With some freelancers looking to sustain their self-employment venture, (or even for a side hustle to their original side hustle), online selling is becoming ever more popular.
The trouble is, there are three things that can be pretty tricky to come by if you’re a freelance seller: time, money, and physical space to hold stock.
Fortunately, you don’t always need all of these, thanks to the increasing popularity of the dropshipping business model.
What is dropshipping?
Dropshipping is a type of business model, or ‘order fulfilment method’, where the retailer sells products to customers without actually owning or managing any tangible stock.
In its fullest sense, dropshipping allows online sellers to sell, and make a profit from, products that have been produced, stored and often, shipped by a third party.
For example, you list an item for sale on Amazon, and when the order comes through, you notify a third party, who then ships the item to the customer. The shipper takes a cut of the sale price, leaving you with what’s left (and the platform fees).
The dropship business model is most commonly used by online retailers who sell products to their customers via their own website and/or other external ecommerce platform(s). Online retailers who operate through the dropship process don’t actually own or hold any of the items they sell as inventory.
You won’t waste money on over-ordering stock
The nature of the dropship business model means you don’t have to order or hold inventory, which means you reduce, and even mitigate, the risk of purchasing too much stock and not being able to sell it.
With dropshipping, you simply wait for a customer to order and then use your third-party supplier to fulfil. Nothing is wasted. This protects your cash flow and also makes for more accurate forecasting and budgeting.
No storage facility overheads
When you dropship the products you sell, you don’t need to worry about the hassle or the cost of securing and managing storage space. Not only does this reduce the upfront costs of starting your business, but it also keeps ongoing overheads down.
The dropship model makes it easy to scale and evolve your offering. It’s far easier to switch up the products you sell when you aren’t having to purchase and store inventory.
Plus, dropshipping also allows for more lifestyle flexibility as you aren’t tethered to stock that is stored at a specific location. Technically, you could run your online dropship business from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.
How does the dropship business model work?
You might set up your own website, or you might set up a store on an online marketplace such as Etsy or Amazon.
- Research what customers want: Take the time to see what others are doing, and what items sell well using the dropshipping method.
- Source your suppliers: Research suppliers or wholesalers who will dropship the items you want to sell.
- Import product listings: Once you’ve secured your suppliers you can import product listings and descriptions into your online store. You can normally set your own prices and branding at this point.
- Marketing and promotion: Unless you’re selling private label or produce-on-demand goods, the chances are there are other sellers who are promoting the same products. Put a creative marketing plan together to make sure you stand out in the marketplace.
- Wait for the customer to place an order: This one needs no explanation, right? Now, it’s time to wait!
- The supplier fulfils shipment: The supplier picks, packs, and ships the order directly to the customer on your behalf, you don’t even have to lift a finger. However, the package often includes your branding and contact information, so the customer will assume it has come directly from you.
- Order is delivered to the customer: The customer receives their product and is (hopefully) happy and satisfied with their order.
Research what dropshipping products work particularly well
Picking the right products is crucial to retail success – this is true of any business model, whether it’s dropship or anything else.
Home in on your target customer base and find out what they’re really looking for and then meet this demand with products that will turn their heads and keep them coming back.
Granted, you won’t be left with unsold stock on your hands if the products you’re trying to promote don’t rouse any interest from your target audience, but it won’t exactly drive sustained business growth.
If your business is new, it might take a bit of trial and error to find the best suppliers and figure out what products your customers are looking to purchase. Be patient, and conduct thorough analysis as you go.
Source your dropshipping suppliers
One of the main things to be wary of if you do decide to work from a dropship model is that your business will only succeed if you have quality, reliable suppliers.
You need your dropshippers to be reputable suppliers that will provide consistently good products and be able to fulfil orders on time.
At the end of the day, if a product you sell is unsatisfactory or if there are problems with order fulfilment or delivery, the customer will be complaining about you and your brand, not the supplier.
Do some thorough research to protect the reputation of your brand and your all-important customer experience.
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