How To Start a Dropshipping Business with No Money

“You have to spend money to make money.”

That is the funniest true saying in my mind. It’s like saying you need two years of experience to get an entry-level job. 

At times hilarious, it can be equally disheartening at other times.

Well, no need to sulk around even if you feel disheartened; there’s more to it than just money.

Just take a look around!

We live in a world of Shark Tank and crowdfunding.

More than ever before, all you need to make money is to know what you are doing. Knowledge is power, and call me a cheerleader because I am here to empower you today!

What is Dropshipping?

Not too long ago, starting a business was a very serious project indeed. A lot of things have changed that, like the internet. Just look at Dropshipping, for example.

You don’t need to source or create products and manage inventory in a dropshipping business. Instead, you pass on your orders to suppliers who will fulfill the delivery.

You sell them for a higher price and keep the profit, just like a traditional middleman.

The main thing drop shippers have to do is bring in new orders. So, to give you an example: You can set up a store for eye covers.

Then you find a good eye cover that matches your brand and the audience’s needs that costs ninety-nine cents.

With additional charges, it will cost you $1.25. You can list it for $5 on your store and earn $3.75 in profit.

Can You Really Start a Store Without Any Money?

Well, you might say that creating a website, buying a domain name, and advertising will cost you something or the other. Can you really do it with literally $0?

After a ton of research, the real answer is: YES! I am going to show you a 100% free way to do this using things like Big Cartel and Pinterest, with some affordable options to take you further than launch.

I will also give you some of the context and strategy about the subject, to improve your chances of success. So, with no further ado, let’s get right into it!

How To Start Dropshipping With $0

Now, obviously, most people don’t actually start their dropshipping stores for free. Investing in things like advertising, a high-quality website, and better products will obviously give you better returns.

Yet everyone has to start somewhere, and if you do it smartly, there is a lot you can achieve by starting a store for free. 

By trying things out with zero risk, you can dip your toes and test the waters, before diving in completely. After all, how can you commit without knowing what you’re getting into?

Here’s the first thing you need to do:

1. Study The Market And Find A Niche

The biggest mistake you can make in business is working in a vacuum. I have seen so many people fail miserably and get disheartened when their business doesn’t attract any interest.

When I ask them about their business plan and concept, it becomes very clear that the person is overwhelmingly passionate about their product or concept, and felt that this was enough to create a successful business.

Every business is a people’s business, and you need to have some kind of a service mindset to truly achieve great success. This means forgetting what you want and being open to what the people need that you can provide.

We call this market research, and here are some simple ways you can do it for free:

  • Social Media:  Social sites get the most traffic on the net. This is where most people are online. Use your own socials strategically. Follow the pages you are interested in for your research, look at the comments, and watch people’s stories.
  • Platform-Specific Research: Each social media platform is unique. You will start to figure out the kind of audience and niche you would be interested in and what works well on which site. Look at trending pages and lists on Twitter, YouTube, and such for ideas.
  • Google Trends: Once you have a few ideas, I suggest using Google to certify their viability. Do this by typing your niche in the search bar and seeing what people are searching for. Also, use Google Trends and Google Keyword Planner to get actual numbers.
  • Targeted Polls: Now you have some idea about your niches of interest and potential target audiences. If they are on IG, you can run informal polls on your stories to measure the interest in your own circle.
  • Informal Surveys: Informal surveys are simple conversations. This means simply talking to people and asking them how interested they would be in your product. If you play games and interact with other players, a simple question can give you great insight.
  • Competitive Analysis: Before you move on to the next step, take a look at your competition and think a little bit about your own branding. You want something that’s authentic to you and sets you apart.

I’m listing these out and explaining them in detail to give you a good awareness, but your research process doesn’t have to be so in-depth in the beginning. 

Just because you’re starting a project for free doesn’t mean you have to compensate for it with your time and energy. Keep things simple, start slow, and focus on execution. 

With time and awareness, you’ll get better ideas and learn how to increase your numbers. For now, give priority to action.

2. Choose Your Products

The main things I want you to achieve with your market research are your niche, target audience, and brand. With those in the bag, we need to build an actual catalog of products.

This is ultimately what your business will be all about, it’s one of the biggest things you are offering to your customers.

Your products can be digital, physical, commercial, or hand-made.

You should use your brand and your audience as your guiding light when searching for your products. Also, keep these points in mind while searching for products: 

  • Dropshipping Compatibility: Some suppliers will offer to dropship themselves, allowing automatic transfer of orders from your store to theirs. This won’t be relevant for your free store but will help you down the line.
  • Delivery Time And Locations: How long will it take for delivery? Where do they offer delivery? If you take an order from someone in Greece, the product has to be available there, or it reflects badly on your store.
  • Legal Issues Like Trademarks: While this is mostly a non-issue for selling products from major suppliers like Ali Express, suppliers might still have a problem if you run paid ads on Google. Please check with them to avoid issues.
  • Pricing Strategy: This fits well with the last point. You are free to set any price you want, but a fair business is a sustainable one. Be sure to keep things reasonable and know your audience’s spending capacity.
  • Product Quality: Finally, ensure you aren’t selling misleading things that look better in photos than in real life. The easiest zero-cost way is to take feedback from customers.

Here are some sources to find suppliers:

  • Amazon Best Sellers: You might not necessarily find your suppliers on Amazon itself, and you might not want to either. Hidden gems are best for dropshipping. But it is great to get a feel for the market, being the most popular site.
  • Ali Express: This is by far the most common supplier for dropshipping in the US. It has a ton of mediocre Chinese products, though, with terrible delivery times. So keep that in mind.
  • Products On Google: I think it’s best to find your products on Google and bring them to people through your store. Find hidden gems that will work for your business.
  • Ads Social Media: I’m sure you must have seen a ton of targeted ads on socials while doing your research. Save any that might lead to viable suppliers.

Considering how easy it is to start dropshipping, there are many people doing it now. It has even been marketed as something of a get-rich-quick scheme by many. 

A dropshipping business is perfectly legitimate if you know what you are doing. Remember that you are connecting audiences to products they need and compensating yourself for your efforts.

With this awareness and clear communication, I think you will have better chances for success. The fact is, you don’t want people to know that your store is doing dropshipping. 

If a person knows they can directly get something from a supplier for cheaper, why would they buy it from you? At the same time, if they buy something from you for $10, and when they receive it, the price tag says $2, they will be rightfully upset.

So keep that consumer behavior stuff in mind and strike the right balance.

3. Build A Store/Website

We are now ready to launch a store. You have a few different options here, depending on what you want to do.

I will focus on the totally free version here, but that one is a little limited.

Now most people use and recommend Shopify, but that’s mostly because Shopify offers high affiliate commissions. Just because it’s the biggest doesn’t mean it’s the best. 

About your options: You can have a dedicated store or your own website with a blog or other pages to generate traffic.

We are sticking to a store on Big Cartel for the free option. I’ll tell you a bit about everything, though. Here are some bullet points:

  • Don’t Use Shopify: The best thing is its wide range of apps that allow you a ton of automation. Each app costs money though, so Shoify will be very expensive for you.
  • Or Woo Commerce: Being compatible with WordPress in an SEO-friendly way, this one will be much better for creating content alongside your store. Has the biggest market share, but it will cost you something or the other.
  • Or Shift4 Shop: By far the most underrated e-commerce platform in my eyes. It gives you the most flexibility and will be by far the cheapest of all. It might not be zero dollars though, so I suggest the next one.
  • Instead, Use Big Cartel: This is a legitimate e-commerce platform that’s also a 100% free-to-use option. It might not be SEO-friendly, but you might not care about that—perfect for our needs today.

While a free-to-use Big Cartel shop will let you get started immediately, it might not get you super far. This will depend on a lot of things, but at the very least, you will have to do everything manually.

If you have to manage each order yourself, you can only sell so much with your limited time and energy.

Be sure to add the necessary pages to your store to drive conversions. Your store needs to be trustworthy. 

So have a page about your return policy, delivery, and crucial stuff like that. Look at other sellers’ websites for reference.

Now that you’ve set up the store with your branding, time to fill it up with products.

How To Add Products To Your Free Store

So we have our idea with the niche, target audience, and brand. We have collected a list of products, and we’ve signed up on an e-commerce website with our brand name.

Here’s how to add your products to your site:

1. Product Information:

Take the information from the suppliers. You can find everything you need on the page selling the product. You need the description, all necessary information, product specifications, titles, and images.

2. Add To Your Store:

Add this info to your store to create a listing page. Be sure to customize it according to your brand and audience.

Also, read all the different descriptions for similar products to get the best marketing copy for your listing.

3. Take Orders And Transfer Them Manually:

As soon as you add the product to your store with the available quantities, it is ready to order.

Once you receive an order with the customer information, you need to manually add that info to the supplier’s website and order the item from there.

You have to pay for these orders out of your own pocket, but if you sold it for a bigger amount, that shouldn’t be an issue.

4. Track Delivery:

Once the order has been placed with the supplier, they will fulfill the delivery.

You need to check in with the customer and give them the necessary updates, or you could just mention the tentative delivery time in the product description.

5. Customer Service:

If you are using AliExpress, deliveries take between 2-3 weeks. Competing with Amazon Prime’s one-day delivery, that doesn’t bode well for your venture.

Good customer service will be key to your success. Be creative in this regard.

6. Feedback:

Once the sale has been fulfilled, you need to get feedback on this. That’s because the customers might not have a way to get the product returned if they want to.

You are their only point of reference. Make sure they are happy and content.

You see that building a store might be simple and free, but it’s still a lot of hard work.

I’m sure you can also see a ton of issues here if you were thinking of this as a scheme for a comfortable side hustle. 

Dropshipping is simply a type of business model, not a life hack. Whether you can make it work or not depends on you. Let’s move on to what’s next.

4. Bring In The Traffic

Our store is ready to go now. All that’s left is to sit back and make money.

Wait a second, why isn’t the store making any money? Maybe the fact that nobody knows about it or has any way to access it might have something to do with that.

That’s where marketing comes in, to the rescue. In a nutshell, here are your free options:

  • Short-form videos: Reels, stories, and TikToks are great ways to sell your products. Just create, upload on FB, IG, YT, and TT, and redirect to your store. Organic growth is your only option if you can’t tell by now.
  • Long-form videos: I think detailed videos on YT have a lot of potential for organic growth, especially if it’s high-value. It could be for you.
  • Written Word: SEO-optimized written content like blogs and articles can also be an option. Although less than ideal for this model, because good rankings require a relevant domain name, it is technically free, so maybe you can make it work.
  • Photos: relevant photos on IG and Pinterest could also redirect traffic to your store. Pinterest has a lot of potential and deserves a special mention actually.
  • Pinterest: The platform is unsaturated for this business which already makes it a good option. The traffic is primarily female, about 80%, so keep that in mind. With some decent quality content, this has great potential.
  • Word of Mouth: If you take care of your customers, surely they will recommend it to their friends. If your family and friends believe in your brand, surely they will promote your store and your products.

Now running ads is common, and it doesn’t have to cost you a ton of money. Depending on your chosen platform, you can start a campaign with as little as $1-10.

I think most people would be reluctant to ask their friends and family to do their promotion because many people get into this business thinking it is actually unethical.

The ethics will totally depend on you, by the way. The world is colored in shades of grey, after all, instead of black and white.

You can be as fair or cunning as you’d like; that’s the whole point.

Regardless of all that, you need the traffic to make sales, plain and simple. 

5. Optimize And Reiterate

Congratulations! You have officially launched your store! Now you need to run it properly. Start looking for ways to optimize the process.

Sure, you can manage the first ten orders yourself with little to no issues.

Then you must ensure the customers have received their orders and are happy with their purchases. That’s because you want them to be repeat customers.

After a while, if your store does pick up, you won’t be able to place timely orders and manage things personally. Your products might also have some issues, and you might want to change suppliers.

All this doesn’t happen automatically, and you need to take care of it.

Eventually, with some income and a dozen or so customers, you can open a bigger store on Shopify where everything is automated, which brings me to my next point.

Should You Start A Dropshipping Store For Free Today?

As we have seen already, there are so many options to launch a dropshipping store today for literally $0.

Take a moment to appreciate how insane that is. Now consider what a great opportunity it can be.

Yes, you should consider starting a free store like this!

Imagine how cool it would be to have a full-time income from your own online project like this one.

I mean, this sort of thing simply did not exist 30 years ago. That’s so damn cool!

Then, if you’ve decided to be serious about doing this, I want you to take all that excitement, curl it up into a ball, and throw it out the window. You can also keep it in a box for later if you’d prefer.

To make this work, you must keep everything I discussed in mind and develop a long-term strategy.

You can start a free store to do market and product research. You can then take the results as a roof of concept to take it further. Build upon your work by taking your customers to your next project.

If you want to build a passive income quickly, then you really shouldn’t follow this strategy. 

That’s because the online world is oversaturated with low-effort stores like these.

I still think you should try it because if you have a good idea, this can help give legs to that idea. 

You will also gain immeasurable confidence, courage, and understanding from your experience. That stuff is invaluable. 

Here are some quick Pros and Cons too:

Pros Of Dropshipping With Zero Money

  • Potential earning with zero capital.
  • Great learning experience.
  • Test the waters with a free store. It’s a great way to do market research.
  • Use the data as proof of concept.

Cons Of Dropshipping With Zero Money

  • Less trust in your store.
  • Less control over your business.
  • Weak brand recognition.
  • Short-term and limited gains.
  • Extremely high competition. If you add little to no value, people have no real reasons to buy from you instead of going to Google or Amazon.

To The Conclusion

Most people spend most of their time thinking, wishing, and dreaming. That would be fine if they did something afterward. Unfortunately, most people also talk themselves out of doing anything remotely risky.

This article and these tools allow you to be different. Growth requires a certain degree of stress and risk. And all living things are supposed to change and grow.

If you feel the need to act, that’s your natural instinct telling you to throw caution to the wind and do something crazy. Win or lose, following that call is how you show yourself that you’re still alive.

So don’t miss out on life; try to make something of your own that you can be proud of. Then those around you can also look at you and be inspired. I think that is what life is all about.

My Advice

Know your niche and your audience. Develop your brand and set your goals. Do you want to go big? Do you want a full-time income? You may want to just promote these products instead.

Whatever the case, this article tells you everything you need to know. I hope you have read everything so that you can go into it with the correct expectations.

FAQs [Frequently Asked Questions]

Can I start Dropshipping for free?

Yes, you can totally start dropshipping for free using Big Cartel for your e-commerce.

What are the best dropshipping products?

Physical consumer products are the best—things like shoes, clothes, and even convenience goods like air fryers and gadgets.

How much can I earn from Dropshipping?

From what I’ve seen, around $500-3000 per month is your typical earning.

Is Dropshipping easy money?

No, it is not. Whether you’re doing it for free or investing heavily, there is a ton of work involved.

Is Dropshipping Illegal?

No, dropshipping is not illegal. You’re basically reselling products for higher margins to people you can reach. That’s pretty much a common and evergreen business model.

Anirudh Gitai.- SB Digital Writer/Affiliate Marketing Coordinator

Anirudh Gitai

Writer from the heart – whether it is affiliate marketing or fiction – and a proud member of Shivansh’s team! Big fan of combat sports, reading non-fiction, and watching the best of everything from anime and movies to TV and video games.

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