Can you start dropshipping for free? Yes, you can, and here is how to do it.
I promise no paid tools, websites, courses, or paid ads. This is how I started dropshipping with zero investment. All you need is your time, a computer with an internet connection, a Facebook or an Instagram account, and a payment gateway like Paypal or a bank account to accept payments.
Also, I am not going to bore you by trying to teach you all those marketing stuff.
The most important step is to get started right now. Since you are going to start dropshipping for free, there is nothing to lose. But, if something went wrong, start over with corrective actions. So, let’s keep everything short and focus on actions.
It will take around 10 minutes to read this whole article, and once you are done, you can start your FREE dropshipping business right away.
So, start the stopwatch. You are 10 minutes away from starting a dropshipping business for free.
This is how to start dropshipping for FREE.
There are 7 steps to start dropshipping for free. Let’s go through them one by one.
- Decide your dropshipping niche
- Find the top-sellers in your niche and find their audience data
- Picture an ideal customer for your dropshipping business
- Start social media accounts
- Find dropshipping suppliers
- List your dropshipping products
- Start dropshipping with the existing audience
- Find and work with influencers for FREE
This is how I started my first dropshipping store to sell socks in 2011, and you can follow the same steps to start dropshipping for free.
Starting a dropshipping business for free is like planting a seed. You will eventually need to add water and fertilizer to have a fully grown tree. So, re-invest the money that you earn from your free dropshipping business for growth.
So, in the end, I will also share some useful paid solutions that you can start using after earning some money from dropshipping. Using those tools will help you grow your dropshipping business, reduce your workload, and improve your profit margin.
1. Decide your dropshipping niche
This strategy to start dropshipping for free needs a product niche. Not any niche, but a dropshipping niche that could be popular among social media users.
I suggest the following niches to start dropshipping for free.
- Makeup (Cosmetics)
- Pet toys
- T-shirts, tank tops, hats
- Phone cases
- Plus size clothing
- Camping and hiking gear
- Yoga mats
There are two good reasons to choose one of these as your dropshipping niche.
First, our strategy to start dropshipping for free has a lot to do with micro-influencers on social media. So, it is a lot easier to find them in those niches.
Second, the target groups of these products are usually impulse-buyers and generous online shopping spenders. That means they are quick to hit that “Buy now” button online.
2. Find the top sellers in your niche
Since we are going to start dropshipping for free, we cannot run paid ads. So, we need to do everything we can to optimize our organic marketing efforts for the best results. That is why we need data to build our dropshipping business.
This step may sound technical, but it is essential to know this information to start a successful dropshipping business for free.
Knowing about the top players of your dropshipping niche is essential to understand market trends, audiences, and many other data.
Just do a quick Google search and find a couple of popular websites in your selected niche. Now those are your top competitors.
Now, sign up for a free account on Semrush and enter one of your top competitor names to learn a bit about their market overview.
They also offer a 7-day pro trial, which you can cancel before they charge you. And, within these 7-days you can use it to reveal more data than a free account.
Now, the below image is a part of a Semrush report for a clothing store, and you can see how the gender and the age groups of their visitors are given in the report.
Knowing this information is important for the next steps of your strategy to start dropshipping for free.
For example, by just looking at the above graphs, we can see that there are more ladies visit their site than males. So, we can also build a feminine tone to our dropshipping business to make it appealing to most visitors.
3. Picture your ideal customer
First, by carefully looking at all the data you have extracted from the previous step, try to picture an ideal customer for you.
Here is an example,
An ideal buyer for my dropshipping store is a 30-year-old female; she is doing a job, her go-to social media platform is Instagram, and she loves BTS.
Yes, all that data can be extracted online, as we have explained in the second step.
Next, you have to define colors, images, tone, and everything about your free dropshipping business to make it appealing to your ideal customer. So, have a basic plan for your brand identity design.
4. Start social media accounts
If your ideal customer is hanging out on Facebook, start a Facebook business page. If they are on Instagram, use Instagram, likewise, build your presence where your customer lives.
I will use Facebook in this example, as it will be Facebook for most of you.
Pick a good business name and start a Facebook page as a business.
Next, sign up for a free account on Canva to design your logo, cover photo, and all the posts you publish on Facebook.
Canva is an amazing tool with thousands of free images and templates. What I love about Canva is its background removal tool. You can click a single button and remove the background of your product photos without a hassle. Also, now it comes with a content planner so that you can schedule your Facebook and Instagram posts in advance.
Now, you can start posting and sharing all the motivational posts, videos, and news related to your niche and your ideal customer.
For example, if you plan to start a free dropshipping business for cosmetics, you can share makeup tutorials, color selection guides, celebrity photos, and anything related to a makeup business.
Important! Please do not post anything for sale until step 6 of our plan to start dropshipping for free.
The next step is to build your audience. Share your posts on relevant Facebook groups, invite people to follow your page, go live, and use the free organic reach on Facebook.
The secret for a good Facebook organic reach campaign is to be consistent with your content plan. Post at least a couple of times every day during the peak hours, and stay in touch with the trends and viral content.
Once you have build a few hundred followers on Facebook, move on to the next step.
5. Find a dropshipping supplier
There are a lot of ways to find dropshipping suppliers. But, let’s keep things simple and use AliExpress for our purpose.
But, later on, you can read the above-linked article and learn more about finding legit dropshipping suppliers via supplier databases and stuff. That will help you to keep your costs down and increase the profits. But, for now, let’s move on and focus on starting your dropshipping business right away. – Don’t forget to bookmark this post as your dropshipping step-by-step guide!
AliExpress is an online retail marketplace with a lot of Chinese suppliers. And, their prices are incredibly low.
However, there are a lot of counterfeits of famous brands! Keep that in mind and stay away from branded stuff.
So, go to AliExpress and pick a few sellers with good ratings for your niche.
Next, send messages to these sellers asking if they support blind dropshipping.
That means, when they send your orders to your customers, they do not include any of their promotional material.
You can tell them that you have a very engaging audience on Facebook for whatever your niche, and you are planning to start monetizing that audience by selling some products.
Almost all the sellers would say yes, and you can pick a two or three of them as your potential suppliers depending on how fast they communicate and all.
6. Add products up for selling
Now it is the time to list the products from your selected suppliers on your Facebook page. You can add them to the Facebook store, or just post them as posts.
Rather than simply re-posting whatever product photos you got from AliExpress listings, use Canva to edit it with your branding.
When you select the prices, use a good dropshipping product pricing strategy. Remember, even you are running a free dropshipping business, there are still some “hidden costs” involved!
Yes, I know that you are reading an article about “how to start dropshipping for free,” but these costs are a part of the business. The good news is that you will start earning before incurring them. So, still, nothing goes out of your pocket when following our steps to start dropshipping for free.
For example, you need to cover the costs of returns. When dropshipping, it is tough to forward your returns to the supplier. So, most of the time, you will have to bear the costs of returns and dissatisfied customers. These are future costs which you have to cover in the present.
Not only that, there are payment gateway and bank charges which you have to cover as well. So, when you price the products, take all these into account. Please do not take it simple and add a fixed margin as you are running a dropshipping business for free.
7. Start dropshipping
If you already have an engaging audience, you will start getting a few orders here and there once you list those products. So, you can forward these orders to your dropshipping supplier and fulfill them manually.
Since we are cutting down all the costs of starting a dropshipping business, we cannot use merchant accounts of the payment gateways to accept card payments. Therefore, keep things simple, and accept payments to your digital wallet (PayPal, Apple pay etc.) or to the bank account. Then you can use this money to place orders.
How to fulfill dropshipping orders
Since you are selling on social media, you will have to fulfill your orders manually. And, since you will only use AliExpress to source your products, you can place orders on behalf of the customers, adding a special note to say that you are dropshipping them.
For example, add a note saying, “I am dropshipping this order. Please don’t include any promotional material.”
Think of this process as placing an online order to your granny’s place on behalf of her.
Do this until you get 10-15 orders. By then, you will have good knowledge of the process, the costs, customer support, and other related operations of running a dropshipping business.
You have to fulfill orders manually only during the initial stages of starting a dropshipping business for free. Once you start getting orders, you can move your business to Shopify and use AliExpress dropshipping plugins to automate the process.
Next, use your experience and do all the fine-tuning to the product prices and update the descriptions with FAQs to reduce the questions.
You can also evaluate your suppliers during this stage. See if everything goes smoothly as you planned. Otherwise, you may need to change the suppliers as well.
So, do all this fine-tuning before we go to the next step of starting dropshipping for free. In the next step, we are going to launch the marketing campaigns.
Remember, it is not good to change the product prices frequently. It will waste your time updating all promotional material, and your audience will lose trust in your business as well.
So, be patient and fulfill orders as much as you want to feel comfortable with the process. Once we launch our marketing strategies, you will get flooded with inbox messages, orders, complaints, and everything. So, be prepared.
8. Find and work with micro-influencers
You are here to learn how to start dropshipping for free. So, running paid advertisements is not a marketing option for us. Therefore, we are going to work with micro-influencers to promote our dropshipping products for free.
Influencer marketing is a highly efficient way to promote products. So, as a small dropshipping business owner, you can also benefit from this marketing strategy as well.
However, working with professional social media influencers costs money, which is not an option when running a dropshipping business for free.
Luckily, if you search through Facebook, you will find some regular people who are extremely popular in their network.
For example, there can be an attractive woman who gets around a few hundreds of reactions to whatever the posts they share. So, she can be a brand ambassador for your cosmetics or jewelry store.
Also, there can be a fitness enthusiast in your friend list who regularly posts workout photos and videos on Facebook. He or she can be an influencer for your t-shirt or sportswear store.
So, you get the idea, right.
Next, DM them and ask if they like to work with your business.
Give them proposals.
For example, one would agree to promote your products on their social media account for free giveaways. You give them free stuff, and they promote it on their account.
Some would agree to promote stuff from your dropshipping store for a commission. So, you can ask them to act as a middleman and give you the orders.
And, some would agree to work with you for future incentives. It can be like brand collaboration. They promote your products, and you promote them on your Facebook page.
Well, you will get refused by many. But don’t get emotional when you get a “No.” Just don’t stop until you find that one or two people would like to work with you.
If you cannot find someone to work for free, below I have mentioned some ways to find paid influencers for less than $10.
Additional tools and solutions that you can use to grow your free dropshipping business
Once you start making money from your dropshipping business, start reinvesting that money to grow your business. So that one day, it will be your full-time income source.
1. Invest on a website
Managing your orders manually is perfectly fine until you start getting multiple orders every day. After that, you will lose track of your orders and things can go haywire.
Also, as your product portfolio grows, it would be hard to update the product listings for the prices and stock levels. Same goes for the payment management. Handling manual payments become a headache soon after you start getting more than a couple of orders a day.
Therefore, once you have started your dropshipping business for free, think of starting an online website as the second step.
And, when you start a website, I would highly recommend using Shopify to build your online store. It is a beginner-friendly way to start an online store, and their plans start from $27 a month.
If you have your site on Shopify, you can use free dropshipping plugins like Oberlo for order fulfillment, which can ease the whole process for you. It will help you to track the orders, automatically update the stock levels and prices, etc.
2. Start using paid advertisements and influencers
As you start getting orders from “free influencers,” slowly plan to hire people with a higher social following. They often come with a price tag, but they can open up doors of your dropshipping business to a larger audience. Read more about Influencer marketing.
BTW, paid influencers won’t cost you as much as you may think. For example, you can hire paid influencers on Fiverr for less than $10.
Similarly, you can start using paid Facebook advertisements to promote your products on Facebook and Instagram. They are cheaper than paid influencers, and using paid ads will let you reach a massive audience online.
3. Hire professionals
Always treat your dropshipping business like a real business. Then, as it grows, outsource the work and free up your time to focus on developing your business.
Otherwise, you will end-up doing day-to-day tasks and your business will stall at same stage without any growth.
Use a freelancer marketplace like Fiverr to hire designers for your advertisements, marketers, web-developers, etc.
Now you know how to start dropshipping for FREE
In this article, we have discussed how to start dropshipping for free and how to grow your dropshipping business.
This strategy is perfectly doable, and I have used the exact same way for my very first dropshipping store to sell socks on 2011. There I had a great opportunity to work with a very kind micro influencer to promote my products for free.
Similarly, you can follow the same steps to start a dropshipping business for free.
Next, follow the steps that I have mentioned in the end to grow your dropshipping business to a full-time income stream.