If you aren’t ready to spend money on dropshipping, it’s a great idea to start a free online store and have a taste of how the dropshipping model actually works.
This guide will show you how to do that. It also shows you how to promote the store without investing a single dollar in 2021.
How To Start Dropshipping For Free
Here are 10 steps you need to follow to start dropshipping for free.
1. Choose A Free Dropshipping Platform
However, we think Ecwid is the best one because of its ease of use, elegant design, versatility, and totally free transaction fees.
Ecwid lets you host your online store, organize products, customize your storefront, manage orders, and accept various types of payments. Additionally, you can integrate the platform seamlessly into Facebook, Instagram, and other websites, helping you sell products on multiple channels at once.
Ecwid is used by merchants in 175 countries and ideal for small and medium-sized businesses.
2. Create Your Free Dropshipping Store
To start creating your free dropshipping business, go to the Ecwid homepage and click Get started for free to sign up for an account.
The platform will take you to the sign-up page. You can choose to register with an email or with your Apple, Facebook, or Google account.
After signing up, Ecwid guides you through a simple setup process. Just fill in all of the necessary details.
At step 4, enter your dropshipping store address name, and you’re all set. It’s as simple as that!
Don’t worry if you make a mistake when filling up your information or your store address name. You can always change them later in your store settings.
Ecwid has already helped you set up your storefront with sample products. You can immediately visit it to see how it looks like. To do that, on your main dashboard, click on your store address above the “Website Settings” button.
You can also have a look at this quick start guide for more information.
3. Find A Good Dropshipping Niche
Your dropshipping store appearance should resonate with what you are going to sell. For example, it’s not a good idea to decorate the store with red color if your product is in the therapy niche.
So, before going further into designing your store or picking up a name, it’s important to choose good dropshipping niches.
First, let’s talk about market share. Below is the global retail eCommerce market share by product in recent years.
Except for the groceries segment, which is impossible to dropship, apparel & accessories come first on the list, accounting for more than 30.3% revenue share ($1.28 trillion). Next are footwear, personal & beauty, furniture & home decor, and electronic goods, respectively.
Knowing the global market share gives you a general idea about the demand for the niche you’re about to choose.
Now, let’s dive deeper. Suppose you’re interested in dropshipping in the home decor segment. By going to Google and search for “Home Decor Products Market Size,” you can have a more comprehensive look into the segment.
Below is the statistics for the US.
Continue doing this process until you fully discover and wrap your head around how different categories and niches perform.
4. Research Profitable Dropshipping Products
A good place to start finding dropshipping products is AliExpress.
AliExpress is an online eCommerce site owned by Alibaba Group that sells products globally. Because it offers a wide variety of goods at a low price, many dropshippers start using AliExpress to find or even source dropshipping products for their business.
On the AliExpress website, click on your favorite category and niche. You can also use the search bar and enter a product you’re interested in.
By default, the platform will show you all the most relevant and latest products in that category and niche.
Since you won’t spend money on ads, we recommend picking eye-catching and trendy products to dropship. They have the potential to go viral and make good content for your blog as well as social media accounts, which are your primary source of free traffic.
Additionally, it’s best to choose dropshipping products with at least a few hundred orders. It proves that there’re demands for the products.
You can also click on “Orders” to sort all products by the number of orders.
For more information on researching the best dropshipping products and niches, check out How To Find Winning Dropshipping Products.
5. Change Your Store Name
Ecwid provides your dropshipping store with a free domain name under the .company.site extension. You can change the address as many times as you like by going to the “Domain” section in your “Website” tab.
Unfortunately, you cannot change the extension (in other words, connect your own custom domain name) to others such as .com or .net unless you pay for an Ecwid subscription plan. However, the default .company.site one looks fine.
If you’re stuck finding a great name for your store, the Dropshipping Store Name Generator tool can help.
6. Design Your Dropshipping Store
To start designing your Ecwid dropshipping store, click on the “Overview” section of your “Website” tab. Then, click “Edit Site.”
A store editor will pop up, allowing you to customize various parts of your homepage.
Ecwid provides you with a handful of blocks, which essentially are pre-designed components. You can freely add, reorder or remove them. Clicking on a block lets you change some of its settings.
It’s important to note that although Ecwid said it has more than 70 themes, they don’t really exist.
In a traditional definition, themes are pre-designed templates to determine your store’s looks and feels. You can quickly switch between themes to instantly change your store design.
On the contrary, Ecwid uses the word “themes” to refer to its pre-designed blocks, which is kind of misleading. It’s not a big deal, but we want to mention it to avoid confusion.
Getting back on track, you can also change your dropshipping store content and product page layout by clicking on the “Design” tab.
You can learn more about designing your Ecwid store with the below video.
7. Complete Store Settings
Now you have a nice free dropshipping store. It’s time to complete all the remaining essential settings so you can start adding products, selling, and receiving payments.
The first one is your general settings. You can change your store name, company name, email, address, and social media links.
In the “Regional Settings” section, change your store currency and store language. If you dropship globally, US dollar and English should be the primary choices.
Next is the shipping settings. In the “Shipping & Pickup” tab, click on “Add Shipping” to start setting up shipping rates.
You can select a pre-defined shipping carrier or create a custom one. Here, we choose the latter option. Enter the shipping method name such as “Tracked & Guaranteed Shipping” to the blank field and click “Set Up.”
Ecwid offers 4 main shipping rate options: Free Shipping, Conditional Free Shipping, Flat Rate, and Custom Rates.
If you’re wondering which one to choose for your dropshipping business, we recommend going for Conditional Free Shipping. It allows you to offer free shipping for orders over a certain amount, effectively incentivizing customers to add more products to carts.
Creating legal pages is a must for any online store, especially for a dropshipping one. These pages can help protect your site’s copyright ownership and protect you from violating laws in some countries. Having these legal pages also helps build trust with your customers and makes them feel safer when shopping.
To access them, click on the Legal section in your “Settings” tab.
Make sure to carefully review each legal page’s content and make necessary changes to suit your need (changing the email address, store name, store address, adding or deleting certain parts of content, etc.).
The final and also the most important one is setting up payment providers. To do that, go to the “Payment” tab of your dashboard.
The most common ones among dropshipper are Paypal and Stripe. Or, you can choose from other 50 credit card payment providers that Ecwid offers. Additionally, make sure to turn off Pay By Cash and place a test order.
That’s pretty it for a fully functional free dropshipping store. All you have to do now is find some good dropshipping products, start promoting, and make money.
8. Add Products To Your Dropshipping Store
Since you use the free Ecwid version, you won’t have access to any importing tool. Thus, you have to add products to your dropshipping store manually.
Start by going to the “Products” tab and click on “Add New Product.”
The product editor gives you the ability to add the product name, description, images, pricing, SKU, and weight.
SKU is the unique identifier of a product meant for internal tracking and management. You can leave this field blank to let Ecwid auto-populate a unique one.
In case your products have variants, you can visit the “Options” tab to add them.
Unfortunately, on the Ecwid free plan, you cannot assign an image for each variant. But, if your variant name is clear enough, your customers should have no problem choosing their favorite one.
Another funny and hacky way to bypass the problem is to add a little emoji beside each option.
Feel free to customize other product settings Ecwid offers.
Here is an example of your dropshipping product.
Consider having a look at the below video for more information on adding new products to your store.
9. Promote Your Dropshipping Store With 5 Free Methods
There are a number of free ways to promote your dropshipping products with no money. Below are the 5 proven ones.
Creating A Blog
Starting a blog can help you acquire organic traffic, which refers to visitors landing on your store through search engines like Google. Organic traffic is extremely valuable as it is free, highly targeted, and most importantly, you get perpetual traffic as long as your content ranks high on search results.
For example, if you have a blog post that ranks for the query “Best gifts for girlfriends,” you can literally attract thousands of visitors each month to your dropshipping store.
Ecwid doesn’t provide you with blogging functionality by default. However, you can easily integrate it into a free blogging platform such as Blogger. Here is the guide on how to do so: Selling on Blogger with Ecwid.
You should also follow this Ecwid SEO best practices to optimize your dropshipping store for search engines.
Email marketing is a more personalized way to speak with your customers. According to CampaignMonitor, email marketing can result in a 4400% ROI (Return On Investment). Additionally, sending abandoned cart emails can increase conversion rates by as low as 10%.
By building a relevant and active email list, you can start sending news and offers to your prospects and get sales.
Inside your Ecwid “Newsletters” tab, make sure to turn on Request customers’ approval for your marketing emails at checkout. Doing this will show a sign-up checkbox on the checkout page, allowing you to collect customer emails and have legal permission to send email marketing campaigns.
In addition, click on the “Edit” button and enable “Preselect the sign-up option” to increase your chance of getting permissions from your customers.
To see the list of customers who approve email marketing, go to your “Customers” section under the “My Sales” tab. Then, you can import them into a free email marketing platform like MailChimp to start sending email campaigns.
Another thing you should do is to integrate an email sign-up form into your blog. Doing this will allow you to collect emails from visitors reading your content.
If you use MailChimp, here is the guide on How to add a MailChimp signup form to your website.
Start A YouTube Channel
The next free method is to create interesting YouTube videos and promote your dropshipping store to your audience. Make sure to include the store link in your video description.
If you don’t want to reveal your identity, here are 17 methods to start a YouTube channel without your face and voice. And, here are 13 ways to start a YouTube channel without making your own videos.
Creating A Social Media Account
Social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Snapchat, and TikTok are great places to connect with relevant audiences and promote your dropshipping store. They are free to use and have billions of active users.
In the beginning, you should only try to grow your presence on one or two social media platforms at the same time to avoid wearing yourself out. After having great results with those, you can consider acquiring new audiences on others.
Researching other dropshipping stores in your niche is a great idea to find out where to put your effort into. For example, NotebookTherapy is a great role model in the stationery niche with massive followers on Instagram.
On whichever platforms, try to post your content regularly. But, at the same time, try not to be too spammy with promoting content. A good rule of thumb is that 80% of your post should aim to add value to your audience. The remaining 20% is used to promote your brand, business, or products.
Creating A Community
The final free method worth trying is to create your own community, such as a Facebook group or a Reddit community.
10. Fulfill Dropshipping Orders
After your customer purchases a product, it will appear in the Orders tab. Both you and your customer will also receive an email notification about the order.
An order has 6 fulfillment statuses you should care about:
- Awaiting Processing: The initial status of an order when customers have just purchased the product. This indicates an order is waiting to be processed.
- Processing: Change the order status to Processing when you start fulfilling it.
- Shipped: If your supplier begins shipping the dropshipping product to your customer, change the status to Shipped.
- Delivered: Change the status to Delivered if the order has been delivered successfully to your customer’s location.
- Will Not Deliver: You can use this status to indicate that the order has been canceled or refunded.
- Returned: Indicates that your customer has returned the order. In the case of dropshipping, you won’t use this status as it’s a good practice to refund the full amount to customers for free without requiring them to do extra steps. Remember, customer service is the key to dropshipping success. And, if you have an OK dropshipping product, your refund & chargeback rate will be close to zero.
Understanding all statuses of an order, to start fulfilling it, the first step is to change the status to Processing.
It’s important to note that you and your customer will also receive an email whenever there’s a change about the order.
The next step is to send the order information to your supplier. If you dropship from AliExpress, copy the shipping address and use it to manually place an order on your customer’s behalf.
If you have a private supplier, you can print the invoice information and send it to the supplier to help you fulfill the order.
When your supplier starts shipping the product, add the tracking number to your dropshipping order and mark the status as Shipped.
Finally, when the order has been delivered successfully, set the order status to Delivered.
Limitations Of Starting Dropshipping For Free
If you aren’t ready to invest your hard-earned money into dropshipping, starting a free one is a great move.
However, not investing money at all puts you at disadvantages. Below are the 3 most prominent ones:
- You have limited access to powerful tools: The Ecwid free plan is fantastic. But, you cannot implement advanced features such as product import and fulfillment, live chat, email marketing automation, product bundles, etc. They are essential elements to boost sales as well as saving your precious time.
- It might take a long time to see results: Creating a ranking blog and building a great social media presence are the right paths to a sustainable dropshipping business. However, they take a long time to do. If you want to quickly test how a product performs, the only way is to invest money in ads.
- Your dropshipping products might become outdated: If you don’t move fast enough, a dropshipping product like a trendy T-shirt might become outdated and very hard to sell.
If you are looking for a way to make money online, dropshipping is a great business opportunity you should definitely have a look at.
With the help of Ecwid and creative promoting strategies, you can start making money with dropshipping for totally free. However, beware of its many disadvantages to prepare yourself appropriately.
We recommend checking out Dropshipping Checklist for a complete road map on building your dropshipping business from scratch to success.