Dropshipping to Supplement Your Design Business or as a Side Hustle

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It is now easier than ever before to sell products online and nearly everyone is doing it. E-commerce is one of the biggest drivers of revenue for modern businesses and the technology behind it continues to improve. The biggest barrier to entry for someone starting out is creating the infrastructure for their supply chain. Managing buying materials from suppliers, managing inventory, and shipping are some of the main considerations that come to mind. However, with dropshipping it is no longer necessary to have your own supply chain. Let someone else do it for you!

What is Dropshipping?

Dropshipping, in its simplest terms, is the process of having someone else produce and ship your products. Of course, this become very enticing to e-commerce shop owners because they do not have to worry about where to store inventory and running to the UPS store to ship products. Every part of the supply chain is offloaded to someone else.

It is important to note that dropshipping providers come in all shapes and sizes. For example, some may require an initial purchase of products to create an inventory reserve that they can ship from. Amazon uses a form of dropshipping where sellers can send their inventory to be managed by Amazon. When a product is ordered from the seller on Amazon’s website the company ships to product through their incredibly fast and efficient distribution channels.

The type of dropshipping I have use the most and that I think will be most useful for other designers is print-on-demand (POD).

Print-on-Demand

Print-on-demand dropshipping is probably the easiest and most hands-off form of selling. Essentially, the seller creates a design and uploads it to the dropshipping portal. They can then apply it to any of the products the service offers, the most common being t-shirts. When a customer orders the product the service prints it and ships it to the customer on your behalf. Easy, right?

This form of dropshipping is great for designers and, when paired with the right service, can open up many doors for you as a seller. All you have to do is create the designs, apply them to your desired products, and start selling.

Get Started

There are several options out there for print-on-demand services. I have used several, but at the time of writing this I use Gooten. They have a wide variety of products and they integrate with Shopify and Etsy. Integrations are the most important part of choosing a print-on-demand service as most do not allow you to sell directly from them and you want to utilize the top platforms on the market for e-commerce.

In your desired service you can pick a product you want to create and upload your design. Then you can place it as desired and some services have advanced editing features. Then you can choose variants (colors, sizes, etc.) of the products you chose. The most important step is to set the pricing. The service will tell you how much the product will cost you to print. Include the shipping cost in that price, unless you are charging the customer for shipping. Once you have this cost you can adjust the selling price anywhere above that to get your profit on the product.

And there you have it, you’ve created your first print-on-demand product! When the product sells the service will print it and ship it to the customer and you will get the profit.

Drawbacks to Consider

There are a few drawbacks to this method that you might have already picked up on. The first being that to your customer it appears they are ordering from you but the package will most likely be from somewhere completely different. There are some services that offer white labeling and premium upgrades to include your branding on the packaging that could help with this.

Another thing to consider is that if people order different products they might ship separately. This is usually not a big deal (Amazon does this sometimes too), but make sure to let your customers know up front before they buy that this may happen. This is not usually the case for different variants, just different products. So, when a customer orders the same shirt in three different colors and five different sizes it is usually shipped as one order.

Also, ship times are usually a bit longer for these services. From what I’ve gathered the average is 7-10 business days, but most services have an option to expedite shipping. However, this usually comes at a wildly outrageous cost. My recommendation is similar to the previous: be up front with your customers about the ship times.

You could solve most of these pain-points by doing a hybrid version of print-on-demand. In this scenario you would create your products through the service and then order in bulk from them to yourself. This would have a lower shipping charge and you would be able to get the products to customers faster than 7-10 business days. You could also have your own custom packaging. Of course this is more hands-on and would negate the time saving capabilities of dropshipping.


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