With it being slap bang in the middle of the holiday season, I was thinking this week about the fact that around about now, a large proportion of people, just like me, will be away on holiday. And the majority of the rest will be taking some time off work to chill out with their families.

What this means is that traditionally, August is also often the time of year when your online business may hit a small rocky patch… but don’t panic! The last thing I want to do is worry you, rather, I want to make sure that you know that this is in fact completely normal!

It happens to the best of us.

Just when you think your online business couldn’t be any better you suddenly find that your products aren’t shifting and your profits are sinking. And even though it does happen to every online seller, there’s still a little part of us that inevitably thinks, “Why me? What did I do wrong?”

But even huge businesses go through periods where they see massive profits, and then periods where they struggle to make ends meet.

Peaks and Troughs

Perhaps you’ve seen graphs showing stock values for various large corporations; those graphs are rarely a solid straight line, instead they move up and down, fluctuating with the economic climate, with new product launches and with the mood of the general public as factors.

There isn’t a business in existence that hasn’t, to a certain extent, gone through both peaks and troughs at some point.

So, what does this mean for you with your online business? Well the fact of the matter is that if, so far, you’ve only experienced the highs of big profits and successful selling, chances are you will find a dip waiting around the corner.

Please don’t get me wrong! This is not to worry you; it’s just to give you a little warning and a heads up on how you can protect your online selling business to ensure that, when those dips do happen, you are prepared.

I’ve put together my own four rules to keep my business moving forward no matter whether I’m selling successfully or experiencing a few slow days and I’m going to share these little secrets with you today so that you can incorporate them into your own business plan in the future:

1. Understand that a dip in selling is not your fault

The first time that I discovered one of my bestsellers had stopped selling I was almost ready to throw in the towel. I know – how childish is that! But it can be an incredibly frustrating moment, especially if your trough follows quickly after the emotional high of a big success.

Fortunately I was able to move past what I now know to have been only a tiny little dip in the overall success of my business, and now I know not to beat myself up when things like this happen.

So, let’s just take a moment to consider the calendar year…

You probably won’t be surprised to know that dieting books and exercise DVDs always sell incredibly well in January straight after the Christmas splurge, or that Christmas decorations only really sell successfully in November and December.

These are quite obvious examples and not every product is so drastically seasonal, but you could commonly find that peaks and troughs in your own business are closely related to the particular season.

This isn’t your fault so there is absolutely no point in beating yourself up about it; instead you simply need to be prepared and to understand the goods that you are selling to prepare yourself for whatever happens over the course of the year.

2. An online seller’s research is never done

As you will know already, whenever I find a new product to launch I always do lots of research using websites such as eBay and Amazon to discover how much the item is likely to sell for.

That’s not the end of it though. I also schedule time on a regular basis to keep an eye on eBay Pulse and Google Trends, both powerful tools that let me know exactly what my prospective customers are searching for and, perhaps more importantly, when they are searching for it.

Google Trends in particular has a wonderful feature that allows you to narrow down the results by a certain time period. You could look at the search term “Christmas Tree Lights” over the last five years for example, to see exactly when the most searches for that particular product were at the highest mark.

A couple of hours spent exploring a tool like that could quickly bring your attention to any seasonal peaks and troughs amongst the products that you are selling.

You could also be made aware of trends that are not related to the time of year, but perhaps to the release of a particular product or even a celebrity endorsement.

They say that knowledge is power, and when it comes to your online business the old adage certainly holds true. The more time you can dedicate to researching your particular products, the less likely you are to be startled by a peak or a trough.

3. Diversify to multiply

Using that example from earlier – if your online shop only sells lets say lights for Christmas trees you will make most money between the months of October and December. Likewise if your shop only sells paddling pools then you will make the most profits in the summer months!

So, in order to keep your income at a constant level throughout the year you will need to diversify your selling strategy, which will have the result of multiplying your profits.

If you only sell one product there is nothing to fall back on when it progresses through a natural dip, however with additional stock on your shelves you are likely to find that your items support each other, providing you with sales all the year round.

Consider setting up multiple eBay stores to sell multiple products in multiple niche markets. Consider using different websites to sell some of your stock such as Amazon. By spreading yourself out a little more you will always be protected against your main product suddenly losing popularity.

4. Plan for a rainy day

Let me set the scene; you’ve just had a fantastically successful month, selling loads of stock and generating excellent profits on each item. You’ve exceeded what you’d even dreamed of making for the month – so what next?

Well, some of that profit should certainly be invested back into your business in order to secure more stock and potentially diversify into different areas, but have you ever considered putting some of it away for a rainy day?

Only you know your own financial position and how much of your income you can afford to pop into a savings account, but by thinking about it now after a successful month you could store away a surplus to support yourself if a bad day or week or month should come later on.

A rainy day fund will really help to set your mind at ease too, so that even if after every other precaution is taken you find a week with little to no income you can still pay the bills. Before you know it you’ll be back to putting away a percentage of your income again, but having the safety net of a rainy day fund behind you can take away your business-related stress.

If you are currently experiencing a dip in online sales, please don’t worry. Use this quieter time to make sure your listing descriptions are tweaked to perfection and to research new products ready for September when things will get back to normal!