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Blog / Beginner's handbook / 10 Things to Know Before Starting a Dropshipping Side Hustle

Beginner's handbook

Unboxing the Dropshipping Side Hustle: 10 Things to Know Before Diving In

Unboxing the Dropshipping Side Hustle: 10 Things to Know Before Diving In
Jana Magonova

By Jana Magonova

12 min read

The ecommerce world is vast, with dropshipping emerging as a compelling side gig. But is dropshipping worth it, and is it truly a path to making money?

The dropshipping road is filled with hurdles: fierce competition, varying profit margins, and the quest for trusty suppliers. Beyond these, it demands a range of skills from website design to ad mastery, making it a robust ecommerce business to delve into.

Despite these challenges, the idea of launching your own online store with little initial investment is tempting. And for those aiming for a smoother ride in this side hustle, print-on-demand companies like Printful provide a valuable service, facilitating higher profit margins through branded dropshipping.

Let’s dive deep to unravel the world of dropshipping, from its challenges to its rewards, and determine if it’s the right side hustle for you.

Is dropshipping a good side hustle?

Dropshipping can be an attractive side gig, particularly for those looking to start an ecommerce business with minimal upfront capital. It’s enticing because it allows you to sell products without investing and maintaining your own inventory. 

However, its low-risk nature also means it’s a highly competitive business model. Success hinges on choosing the right dropshipping niches carefully, crafting a unique online store, and executing effective marketing strategies to stand out in the ecommerce landscape.

Challenges of dropshipping as a side hustle

Embarking on a dropshipping side hustle, especially in today’s crowded ecommerce space, means navigating a minefield of challenges. As you strive to earn money through this venture, you quickly realize the intricacies of an ecommerce business. 

Identifying the right products to sell requires careful planning and careful market research. Not every side hustle guarantees easy fortune; the dropshipping business, with its myriad nuances, is a testament to this fact.

a laptop with a sale sign on the screen

Source: Freepik

Intense competition

Many entrepreneurs gravitate towards dropshipping because it seems like an easy way to earn money. That has led to a saturated market, where countless online sellers compete for the attention of potential customers. 

As many people start dropshipping in hopes of it being a profitable side hustle, standing out requires not only unique dropshipping products or niches but also an exceptional marketing strategy to cut through the noise. With so many vying to make money from this model, differentiation becomes crucial.

Low profit margins

One of the initial draws to start your own online store is no upfront capital spent on inventory. However, while this might seem like a pathway to a good profit margin, the reality is that dropshipping often comes with low profits. 

Since you’re not purchasing your own inventory in bulk or manufacturing your own goods, you’re reliant on third-party suppliers. This can limit your control over pricing, making it a challenge to compete with the low prices set by larger retailers or those with direct manufacturer connections.

It’s a little easier to enter the market with lower prices. But that can often mean slimmer profits. Unless you offer a truly unique product, it will be quite challenging to sell items with prices above the market average.

Finding a reliable supplier

It’s often said that when you start dropshipping, your side hustle is only as good as your supplier. The quest for a trustworthy, consistent, and quality-focused partner is daunting. 

Challenges range from product quality discrepancies to slow shipping times, which can hurt your brand’s reputation. As you strive to make money, these inconsistencies can play a huge role in your profit margins. 

Thorough product research and vetting are crucial, but even then, uncertainties around money and quality remain. Before selling a product to your customers, test it for yourself to be sure of the quality you offer.

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High advertising costs

With the competition so fierce and every entrepreneur eager to make money from their side hustle, mere word-of-mouth marketing won’t suffice. To carve out a space for your brand and drive traffic to your dropshipping store, you need an advertising budget. 

From social media ads to search engine marketing, there’s an initial investment required to bring your products to the right audience. For those starting a dropshipping store, the initial monetary push is essential for long-term gains.

a person writing on a notebook

Source: Freepik

Additional skills required

Jumping into the dropshipping side hustle isn’t just about the vision to make money. It’s a multifaceted venture demanding a multitude of skills. From website design and search engine optimization to ad campaign creation and customer service, there’s a lot on one’s plate. 

For many, there’s a steep learning curve, requiring time and often additional resources to master these skills, further emphasizing the need for dedication in this side hustle. Sure, if you have extra money, you can hire professional help like designers and social media managers. But if you’re just starting out, you may not be able to splurge on that, so you’ll have to gain new skills yourself. 

Handling customer service

The reality of dropshipping is that when issues arise, such as product defects or shipping delays, the customer sees you, not the supplier. As you work hard to make money and maintain a good profit margin, these challenges can be a setback. 

This means your ecommerce business will bear the brunt of customer frustrations, requiring adept customer service skills and strategies to maintain brand trust and reputation. It’s not just about starting a great side hustle; it’s about sustaining it in a world where every money decision impacts customer loyalty.

Branded dropshipping: the best way to start a dropshipping side hustle

Aspiring online retailers looking for innovative ways to sell products may find branded dropshipping a smart alternative to traditional approaches. But to succeed in your side hustle, you need to thoroughly research different dropshipping business ideas that you’d like to try.

What is branded dropshipping?

In essence, branded dropshipping turns the usual concept of dropshipping on its head. Instead of selling items that are generic and easily accessible to other sellers, branded dropshipping is about creating your own brand and with that—branded products.

Here, the emphasis is on making a bespoke product or clothing line, usually accompanied by custom designs or tweaks, all bundled under your own brand. 

For those eager to step up their side hustle, branded dropshipping presents a tempting opportunity.

Advantages of a branded dropshipping business

Diving into the world of branded dropshipping has many benefits for those eager to elevate their ecommerce business. 

Not only does it promise eye-catching products and the potential for good earnings, but it also empowers entrepreneurs with unmatched control over their store’s brand identity.

Unique product = lower competition

With branded dropshipping, your pieces aren’t just unique; they become an embodiment of your brand. And it’s not about the product being a rare find—it’s the way you customize it that can be the greatest selling point.

This uniqueness mitigates direct competition, allowing your business to flourish without being lost in a sea of the same products and generic offerings.

More control over your brand

When you embark on the journey of selling items under your brand, you have more power. This isn’t just about the product; it’s about building a story, a narrative that resonates. 

Customers, upon purchasing, aren’t just buying an item; they’re buying into your brand. This control extends to crafting tailored marketing strategies, laser-focused on reaching your ideal audience and amplifying your side hustle to greater heights.

Higher profit margins

Because the competition is so stiff, generic products often get trapped in a price war, leading to thin profit margins. But by selling products under your well-crafted brand, you can change the pricing narrative. 

Buyers often appreciate the originality and are prepared to pay a premium for branded items, ensuring healthier profit margins and a more sustainable business model for your side hustle.

Enhanced customer loyalty

Every brand aspires to build a legion of loyal customers, and with branded dropshipping, this becomes a tangible reality. When customers love what they buy, they don’t just remember the product; they remember the brand behind it. 

This loyalty, built brick by brick, translates into repeat business, word-of-mouth referrals, and an influential online presence. In the dynamic world of selling products online, where customer retention becomes the key to success, this advantage of branded dropshipping is priceless.

Read more: Private Label Dropshipping: What It Is and What to Sell to Succeed

The appeal of dropshipping as the ultimate side hustle

In today’s digital age, the idea of a side hustle has shifted dramatically. For many, it isn’t just about earning a little extra money on the side. It’s about building your business empire. 

Among the countless online ventures available, establishing a dropshipping store stands out as a feasible route for many. But why is this business model catching so many eyes?

Dropshipping and the entrepreneurial dream

The allure of starting your own business lies in the promise of autonomy and unlimited earning potential. A dropshipping store embodies this dream perfectly. With the flexibility to start selling without the heavy burdens of upfront investment, inventory, and logistics, many budding entrepreneurs view it as a great side hustle. They envision a streamlined business process: customer orders come in, suppliers fulfill these orders, and money flows into their bank accounts.

Moreover, the print-on-demand variation of dropshipping amplifies this appeal. It provides an opportunity to sell bespoke items, reducing the competition and offering more potential to make money. 

The process is straightforward: upon receiving a customer order, the product gets fulfilled, packed, and shipped. No more worrying about overstocked inventory or wasted resources.

a laptop with a graph on the screen

Source: Unsplash

Balancing profit margins in dropshipping

The road to building a successful dropshipping empire isn’t easy. One primary concern is the balancing act between high and low profit margins. On one end, the lure of large profits pushes entrepreneurs to find original products and market them effectively. On the other, the reality of an often low profit margin due to fierce competition and supplier prices is ever-looming.

For those wanting to start a branded dropshipping business, it’s crucial to understand that, while it’s a promising side hustle, it’s not a guaranteed gold mine. The business landscape is dynamic, and the money you earn is directly proportional to the strategies you implement and the diligence with which you work.

Turning challenges into opportunities

A well-curated dropshipping store that caters to a specific niche, combined with effective marketing strategies, can put you ahead of the competition.

As more people recognize the potential of this model, the race intensifies. However, those who are diligent, adapt to market changes, and prioritize customer satisfaction can turn their dropshipping side hustle into a thriving and profitable online empire.

For new or seasoned ecommerce business owners, platforms like Printful have made the journey smoother. With their integrated print-on-demand services, they remove a significant chunk of operational challenges. This allows entrepreneurs to focus on what they do best: marketing their products and scaling their businesses.

printful homepage

Source: Printful


Starting a dropshipping side hustle with Printful: a step-by-step guide

Creating an online store can seem intimidating, but Printful helps to streamline the process, making it easier for entrepreneurs to dive into the dropshipping business. 

Let’s break down the steps to kickstart your venture with Printful.

Research and choose your niche

Before launching your business, conduct thorough product research. This helps ensure you select dropshipping niches that not only align with your interests but also have the potential for good profit margins.

Sign up with Printful

Start your dropshipping journey by setting up a free Printful account. It’s an easy-to-start process that takes mere minutes and offers a seamless interface to manage your online business.

Design your products

Explore Printful’s extensive product catalog and choose products that’ll fit your chosen niche best. 

Whether you’re thinking of making money by starting a clothing line with unique t-shirts or want to create a cozy home goods product collection, Printful provides all the tools to bring your vision to life.

Integrate Printful with your online store

Connect your existing ecommerce platform to Printful. Whether you’re using Shopify, WooCommerce, your social media account, or another ecommerce platform or marketplace, Printful offers seamless integration that makes it simple to start selling online. 

If you don’t have an ecommerce store yet, explore different platforms and marketplaces that can be easily integrated with Printful.

Learn more: Etsy Dropshipping: What’s Allowed in 2024?

Set your pricing

Research competitors in your region to see how they price the same products you’re interested in selling. That way you can set your pricing accordingly.

For example, if you want to sell branded dropshipping products with a high profit margin, you can start with stickers

Launch and market your store

With your online store stocked and ready, it’s time to attract potential customers. This might require an advertising budget, especially if you’re diving into social media ads or search engine marketing.

However, if you don’t yet have extra money to spend on advertising, use social media like TikTok and Instagram to showcase your products with videos and photos. Use trending sounds and hashtags that might help to boost your content.

Manage orders and customer service

Once customer orders start rolling in, Printful automates the fulfillment process. That means Printful will fulfill and ship your products to your customers under your brand.

Ensure you’re proactive in addressing customer queries and concerns, as this goes a long way in building your brand’s reputation. Engage with customers on social media—answer their questions and comments to show the human side of your brand.

Continuously update and adapt your catalog

The world of online retail is dynamic. Regularly review and update your products, marketing strategies, and customer engagement techniques to stay trendy and ahead of your competition.

Since you don’t need money to start selling Printful products, you can also experiment with your offering. Simply design and add new products to your store and see if your customers will buy them. 

Offering new items works in your favor—you can launch custom designs and limited edition collections that can create a sense of urgency and help you sell more items.

Read also: Crafting Success with Your Complete Dropshipping Checklist

Don’t be afraid to start your side hustle

Diving into the world of ecommerce and making a mark with a dropshipping side hustle can seem like a Herculean task, given the saturated online marketplace. From grappling with fierce competition to the nuances of selecting the right dropshipping products and niches, the journey is intricate. 

Your brand, especially in the branded dropshipping realm, acts as a beacon, drawing customers towards a distinct and memorable shopping experience. Platforms like Printful can simplify the venture, enabling you to focus on marketing, customer service, and continuously adapting to the ever-evolving ecommerce landscape.

Remember, the goal is not just to start an online business but to cultivate one that thrives, stands out, and creates loyal customers. With the right strategies and tools in place, dropshipping can be a rewarding side hustle, offering financial gains and a sense of accomplishment.

The most important thing is to have the courage to try and experiment. Because every success story starts with a simple idea. Will yours?

Read also: What Is Dropshipping? The Ultimate Guide

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By Jana Magonova on Nov. 26, 2023

Jana Magonova

Senior Content Writer

Jana is a Senior Content Writer at Printful with a background in creative writing and content marketing. She draws inspiration from all things creative and has a deep love for all things written, be it a book, a script, a quote, or a joke.

Jana is a Senior Content Writer at Printful with a background in creative writing and content marketing. She draws inspiration from all things creative and has a deep love for all things written, be it a book, a script, a quote, or a joke.