Dropshipping is often seen as a fail-safe business model and a sure-fire way of making money online.
But the reality is that everyone makes mistakes along the way - and some of them can be costly.
Mistakes are inevitable when you try something new, but you shouldn’t let that stop you.
The good thing is, you can learn from other people’s mistakes to avoid repeating them yourself.
That’s what I did when I started my first dropshipping store.
I was experimenting with dropshipping as a way of making a bit of extra holiday money next to my 9-5 job.
So I didn’t have the time to make the common mistakes that everyone makes when they’re starting out.
I needed my dropshipping business to go as smoothly as possible.
I was realistic and knew I’d make some mistakes, but I wanted to minimize the risk.
So what did I do?
I asked successful dropshippers about the mistakes they made when they started.
Most of them were more than happy to provide me with advice, which helped me to avoid many of the common mistakes that beginners make.
I grew my first dropshipping store to a modest $1000 a month, which helped to cover most of my expenses and paid for a few overseas holidays at the time.
Learning from other people’s mistakes definitely gave me an edge with my first dropshipping store.
A world of mistakes
Because advice on what not to do has been so helpful for my dropshipping journey, I decided to share the best of it here.
Not only that, I tapped into SaleHoo’s huge network of dropshippers and online sellers to compile the ultimate list of costly dropshipping mistakes to avoid for beginners.
If you simply learn from the 10 mistakes below, you’ll give yourself a much better chance of dropshipping success.
10 Costly Dropshipping Mistakes to Avoid
1. Having unrealistic expectations
If you discovered dropshipping via a so-called Youtube guru who shows off fake Shopify screenshots of making $100,000 in a month, then you’ve probably got unrealistic expectations.
I’m not going to lie, I had unrealistic expectations when I started. I imagined dropshipping would let me quit my job within six months and eventually lead to an ecommerce empire.
Those things are possible, but unlikely, especially early on.
Unrealistic expectations might not be costly in dollars. But they are costly to your morale and mindset.
What do you think happens when your first month ends and you’ve made five sales? You’re going to feel deflated and feel like giving up.
Start with realistic expectations. Aim to make an extra $200 a month. Once you hit that goal, increase it to $500, then $1000.
If you choose a great product and invest in advertising from day one, it’s possible you’ll blow your own expectations out of the water.
But it’s still best to keep them in check.
2. Not doing enough product research
When you’re starting out, you might think of a killer dropshipping product (or pick one from a list of product ideas online) and just decide to run with it.
I admire the tenacity and “take action” mindset… but you’ve totally skipped over the product research part.
This is a common mistake beginner dropshippers make. Because research is boring, right?
Yes, research is kind of boring. But it’s such an important part of choosing a winning product.
At the very least, you want to know how the product is performing on AliExpress (orders, reviews, star rating).
But even better, use a tool like SaleHoo Labs, which provides you with up-to-date information on tens of thousands of products, based on the latest sales data from popular online marketplaces.
Doing in-depth product research helps you to know if a product is selling, how much it’s selling for (and how much profit you can make), and how much competition there is in the market.
If you don’t do research, you’ve got no way of knowing whether or not your chosen product will sell, or flop.
3. Spending too much time choosing a product
On the other hand, you can spend too much time choosing a product.
This is sometimes referred to as “paralysis by analysis”. Meaning, you’re putting off making a decision by telling yourself you need more information.
There comes a point where you’ve done enough product research and you just have to commit to a product.
The longer you take to decide, the longer you’ll take to start making money.
Don’t let indecision stop you from taking action.
4. Niching down too much
Everyone advises you to “choose a niche” when you’re starting with dropshipping.
That’s definitely a good idea, but you should be careful of niching down too much, especially when it comes to naming and branding your store.
By that I mean choosing a niche that’s so specific that you can’t change your product offering at a later date.
For example, if you started selling swaddle blankets for baby boys, it would be risky to name your store “Baby Boy’s Blankies”.
Because in six months time you might want to look for different baby products to sell and a wider range, but by niching down too much you’re pigeon-holed into blankets for baby boys.
I’ve heard from several dropshippers who made this mistake early on because they thought it was best to be as specific as possible.
5. Relying on one supplier (from AliExpress)
This is a really common mistake that dropshippers make when they’re starting out.
So you find a great product on AliExpress, you contact the supplier and agree to a dropshipping arrangement.
And then you leave the entirety of your business up to them.
What inevitably happens is that supplier runs out of stock, goes out of business, or has one of myriad other issues, and you’re left scrambling to find a replacement supplier.
That can cost you a lot in lost sales and may result in order fulfillment issues that do long-term damage to your brand.
The solution is to set up arrangements with several different suppliers, or at least have a list of back-up suppliers you can contact in the event that your main supplier has a problem.
6. Not optimizing your Shopify store
This might be the #1 costly mistake that beginner dropshippers make.
I’ve seen too many poorly designed dropshipping stores to count and a little bit of my heart breaks every time.
Shopify makes it really easy to create a successful dropshipping store and yet so many beginners struggle to even get the basics right.
This is a mistake because poor design lacks credibility. Visitors will land on your website and click away faster than you can say “dropshipping”.
You absolutely must put a lot of effort into the design and functionality of your store.
This means you need quality images, copywriting, product descriptions, calls to action.
You need to use pop-ups, currency converters, customer reviews, and more to make the shopping experience easy and enjoyable for your customers.
Get this stuff right from the beginning and you’ll have a much better chance of success.
You might want to start with our Dropshipping with Shopify course which teaches you everything you need to know about setting up a successful store.
7. Assuming “Build it and they will come”
Perhaps the next most common mistake is the assumption that once you build a great-looking dropshipping store, customers will come automatically.
That is not the case.
There are more than a million Shopify stores with more being launched every day.
Unless you have some kind of viral launch strategy or hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, it’s unlikely that anyone outside your friends and family will know about your store until you start driving traffic to it.
There are several free and low-cost marketing strategies you can use to start generating traffic to your store.
Make sure you have a plan for promoting your store and getting traffic to it, because building it is only the first step.
8. Failing to plan for holidays
A lot of the top dropshippers I talked to said failing to plan for special events and public holidays was a common mistake that can be extremely costly.
Holidays are when retail stores - both online and offline - make the bulk of their sales.
We all know about Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.
But there are so many special days throughout the year that you can use to boost your sales.
For example, did you know August 26 is International Dog Day? If you’re in a niche that’s in any way related to dogs, you can use this in your marketing.
We all know about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, but did you know April 10 is Siblings Day?
By failing to plan for these public holidays or novelty days, you’re leaving money on the table.
You need to be making the most of every marketing opportunity available by creating ads, email bursts, and special promos to drive your sales.
The other way dropshipping stores fail to plan for holidays is by failing to check stock levels.
What happens if Black Friday - one of the biggest retail events of the year - drives a huge amount of traffic and sales to your store, but you run out of stock in the first hour?
That’s potentially thousands of dollars worth of missed sales. You don’t want to make that mistake!
Shopping season never stops, but you want to make sure you’re hitting the important dates related to your niche.
If you take a look at this calendar you’ll be astounded by how many “special” days there are in a year.
9. Trying to do everything manually
When you’re starting with dropshipping you’re probably trying to save every penny you can by doing everything yourself.
That’s smart up to a point.
But it’s also a big reason why so many beginners get burnt out and give up - so therefore it’s a mistake.
You should be looking to automate your dropshipping store as much as possible
10. Giving up way too quickly
So you’ve launched your store, run a few Facebook ads, not getting much traction… now what?
Time to give up?
That, my friend, would be a mistake. I’ve yet to meet a successful dropshipper who was successful immediately.
Almost all of them failed over and over before they discovered the winning combination of great product + great store + great marketing = sales machine.
If you really want to have success with dropshipping, you can’t give up when you hit your first obstacle.
You could be one small tweak away from your winning formula.
Test, review, refine, test again. Do this enough times and you’ll surely find a combination that works.
Don’t give up on your dream just because it’s hard.
Now go and make mistakes of your own
So now that you’ve learned from other people’s mistakes, you’re free to go and make mistakes of your own.
Mistakes are how we learn. If we didn’t know what failure looked like, how would we recognize success?
You’re bound to make plenty of mistakes while building a dropshipping business and that’s all part of the journey.
Embrace mistakes, learn from them, and keep going.