Dropshipping is one of the easiest ways to break into e-commerce without a lot of capital investment, inventory, office or warehouse space, or staff. With the number of tools and platforms available to create a dropshipping business, it can be overwhelming to find what works and how to get started. We’ll go over what dropshipping is, how it’s unique, and how to get a dropshipping store set up in a few hours with almost no money.
What is Dropshipping, and How Does it Work?
There are two main categories of e-commerce businesses that involve physical goods. The first has a product or suite of products that they keep in a warehouse or other storage facility and ship those items to customers when orders come in. They use their own staff, the inventory they purchased or created, and handle their own shipping and returns processes.
The second is almost the entire opposite of that, and that’s what defines a dropshipping business. The online storefront is the same–or almost the same–but the inventory, shipping, and returns are typically handled by the manufacturer or distributor of the product.
For example, a person buys a product from my dropshipping Web site. When I receive the order, if I were operating a traditional e-commerce business, I would have to pull the product from inventory, package it, ship it out, and create and process a return for it if they don't like it. Under the dropshipping model, I would instead receive the order and forward it to the product manufacturer or distributor. They’ll take over and do the rest, sending the product to your customer. No need to touch the product or keep inventory!
Dropshipping takes the physical goods management part of the process and hands it over to someone else, leaving you free to grow your business and increase revenue and profits.
If that sounds like a great deal, keep reading, and I’ll go over how to set up your own dropshipping website for just a few bucks to start.
How to Create Your First Dropshipping Site
This is the fun part. Creating something from nothing can feel amazing, but it’s also easy to get overwhelmed and spend too much time thinking about the details that won’t have much, if any, impact on your success. We’ll focus on a few key components of the process:
- Deciding what you want to sell
- Setting up your first Shopify store
- Getting all the basic and required settings configured
- Choosing a theme
- Connecting the store to Spocket, the biggest and most diverse dropshipping service available.
- Adding products to your store
- Going live!
Along the way, we’ll keep track of how much it’ll roughly cost both upfront and every month. Knowing your expenses and overhead early is incredibly helpful and prevents surprises down the road.
Should I hire someone instead?
There is definitely an argument to be made that paying someone to do this is a better use of time. However, it’s not hard to find folks willing to set up a dropshipping store on Fiverr and the like for $100. For some, that’s $100 well spent.
My only argument against taking that route is in three parts. First, the amount of flexibility you’ll have for which products to offer can be limited and that flexibility can cost extra. Additionally, they may not configure the store correctly for your business needs, specifically. Third, I’ve seen cases where the theme they’ve used was actually ripped off, and not a legal copy. Not a good way to start things off!
I should be clear, though, that taking this route isn’t a guarantee you’ll get either a high-quality or low-quality site in return. It might be fine! It might also require a lot of extra work after the fact too. Weigh your options and at least read through this article before making a choice either way.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Choose Your Product Niche
Hopefully you already have an idea of what you’re looking to sell. Be it clothes, jewelry, home decor, or something else, it doesn’t hurt to take a bit of time and think about what interests you the most. Over the years, I’ve found myself investing more time and interest into selling products I also found interesting or had some connection to myself.
It also helps to think about your audience and demographic and their style or tastes. For example, are middle-upper-class urban consumers with more income what you’re looking to target, or do you want to offer products that those with less discretionary spending can afford, too?
These kinds of thoughts and decisions won’t necessarily dictate what you’re selling, but they could define things like style and price. On top of that, more affluent customers spending more money expect a better experience–they’ll be looking for value and something that represents them, specifically.
For this article, we’ll stick with kitchen goods, things like cookware, and kitchen accessories.
Create The Shopify Store
Before we go any farther, we need to get our Shopify store started. Head to shopify.com, enter your email address on the home page, and click Start free trial. This gets the store building process started.
You’ll be prompted to create a password and give your store a name. We’ll call ours Forest Grove Kitchens.
Click Create your store.
After a few moments, you’ll be prompted with some basic industry questions. Answer them to the best of your ability.
The next screen is important—plug in your name and address. If you don’t have an official legal business set up yet, don’t worry. If this information needs to change later, too, that’s also fine. Enter your home address, for now, if you don't have a business address set up or you're comfortable with your home address being used from here on out.
That’s the last piece of this step. Your store should look something like mine: a blank canvas ready to be crafted into a work of dropshipping art!
From here on out, you can access your store using its URL. The format looks like
Cost: $0 while we build with a 14-day trial. After 14 days, plans start at $29/month.
Configure The Shopify Store
Now that we have a Shopify store ready to do, we need to set up a few things. First up, let’s go through our store settings—click Settings on the bottom left of the screen to get started.
The first thing we’ll want to do is choose General (1). Then, scroll through the settings there and make sure everything looks good. This is where you can change basic info about your store and set the order number sequence, among other things.
Payment Settings (2) is the next stop. Collecting payments for what you’re selling is important if the goal is actually to make money. The default and easiest payment method setup process involve simply using Shopify Payments. However, depending on your country, you might find accepting third-party payment providers useful, or Shopify Payments may not be available at all.
Click Complete account setup (A) to get things hooked up. Then, depending on the Shopify plan you choose (we’ll cover that later), the processing fee (B) will be displayed here, too. Lastly, if you only want to accept certain cards with Shopify Payments, click Manage (C).
Shipping and Delivery (3) is what you should poke at next, not to set anything, but to be aware that this setting page can sometimes hold special fulfillment settings, depending on how the arrangement is set up—nothing to do here, now, though.
Making sure Taxes (4) are collected properly is critical to running a legal e-commerce business. Taxes will vary by state, and some states have different rules than others. All I can reasonably do here is make sure you’re considering this and that taxes are properly set up.
The Plan (5) you choose controls some things about your store, but many of the features will be the same across plans. Most specifically, our dropshipping store will be most affected by the credit card processing fee. The higher the Shopify plan, the lower the Shopify Payments processing fee is. So I recommend starting with the lowest plan ($29/month).
The Billing (6) section will cover any charges your store accrues through the plan you choose, as well as any add-ons implemented or themes purchased. Here you can set whether you’d like to pay these things using your Shopify Balance–the reeve you receive for sales, after transaction fees. If your balance isn’t enough or isn’t used at all, the credit card on file will be used to pay for things. So this is where you’ll set that, too.
Cost: $29 after 14-day trial.
Choose a Shopify Theme
We are entering a section that allows for a lot of creativity. But, believe me, it’s possible to spend way too much time customizing a theme. So to help get things moving, we’ll be picking a free theme from the Shopify Themes store to start. You’re free to pay for one, but it’s not required. Most paid themes run about $180 plus taxes.
To access the theme store, click Online Store (1) from the left-hand side of your Shopify admin panel. It’ll default to Themes. From there, scroll down to Theme Library and click Explore Free Themes (2).
The Debut theme is the default. Feel free to change it if you’d like. I’ll stick with it.
Click View your store in the top right to see how it looks with no content. Using the theme we selected, we’re ready to customize it a bit. Right now, it looks pretty bland:
Let’s go back to the Themes settings page and click Customize.
For this tutorial, I’m going to keep things pretty simple. A header image and a catalog of products below. Feel free to tweak yours as you’d like. The world is really your oyster when it comes to how your site looks. Shopify has a great tutorial on how to customize a Shopify theme. They also provide support for all the free, Shopify-provided themes, too, if you’re stuck.
Since I don’t have any products yet, I don’t have a Collection to display on my homepage, so this is all I have so far:
We’ll come back to this once we have some products in our store.
Connect and Configure Spocket
We have a theme set up and ready to accept products. To get those products into our store, we can use one of many Shopify apps to do the hard work for us and hook up our storefront with vendors and distributors with just a few clicks.
We'll be using one of the best dropshipping services on the market for this exercise today: Spocket. Spocket has a catalog of hundreds of thousands of products from various markets and covers the gamut of product categories. Their tooling makes it dead simple to get started, and their pricing is super competitive. If you can think of it, I'd bet it's something Spocket, and their suppliers carry.
Head back to your store’s settings panel and click Apps on the left menu. Click Explore apps. This opens the Shopify app store. There’s a lot to choose from here, but the one that we’re interested in is Spocket. Spocket is the most expansive and versatile dropshipping Shopify app in existence. With suppliers in all the major regions, no matter where your customers are, you’ll be able to find products close to them that ship out quickly for a great price.
Let’s add Spocket to your store. Head to spocket.co and punch in your email address. Answer a brief couple of questions and follow the steps to get SPocket hooked up to your Shopify store.
Once it’s hooked up, you’ll be taken to the Spocket dashboard. It'll look something like this:
Spocket offers a special promotion that if you opt for the Pro plan within the first 30 minutes, you’ll get two weeks of it for free. After that, the Pro plan is $49/month.
My vote is for this plan, specifically for a couple of reasons.
First, the product selection is massive, allowing premium products that are generally of higher quality and higher margins.
Second, branded invoicing; when your customers get their packages, they see only your branding on the invoice and packing slip inside.
Cost: $49/month after 14-day trial.
Total cost: $78/month after 14 days.
Add Products to The Shopify Store
Before we start adding products from Spocket, we need to create a Collection for our products.
If you already have collections set up (because this isn’t your first rodeo or you’re adding dropshipping to an existing store), feel free to skip this part.
Shopify keeps all of a store’s products in Collections. Collections are categories. You can have as many as you’d like. Click here to read more about them from Shopify’s help site.
From the left-hand menu within Shopify, click Products (1), then Collections (2), and Create collection (3).
I’m going to name my first collection, All Kitchen Goods (1). Feel free to name it whatever you’d like, but keep it succinct yet descriptive. Collection names are sometimes public, depending on the page a customer might be on and the theme’s usage of the collection name. Make sure the collection is a manual one (2), then click Save (3).
With Spocket set up, let’s do the fun part: adding products!
Click Search Products on the left-hand menu. Since we’re building a kitchen dropshipping store, I will choose the Home & Garden category, then Kitchen subcategory.
As you find products you like, you can either click on the product to see more about it or jump right to adding it to your import list. To keep things brief, I’m going to jump right to importing by clicking Add to Import List.
With hopefully a bunch of killer products on your Import List, open the list by clicking on it from the left-hand menu. You should see your products, ready to go. This is where you’ll tweak any product names or descriptions. The part you’ll want to pay the most attention to is the Variants tab. That’s where pricing is set. Make sure you give yourself a large enough margin so you can make a profit and be able to absorb costs from returns, shipping (if you’re going to offer free shipping), etc. Also, make sure to set each of the products to match the collection we created earlier.
With all your products configured as you’d like (make sure to click Save on each of them), either click Push to Store on each product or scroll to the top of the page and click Push Current Page. This will sync the products to your Shopify store and create listings for each of them.
With all the products synced, we can see each of the products in our store, including how many are in stock with the supplier. Then, under the Products menu on the left-hand side, click All Products.
A sight to behold, isn’t it? With products in our store ready to sell, we can go back to our theme and add them to our homepage.
This is just the beginning of the level of customization you can do and the number of products you can have in your store. Each of these products comes packed with a full description–feel free to add more to it, if you’d like!–and all the variant info you’ll need if it comes in multiple sizes, colors, or shapes.
Go Live Checklist
Before you launch your store on the world, here’s a checklist of the things you’ll want to review:
- All the products you want to launch with are added
- Their descriptions and pricing are what you’d like them to be
- The theme is customized the way you’d like. Bonus points for adding marketing components and other bits of engagement to bring in repeat customers.
- Your store settings are all up to date, including your business name and address, payment information, and legal documentation.
- You have chosen a plan. You can’t go live without one!
Total Costs per month
Shopify store: $29
Shopify theme: $0
Spocket Pro plan: $49
We’ve just scratched the surface of what you can do with a Shopify store. Dropshipping is one of the easiest and most flexible ways to build your first e-commerce business, too. With the sheer volume of products to choose from, Spocket is a natural choice and one that I’ll always recommend for getting started. Their prices are highly competitive, and as you grow, they can grow with you, offering larger product quotas and special features to really take your business to the next level.