Make it Happen:
Your Dropshipping Career Starts Today
So you want to become an entrepreneur.
You’ve done the research and found dropshipping.
Congratulations! You’re onto a winner there.
Dropshipping is one of the easiest ways to start an online business on a limited budget.
But where to start?
Just like with any business, setting up your dropshipping business feels like a big task when you’re just starting out. And yes, it will take some time and effort, but it really doesn’t need to be this daunting unscalable mountain.
Luckily we’ve got a team of experts and seasoned dropshipping masterminds to help you out with this tricky first phase. We’ve broken up the process of starting out in dropshipping into 4 easy steps that will have you munching on a piece of the dropshipping pie in no time.
What’s Dropshipping Again?
Since you already know your way around some of the eCommerce realm, we’ll keep this section brief. Dropshipping is a type of fulfillment model that means you don’t have to purchase or handle any stock yourself. When an order comes in from your online store, it goes directly to your supplier and is fulfilled by them. You pay the supplier the wholesale price and pocket the difference.
The advantage is that you don’t need to spend lots of money on purchasing stock, plus you can easily test and trial new products without much risk to your business.
Some people start a dropshipping business alongside their 9-5 on a small budget. Over time the business grows as they’re able to reinvest more money into it, and eventually they don’t even need that boring office job anymore. At which point the business may just boom even more. Chris Wane, the founder of a million dollar dropshipping business who now teaches students from all over the world to do the same, recalls: “Quitting a job, for most people, is a big step. I wanted to be sure I could actually do it. And it wasn't just a fluke. Once I realized that I could do it, that's when I felt comfortable enough to take that leap. And I'm glad I did, because within the first 30 days of quitting my job, I doubled my monthly profits.”
So much for the theory, but how do you actually start?
Step 1: Choose Your Product
You may have already spent some time thinking about what you want to sell. In fact, people often start with a product idea and take it from there. But if you don’t, no reason to worry. While having a hobby or interest to capitalize on can definitely help, it’s not a necessity for success. There are obviously billions of products out there, so having to choose ‘the right one’ can feel overwhelming. But the truth is, there are likely lots of products that could work for you.
Inspiration can come from all sorts of places, like spotting a need in your own life. For example, maybe you have a dog and you often stumble over him when going to the toilet at night. A glow-in-the-dark dog collar would solve this problem. Doing some market research will uncover if other people have the same problem and if there’s a market for these collars.
When considering options, you want to be asking yourself the following questions: Can I make a profit? Is there a demand for this product? Is there room for another seller on the existing market? If the answer to all these questions is yes, it’s a great start! A market research tool like SaleHoo Labs (Oh hey shameless self plug) can also come in handy so you can easily compare products, see how competitive the market is and what your exact profit could be. It takes a lot of the guesstimation out because you’re using real-life data.
Finally, the great advantage of dropshipping is that you can trial products easily and, if they don’t work out, you can change focus without losing much money. So don’t overthink it and just try something if you think it’ll work. At the very least you’ll learn some lessons along the way.
💡Pro Tip: If you’re new to the game avoid the consumer electronics category – there are often greater compliance and legal issues involved which can be time-consuming to wrap your head around.
Step 2: Find a Supplier.
Once you’ve settled on a product idea, you need someone to provide it. Where do you even find suppliers though? Google is an obvious place to start (search “[your product] + dropshipper”), as are popular platforms AliExpress and Alibaba. Unfortunately it’s hard to tell apart suppliers that are actually reliable from those that’ll cause you nothing but trouble. Which is tricky when you’re looking for your main business partner here.
What’s unique about dropshipping is that a lot of customer satisfaction is in the hands of the supplier. So timely shipping, quality of the product and packaging, sufficient inventory – all things that make a huge difference to your customers – are all largely out of your control. There’s nothing worse than ordering something online only to find out two days later that it was actually out of stock. Or worse, receiving a product that looks nothing like what you saw online! The only way to prevent problems like these (and unhappy customers as a result) is to be really diligent when picking your supplier.
SaleHoo Directory is a database of over 8,000 dropship and wholesale suppliers which are all pre-vetted by our competent team of industry experts. And with our new demo you can now check out all the products and suppliers without having to commit, as well as access valuable product inspiration!
💡Pro Tip: Contact at least 5 suppliers for your chosen product (with a list of well-directed questions). Some may not reply and it’s always good to compare options for pricing/quality. And be sure to ALWAYS follow up 3-4 days after initial contact if you haven’t heard back – These suppliers have so many customers that your email may get lost or ignored initially.
Step 3: Build Your Store.
When it comes to finding a platform to sell your products, there are numerous options available to you. Marketplaces like Amazon and eBay have huge user bases, and even smaller competitors (like Etsy) have the advantage of you needing to do less of your own marketing. There’s also less work involved putting products live, as all you need to do is use the platforms’ dedicated upload forms.
The downside is that existing marketplaces take a (often significant) cut of your profits and that you’ll have to compete with a host of competing sellers with potentially similar products.
For these reasons, we generally recommend building your own store using website builders like Shopify, WooCommerce, Squarespace or Wix (to name a few).Yes, you’ll have a bit of extra work in the setting up phase, but in the long run it’ll make things much easier when it comes to building your brand, protecting your profits and running targeted marketing campaigns.
Once your store is built, make sure your product listings are well-written and detailed, with lots of well-shot photos from different angles. And if you initially chose the product based on a particular problem you identified (e.g. can’t see my dog at night), make mention of it in the description. The more you can make potential customers feel heard and understood, the more likely it is they’re going to buy from you.
Step 4: Market Your Product.
Your shop is built, your products are live. Now how do you get your customers? This is where marketing comes in and you’ll need to have a think about where to best capture your audience. You have the option of running paid ads (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Google), working with influencers (where you pay a social media personality to test or mention your product), or using organic content marketing via your social channels, blog and email marketing. A combination of the above will probably bring the best results and they’ll grow and feed off each other.
How many paid ads you can run depends largely on your budget. On a small budget, you may want to start with $5/day. Ads will also need to be tested and some will work better than others. So run one ad for a few days to a week, then change something (e.g. the headline) and try again. Eventually you’ll see what works and what kind of ads and content brings you the most sales. It can also help to take a look at what kind of ads your competitors are running. Once you’ve made a few sales, you can reinvest the profit back into the business and up the marketing spend. Until eventually you can keep some of that sweet sweet profit for yourself. Woop!
Chris Wane explains how your marketing spend develops: “If you told me at the beginning I was going to be spending five grand a day on ads, I wouldn’t have believed it! You can very slowly and gradually increase the budgets as you start seeing profits. If you're not seeing profits at $5 a day, you're not going to see profits of $50 a day, right? Basically, just scale it up slowly. If you're doing $5 a day with a $500 budget, you've got 100 days to make a profit.”
Whatever You Do, Don’t Do This.
If some of the most successful dropshippers like Chris could’ve had some advice from their future selves when they were first starting out, they may have saved themselves a lot of heartache. Luckily for you, we’ve compiled a list of top mistakes to avoid – from seasoned industry pros who’ve already been there.
❌ Don’t sell boring or generic products.
Ethan Dobbins, another 7 figure dropshipper, failed at making his first store a success but he’s since learned a lot and become a pro at choosing products and marketing them successfully. He says he doesn’t want to sell anything too generic or boring that you can find at Target or the mall, as they’re just too easily accessible and won’t make for a winning product.
❌ Don’t get emotionally attached to your products
Ethan is a big proponent of trialing different products and killing your darlings if needed. He says what he sees with a lot of beginners is that they get attached to products after having spent a lot of energy on honing product descriptions and website experience. They convince themselves that if they just keep putting more money into ads that eventually the product will be a success – but that’s just not how it works. You have to be able to let go when something isn’t working.
❌ Don’t sell products, sell solutions
When it comes to marketing, Chris Wane emphasizes that you need to talk to people like they’re people, not customers. He explains that people don’t want to be sold to, they want to see other people having the problem solved that they have too. This is why testimonials and reviews work so well, especially when they're a montage rather than singles. People don’t buy the product, they buy what the product gives them: the solution.
❌ Don’t forget your research when writing ads
The market research doesn’t stop at choosing your product, it also sets you apart from the crowd when you’re writing your ad copy – which is especially important when you don’t have reviews or testimonials yet. Ethan recommends reading reviews of what real customers are saying on Amazon and about similar brands selling your product. This will really help you understand what your customer wants and write in a way that makes them feel like ‘wow, this person is talking directly to me’.
❌ Don’t be discouraged by setbacks
Finally, Chris reminds us that setbacks are only ever learning experiences. He probably would never have got to where he is now if he’d let himself be discouraged by all the little stumbling blocks – his first business experienced setbacks every single day, and even today there are challenges all the time. The most important thing to do is learn from your mistakes and continue on being a better business person.
So, What’s Next?
Now you’ve got all the tools and background you need, all that’s left to do is start. Starting is always the biggest hurdle, but all that’s holding you back is just in your head. Do some research, decide on a product and get the ball rolling. Some experimentation may be necessary but you’ll get there, just like Chris and Ethan. After all, the only way to fail is if you never start in the first place.
If you’re interested in how SaleHoo can help you on your dropshipping journey, we suggest you check out SaleHoo Dropship, our premium bundle of tools to help you scale your business. One-click upload to your Shopify store, bulk order fulfillment and pre-vetted AliExpress suppliers are just some of the benefits Dropship has in store. Knowing all the suppliers available through Dropship are reliable and trustworthy will save you a lot of time and headaches – no getting Ali-scammed or having to appease angry customers! So definitely something to keep in mind.
Good luck and we can’t wait to see your store online soon. If you have any questions or concerns, reach out to our customer support anytime!
Ready to go and want to make your first sale? Check out the next article in our series.