How to keep your business ticking over so that you can chill out!

Holiday settings are vital for your online business when you fancy taking time out to recharge! This is a topic I talk about every year because it’s a subject that new online sellers always have questions about. So, if you’re a newbie, you can read my ‘holiday settings options’ and tips here.

This is also a rather timely reminder as we are once again fast approaching holiday season. When my children were much younger and still at school, I often used to think: ‘Wouldn’t it be great if just for 6 weeks of the year, over the long summer break, I could leave my entire business in the hands of somebody else completely…” And I’m sure you’ve had similar thoughts!

Flexible as it is, working for yourself can sometimes prove a challenge if you need time off or want to take a holiday, especially if the products you are selling are physical ones that need packing and shipping rather than digital products or products being fulfilled elsewhere.

You can leave your business in the hands of ‘someone else’ and it’s more simple than you might realise.

How can you keep your business going when you have other important commitments or want to take time out to relax? Well, just for starters, there are plenty of fulfilment houses who will store, pack and post your eBay and Amazon orders for you plus there’s Amazon’s FBA programme (Fulfilment By Amazon).

So here are my suggestions for you if you need to get away from it all…

1. Use FBA – Amazon’s fulfilment programme

You may not be aware of this, but FBA is not just for Amazon sellers. In fact you can use FBA for your eBay orders AND even for products that you may have listed on your own website. ‘Multi Channel Fulfilment’ is part of Amazon’s service that allows you to fulfill your orders from other sales channels using the stock that you store in Amazon’s fulfilment centre. Once you have shipped your stock to Amazon, you can submit order fulfilment requests to them using either a simple web form or a file upload including the buyers address, shipping instructions and you can add a personal note too if you wish.

The only thing you need to be aware of is the packaging with this service. Multi-Channel Fulfilments do not go out under plain cover so your orders will be sent in Amazon packaging which includes their logo. So, your eBay orders will bear Amazon’s name as will your orders from your website…

This could be a small price to pay though for peace of mind whilst you are on holiday.

2. Agree a fulfilment arrangement directly with your supplier

A few years back I found myself in a situation whereby I was unable to dispatch some orders due to unforeseen circumstances with the delivery of my stock. My stock had become held up and I had customers waiting.

Not wanting to make my customers wait longer than necessary, I emailed my supplier and asked if she would consider fulfilling my outstanding orders for me with her own stock and if so at what cost.

I was pleasantly surprised when she came back to me and said that this was no problem, she would deal with all the orders if I sent them over on a spreadsheet, charge me the postage costs and add a ‘fulfilment fee’ on top. This equated to about 50p extra per item. So, for an additional 50p, my orders were packed and posted that day and I didn’t have to lift a finger.

Until I asked, I wasn’t even aware that my supplier would consider doing this for me, and we now have an arrangement whereby when I am on holiday, she will fulfill orders for me.

It’s easy to get an internet connection abroad and I just collate the orders and email them over to her. Yes, you’ll have to pay a little extra because you’re getting a ‘service’ but weigh it up and this kind of arrangement may well work for you too.

3. Ask a friend for help!

If you don’t want to get involved with fulfilment services and you only use eBay or you only use Amazon to achieve sales, think about asking a friend or family member to deal with your packing and posting for you.

You can agree an hourly rate or a total payment for the work they do for you. In fairness, it’s easy to manage questions and queries online everyday yourself, it’s the packing and dispatching scenario that is the aspect you need help with, especially if you are holidaying abroad.

If you rope in a friend to help, all you need to do is supply enough stock, packing materials and cash for postage to your helpful friend before you go, then simply email a list of names and addresses to them every day or every other day depending on your arrangement (in fact they won’t even have to go to the Post Office if you combine this idea with my final suggestion – number four below).

This way, they don’t need access to your eBay or Amazon accounts. You can quite easily log on and mark items as dispatched once you know they have been posted!

This could easily become a nice little holiday job for a student or if you have other friends who also sell online, you can help each other out – take it in turns to do the dispatch run – then everybody wins!

4. Use a Courier Service rather than Royal Mail

There have been times in the past when I have looked at the pile of parcels waiting to go to the Post Office, and I’ve realized that I am going to spend half the day in there when I could actually be doing so many more constructive things than waiting for ‘Cashier Number 4 please’.

So this is where a service such as My Hermes can help as you can book and pay for your postage online and they will collect all your parcels from your door. The great thing is that you don’t even have to be in for them to collect your parcels.

So, you can leave everything in a designated safe place, then go and carry on with the other things you need to do, they’ll pick everything up and deliver it for you. You book everything online and you can upload multiple addresses so it’s all straight-forward. You’ll need a printer and the maximum size parcel is 15kg but this should be suitable for most.

You can use this service to save yourself time when you could be doing other things and of course you can use this in conjunction with my ‘ask a friend’ suggestion above too. Once again, there is a charge for this service which you’d expect due to the fact that they collect from your door, so as before you’ll need to weigh up the costs versus time scenario.

So, as you can see, with the holiday season here, there are several simple ways that you can continue to sell online even if you are busier than usual with children at home, or you are simply going away on holiday.