How to start an online store without inventory and no experience
Want to start your own business and are considering online trading? Do you have grand visions of working from your laptop while your eCommerce business rakes in sales on auto-pilot? Questions like how to start an online store without inventory might come to your mind. How to start an online store with little to no experience, and when your financial resources are limited. In this piece, I will tell you all about the best way to launch an online store without money with the help of print on demand dropshipping.
How to start an online store using print on demand
What is print-on-demand?
This business model means selling print-on-demand products such as t-shirts, hats, jewelry, tote bags, mugs, athletic apparel, home decor products, and many more customizable items. You either provide your own designs, download free patterns, or hire somebody to come up with the designs for you; connect your store to a print-on-demand service, in this case, Printify; upload your images, add the product to your web store and split the profits for every sale.
When you want to start an online store with no inventory, what you do is you sell something from your shop, take money from your customer and send the order directly to Printify. Our print provider partner produces the ordered products and charge you for them + shipping, and deliver the products to your customer. Your income is the margin you put on top of the original price, and it can be whatever you want, as long as it’s reasonable.
To sum up: When customers buy the product from your shop, the orders are printed, packaged, and delivered by your print provider. You pay your printing partner for their materials and work. What’s left is your profit.
What is dropshipping?
When it comes to starting an online store with no inventory, dropshipping is a type of retail fulfillment that does the trick. No stock mostly means fewer worries. However, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies, but I’ll tell you about the downsides a bit later. So, you choose blank products to sell online, select the most appropriate print provider. The customer then makes a purchase, based on the platform of your choosing, it either forwards the order info to the supplier automatically or sometimes you need to push the “order” button; the supplier fulfills the order.
How does dropshipping with print on demand work?
The most common approach for dropshipping on Printify is to seek out a supplier located in your area (or anywhere else in the world but keep in mind shipping costs). Once a customer buys a product, the fully automated process on our end takes care of the rest: product ordering, fulfillment, packaging, labeling, dispatching. All you have to do is check if the details are correct.
The product is then sent from the supplier to the customer – wherever in the world they may be. It might sound complicated, but really the whole process is super simple: the customer places an order in your store (Etsy, eBay, Shopify, Wix, etc.) and pays you the XX amount. After that, the system automatically purchases that product for the YY amount from the supplier/print provider, and they will ship the item directly to your customer. Your profit is equal to = XX – YY.
How to start an online store without inventory?
To start an online store with no inventory with a dropshipping method, first, you need to set your store in one of the platforms to take your orders from (I’ll dissect three most popular marketplaces, keep reading). Then create designs in the Printify mockup generator on dozens of timeless and trendy blanks from our catalog and import the product to your store via Printify’s easy-to-use interface. Now, let’s take a closer at each stage.
1. Decide on your niche
This basically means what you’re going to sell and who you’re selling it to. Whether you stick with fashion or mix it up with home decor – it’s up to you, but it’s crucial to introduce new products regularly and to keep track of what’s selling and what isn’t. One of the many great things about a POD business is that offering a new product requires no more than coming up with a design in Photoshop and posting it to your site along with a brief but clear description and price. No more purchasing inventory that may or may not sell.
2. Customize your own products
The imported products appear with the supplier’s information and images, however, we recommend creating good-looking mockups; if it’s apparel you’re working on, ideally use a mockup service (for example, PlaceIt) to make your items look their most beautiful. Do thorough SEO research to adjust keywords so people can actually see your products in the sea of other t-shirts and beanies. But if you’re reading this, you’re a smart person with great ideas in mind.
Btw, you can also take beautiful photographs yourself – this is a foolproof method for your store to display your goods the way you want them to look. This, of course, can only happen if you order samples, which we oh so suggest doing to be absolutely sure about how your end product looks. (Take it from me: I opened an Etsy store, published a handful of cool designs, and even sold some of them. Thank God I decided to order one of the shirts for myself. The tiny unicorn that was supposed to be small and cute turned out to be a giant abomination in the size of Texas. So, I made adjustments, ordered new samples, and all was good in the world.)
3. Set a price and start selling
Once you have imported products to your store, you can now consider what markup you should add to the price. With Printify’s interface, the pricing is super simple; you can even diverse prices based on apparel sizing: size small t-shirt can be cheaper than 4XL, for example. But, yeah, Printify actually let’s you earn some serious cash – how you price your products is totally up to you.
So far, does this sound good to you? Are you now closer to understanding how to start an online store without inventory, no money, and experience?
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Which platform to choose?
So, as we already learned, step one is to start your print-on-demand dropshipping website. And this actually is the simplest part of the whole shebang – your platform decision will most likely, be based on your budget, what features you need, and a little bit also in how tech-savvy you are.
How to start an online store without inventory on Shopify
Shopify is a fully hosted eCommerce company that allows anyone to set up an online store and sell their products and is the easiest way to get started. Upon signup, Shopify will provide you with a secure website and free built-in credit card processing that lets you start taking orders right away.
The main downside to Shopify is that it is the most expensive solution of these three, but you can get it up and running in no time without knowing anything about technology.
Pro tip: You should not put all of your eggs in the hands of a platform you do not control. So it’s sensible to open your store on at least two platforms.
How to start an online store without inventory on WooCommerce
WooCommerce is the most popular online marketplace in the world, and despite its premium feel, it’s 100% free for anyone to download, use, and modify. WooCommerce helps you build an online store using WordPress (WordPress is also by far the most popular way to make a website), but the downside is that you have to set up everything yourself, and that can be rather time-consuming.
How to start an online store without inventory on Etsy
Well, hello there, Etsy, my old friend. As I mentioned earlier, I had an Etsy store which was successful…ish. It’s now long gone, but it was all my fault. But to this day, I routinely browse the Etsy forums and scroll through pages upon pages of t-shirts, handmade bracelets, racy panties, etc. There are millions of items there, and so many of them are copy/paste, so in the forums, there are often complaints about people selling “mass-produced” items. As a result, Etsy has issued a much stricter policy.
My account got deleted completely out of the blue. I did not break any of the rules. But because my livelihood doesn’t depend on Etsy, I didn’t complain when my account was suspended. But when your account gets suspended, it’s not that easy to contest, and it can easily take weeks of lost business until you get your account reinstated. There is no phone number to call, and the only way to contact Etsy is through email.
Anyhow, other than that, Etsy is very easy to use. It’s not free, however, but the listing fee is super low. But the thing is, Etsy owns the shops they host, and they reserve the right to manage them however they choose. And when you put all of your eggs in Etsy’s basket, a simple misunderstanding could put you out of business. That’s why it’s wise to list your beautiful items in a couple of different marketplaces.
Pros and cons of dropshipping
Let’s start with the pros. What’s extremely attractive with this business model lies in the very title of this article: you don’t need any inventory or experience. With dropshipping, it’s possible to start an online store with no inventory; you don’t need to invest thousands of dollars in stock upfront. That is something you can’t do with a traditional brick and mortar store. All you need is a laptop with an internet connection, and you’re a businessman in the making!
With the print-on-demand dropshipping model, you don’t have to pay for the product unless you’ve already made the sale and have been paid by the customer.
Without significant upfront investments, it’s possible to start an online store with no inventory in 2020, for so far this year hasn’t been too generous towards us. But the eCommerce environment is booming because everything is online. And if you’re an avid shopper, you’ve probably noticed that shipping times have increased – that’s all because people are spending their money online. But back to our topic. Because you, as a store owner, are not committed to selling-through any inventory purchased upfront, there’s less risk involved in starting a POD dropshipping business.
4 reasons why you should start an online store with print on demand
1. Low setup costs
The cost of inventory is one of the highest costs you’ll have if you own and warehouse stock.
2. Simple setup process
There are no warehouse costs. There is almost zero overhead. There is no upfront inventory cost. It’s hard to think of another business model that is less expensive to start.
3. Less risk
Without the constraints of a tangible stock and all the costs associated with it, POD dropshipping allows you to update your eCommerce store cheaply, easily, and quickly. If you find out that a product is doing well for another retailer, you can immediately add it to your store – no waiting. Also, dropshipping allows you to test new items without the risk of carrying an obsolete inventory. You only pay for what you sell. Subscribe to Printify premium, and the money you put towards subscription, ends up in your Printify account that you can spend towards ordering samples; it’s win-win!
4. Location independent
No matter where you are in the world, you can be an eCommerce store owner. Choose a print provider that’s closest to your desired customer base to save on shipping costs (don’t forget that people are wary when it comes to shipping costs they are most likely to buy a product that costs $49.99 + free shipping rather than a $39.99 + $10 shipping).
Are there things you should think about?
Now we’ve finally arrived at the downsides of print-on-demand dropshipping, so you don’t think it’s an oil rig anyone can pump from. It’s not a get rich quick venture. However, most people stumble into dropshipping with such expectations only to realize that making money online with a dropshipping store is actually much harder than they anticipated, because:
You get a bit less of control over order fulfillment: Even though you don’t carry the cost of warehousing inventory, you will sometimes have to pay for dissatisfied customers. The print providers you’ve chosen for your items are responsible for producing and shipping your stock. If they mess up, the customer complains to you or buys from your competitor.
When you decide to start an online store with no experience, make sure you work with highly-rated partners. With Printify, you always see the print provider’s overall score bases on other customers’ experience. The higher the score, the more reliable the partner.
It means less profit: Well… kinda. Hypothetically, you are paying more for each item you sell as compared to paying less for a large inventory of items, which leads to less profit. But, as you might know, keeping a huge stock is always tricky, for there’s a risk you only sell a few pieces, thus losing thousands of dollars. If you want to earn serious money through dropshipping, you have to sell more items than you otherwise would have sold if you owned and warehoused them yourself.
What else should you know starting an online store?
Research profitable dropshipping products to sell – because margins with this business model tend to be lower, the best POD dropshipping items to sell are ones that carry a higher price tag. Also: is personalization an option? Because people are always willing to pay more for personalized items, so it’s in your best interest to choose a product that’s customizable. And last but not least – learn SEO! To start an online store with no inventory and no money, search engine optimization is so so so important for generating free traffic.
What to look for in a print on demand partner?
Because your business mostly relies on the quality of your print provider, here are a few things that you should keep an eye on when vetting your print on demand partners. So, as I said earlier, before you rely on any partner, always place a sample order to see how the order is handled.
Pay attention to:
it’s crucial for an eCommerce store, and it’s essential that orders are shipped within three business days (sometimes 4 – depending on your desired method; embroidery tends to take longer than DTG, for example).
Is the product shoved in a crappy box with packing peanuts? Is the box unmarked without the supplier’s business name? Will the product arrive safely and undamaged?
The quality of print/embroidery:
this is pretty self-explanatory. I myself have encountered two identical blank t-shirts with identical designs that turn out completely different from two different merchants; it all depends on their equipment. If you want returning customers – sample, sample, sample, my friend!
How to handle issues that can arise?
While running a print-on-demand eCommerce store is more hands-off than a regular online store, there are some aspects that you really need to be aware of, for example, returns and refunds. You are not responsible for product fulfillment, but you still are responsible for returns and providing customer support (don’t worry, come with all your problems to us – our customer support is excellent if I dare say so). But you are the face of your business, and your customers don’t have a clue about your arrangement with print providers. As far as they know, you’re responsible for everything that happens after their money leaves their bank account. So you have to deal with unpleasantries yourself.
Read how returns are handled with Printify here.
Start an online store without inventory today
I had to learn how to start an online store without inventory, no money, no experience all by myself. And I did it, and it was fun while it lasted. But while I had to go through all the trials and errors with no help from the outside, I knew this newly acquired information would come in handy one day. Starting your business is easy when you learn the nitty-gritty, have awesome designs and know SEO to market your store for free. So, if I could do it, you can easily do it! Printify is super easy to use and integrates so very well with all of the biggest online marketplaces – roll up your sleeves and start earning money online.