You may have heard me say that anyone can start a business, no matter how little start-up capital you have. Many may start with yard sale sourcing and flipping vintage items on eBay, but this requires storage of inventory. Chances are, the fact that FBA requires zero inventory storage is what attracted you to Amazon in the first place. What if I told you that I started with zero dollars? What if I told you I started without storing inventory? I started by drop-shipping. Drop shipping is when you find a supplier who is willing to ship to your customer for you without their branding on the packaging or paperwork. Some will even include your company’s info on the invoice packing slip! It really makes it a great alternative to FBA, or just a way to earn the money to start up with FBA. It’s definitely friendly to the RV lifestyle!
Before I move on, I’d like to clarify one thing. There are some out there who will list items available from other retailers like Amazon and Wal-Mart on eBay for sale at a profit and go buy it from the retailer and send it to the customer when it sells with a gift receipt so the customer doesn’t know how much they paid. This is NOT drop shipping. I’m ashamed to say I did get wrapped up in this scheme for a short time before I understood policies and good customer experience. Let me tell you, this is NOT the way to go. True drop shipping will be willingly provided by the supplier and will not have branded markings on the customer package. Also, I do not recommend drop shipping as a method of selling on Amazon. This is a strategy best suited for eBay. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s carry on.
When I started out, I found a supplier in China who was willing to drop ship for me. I would choose one of their products, list it on eBay for a higher price than what I was paying for it, and when it sold, I would tell the supplier where to ship it for me. I continued this way until I had enough money to actually invest in some inventory. Doing it this way was not ideal, of course. The product was coming from China, so my customers wouldn’t get the product until 20+ days after they ordered. I tried to compensate for this by setting my delivery times to 30 days, but it still sometimes made for unhappy customers. While this avenue will still work today if that’s the way you want to go, it’s obviously not ideal if you can avoid it.
Luckily, there are easier ways to go about it. There are plenty of drop shippers located in the United States that will ship to your customers quickly and discretely. Salehoo offers a directory, which is a good way to start finding these type of suppliers. Every supplier on their directory isn’t a drop shipper though. Some are wholesale suppliers only. The directory menu makes it easy to find either. Just select which one you’re looking for:
There are over 8,000 suppliers in the directory, so you’re gonna have to take full advantage of this menu to find the ones you’re looking for. You will need to set up an account with each individual supplier once you find them, but these suppliers have easy, if not instant, approval. Some do require a sales tax license, so if you don’t have one, you’ll want to indicate that in the selection menu.
Unlike sourcing directly from China, SaleHoo has a guarantee that all the suppliers in their directory are legitimate, selling legitimate branded products. This may be a good chance for you to find that supplier you need to get ungated! They have wholesalers, dropshippers, direct-manufacturers and liquidators, so you may even find a regular supplier of inventory, although I think it’s easier to find a dropshipper for eBay than a wholesale supplier for Amazon from this directory.
Now, don’t expect to find huge margins with this technique. Don’t be surprised when most of the products you find are only a few dollars profit after eBay and PayPal fees. These are otherwise wholesale suppliers that are basically shipping as though they were selling retail. They simply cut the price just enough for you to be able to make some money finding their customers for them. This is a numbers game. Profit is made in quantity. The best thing to do is to spend all the time you can finding and listing product for two months. They actually have a 60-day guarantee. If you aren’t happy with it after that time, you can request your money back. You may also find you are able to ask more money for a product on another venue such as Bonanza.
In another part of the directory, they have what they call the Research Lab. That’s a fancy name for “eBay Tracker”. They will tell you what is selling best on eBay, an average sales price for it, and the sale through rate. It also tells you how much competition there is and what suppliers you can you to source the same product. This list of products is sortable by price, sale through rate, product category, and competition, so it does make it easy to find a product with minimal effort. Notice I said “minimal” not “no” effort. Just as with anything, all of these aren’t winners and you will have to take some time sorting through them.
This is a look at the info you can get when you click on the product (hazed out suppliers to protect the product). You can get an idea of what kind of information is given:
They have a training program, too. If you’re not sure how to take these suppliers, list their products with compelling sales copy, and manage customer service, you may be interested in it. I do not teach eBay in the Road to Freedom membership community, so their Online Selling Tactics is a good place to start. The course is split into 7 modules, featuring over-the-shoulder videos that take you through step-by-step the strategies you can use to get your business off the ground quickly. In particular, I was extremely impressed by the post-sale marketing strategies. It even comes complete with email templates. I found them fairly effective at capturing repeat buyers. Maybe if there’s enough interest, I’ll add those types of training to the Road to Freedom. Comment below this article if it’s something you’d like to see. For now, the Online Selling Tactics course is a good resource.
Of course, when I took the Online Selling Tactics course, I already had an online store that was making sales – but if you’re reading this article, you probably don’t. Online Selling Tactics doesn’t leave you out in the cold. It has 3 bonus lessons aimed at getting beginners up to speed. If you’re new, just start off with those, then you can move into the meat of the course, which is the powerful methods and strategies. They are simple to implement, but have a dramatic effect on customer retention and the results you achieve.
The Online Selling Tactics course also comes with a 60-day money back guarantee. Two months is plenty of time to make it through the training and start making money. If you aren’t happy with the results, you can request a refund. I believe if you put forth the effort that this needs, you will be very happy with the profits you see.
Now, after you’ve done this technique for a while, you’ll want to move off eBay. You’ll either want to move into Amazon FBA, or start your own independent store. This is a good way of cutting out the middle man and possibly making more money. You can build your own eCommerce store with no technical know-how at all. This will cut out all the competition from other eBay sellers and save you money on eBay fees. This is probably not a solution you want to choose if you’re first starting out, but when you’re ready for it, they provide three different levels of plans. The middle level includes access to the directory, so if you want to start there, you’ll start with instant access.
Now, keep in mind that when you go off eBay and on to your own site, you’ll have to find your own way to generate traffic to your site. This is not for the beginner. You can’t just stick up a website and expect people to find it. It’s just not that easy. They do provide some training on how to generate traffic, but that is in their highest level plan and I just don’t think you need it. Once you reach the point that you need that kind of plan, you should understand lead generation.
SaleHoo Stores contains everything you need – except for a domain name. You have to buy your own domain, which costs about $10 a year – yes, it really is that cheap. This is a simple process, and if you have any problems, they have excellent customer service to walk you through the process.
Now, if you’re more technically-minded and have some extra time on your hands, you can always build your own website and not use SaleHoo Stores. This would be a cheaper solution, but it comes with the trade-off of time and technical know-how.
If you have no money to invest into inventory for Amazon sales, true drop shipping is a viable option to raise capital. Always remember when pricing your products to add on enough to the product to cover eBay and PayPal fees. Just starting off, I recommend estimating 17% of your sales price going to fees. Also, make sure you checked the shipping charges of your supplier and have those in your price in some way. You don’t want to get stuck with the bill. If you have $67, the SaleHoo directory is a great place to start. If you have nothing, you can always try your luck with Aliexpress and find a supplier in China to drop-ship for you. It’s a very RV-friendly business model. You may even grow it into a thriving business that makes enough money that you aren’t interested in FBA anymore. Many people have!