A lot of shops and freelancers experience a significant reduction in business for certain periods. Some slow down in January, others in April. Some could just about close up shop all summer long. People often attribute these declines things like:
- Etsy’s making too many changes.
- The economy’s in the shitter.
- People are broke from the holidays.
The realities are probably more complex and include things like increased competition, diminished demand, seasonal shifts, and plenty more. The list could go on for pages. Plus it probably makes sense for indy folks to have 6-12 months’ worth of living expenses socked aside for emergencies and slow periods.
At the same time, if you look around, you’ll probably find that some companies in your segment are thriving when yours declines. What makes them so damn special? That’s what you want to try and figure out – instead of complaining, freaking out, or “hoping” for more sales soon. So, if you are frustrated by a seasonal slowdown, there are probably a few things you can do to make things better for you and your business.
1. Stay Empowered
If you kvetch about how slow business is, it might bleed into your customer base – even by a kind of osmosis. They’ll sense that others don’t want to buy from you and they may not want to either. So, as frustrating and difficult as it may be, try to contain your negativity and keep it away from customer’s eyes and ears. Write in a journal instead of on a forum. In addition, seek out positive people, articles, and resources that inspire you – whatever they may be.
Developing season-specific products may be one of the best ways to augment your revenue during a slow season. Ask yourself what people do during the season, where they go, what events they attend, how they dress, what companies do during the season, what people read, etc. For instance, if you’re a “Summer Slow”, consider wedding items, vacation items, travel stuff, swimming accessories, etc. (at least for the Northern Hemisphere). Be creative.
3. Go Where The People Are
If your season is slow because people are vacationing or otherwise distracted, go wherever they are. If you’re an “Autumn Slow”, people are probably doing a bit of back to school and holiday shopping. Maybe there are craft fairs, trade shows, and other similar events within traveling distance of where you live. Maybe you know of a seasonal Christmas or Halloween store that might want to wholesale your stuff. Jot down every place you can think of that people go during your slow season and figure out how to get there.
4. Prepare for the Busy Season
I know lots of us do this. If the busy season is insanely busy, preparing for it during your slow season is a great way to spend your time. Figure out how much product you’ll need to carry you through the crazy season – then produce it. If you’re a freelancer, try to forecast what kinds of things people will need later and do some of the early legwork now. Make sure you also have all the supplies you’ll need. You can even train people to help you during the busy season.
5. Offer Deep Discounts
Now I know there are a lot of people who balk at the very notion of Groupon and the like. However, if your products are priced right for wholesale and you want to generate a lot of revenue fast, you can structure a deal that will bring in some cash during your slow season. Do your research before taking the plunge.
6. Shut Down and Sip Martinis
This may not be a viable option for everyone. But if you don’t rely on your business income to feed you and your family, consider shutting down completely and taking a nice long vacation. It’s important to renew yourself spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I had a friend who lost his job and took a year off to run 6 marathons (he’d never been a runner) and it changed his life. Use your time well and do things that will help you renew and refresh so you can come back to your business with a clear head.
7. Test Your Marketing Strategies
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Advertising. People do so many things to market and promote their businesses that they often have no idea what’s working and what’s a complete waste of time. Your off season may be a good time to do a little marketing research.
A lot of successful business owners are also excellent writers. If you are one of the good writers (or believe you can be), find opportunities to write and get published. Write about your craft, running a business, or anything you know about that people want to read about. You can publish in blogs, craft magazines, trade rags, and even national publications. Many of you can even get paid, but at the very least it can be great exposure for your business.
Teaching kids to knit, mothers to bake, or business owners to manage their technology strategy can be both personally rewarding and profitable. Most towns have community college and outreach programs so look around for opportunities. You might even be able to teach workshops at craft fairs, trade shows, and other venues. If you’ve got any kind of teaching bug, use your break to show others the path to your kind of happiness.
Love to learn? If you’ve got a slow season and just a few dollars, you can probably find a local community college outreach program to teach you some new skills that will help you in your business. There are crafting classes, small business classes, software, marketing, photography… heck, the list goes on and on. As micro business owners, we need to be jacks of all trades so you can use your slow season to improve your weak areas or learn a new skill that will help you during your next slow season.
The objective is to keep the money flowing in. Unfortuantely, it can’t always come from the same places you’ve learned to rely upon. But if you persevere, maintain lose your sense of empowerment, and stay grateful for what IS working, you’ll be better equipped to handle slow periods for the long haul.