Are you interested in starting dropshipping for free?
Awesome, but starting a dropshipping store still equals starting a real business that needs time, effort, and money to grow!
The good thing is that you can start dropshipping for free.
So, continue reading to learn how!
How to start a dropshipping store for free in 8 steps
Online stores are becoming increasingly popular as people shift their shopping habits to the internet.
One important type of online store is the dropshipping store.
And although you must invest money into your dropshipping store sooner or later, it is possible to get started for free!
Here are the eight steps of starting a dropshipping store for free in 2023:
- Pick a free or low-cost ecommerce platform
- Decide between a general, niche, or one-product store
- Pick out the right products to dropship
- Define your ideal target audience
- Find a free dropshipping supplier
- Design and brand your dropshipping store
- Set up your payment gateways
- Promote your store with free marketing methods
Tip: If you do have some money to invest in your store, we recommend checking out our ‘How to Start an Online Store: The Definitive Guide (2023)‘ article, which is more detailed and discusses our recommended (paid) tools and platforms.
1. Pick a free or low-cost ecommerce platform
Your ecommerce platform is the back end of your dropshipping store, so it's a great place to start!
Choosing a platform that is easy to use, has excellent features, and has good reviews will help you to build a successful store!
The fact that you're looking for a completely free ecommerce platform makes this more challenging but not impossible.
Nevertheless, if you're looking for a completely free ecommerce platform, here are two great options:
Ecwid is an ecommerce solution that you can use to start dropshipping for free.
It offers live support, an Ecwid app store, and even an Ecwid mobile app to manage your business on the go!
Ecwid merchants have already accumulated over $4.6 billion in revenue, so the potential is definitely there.
By using Ecwid’s free plan, you will miss some features. For example, you are limited to just five products in your store and won’t have access to Ecwid’s support:
Shift4Shop (free for US merchants only)
Shift4Shop is a relatively new platform that, according to its homepage, has 200,000 customers and processes approximately $200 billion annually.
However, the free pricing is the part where Shift4Shop steals the show.
Shift4Shop's free plan includes hosting and a long list of features that are usually only available for higher-priced plans elsewhere:
Well, if you have a sharp eye, you have already seen it in the small letters at the bottom of the pricing page.
The free plan is only available for US customers!
So, if you don’t qualify for the free plan, you will end up paying a monthly fee similar to Shopify's.
2. Decide between a general, niche, or one-product store
The next step is deciding between a general, niche, or one-product dropshipping store.
For a quick overview of the three, take a look at this table:
|General store||Sell products in various categories (find examples here).||Take advantage of product trends.||Marketing can be more difficult.|
|Reach more people.||It's challenging to build a loyal customer base.|
|Niche store||Focused on a single niche (find hiking niche store examples here).||You can focus on a specific target audience.||It can be hard to pick a niche and stick to it.|
|You can start social media theme pages.||Less freedom.|
|Upselling is easier.|
|One-product store||A dropshipping store that sells mainly a single product (e.g., Pillow Slides).||Dedicate your focus to a single product.||It's crucial to sell a winning product.|
|It's easier to optimize marketing campaigns.||No possibility of upselling or cross-selling.|
|Improve your conversion rate.|
If you can't decide between these dropshipping store types, let us give you our recommendation.
First, let's get out of the way that you can start all three of these stores for free.
However, we still recommend starting with either a niche or a one-product store.
This will allow you to focus on promoting and selling one or a few product(s) without worrying about managing many different products.
Remember that the more products you have, the more work you will do to manage your store.
Also, having fewer products listed on your store makes it easier to run your store for free or at least cheaper. For example, some dropshipping suppliers have a free pricing plan for stores that list fewer than 25 products:
3. Pick out the right products to dropship
In our opinion, your products, supplier, and marketing are the foundation of your dropshipping store's success.
It's normal that some products are relatively easy to sell while others are fairly hard to sell.
The ‘easy' products are also called ‘winning products‘ and often have some common properties:
Keeping an eye on properties like these is key in deciding what products to dropship!
The best free product research tools
This step is already the point at which most people start investing money into their new business.
They start subscribing to product research tools, which help them discover winning dropshipping products.
That's because finding winning products can be time-consuming and complex.
This is especially true for beginners, who often don’t know what to look for.
Of course, finding winning products without research tools is also possible.
But the great news is that some product research tools can be used for free or on trial!
Here is an overview of some of the best free product research tools:
|Research tool||Pricing||Read Review||Try Out?|
|AliExpress Dropshipping Center||Free||AliExpress Dropshipping Center Review||Click here|
|Thieve||Free / $15 / $49 per month||Thieve Review||Click here|
|Sell The Trend||$39 per month||Sell The Trend Review||Free 7-day trial|
|Niche Scraper||$49.95 per month (or $13 per month with our discount code)||Niche Scraper Review||Use code ‘DoDropshipping' for 75% off (register here)|
|Dropship.io||$29 / $49 / $79 per month||Dropship.io Review||Free 7-day trial|
4. Define your ideal target audience
Once you've figured your products out, it's time to start defining your target audience.
Your target audience is the specific group of people you target with your marketing campaigns.
It's a group with the same interests, hobbies, ages, or gender that is most likely to purchase your product.
Philip Kotler, an American marketing expert, even said the following:
There is only one winning strategy. It is to carefully define the target market and direct a superior offering to that target market.Philip Kotler
For a detailed step-by-step guide on defining your dropshipping target audience, check out this article!
5. Find a free dropshipping supplier
The next step is to find a dropshipping supplier you'll purchase your products from.
But before you do so, make sure to learn how you can spot a good supplier.
Here's an infographic to help you:
Let's look at some of the best free dropshipping suppliers out there now!
We've made an overview of them in the table below.
By clicking on ‘Read Review,' a new tab will appear where you can read our review of that supplier, including things like their pros and cons!
|Supplier||Primary Location||Pricing||Read Review|
|01Supply||Worldwide||$0 to $99 per month||01Supply Review|
|Modalyst||US/EU||$0 to $90 per month||Modalyst Review|
|Spocket||US/EU||$0 to $99 per month||Spocket Review|
If you are especially interested in suppliers that are located in a specific region, you can find them here:
- Best suppliers in Canada
- Best suppliers in the United States
- Best suppliers in Europe
- Best suppliers in the United Kingdom
- Best suppliers in China
- Best suppliers in Australia
- Best suppliers in New Zealand
However, be aware that the suppliers in these lists may not be free!
6. Design and brand your dropshipping store
Have you signed up for an ecommerce platform?
Now, it's time to design and brand your dropshipping store.
One of the first things to do is think of a name for your store.
When doing so, it's important to pick a unique, short, and memorable name related to your niche.
Tip: Check out this article for ten tips on choosing the perfect name for your online store!
Next up, it's time to design and build your dropshipping store.
Make sure to spend some effort on this. You don't want to give your visitors the impression that you created your entire store in just a few days!
Also, don't forget to get your store's free business email address.
While building your store, it's a good idea to take some inspiration from some of the best players in the industry.
You can find some great inspiration here:
- 23 Most Successful Shopify Dropshipping Store Examples
- The 13 Best Dropshipping Store Examples in the UK (2023)
- 12 Branded Dropshipping Store Examples (Inspiration in 2023)
7. Set up your payment gateways
Keep going; you are almost there!
One of the last steps of starting a dropshipping store is setting up your payment gateways.
Once this step is finished, you can start focusing on getting your first few orders!
A payment gateway enables a customer to buy something from your online store on your checkout page (for example, via a credit card). It handles all money transactions for an online store.
There are multiple payment gateways out there that you could use for your store. When picking one, it's important to consider the following:
- Does it work with the country and currency of your target audience?
- What are the transaction fees?
- How is the customer service?
Don't forget that you can combine multiple payment gateways to offer your customers multiple payment options.
Wondering about the best payment gateway for your dropshipping store?
Check out an overview of them here:
|Payment gateway||Price rating||Read Review|
|Shopify Payments||Cheap||Shopify Payments Review|
|Amazon Pay||Expensive||Amazon Pay Review|
|Google Pay||Cheap||Google Pay Review|
|Apple Pay||Cheap||Apple Pay Review|
The best way to pick a payment gateway is by going through the following steps:
- Find out which countries you would like to sell to and the most popular payment methods in those countries.
- If possible, pick some of the more popular payment gateways like Shopify Payments or PayPal.
- If you have trouble with those, you can always try and test some of the smaller ones.
And remember that payment gateways will always charge a transaction fee for their service. However, this fee only occurs when you've made a sale.
So, just consider it in your profit margin calculation, and you will be good!
Note: Don't forget that it's often also possible to accept Bitcoin and other cryptos on your dropshipping store. You can check out this article for more details.
8. Promote your store with free marketing methods
A dropshipping store is nothing without proper marketing strategies.
Without marketing, shoppers simply will not find you.
There are 12-24 million online stores in the world, but only around 650,000 of them generate more than $1,000 in annual sales.Source
Luckily, there are free strategies you can use to attract visitors to your dropshipping store.
Just keep in mind that these free traffic tactics will take time and consistency. Don’t expect to start today and see traffic tomorrow already!
Here is a list of some free marketing methods you can try:
- Search engine optimization (SEO). Build a blog on your dropshipping store or optimize your store for search engines! (More info here.)
- Instagram/Facebook. Build an organic Instagram or Facebook page, advertise your store in Facebook Groups or sell on the Facebook Marketplace.
- Pinterest. Advertise your dropshipping store by posting content on a Pinterest account! (More info here.)
At last, if you do want to invest some money into marketing (we recommend it), here is a nice infographic that can help you choose the marketing method that fits you:
5 Tips to start dropshipping for free in 2023!
We hope you now better understand how to start a dropshipping store for free.
But we have some more excellent tips for you below!
Let's check them out:
1. You can start for free, but you need money sooner or later
This article guides you on starting dropshipping for free, but please note that you will need to spend money sooner or later.
Starting a dropshipping store is the same as creating a real business.
Yes, it's a lot cheaper to start in comparison to opening a retail store, and the taxes might be different if you're just starting, but you're still starting a real business! (More information about dropshipping taxes here)
This means that, sooner or later, you will need to spend money to make money.
We know that many so-called ‘gurus' (more about these ‘gurus' below) talk about quickly starting a dropshipping business with zero investment, but it is simply not true.
And if it's true, then it's almost not possible for a beginner.
You will need to learn so many new things like dropshipping, creating ads, deciding which apps to start with, and ecommerce in general.
And you will probably make a lot of mistakes, which will cost you money.
But that's great!
It's great to make mistakes.
Just take a look at this amazing quote:
I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.Neil Gaiman
We're sorry if that just burst your whole dream.
If you want to learn more about the costs of running a dropshipping store, we suggest reading the article below:
2. You can pay just $1 per month for your first three months on Shopify
This tip is for people that want to get their dropshipping store online with the help of the Shopify ecommerce platform:
With this great offer from Shopify, you will get a 3-day free trial + pay only $1/month for the first 3 months.
This means you can enjoy your trial for 93 days; the only downside is that it will cost you $3 in total ($1 per month).
However, that’s a lot less money than the normal $39/month price!
Also, a great benefit of this $1 plan is that you can start selling! (Normally, with the trial, the checkout is disabled, but that’s not the case for this deal)
Tip: Not sure yet about this Shopify deal? Check out our Shopify $1 per Month for 3 Months deal page here!
3. Prepare, prepare, and prepare!
Yes, you read that right haha!
Definitely, if you want to go with Shopify, then it's great if you prepared the things that we'll cover below!
This way, you won't pay Shopify anything extra while you're still preparing everything for your dropshipping store.
And it's not only if you're on an ecommerce platform like Shopify, but it's also true if you're hosting your dropshipping store yourself with, for example, WooCommerce.
Hosting yourself will cost you more money upfront (you will pay yearly instead of monthly), but it will most likely save you money in the end.
So it's great that you prepared these things before paying your yearly bill for your host!
So, what can you prepare before opening your dropshipping store?
If you're interested in learning what you can prepare before you open your dropshipping store, then you're in luck!
We wrote another article with ten things that you can do before starting with dropshipping.
If you're interested, then you can click below:
4. Don't spend money to learn dropshipping!
Alright, this is an important one if you want to start dropshipping for free.
Please don't go into this with the mindset that you want to dropship for free, but at the same time purchase a dropshipping course of $500…
Plus, you need to be careful; there are a lot of ‘internet gurus' out there claiming you will be rich the next day (or very soon) if you purchase their course and follow them step-by-step.
Maybe you've seen them before; they are mostly found on YouTube.
The only goal that these gurus have is to sell you something, like a course. And trust me; many people purchase these courses. You can learn more about these ‘gurus' here.
The thing is that you can learn so much about dropshipping, ecommerce, digital marketing, and so on; for free!
Just take a look at this article:
You can get so much information from that already, and you didn’t have to pay for anything.
Well, okay, maybe your internet connection!
5. You can advertise your dropshipping products for free
Alright, this is an amazing one as well.
There are many options that will help you keep your marketing spend at $0.
Just keep in mind that these free traffic tactics will take time and consistency. Don't expect to start today with trying to get free traffic, and then expect free traffic tomorrow already!
If you're interested in learning more about getting free traffic to your dropshipping store, then we suggest reading any of the articles below:
- SEO for Dropshipping Stores: 7 Ways to Increase Your Organic Traffic
- 8 Amazing Ways to Get Free Traffic to Your Dropshipping Store in 2023
Before we go to the conclusion, we’ve created a quick summary of this article for you, so you can easily remember it:
- It is possible to start a dropshipping store for free, but you must make some concessions.
- Remember that you're starting a real business. So, you will have to invest your money in it sooner or later!
- CJdropshipping and 01Supply are great examples of free dropshipping suppliers.
- If you don't like Shopify's free trial offer, you can check out the ecommerce platforms Ecwid or Shift4Shop.
You made it to the end! Congratulations!
We hope that our guide will help you to start with dropshipping for free.
It's wise to learn a lot now about dropshipping, creating videos, ecommerce in general, and so on, and to earn more money in the meantime via your job!
Plus, keep in mind that learning more about digital marketing is important as well.
If you're wondering how fast you can earn money with dropshipping, you can check out this great article here.
And if you have any other tips to start dropshipping for free or have any questions regarding dropshipping, let us know by commenting below!
We wish you the best if you're going to start with dropshipping now!
Want to learn more about dropshipping?
Ready to move your dropshipping store to the next level? Check out the articles below: