This post contains affiliate links. Read full disclosure for more info.
Starting an online shop can be a challenge.
What should you do if you don't have thousands of dollars to invest in inventory?
Dropshipping is an option for starting an online shop with little upfront investment.
What is dropshipping?
Dropshipping is when orders placed in your online store are fulfilled by a manufacturer or supplier rather than by you. With the dropship model, you will not handle any inventory, packaging, or shipping of products.
- Customer places order in your storefront
- You order product(s) from the supplier (this can be done on autopilot with Shopify)
- The supplier ships products directly to your customer
How to start a drop shipping store
There are several dropshipping business models - some require a large up-front investment and some can be started for less than $100.
A popular dropship option is purchasing products from a wholesale supplier and then selling the items using Amazon FBA. This option requires a large up front investment and logistical planning.
For the purpose of this post, I'm going to talk about dropship business options that require a very small investment. Furthermore, I'm going to give options that can run on autopilot.
"Make Money While You Sleep"
Online business owners often brag about making money while they sleep thanks to passive income. The term passive income is broadly used to refer to any income earned without actively working. Bloggers and online business owners "make money while they sleep" by selling digital products on their site, using affiliate marketing, and drop shipping products.
The term passive income is thrown around more broadly nowadays in the sense that the income is not as passive as say stocks dividends or rental properties. Work does have to be done in order to set yourself up for passive income. But once you put in the work you reap the benefits for a long period of time. For example, once someone puts in the time to write an e-book or create an online course they can sell that digital product repeatedly each month without actively working. This business model does require maintenance though, as you have to continue marketing your product.
Dropshipping is an example of passive income because once your store is setup you can sell products without having to actively work on ordering inventory, packaging orders, and shipping products to customers. It is all done for you.
Manual ordering vs automated fulfillment
Many dropshippers sell products in their store and have to manually place an order with the supplier each time a customer makes a purchase. For example, someone visits your online store to purchase a dress. You receive the order and then go onto your suppliers website to order the dress and input your customers shipping info. This is a good method and still saves you from the packaging and shipping grunt work - however, why would you sit at the computer placing orders all day? There is a better way. Automate it.
Yes, there are apps that can be connected to Shopify to automatically fulfill your dropship orders so you can literally make money while you sleep. There will be days you will wake up to multiple orders placed, packaged, and in transit to your customer. And you get to pour yourself a cup of coffee and smile at the sales coming in.
Here are two options for starting a dropshipping business with automatic order fulfillment:
Option 1 - Build Out Your Own Storefront With Integrated Dropship Automation
Option 2 - Use Integrated On-Demand Printing and Fulfillment
The First Step
The first step to getting started is to sign up for a Shopify account. Shopify is an e-commerce platform with many capabilities and integrations. I highly recommend Shopify because of the extensive number of applications that can be connected to help grow and scale a business.
You can start a dropshipping store by connecting the right applications in your Shopify dashboard. The apps I recommend are free to use but you will need a Shopify storefront.
Option 1 : Sell wholesale dropship products
Once you've created your Shopify account click here to check out Oberlo.
Oberlo is a dropshipping app exclusively for Shopify users. There are a ton of products that can be automatically fulfilled and shipped to your customers. Also, any product on Aliexpress can be added to your storefront to be ordered with just a few clicks.
Oberlo has a free plan good for 50 orders per month and 500 products in your store. There is also a basic plan for stores with up to 500 orders per month and a premium plan with unlimited orders and 30,000 products.
Once you sign up for Oberlo, you'll be able to access the video resource library and learn all the ins and outs of a successful store.
- Items are being shipped from overseas resulting in extended shipping times on most items
- Some products require you to order manually with a few clicks
- Free plan available
- Automatic fulfillment of thousands of products
- Easily add any product from Aliexpress using the Chrome extension
Option 2 : On-Demand Printing and Fulfillment
This option requires adding your own designs to products. When a customer places an order the product will then be printed with your design and shipped to your customer. This can be done on autopilot when connecting the right app to Shopify.
Designs can be created in Photoshop or Illustrator and are then uploaded to the product of your choice.
Here are a few Shopify apps to help you start dropshipping custom t-shirts, mugs, pillows, and much more.
- Printful - Printful is free to use. They offer white label shipping, branded pack-ins, and custom shirt tags. Click here for my video tutorials about Printful
On-demand printing and fulfillment pros and cons:
- You have to put in time for designing
- Free to start
- Automatic fulfillment of products when syncing app to Shopify storefront
- Unique custom products