A few weeks ago I gave you tips about holiday settings for your online business and here we are at the end of July already!

Where do the days go? 2016 seems to be speeding by at a rate of knots for me and I’m now bang in the middle of the time of year when my normal routine goes out of the window and I inhabit an ‘ad-hoc’ kind of world!

Yes, it’s the school holidays! And so my family and I embark on a constant stream of days out, activities and of course a well-deserved holiday to keep us all amused.

Oh, it’s all good fun of course and I really wouldn’t have it any other way. But just as you probably have, I often used to think: “Wouldn’t it be great if for just six weeks of the year, over the summer, I could leave my entire business in the hands of somebody else completely…?”

Being an online seller and 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 products – rather than digital ones – that need packing and shipping.

But actually you can leave your business in the hands of ‘someone else’ – it’s simpler than you may realize…

So, how can you keep your business going when you have other important commitments or want to take time out to relax?

For starters, there are fulfilment houses where staff will pack and post your eBay and Amazon orders for you. Plus there’s Amazon’s FBA programme (Fulfilment By Amazon), too.

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

1. Use Amazon’s fulfilment programme (FBA)

You may not be aware of this, but 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 to store, you can submit order fulfilment requests to them using either a simple webform or a file upload including the buyer’s address, shipping instructions. 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 – meaning 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 while you are on holiday or otherwise bogged down.

2. Come to a fulfilment arrangement directly with your supplier

A little while ago I was unable to dispatch some orders due to unforeseen circumstances with the delivery of my stock. I won’t go into the details here, but my stock had got 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, how much that would cost.

I was pleasantly surprised when she came back to me and said it was no problem and she would deal with all the orders if I sent them over on a spreadsheet, charging me the postage costs and adding a ‘fulfilment fee’ on top.

This came 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 she fulfills for me when I am on holiday.

It’s very easy to get online while abroad so I collate 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 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 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 pal before you go, then simply email a list of names and addresses to him/her 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 even 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 I’m going to spend half the day in there, waiting to hear “Cashier number 7, please”, when I could actually be doing so many more constructive things.

So this is where a service such as My Hermes can help as you can book and pay for your postage online. 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, go and carry on with the other things you need to do and they’ll pick everything up and deliver it for you.

You book everything online and you can upload multiple addresses so it’s very straightforward. You’ll need a printer and the maximum size parcel is 15kg but this should be suitable for most of you.

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 you’ll need to weigh up the costs versus time scenario.

As you can see, with the holiday season here, there are 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.

And if you really want to get away from it all – simply switch your listings off while you’re away and have a proper break

Right – I’ve got a flight to catch…

As always I wish you the best of success,