Who doesn’t lust over the dream of the 4 hour work week, quitting their job in commercial property and starting a fashion label, leaving the world of insurance behind and launching their ayurvedic skin care line, chucking in that IT job to grow medicinal cannabis (sure, sure) or exiting credit management and designing a golf club that improves the average player’s handicap by a few points?
Ok, maybe none of those alternative career fantasies belong to you, but I bet you still have one. A ‘maybe oneday’ gig that you daydream about when you’d rather check out of whatever boring stand-up you have first thing on a rainy Monday morning.
Most of us never turn those dreams into reality. For the poor few that do, most of them fail before they reach basecamp one of their first sale. Why? It’s certainly not lack of ingenuity, enthusiasm or ideas. Usually it’s the boring business admin shit that gets them. That, and the cold, harsh reality of running your own business, paying yourself a living wage, and dealing with the stress that comes from the fact the buck always stops with you.
But what if there was a way to get your business trainer wheels, without forking out thousands of dollars for an MBA, or losing your home deposit on a 3D printer?
We think we may have the answer, and it’s called dropshipping.
Dropshipping is a genius business concept that allows you to sell products without having to buy them first, keep stock, or even ship the goods to your customers. All you need is a website, some reputable drop shipping suppliers, and a little bit of marketing magic. Everything else is taken care of.
Provided you’ve got an internet connection, then for less than $100 a month and some sweat time after work, you could have your first venture up and running, plus possibly banking you some cold hard cash.
If you’re serious about being an entrepreneur in your own right, and eventually running your own show, dropshipping is a great way to get the basic business skills you’ll need to make your future big idea a big success. Plus, the great thing about dropshipping is that if you do get it right, it can become a passive income stream that can replace any income you lose when you’re finally ready to quit your job. Considering losing financial security is the reason most people don’t make the leap, with dropshipping, you’ll be able to cross that right off the list.
Dropshipping isn’t a walk in the park, but there is a simple tried and true formula that can work. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Pick an easy to use e-commerce platform
The web is full of e-commerce platforms, and it can be hard to know what to pick and where to start, especially if you’re not a website guru already. If you want a shortcut, take it from us that Shopify is probably the easiest and fastest route to getting going. It’s simple to use, offers a 14 day trial, and so long as you can drag and drop, you’ll have a schmick looking store in no time. Once you’re ready to turn your shop on, upgrade to their paid plans, where you can turn on payments with a click, no messy code.
Price: USD$29 per month, plus payment fees, which start at 1.75% + 30c for Australian cards.
2. Find a dropshipping supplier
Oberlo is an online platform where you can find vetted dropshipping suppliers for your Shopify store. It’s fully integrated with Shopify, so once you find the products you want to sell, in a few clicks they’ll appear in your website. You can also get an Oberlo plugin for Chrome that let’s you add suppliers into Oberlo direct from dropshipping marketplace AliExpress.
Price: First 500 products on Oberlo are free.
3. The hard part. Work out what you should sell
This is kind of a personal one. You’ll need to navigate the line between what interests you and what people want to buy. I say what interests you, because you have to keep finding the motivation to want to work on your dropshipping business. If you do have world domination plans one day, in fashion, skincare or golf, then maybe it makes sense to pick something that’s similar for your dropshipping venture? That way, you’ll learn something about the market, and the clientele you’ll eventually be selling your product too.
You can also research market trends - Google is your friend here. Oberlo also has a handy feature that tells you how many orders products you’re considering have recieved, which is a good indicator of demand. For the record, Oberlo suggests 2019’s unique and possibly best selling products, based on Google search trends and other data are crystal water bottles, microwave steam cleaners, neck phone holders (no joke) and dog jackets. The only limit is your imagination.
Price: Your time.
4. The next really hard part. Work out how to market and sell your products
This is arguably one of the hardest tasks any business owner faces. Your dropshipping business is a great way to work out if you can learn to love the sales and marketing aspect of being in business. In the future, if you do strike out on your own with your grand idea, you’ll be selling it yourself for a long time, whether that’s to customers, investors or suppliers.
When it comes to dropshipping, digital marketing is your friend, as is content marketing, a great newsletter, and word of mouth on social media. Use your dropshipping business to learn how Facebook for Business, Instagram marketing and content marketing strategies work. These are hard, translatable skills you can also take back into the workplace, or onwards and upwards into a new job!
Price: Your time and a monthly budget for advertising. Start small and learn what works, as you’ll need to net this off against any margin you’re making on your sales.
5. Don’t forget customer support
Once you’ve got customers, a whole new world of fun (or pain) starts. People have high expectations of online services these days, and sometimes it can be the differentiator in your business. Remember, anyone can sell a dog jacket, but not everyone can sell it like you, including the customer experience when things go right and wrong. You’ll face these same hurdles when you run your own business, so use your dropshipping venture to learn the art of customer management, and how to build processes and procedures that automate the drudgery of this side of your business, and ensure prompt responses and turnaround times for customers.
6. Don’t forget to keep records, and crunch the numbers
You’re running a business, so you’ll need to track you expenses and your revenues for tax purposes. Very few people love this part, but it is an essential skill. You might be able to outsource it eventually, but in the early days, it pays to get across it yourself. Look at Xero or Quickbooks. Spreadsheets are OK too, but if you’re serious about making it easier for yourself in the longrun, get an accounting package from day dot. Also, check out Rachel Alembakis’s popular article Hustle With No Tax Hassle: 4 Ways To Achieve Headache Free Finances With Your Side Gig for more advice on how to get your finances straight (and simple) early on.
Price: AUD $15 per month for Quickbooks, $25 per month for Xero.
7. Finally, pay yourself!
In the early days, you’ll probably put your profits back into growing the business. You could do this forever, but at some point, you’ll probably take a wage. Think about yourself as an employee of your venture, and pay yourself not just a salary or dividend from the business, but set aside some money for super too. Find your super company’s BPAY number and top-up from your online bank account.
Price: Peace of mind, and a bigger super balance.
No matter what venture you start, there will be pain, tears, moments of ‘WTF’, late nights and the odd disaster. If you can ride the wave of that from the comfort of a dropshipping business, it could very possibly be your launch pad to much greater things. Or maybe, you’ll just love dropshipping so much, it will satisfy your entrpreneurial itch.
Whatever the case, it’s now up to you whether you want to make your daydreams a reality. The great thing is, it costs less than $100 a month to test if you’ve got what it takes. One thing is for sure - I look forward to buying my first crystal water bottle from your store in the coming weeks!
Need some more inspiration? Check out this great article from Wealthness contributor and business coach Sharon Williams: Don’t Diss Your Day Job: Why It’s The ‘Paid MBA’ You Need To Make Your Side Hustle Fly 🎓
An anthropologist by trade, Pearl is fascinated by how humans are evolving and adapting (or not adapting) in the new digital world that's been thrust upon us. When she's not writing for Wealthness you'll find her drinking piccolos and sipping limonatas in some of Melbourne's best cafes and bars, exploring the meaning of life with friends, strangers and fellow coffee drinkers.