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5 Steps to Tame the Feast or Famine Sales and Income Cycle in Your Online Business

A few weeks ago I started asking new subscribers ‘What’s the least comfortable thing about your business’ (you can fill out the form here if you want to join in).

I hoped for an eclectic mix of responses to prompt fresh blog posts and even new courses.

What I got was one single answer, repeated back to me in a variety of ways:

‘I’m stuck in a cycle of feast or famine’

‘The income in my business is unpredictable’.

‘Some months I make £10k+ but last month I made nothing’.

I’d love to be able to provide you with one simple course that solves this problem.

But:

1 – It’s kinda complicated and a lot will depend on your own personal circumstances, what you sell, and who buys that

2 – I’d love to say I’d totally nailed the smooth, consistent, upward trajectory of sales…but I haven’t. I’m right here figuring it out with you. And that means I’ve done a lot of reflecting on this problem.

Instead of a single straightforward answer, I’ve got a set of steps (surely that’s a staircase or a ladder?) to help you figure out a solution for yourself.

Step 1:

Understand why your revenue fluctuates from month to month

Look back at your sales over the last few months.

Where did they come from? Are you promoting in short bursts and then ghosting your audience? Do you generate sales with discounts or launches? Did you create a new offer?

Or were you doing the same marketing and selling activity consistently month after month, but then seeing wildly different results?

Is variability in monthly sales figures inevitable?

Do you prefer not to take on new clients in December? Is it predictable that people won’t be buying in the middle of the Summer? Consider your audience, the problem you help them with, and their options for buying from you - are there some weeks, or months, when it’s easier for them to say ‘yes’ than others.

There isn’t a right and wrong way - just be curious about what could be causing these peaks and troughs.

Step 2:

Consider if you really need consistent income

I’m not trying to talk you out of wanting consistent monthly income.

I know you need to pay your business expenses and yourself every month, so the outgoings do tend to be pretty consistent.

But does that mean the income must be consistent too, or can you handle an influx of cash and hold onto it for a while, so you can share it across the leaner months to come?

List out all the benefits consistent month-on-month sales would deliver, and then explore if there are different ways of getting that same (or very similar) result.

For example….

Benefit

I know I will be able to pay myself and my bills every month

I will feel confident in my ability as a business owner

Alternative

I can keep a minimum balance in my business bank account so I can absorb monthly fluctuations in cash flow

There are other measures I can track, including signals earlier in the sales pipeline (brochure downloads, discovery calls booked)

Step 3:

List ways you could smooth your income

I’m going to throw some ideas at you - you can use these or maybe they’ll spark your own.

#1 Restrict your availability

How many clients do you need to work with each month to make the money you need/want?

Consider setting your availability to that number (or just one more) so you’re creating some natural scarcity and smoothing out your working pattern as well as income. This would break the cycle of having months where you’re time is 100% dedicated to client-work, leaving you no time for marketing and selling.

I talk more about this in Booked in Blocks (it’s £7).

#2 Plan your pipeline

How many discovery calls would you need to generate to make the monthly sales you need? Or brochure downloads? Or sales page visits? Or new subscribers?

Work backwards from the sales figures you want to plan the pipeline you’re aiming for, then you can plan out your marketing to help reach those targets.

This will also help you realise if you’re figures aren’t realistic - if four people a month are looking at your sales page, you’re not likely to make the two sales you need.

Example:

My ideal is to sell 3 x mentoring spots each month.

I would need to have around 5-7 Voxer chats with potential clients, and I would generate those chats by driving people to the mentoring brochure page - so I’d need around 20 people a month to download the brochure…maybe more.

I’m still working on this pipeline but it helps me feel more in control of the sales because I can see which stages I can measure and improve.

#3 Accept payment in instalments

This could be splitting the cost into equal instalments across multiple months, or taking a 10-50% deposit, then taking the rest of the payment later.

You could make it official on your website, or a private arrangement you make with clients.

You don’t have to adopt the same approach for all your offers - some will be suitable for payment plans, and others might not.

And, it needs to be something you feel comfortable with.

How I’ve approached split-payment in my business:

  • I don’t usually accept split payments for people hiring me for the day, but there are some clients I have known for a while that I’m happy to offer the option to, so I just sent them a checkout link with that option (using Thrivecart makes that easy - that’s an affiliate link)
  • I do offer split payment for my mentoring, because it is a significant investment, and I feel comfortable splitting the cost across the three months that the client will be working with me. Some clients even choose to start paying early, before we start working together, to secure their spot.
  • I don’t offer split payment for the Worditude Annual Pass because it is already a very generous offer, and I would feel resentful having to deal with any additional admin associated with missed/failed payments.

#4 Sell different things at different times

Can you adapt what you sell to the time of year to smooth inevitable peaks and drops?

If you don’t want to work 1-1 with people over Christmas (and for me that lasts for the whole of December), what hands-off offers could you be promoting in November?

If your clients don’t tend to want to commit to work over the Summer, could you sell a batch of one-off sessions in late Spring - generating a flurry of cash, and a good pipeline of leads to follow-up with in Autumn.

#5 Use lots of little launches instead of a few big ones

In Prepare For Launch I talk about how a launch can be as big or small as you want it to be (the lesson on Duck vs Rocket alone is worth the £7 in my humble opinion )

So if bigger loud launches is creating peaks and troughs of income and you’re not enjoying the ride, try something different.

You could switch to more frequent but easier-to-do launches.

Or stick to your big launches, but in-between do a lazy little launch just to the wait list, or to your existing email list (it’s kinda fun to give your subscribers the perk of exclusive access to something).

Step 4:

Make a Plan

Your plan needs to include:

  • What you want to achieve
  • Why do you want that
  • What timeframe are you working with - this is not a deadline by which you will achieve your goals (urggh how heavy does that already feel) this is a ‘let’s give this a shot for a few weeks, see what I can learn’ timeframe
  • What things do you want to try out in that period
  • What are your green flags to tell you this is working out, and red flags warning you it might be time to bail out?

That’s basically the Marketing Gameplan course summarised in 5 bullet points, and also a really smart way to approach planning anything

Step 5:

Review and Re-Plan

You know you’re never going to get it done right?

As soon as you’ve figured out your income, you’ll set your heart on a new income level, or a different way of working, or fewer working hours, or some combination of things.

So at the end of the period you had planned for, review how your smoothing efforts went, and reconsider what you want from your business now, then re-plan for the next period of time (you set the timeline).

🆓 Some free things that might help

Stepping Stones blog post: An alternative to value ladders and sales funnels

Magic Money Tree blog post: 9 ways to temporarily boost your income

Adore Your Offer (free training) - Make your service, course, program or membership deliciously appealing to the people you love to work with.

Sales Sleuth (free training) - 9 investigations to help you figure out why your fabulous thing isn’t selling as well as you’d like.

🛒 Some not-free things that might help

Booked In Blocks, £7 - Create a steady flow of 1-1 clients so you’re working when you want, with who you want, on what you want, for how much money you want.

Prepare For Launch Pep Talk, £7 - Wondering how you’re going to release your new thing out into the world so people can buy it? Or thinking of re-launching an existing offer? This short-ish course pep-talk is for people who sell their expertise online as 1-1 services, group programmes, courses, memberships and masterminds. It will help you plan out a launch period that works for you, your business and your audience.

Irresistible Offers, £47 - Self-study course to help you craft offers (the things that you sell) that are so compelling they almost sell themselves.

Marketing Gameplan, £47 - A simplified approach to strategy and planning for people who don’t want to just totally wing it, but don’t want to be constrained by a meticulous plan either. Perfect if you often second-guess yourself, try things and stop quickly, feel a bit lost, and compare yourself to others.

Worditude All Access Pass, £99 - Get access to all those courses 👆 and the rest of my collection for 12 months

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