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After my husband passed away unexpectedly in 2006, I decided to launch a side hustle to help me feel more financially secure. But, as a therapist who was used to earning money based on “billable hours,” the concept of earning money in my sleep was foreign.
I began my first side hustle as a freelance writer. And fortunately, that turned into an opportunity to write a best-selling book. But before my writing career took off, I began another side hustle. I started a dropshipping e-commerce store. Although it required a fair amount of work upfront, within a couple of months, I was earning income in a fairly passive manner.
I never even saw most of the products I sold; and the best part was, it cost absolutely nothing to get started.
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I learned that there’s profit not in just selling products, but also in selling my pre-made businesses. Over the course of a few years, I created several online stores. Once they proved profitable, I sold those pre-made businesses to people who were looking for passive income opportunities without the hassle of launching their own website.
Here’s how you can start your own dropshipping e-commerce site:
Choose your product carefully
I chose to sell fine jewelry because it is inexpensive to ship and the markup on jewelry is high. Without a brick-and-mortar store, I could price products competitively.
I knew I’d never outrank the national jewelry stores for something like “wedding rings” in a Google search. But, if I chose small niche stores, like “pearl earrings,” I could attract customers.
So, choose a small niche to attract customers specifically to your site.
Research wholesale companies
Finding a reputable wholesale company is the key to having a good e-commerce store.
You’ll need to find a company that is willing to dropship directly to your customer and you’ll want to make sure your wholesale company has a good reputation. If they ship items too slowly, or products run out of stock often, you’re going to look bad to customers who think you’re filling their orders.
Conduct an online search of wholesale companies who sell the products you want to offer. Be on the lookout for people who claim to be a wholesaler but aren’t actually wholesale companies. A legitimate wholesaler will usually require an application and won’t charge you sales tax.
Create your retail website
Once you have secured a wholesaler, create your online store. Choose your store’s name, purchase a domain and launch your website.
I highly recommend creating your own website if you can. You’ll likely need to make ongoing changes to your site, and quick access to your content is crucial. I once had a product featured in People magazine, and sales skyrocketed. Something like this was essential to be able to highlight it on my website fast, and I was able to add the PR myself.
Research shopping cart options
A shopping cart is the most important part of your website. If customers don’t trust their payment is secure, they won’t buy your products. So choose your shopping cart wisely.
There are many free shopping carts out there and those may work well if you only sell a few products. But, if you plan to have a lot of inventory, or you want to offer promotional codes, you’ll need a more sophisticated cart. Fees vary greatly, so you’ll want to do some research to determine which cart will work best with your e-commerce site.
Decide how you’ll offer customer service
Good customer service builds trust. There are several ways you can reply to customer questions and comments. I’ve tried everything from email support to live chat to a toll-free number.
If you’re not available to return emails or answer the phone during normal business hours, you may want to hire a virtual assistant to reply to customers. You don’t want to lose sales because you weren’t available to answer questions.
You should also review how your wholesale company deals with returned items. They may allow your retail customers to return items directly to them. Or, you may need to accept the returns and then return it to your wholesale company yourself (or keep it in stock until the next customer orders it).
Market your products
There are many different ways to market your products, and you’ll need to discover which strategies work best for your store. Social media, newsletters, blog posts and search engine ads are just a few ways you might attract customers.
Consider selling products on other websites, like eBay or Amazon. It’s important to test your wholesaler out first to ensure that they’re able to deliver reputable products on time. Otherwise, bad reviews could tarnish your reputation and get you banned from selling in those marketplaces.
Maintaining a steady side hustle income
There’s definitely some trial and error involved when you’re creating a dropshipping e-commerce store. But, if you’re patient, you’ll learn to recognize what works best for your business.
With persistence and hard work, your e-commerce store can become a profitable way to earn passive income while you sleep.