how to start a dropshipping business

There are many courses that teach you how to start a dropshipping business, but many of these courses do not provide timelines of how soon you can do it, much less tell you the amount of money you need to prepare to start one. 

Dropshipping is a tough business—even if it is online, you have a lot of work to do—from niche selection to website creation to marketing, you will do all of these yourself.

Sure, you can outsource some of the work, but dropshipping is not really a business for people who have a lot of capital. It is best for those who are currently working a 9 to 5 job but want a side hustle that can potentially grow into a big business.

What if I tell you that you can start a dropshipping store in 30 days?

This is what you will learn today.

I will discuss:

  1. What is dropshipping?
  2. Why do dropshipping?
  3. How to Start a Dropshipping Business in 30 days
  4. Pros of Dropshipping
  5. Cons of Dropshipping
  6. Things to Expect as a Dropshipper

By the end of this tutorial, you should be ready to start a dropshipping business. At the very least, you should have a clear idea how it works, and how you should prepare financially, mentally, and emotionally.

Step-By-Step: 6 Ways How to Start a Dropshipping Business Successfully Click To Tweet

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Let us get started!

What is dropshipping?

how to start a dropshipping business with no money

Dropshipping is retail business. However, you do not have to buy your inventory. In this business model, you put up an online store, wait for a customer to buy, and then order the product from your supplier.

Here is how it works:

  • You build an online store with Shopify
  • You post products on your store
  • Customer buys the item from you
  • You order the product from your supplier
  • Your supplier ships the item to your customer

As you can see, the process does not involve that you stock your inventory. In dropshipping, the profit you make is the difference between the supplier’s price and your selling price.

You only order the product—which means you only spend money on the product—once a customer already paid you. You will not pack the product and ship it. It is your supplier who is going to do this.

You will never handle the product yourself. However, the customer believes that it is your product, so you are responsible for any problem that arises about this transaction.

This is why you have to be prepared. One of the most crucial things to learn is how to build a Shopify store, as this is going to be the website where your customers will browse your items. This is also the site where they will place an order and process the payment.

Why do dropshipping?

how to start a dropshipping business

Despite what people say, dropshipping is a profitable business, but only if you know how. If you know how to start an online dropshipping business, only time will tell how soon you will become profitable.

But why do it when almost everybody is doing it?

Here are some good reasons:

  • Low capital to start – you only need less than $100 to start a dropshipping business; this already includes the cost of advertising for your first month
  • You do not have to pay for inventory – you do not have to buy in wholesale and stock them in your room; you will only buy the products you sold once a customer already paid you
  • Low-cost to maintain the business – the cost of a Shopify store is only $29 per month.
  • Work anywhere – you can process orders and update your store anywhere you are; all you need is a laptop, or a phone, and then an internet connection.

As you can see, dropshipping is the only way to be in the retail business without spending thousands of dollars. With dropshipping, you can start a business for as little as $100—and then scale up from there as you move on.

How to Start a Dropshipping Business in 30 days

how much does it cost to start a dropshipping business

Alright, in this section, I will teach you how to start a successful dropshipping business in 30 days. I will show you the step by step action plans to help you prepare.

Just to be clear, I will not show you the actual process of how to start a dropshipping business with Shopify. Rather. I will focus on the business pillars of what you need to prepare. 

Day 1 to 3: Niche Selection

This is the most crucial step of all—niche selection.

What is a niche?

A niche is a group or category of products. For example, baby clothing niche. In this niche, you will sell baby clothing only.

Why is a niche important?

Niche selection is important because it gives your store an identity. Successful dropshippers have a brand—they have a specialization.

One thing I noticed is that people build general stores when they get started. They target broad niches. For example, they sell clothing. What happens is that after they learn how to start a dropshipping business with Shopify, they immediately sell:

  • Men’s clothing
  • Women’s clothing
  • Baby clothing

Because of this, they get overwhelmed. They end up having too much work and no sale.

Generally speaking, you have to niche down your store. For example, you can focus on hunting knives only, like the store example below.

As you can see, this store sells nothing but hunting knives. The owner’s vision is clear—sell knives to hunters.

The niche selection process is something that you need to think through, and we are dedicating three days to get this done.

Here are some tips to help you choose a niche:

  • Know your passion – what is it that you are so crazy about? Your passion is going to fuel your motivation to sell. Your passion will also turn into knowledge—knowledge that can help you service your customers and choose products wisely. 
  • Identify a problem – choose a niche that solves problems. In our example, the store solves a problem for hunters and campers—they need a trustworthy knife. Do not pick a niche that does not really solve any problem, as you will not be able to create value for your target consumers.
  • Understand who your market is – general niches have no target customers. For example, women’s clothing is a bad choice. You cannot expect to target all women. Instead, choose a niche like plus-size clothing, or yoga clothing for women. These sub-niches have a real market—not a generic market.
  • Research your competition – if you have chosen a niche, you need to check online who your competitors are. Take the time to go through some stores and study what they sell, what they do, and how their stores look like. This will give you an idea how to get ahead of the game.

Your chosen niche is going to have a serious impact to your success. In the physical world, a lot of people open food joints. Those that open food joints in specific niches succeed. For example, they only sell pasta, or they only sell hamburger.

You have to do the same as you learn how to start an online dropshipping business. The niche you choose will make or break your company. If you do not start your business with this fundamental aspect of dropshipping, you will give up and fail.

Day 4 to 5: Product Research

After choosing your niche, the next step on how to start a successful dropshipping business is to research the products you want to sell.

Let us say for example that you have selected the camping niche. In this niche, you want to target campers. As such, you know that they need different gears like:

  • Tent
  • Knife
  • Backpacks
  • Canteen
  • Ropes

You need to list down all of the products that you have in mind. After that, go to Google Trends and see if there is a demand for these products.

Below is an example for a trend search for the keyword “camping tent.”

how to start a dropshipping business with no money

As you can see, the trend is really low in November—nobody camps in this period. But then it starts climbing in June.

This kind of product search allows you to understand what time of year the product is in demand. From this, you see what time of year the product is going to be in demand.

If the product you chose has no demand, remove it from your list. Do not sell that item because nobody is looking for it.

The numbers you see on the left, or the Y-axis, represent trend score. They are not actual search volumes. In Google trend, the popularity of a search term is measured between 0 and 100. Higher score means there is a search volume.

As a guide, a score of 50 is okay, a score of 75 is good. A score of 100 means there is strong demand for the product.

Do this exercise for all the products that you have listed, and you will find out what products have demand and what products don’t. You can also toggle the search to include worldwide statistics, or see how the search term is trending since 2004.

Product research is important. You cannot go blindly and open a store for a niche just because you are passionate about it. A business must have a market and demand to sustain and thrive.

Take a look at the screenshots below for fidget spinners and hunting knife.

FIDGET SPINNER

how do I start a dropshipping business fidget spinner

HUNTING KNIFE

how to start a dropshipping business hunting knives

See what I mean?

If you have selected a niche based on passion alone, you would have opened a store for fidget spinners because you loved it. What you did not realize is that there is no one looking for it. No one is interested in the product anymore.

Always do your product research to know if there is a market out there. Do not skip this step.

Day 6 to 8: Looking for Suppliers

The next step on how to start a successful dropshipping business is to look for suppliers. In this section, I will be recommending some tools where you can find suppliers.

But first, what makes a reliable supplier?

Your supplier must be dependable. If your supplier ships late, your customers are going to ask for a refund. If the supplier shipped a blue item instead of red one, then you have another problem.

Here are the key items you need to look for in a supplier:

  • Supplier rating
  • Product rating
  • Shipping speed
  • Communication

All of these are commonly measured with a rating of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest. Do not deal with suppliers who have a rating score of lower than 4 in any of these areas—you will have problems later on.

Here is an example of a good supplier:

how to start a dropshipping business with aliexpress

As you can see, the seller’s overall rating is 98% and the rating for the three other metrics are above 4.5.

So, where do you find suppliers?

The most common source of goods is via AliExpress. It is the Asian equivalent of Amazon. In AliExpress, it is the manufacturers that display the goods. This is why they are affordable.

If you want to make your search more specific, you can use the following tools:

  • SaleHoo
  • Dropified
  • Oberlo
  • Spocket

All these tools are in fact getting data from AliExpress. However, they also have a vetting process. They remove suppliers who are under performing. With these tools, you can also choose suppliers who are not from China.

Unfortunately, both Dropified and SaleHoo do not have free accounts. Spocket and Oberlo comes with free subscriptions, but you will have limitations, such as the number of products you can display and order.

Dropified, Spocket, and Oberlo offers a software where you can automatically import your selected products to your stores—including the photos and the product descriptions. These tools will also automatically adjust the prices in your store if the supplier increases or decreases the prices.

Day 9 to 15: Building Your Shopify Store

Now that you have selected your niche and you have done your product research, it is time to build your Shopify store. If you have decided on a fashion niche, here is a great guide on how to start your own online boutique business with Shopify.

The first thing you have to do is to sign up. By this time, you should already have thought of a business name. How much does it cost to start a dropshipping business?

On Shopify, what I would suggest is for you to subscribe to the Basic plan first. This plan only costs $29 a month. It is affordable and gives you a great head start to starting your own dropshipping store without much time wasted.

Here are some of the things you will do as you build your Shopify store:

  • Theme selection – on Shopify, there are many free themes. You can buy premium themes if you will like. Here’s a tip. Make sure you go through and purchase a theme that you really like from the start. The problem with Shopify is that if you change your theme down the line, it may not have the exact layout and may not carry all the photos that you have already uploaded recently.
  • Page build – you need to build pages after pages. Important pages to create are your About Us, Privacy Policy, Terms and Conditions, Shipping Policy, Refund Policy, and many more that will promote trust and credibility. You do not have to write all of these except for your return, shipping, and refund policy. There are many policies that you can generate for free online.
  • Collections – since you have done your product research, you should now have a Collections page strategy. A collection is categories or a group of similar products. For example, if a collection is about jeans, so you need to create a collection for jeans. All products in that collection page will include products that are in line with jeans. 
  • Product upload – next, you need to upload your products. If you are using a dropship supplier tool like Oberlo or Spocket, you can import the product images and details with one click of a button. Here is the thing: do not use the default product descriptions. What you have to do in order to step up is custom writing them on your own. You need to spend some time to write product description that sells and converts. 
  • Heroes and other elements – you also need to prepare your hero banner, the one big banner that is found on your home page. The hero banner must be bold, and it has to immediately tells the customers what your message is about. Other elements include your navigation, email subscription, footer, header, and many more.

Do not worry about all these things. Shopify makes it easy for you. Most of the themes available on Shopify comes build in with it—all you need to do is to change the content and the text.

If there is one important thing you will have to remember when it comes to building your website, is that you have to make it look professional. Many dropshippers I find combined so many designs that their online stores resulted in looking ugly. Observe how professional stores look—they have uniformity. It does not necessarily requires a complex design or element.

Day 16 to 25: Preparing Your Marketing Plan

This is probably the most challenging part of the business. You need to have a marketing plan to get your products out there.

The goal of this is to get traffic and to convert. Once you launch your store, you also need to launch your content—both paid and free.

Here are some ideas that you need to work on:

  • Product images – you need to prepare banners that have your product images. These banners must be created in optimal sizes for your social media pages. These are not just simple product images—they need to be advertising quality.
  • YouTube videos – if your product is something that you can demonstrate, you need to work on a YouTube video, and you must do this at least two times a month. You need to publish these videos on YouTube so you can get a following—these are the people who will buy from you.
  • For example, if your product is art, you can do clay sculptures. As soon as people see this, they will be tempted to buy clay materials from your store. If your product is on cosmetics, then show people how to apply make-up aesthetically the right way.
  • Blogging – this is a must. You need to take advantage on search engines such as Google. It can effectively bring in free search queries and targeted traffic to your online store. You need to prepare at least ten blog posts that you will publish at least once a week from the day of your launch. Blog once a week until you build traffic to your store.

When it comes to blogging, you should aim to write posts that will solve problems. If your chosen niche is aquariums, then you should write on topics that can help solve the problems of aquarium hobbyists, such as the water being yellow, or the fish having white spots, and many more. 

As you hustle through and persist, you will earn credibility, and it will be much easier for your oncoming visitors to make purchase from your online store.

  • Social media posts – you need to prepare not just your product images, but also funny or catchy posts, like memes or quotes. People online do not really appreciate marketers and in fact, don’t like being sold to. While it is true that you need to advertise, the average click-through rate of ads is just 0.09%. 

As such, you need to prepare a lot of posts that have nothing to do with you products, but have something informative or relevant to do with the lifestyle that you are trying to convey.

Marketing is a tough nut to crack. This is going to be one of your most ongoing challenges when it comes to dropshipping. Be patient, and take the time to learn. Do not get frustrated if you launch an ad and you get no clicks or sales.

Always study the results of your ads, and also take time to see what kind of post resonates with your audience. Repeat those kinds of posts to gain a following. Always remember, publish more post that helps than materials that are salesy.

Day 26 to 31: Launch and Polishing

The last six days of the month should be spent on the launch. You have to aggressively market your store, get feedback, and fix the problems.

Here are the things you are expected to do:

  • Buy your own product – ask a friend to do this for you; what you need to do is to test if your store is working after you launch. If it does not work, you need to correct those errors from the back-end. If it works, you have to experience the user buying process for yourself.

Is the checkout easy? Do you think you should reduce your checkout fields? Check the whole buying journey, and make corrections as you see deem fit.

  • Store presentation – Let us say you have learned how to how to start a tshirt dropshipping business, can you honestly say that you have enough products in your store? How about the way they are organized? As you move along, you will find out that you want to change how your product images look, and that you want to standardize them.
  • Social media presence – by this time, you should have already built your social media pages. And since you have already produced content that you can market, you have to share these posts on your social media channel. At this phase, you also need to add your friends and invite them as followers.
  • Customer behavior – after launching your store, I recommend that you use a tool called HotJar. It is a tool where you can record the behavior of your customer as they are browsing through your site. With HotJar, you will be able to observe if your customers are trying to look for something, which they cannot find on the site. You can also see if they are having difficulties navigating the store, and you can make adjustments accordingly.
  • Additional apps – once your store is up and running, you will also start thinking about adding apps, such as pop-ups and upsells. You can also add timers. All throughout the days that you are building your store, you will learn so many things that your store needs.

During the launch and polishing days, your two main duties are to make sure your store is marketed properly, and the second one is to see gaps and opportunities. Take this time to correct errors that you spot, and then add or revise things as you find necessary.

Pros of Dropshipping

Let us take a look at what are the pros of dropshipping. This should help you weigh in the good aspects of this business before deciding to pursue it.

  • Product variation – since you are not limited to selling products that you already bought, you can change your product line-up anytime you want. There are literally millions of products sold in AliExpress. All you need to do is to choose the ones that fit your niche. If there is a new item that belongs to your industry, just put it in your store. 
  • Full automation – if you want, you no longer have to order the item from your supplier once a customer buys it from you. There are tools out there like Dropified where the whole process is automated. If a customer buys, the supplier is paid and notified to ship the item. Even if you are asleep, the supplier will start working on the order.
  • Stable business model – dropshipping is not a fad. Many people say that it is not going to last, but I disagree. There is no other way for online entrepreneurs but to dropship. Why would you want to stock up on inventories when you can do retail without spending a load of cash?
  • You can sell internationally – with dropshipping, you can sell to anywhere in the world. You are not limited to selling to your home country. This is most especially so if you source your products is AliExpress. Many sellers in AliExpress ship to hundreds of countries.

Just beware that they also charge different shipping methods. What this means is that the price of shipping to the United States is most likely different from the price if the item is shipped to Spain.

  • Low cost business – how much does it cost to start a dropshipping business? If you use Shopify, your initial cost for building your store is only $29. You will pay Shopify $29 per month. You do not have to pay on an annual basis if you do not want to. This is the beauty of dropshipping—you can earn profit from a store that you put up for a small amount of money.
  • Professional support – if you build your store on the Shopify platform, you will receive endless support. You can always contact the support team if you need help. It does not matter what your challenges are—just send them an email or chat with them, and they will fix your problems for you.

Dropshipping is a really promising business. The secret here is planning your business strategy correctly. You need to spend some time to think things through—never rush on your decisions.

Also, you can learn how to start a dropshipping business with no money. If you do not have the appetite to risk money, you can dropship on platforms like Amazon, ebay, and even Etsy. However, these platforms would have different rules.

For example, you cannot dropship items on eBay if the product is already listed somewhere online. In Etsy, you must only dropship goods that you designed, but not goods that are mass manufactured.

Cons of Dropshipping

Now that we have heard the great things about the dropshipping business model, let us also take a look at the cons.

  • Needs marketing expertise – many dropshippers are not expert marketers. This is the number one challenge to make this business succeed. If you start a dropshipping store, you cannot expect people to come flocking into your store. What you need to understand is that when you build your store, it is going to get drowned in a sea of online stores.

Also, you are competing against business retail giants such as Amazon, Walmart, and other dropshipping stores. Do not expect your friends and family to buy—you have to learn how to do effective marketing, or your website will never be found. 

  • Lots of competition – you are not the only dropshipper. There are probably tens of thousands of dropshippers. Since the barrier to entry is so low, anyone—even college students—can start this business. It also does not take a genius to start a dropshipping store. All the tools that you need are built for the general computer user.

Competition is going to drown you. If you are selling items that have a profit of $3 each, forget about it. This is why I stressed the importance of product research. If there are many people selling the same products as yours, and their prices are lower because they can live with that, you will not have any fighting chance.

  • Requires a lot of work – another myth that comes with in this industry is that it is considered easy. No, it is not easy. The process is reasonable, but you have to beat your brains out and think how you can reach your target market. You have to do search engine optimizations, create ads, create videos, write blogs, process orders, answer customer inquiries, and many more. 
  • No control over supply chain – let us say that you have learned how to start a tshirt dropshipping business, now what? Your problem is that you do not have control about the product quality and the shipping logistics. This is also why earlier, I explained why you have to look for a supplier that you can rely on. Also, order the product and have it sent to yourself; this is really the only way to see if the product you have selected is high-quality.
  • Low profit-margin – the issue with dropshipping, especially for beginners, is that the profit margin is low. Why is this? This is because you are likely to sell only products that you can afford. Like dog collars and trinkets. You can also sell other items like clothing, and then earn $15 for each.

Dropshipping is not a walk in the park. It may be a simple business model, but there is so much work to do. As far as the profit margin is concerned, you have to step up your game later on. Start small and then scale up your products—replace the first ones with new products that have higher profit margins.

Never ever dropship high-ticket items if you are a beginner. These are items that are worth $100 each. You will lose money if you do this without being an expert in the dropshipping industry.

Things to Expect as a Dropshipper

Before we conclude, I would like to share some things with you. This is just a reality check, so you know what you are getting into.

  • It is not an easy way to get rich – dropshipping had a bad rep because of people pandering that it will make you a millionaire. Just head over to YouTube and you will see thousands of videos telling you how you can “earn money easy.”

No, it is not easy. Dropshipping is like any online retail business. you will struggle in this journey, and only those who are dedicated to their business will succeed.

  • You will spend money – you cannot succeed in the dropshipping business unless you spend money. You need to produce ads, pay for your store maintenance, pay writers to write your blog, and many more. The most expensive part of the business marketing—you have to spend money on ads to get your store to people’s eyeballs.

This money you spend is different from the advertising material. You have to pay a freelancer to do your video editing or your image ads if you do not know how to do it. At best, you need to spend your time learning how to create ads. What you want is to save on the cost of labor, and the only way to do this is by doing things yourself. 

  • It can take months before you make a sale – even if you launch your business within 30 days, it can take months before you master organic traffic. If you keep spending money on ads, you may deplete your fund, especially if your ads are not good enough to convert the viewers.

Prepare yourself to learn and make adjustments in your store’s appearance over a few months. Take the time to publish posts on your social media channels, and you will eventually make a sale.

  • You will make mistakes – even if you get training, you will make mistakes. You may miss responding to a customer, or you may order the wrong item and have it shipped to someone else. Perhaps your SEO is incorrect, or your marketing strategy does not work. You will make mistakes, and you should prepare yourself mentally for these. Always embrace failure as a challenge, and maintain a positive attitude about your business.

Dropshipping is a growing business. And because we have all seen what a simple virus can do, you might as well start your business now. Do not wait for another massive lock down to start an online business. It is better to get started now and then polish your marketing strategy along the way than start late.

In 2017, about 23% of all online retail sales were fulfilled via dropshipping. What does this tells you? This tells you that it works—that dropshipping accounts for roughly 25% of all retail sales globally.

That 23% in 2017 is worth $85.1 billion. There is a market out there, and even if you do your business right, you can surely have a slice of that pie.

Summary

When a friend asked me: how do I start a dropshipping business? I thought of writing this in-depth review.

Dropshipping is a great business, provided that you are prepared. The most common cause of failure in dropshipping is that people do it head on. They see a video on YouTube on how to start a dropshipping business with no money, and they thought it was easy.

Like any business, dropshipping is not easy. It may require little capital, and everyone can learn how to build a store. However, success comes to those who are prepared—those who planned their business and took the time to think things through.

These steps that you learned today are simplified, to say the least. But if you just concentrate and follow these steps, you can build a dropshipping store that is fully functional in 30 days.

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