huge pain, and then I do one and remember that I love doing them, so I bet once it’s a habit it won’t be nearly so bad.

So that’s the four experiments in profitable planning I’m trying this year, to avoid my usual end-of-year downturn. And of course, I’ll be checking back in November or so to talk about how it pans out – I’m sure I’ll learn something either way! (That I can then pass along to you, and save you the headache.)

Want to learn more? Read the rest of the summer slump series:

  1. How systems save my business from the summer slump
  2. Everybody hates dry spells: experiments in profitable planning
  3. Thirteen things you can do today to beat the summer slump
  4. Sixteen business owners sound off about how they avoid the summer slump
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