Starting a dropshipping business is one of the easiest ways to make money online in 2022.
But with the barrier to entry being so low, dropshipping has exploded in popularity over the past decade, meaning that many markets are highly competitive.
If you’re thinking of starting a dropshipping business - either as a side hustle or a means to leaving your full-time job - you can save yourself time and set yourself up for success by following the simple steps outlined below.
In this complete guide to drop shipping for beginners, we show you how to start a drop shipping business in 5 easy steps:
But first, what is a dropshipping business?
A dropshipping business is where you are able to sell merchandise to your customer without holding any inventory. A customer purchases an item from your store at retail price. You then forward the order to your supplier, which you pay the wholesale price. Once your supplier receives the order, they ship the item directly to the customer under your business name while you earn the profit margin. All you have to do is set up the retail website, find customers, and handle customer support.
There are thousands of people around the world who make five-, six-, and seven-figure incomes from drop shipping and there’s no reason why you can’t do the same.
Understanding how the dropshipping business model works is important, as it’s quite different to traditional retail and eCommerce businesses.
Dropshipping is a supply chain management method in which the retailer does not keep goods in stock but instead transfers the customer orders and shipment details to either the manufacturer, another retailer, or a wholesaler, who then ships the goods directly to the customer.
In more simple terms, dropshipping works like this:
This means that you - the dropshipper - don’t have to buy and store bulk stock, which saves you having to invest a lot of money upfront.
It also eliminates the risk of buying in bulk and not being able to sell all of the products, leaving you out of pocket.
This is why dropshipping is so popular - it requires minimal investment, but reaps similar benefits to traditional retail models.
The hype around dropshipping means some people are skeptical of it as a viable business model and cautious about diving in.
There is limited information about dropshipping specifically, but these statistics should help to provide you with peace of mind (and, hopefully, a sense of excitement).
Google Trends data also shows a massive increase of interest in dropshipping over the past few years.
To start a dropshipping business you will need to figure out your niche. A niche is a segment of a market. For example, bluetooth speakers are a popular niche in the home audio market. You could even say that outdoor, waterproof bluetooth speakers are a sub-niche of the bluetooth speaker niche. You get the idea. The more specific your niche is, the better.
Choosing a niche is the first step to starting a dropshipping business. The rising popularity of dropshipping means it’s becoming harder to find niches that aren’t already saturated. But new products and niches are emerging every week, so the opportunities are almost endless.
"Choosing a profitable niche comes down to two major things," Jonathan Molendijk, a successful dropshipper who had a slow start but now scales out dropshipping stores to over $100,000 each month and runs EcomCreed. "Is the niche something that interests you, and does the niche have evergreen products within it? If you have these two key factors, you will be able to identify profitable niches everytime."
A common misconception about dropshipping is that you can be successful and profitable in any niche, but that’s simply not true. If you choose a niche that’s already saturated with sellers or dominated by major brands, you’re going to face an uphill battle with your new business.
Here are a few guidelines to help you choose a dropshipping niche that will make you money online in 2022:
This will also give you an idea if the product is in demand. If you’re finding competition then that’s a good sign! Another great way to check the demand for your product is to use Google Trends. It will give you the interest in the product over time and should give you some idea of how successful your product is likely to be.
PRO TIP: You can use this online calculator to determine the profitability of products you are thinking of selling. It deducts Amazon fees from the retail price and estimates how many items are being sold each month, which is an indicator of demand.
While it’s possible to dropship everything from toothpicks to the kitchen sink, some products are more suitable for dropshipping than others. Finding trending products and testing them is also key. "It's very easy to find trending products, what’s not easy is seeing the potential in the product during the initial test," explains Molendijk. "Most people starting in the business have limited money, so they tend to get scared and drop a product before it has it's time to show what it's capable of."
The perfect dropshipping product is generally:
Now that you know the criteria for a good dropshipping niche, you can start narrowing down product ideas for your eCommerce business.
You should aim to brainstorm at least 10-20 product ideas and then use the guidelines above to either qualify or eliminate them from your list.
Once you’re done with that process, you might only have a few product ideas that are considered viable. If you have none, then you’ll need to start the process again.
If you have at least one solid product idea at this stage, you’re ready to progress to the next level.
SaleHoo Labs is a powerful market research tool for dropshippers and eCommerce store owners. It provides you with valuable information on tens of thousands of products across 25 categories, such as:
It can help to give you product ideas and save you hours of time that it takes to conduct market research manually.
If you want to set yourself apart from the thousands of others who are thinking of starting a dropshipping business in 2022, you need to have a few tricks up your sleeve.
You need to find a way to be better and smarter than your competition so that you operate more efficiently and make more sales than they do.
How do you do this? The same way that champion sports teams, like the Philadelphia Eagles or the Golden State Warriors, prepare each week - by studying the competition.
When you’re starting a dropshipping business you should absorb as much information as possible from as many sources as possible. Product listings and reviews of top sellers in your niche are perfect places to look for ideas to improve on what your competition is doing.
The first step to starting a dropshipping business is about choosing a niche. To re-cap:
For more information on deciding what to sell online, check out this guide
For many aspiring eCommerce entrepreneurs, finding a reliable supplier is the hardest part of starting a dropshipping business.
You rely on suppliers to keep your product in stock, to uphold product quality, and to ensure orders are shipped to your customers in a timely manner. As a dropshipper, your supplier is your most important business partner.
A good dropship supplier should:
If you’re setting up your business in the United States or Canada then you most likely need a sales tax ID (also known as retail or reseller’s license, tax ID, resale number, resale certificate or vendor's license).
Sales tax is a tax levied on all sales of physical goods to consumers and is typically about 6-9% of the sale price. Most states require you to have a tax ID, but there are exceptions, including Alaska Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon.
It’s standard for businesses to pass this expense on to consumers by adding it to the retail price.
Applying for a tax ID is easy and inexpensive. You can do it by visiting your local county clerk’s office or online – just Google “[your state] + sales tax ID”.
To get a sales tax ID, you may need to be a business entity, a company, or a sole proprietor (which applies to a lot of at-home online businesses), and have a Federal Tax ID number.
While it's important you collect the exact amount of sales tax (otherwise you’ll be held liable for the difference), not all eBay sellers need a tax ID.
That said, some wholesale suppliers require you to have one before they will do business with you.
Related: What is an EIN number?
So you’ve decided on a product and you’ve lined up a supplier - now you need a place to start selling and making money.
Choosing the right selling platform or online marketplace is crucial to the success of your business - but which platform is best for you?
You need to decide between selling on an established platform, or starting your own independent online store.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the different selling platforms and online marketplaces.
Most dropshippers use a well-established online marketplace like Amazon or eBay, especially when starting out. Why?
However, there are some cons to be are of:
That said, here are a few of the most popular online marketplaces for dropshipping businesses.
As you can see, each platform has its pros and cons. "There is no right or wrong answer for this, I can only give my personal recommendation and why," says Molendijk. "I personally recommend using Shopify, for one major reason. There are so many tutorials, blogs and information available in relation to Shopify. So it will make understanding the platform and utilizing it much easier, than with other platforms where it's hard to get answers to your questions." Dropshipping on Shopify is also a popular choice if you are looking to build your own brand and grow a strong brand presence.
A lot of dropshippers take the route of starting their own online store. While it requires more investment up front, this is really the ultimate long-term option for making money and building a business online. There are plenty of online tools that make it really easy to get started.
If you have the time and money to invest in your dropshipping business and you’re planning to be in it for the long haul, then starting your own store is a good option, especially with established platforms becoming more and more saturated every year.
Bonus: How to create your online store
Step 1: Choose an eCommerce platform - You’ll want to think about the cost of the platform, how many products you are selling, the design, features and payment options to name a few things. A couple of great options include Shopify, BigCommerce, Squarespace and WooCommerce.
Step 2: Set up your store- This includes the design, adding products to your store, setting up payment methods, adding policies, checkout, and shipping settings as well as buying a domain and opening your store for business!
Step 3: Get people to your store- There are many ways you can do this but a few of the most popular include using social media ads, Google Adwords, SEO and influencer marketing.
Now that you have a selling platform for your dropshipping business, you need to attract customers to your store. This is where a customer acquisition strategy comes in.
Customer acquisition is the art of persuasion. You can think of it as advertising and marketing. Sounds expensive, right? But it doesn’t have to be. You can take the fast (paid) path or the slow (free) path to gaining new customers. Let’s take a look at both strategies in more depth.
Facebook Ads for Dropshipping
Facebook is the world’s largest social media platform. It’s a great place to advertise your products as you can tap into a huge audience. This is how Facebook makes its money, so every customer you acquire through this method comes at a cost. Facebook ads are a good option for the following reasons:
Google Ads for eCommerce
Google is the world’s most popular search engine by far. If you have an online store, you want it to rank on the first page of Google. You can achieve this organically, or you can buy ads for your store to appear at the top of the page for the keywords you want to rank for. Google ads are a good option for the following reasons:
Social Media Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing has become a huge part of customer acquisition for retail brands in recent years. It could play an important part of any customer acquisition strategy in 2022. It can be particularly effective if you are in a trendy niche. For instance, if you’re selling a new style of handbag, you could reach out to an Instagram model and ask if she will share a post of her with the bag, tagging your business. One post can result in a bunch of new fans and customers. The cost of influencer marketing depends on how famous the influencer is. A post from Kim Kardashian might cost $250,000, while a post from a model with 10,000 followers might only cost a few hundred dollars.
Blog or Forum Marketing
This involves finding blogs or forums that are related to your product/niche and actively participating in discussions. By positioning yourself as an authority in your niche and including a link to your website, you can increase traffic and acquire new customers.
This most commonly takes the form of a blog on your store website, a Youtube channel, trendy Instagram posts, or witty posts on Twitter. Content marketing is meant to involve the creation of valuable content that helps to build an audience that you can then convert into customers. It’s not as explicit as advertising and should always be more about serving your audience than your brand.
Lots of successful eCommerce stores have a blog section on their website. If you’re looking for an example take a peek at Good As Gold. They are an online clothing store from New Zealand. Their simple and effective blog section highlights specific products, updates and announcements.
Social Media Marketing
It’s getting harder and harder to achieve organic reach on social media, but it is still possible. Some channels to think about are Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. It’s almost a given these days that businesses and organizations are on at least one of these platforms. Pick one and be consistent and eventually, you’ll build a following, which you can then convert into customers.
Building an email list is still one of the most effective ways of acquiring customers. You need a way of capturing email addresses, such as a request to sign-up at checkout, or an offer or competition that requires an email address. Once you have a decent list of email addresses you have a way of reaching a large group of people regularly, for free.
Once you’ve got your dropshipping store up and running and have implemented some of the strategies covered in Step 5, you’ll hopefully be starting to see some sales come in. As you begin to grow, you might want to think about some of the future-proof processes you can set-up in order to make your job as owner less stressful and prepare for an increasing order load and more customers to satisfy.
Technology has come leaps and bounds in recent decades, and it has hugely improved the way businesses operate, by reducing manual work and heavy filing folders, to mention just a few. For many business owners who are dropshipping as a side hustle, and even for those for whom it’s their full time gig, time can be your most precious resource.
You may wish to consider the following to help you save time and grow your business beyond the bounds of what you are capable of doing by yourself in finite time each week.
It can be daunting to be in charge of marketing, customer service, accounting and more in your business. Luckily there are some ways to make many of their related processes easier, and that is through dropshipping automation.
Automation can help you with processes such as product importing, pricing, order fulfillment, order tracking, promotions, email campaigns, gathering customer feedback, posting on social media and generating reports on customer activity. Its biggest benefit may be that it gives you more time flexibility. Instead of being a slave to time sensitive tasks that need continual monitoring, such as posting on social media each day, or responding to customer enquires as they come in, automation can help take some of the load off you and allow you to set up the automatic execution of these kinds of tasks ahead of time.
You can be pretty sure that successful dropshippers are using some form of automation to give them more time to focus on ‘high value’ activities, such as strategy, new product releases and building brand awareness.
After you’ve got your store up and running, you may see the value in using a tool designed to help dropshippers like yourself, which enables you to easily find quality products and suppliers, import products into your store and fulfil them without huge effort on your part.
Having a tool that streamlines these kinds of processes is a surefire way to cut down on the time, and likely, any stress you may face when trying to source new products to grow your store, or to manage higher order counts.
One such tool is SaleHoo Dropship, which supports the processes mentioned above with the key aim of making your job as a dropshipper easier. They list over a million products from vetted suppliers, up to 500 of which can be imported into your own online store. They also have a dedicated team who is here to help you on your dropshipping journey. They can provide advice, source products that may not yet be listed on the platform, and suggest useful resources to help you scale your store.
Another welcomed child of the internet is the possibility for many new forms of working. You may be after an extra helping hand for a number of tasks but not necessarily an employed team member who you are contractually obligated to pay for set hours each week. You need more flexibility.
That’s where freelancing platforms such as Upwork and Fivver come in. Just a few clicks away are a plethora of skilled workers who can complete a whole range of eCommerce tasks to meet your budget and requirements.
You can hire these freelancers on an ad hoc basis to perform specific tasks as you need them done. For example, writing may not be your strongest point as a business owner, but you know how important creating written content can be for bringing traffic to your store and gaining conversions. You may want an SEO-friendly post writer to write an article for your blog, or a copywriter to edit your product descriptions for ultimate impact.
Having freelancers readily available can really help you scale your business beyond what your individual capabilities and limited time may allow.
There are several services out there that offer Facebook Ads automation tools to help you eliminate manual tasks and harness data to make better advertising decisions.
There are many other similar services available, so it’s best to do some research and find out which one might be the most useful for your needs.
There is no set answer to this question. However, a rough estimate is between $100-$1000.
Everyone's experience is different. If you are a beginner there’s no reason why you couldn’t make an extra $1000- $2000 a month. But there’s also no reason why you couldn’t make six or seven figures!
It really depends on your product selection, marketing, supplier and how much time and money you have invested into growing your business.
A few benefits include the small business start up fees, low risk, you don’t have to store stock, packaging and postage is taken care of and you only pay for what you sell.
It definitely can be if you find the right product, have awesome marketing and have invested time and money into growing your business.
Firstly, you need to believe in yourself! A can do attitude and willingness to learn are great skills to develop. Other skills include goal setting, planning, action taking and a general interest in dropshipping and the products you are selling.
One of the best ways is to use a directory like the one we have here at SaleHoo. We have over 8,000 trusted local and global suppliers who have been vetted and verified. Alternatively, you can use sites like AliExpress and Alibaba or search for them on Google.
It depends on where you live as each country has different requirements. It’s important to check your local governing body’s website and to find out what you need to do.
Most beginner dropshippers hold off registering as a business until they are making consistent sales. However, some suppliers will require you to have a tax ID before working with them which may mean you have to register as a business or at least get a sales tax ID.
Huzzah! We’ve reached the end and, by now, you should be well on your way to starting an eCommerce dropshipping business from scratch.
The work is far from over, though. Now you have to successfully run your business.
But don’t worry! As long as you follow these next few tips, you’ll have a successful eCommerce drop shipping business for years to come.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this article on how to start a dropshipping business. Did this inspire you to create one? Leave a comment down below. And don’t forget to share this article with your entrepreneurial friends.