Experiencing the Digital Marketplace: My 30-Day Experiment With Dropshipping

Note: I decided to take down my website after concluding the project at the end of December 2020.

For December 2020 I decided to learn Social Media Marketing by creating a dropshipping store on Shopify.

My reason for creating a drop shipping website is that it allows me to touch the four pillars of business: Operations, Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success. I’m a generalist and love having my hand in each part of a business to understand how each piece works alone and in correlation with each other.

This page is my project homepage. I’ll link to my website, articles, social media accounts, and anything else I found inspiring or important.

Additional material

Check out my Store!

My website’s homepage

Why I did this project…

To learn how businesses begin

There isn’t an aspect of business that doesn’t spark my interest. Creating a dropshipping company allows me to touch on each part of business whether it be marketing, operations, customer success, or sales.

To show my writing/teaching skills by documenting what I did

I know I’m a good writer and I enjoy doing it. I’m not one who journals or reflects on what I’ve done so this project allows me to showcase my writing abilities but also forces me to document each day’s accomplishments and experiences.

To introduce myself to a new sector of business that I’m unacquainted with

Prior to this project, I had no experience with dropshipping nor setting up my own shop. I did know about wholesale but always thought only large companies did it. Upfront costs in wholesale, or business in general, can be overwhelming so learning about a newer less expensive option seemed enticing.

What I would have done differently

Time and task management are key

This project taught me many lessons. The first is to have a realistic timeframe and commit to hitting that timeframe. Initially, I took too much time figuring out what I wanted to sell. Whenever I thought I finished a task, I’d come back the next day or two and find out that it didn’t go through or wasn’t published.

Don’t skim rules, they’ll come back to bite you

Setting up a Facebook page that sells products can be a headache. They have many rules I was unaware of such as not allowing tobacco products on Facebook ads. I did not try to sell any tobacco or nicotine products but I had a Tobacco scented candle in one of my ads. This prevented the ad from being published.

Set your foundation before starting your additions

Focus on creating the website first then focus on creating social media accounts and a professional email. I got caught up doing too much at the beginning so many of the additions to the website didn’t work well with one another. In other words, I began my outreach before I had my store. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day!

Pass or fail, take the time to document what you did

Document each misstep and headache rather than powering through them. I found myself identifying problems and finding solutions quickly but I didn’t write down all the problems I endured nor how I solved them. This is extremely important because it helps prevent the same problem from happening again.

In my case, Facebook seemed finicky. Sometimes campaigns would submit but be taken down or I wouldn’t be registered as the business admin. Despite being a pain in the butt, I’d still recommend using Facebook Ads. It has a large audience and is easy to use. Just be sure to read the rules and follow up the next day!

If you need to make a change, just do it

Though I didn’t have a problem doing the work, I had a hard time keeping up on all the subtasks for each of my goals. I’d encounter a problem and either fix it right away or decide to come back to it the next day (if I was near the end of my allotted work time). I changed my task management system from Trello to using Google Sheets because Trello took too much time creating cards or scrolling to the right to see what I need to do and what I accomplished.

Be frugal but not cheap

Finally, I decided to end my project a little early because the time period for my free trial ran up. I chose the longest trial but found it too short considering all the hiccups I encountered. I knew I would have headaches with this project and the challenge and depth of the project are why I undertook it but it seemed like each day something new would arise or a function would stop working (make sure your website cookies are deleted if you want to ensure your pop-up subscription window is operational).

Should the right opportunity arise, I’d definitely create a dropshipping store again. I’d still utilize Shopify but I’d create and buy a custom domain. So rather than going to a [store-name].myshopify.com URL, it’d be a regular domain name like mywebsite.com.

What I’ve accomplished in 30 days

  • Taught myself how to create a Shopify dropshipping store
  • Brainstormed niche ideas and came up with a store brand
  • Researched multiple suppliers and products to import to my store
  • Wrote product copy, imported pictures, made product blog posts, and designed website
  • Created a Facebook business page
  • Ran 1 successive ad campaign for my products and 2 unpublished ad campaigns which helped me gain real experience with FB ads and gave me a way to learn and put my knowledge to use.
  • Created videos and blog posts based on everything I learned.

This month has been one of the busiest yet productive months of my lifetime. The project proved that I can teach myself new skills in a short amount of time, create a detailed plan, and have the focus and determination to execute. It proved that I am a problem solver and also that I have the ambition and will to achieve my goals.

How my goals fared

My original goal was to make 5 sales and receive 10 subscriptions. I didn’t reach either of these metrics but what I did do was reach the purpose of this goal in another way. My goal of making a profit was set to be a clear way of showing perseverance, learning new skills, and quickly identifying and fixing problems. Just because I didn’t make any money or gain subscribers doesn’t mean I didn’t learn anything. Sometimes failure is the best teacher.

My series of blog posts and videos covering everything I learned clearly shows that while I didn’t make a profit I learned so much about digital marketing, e-commerce stores, and operations. I am confident that I have the ability and knowledge to work in an entry-level role.

Problems I faced & how I got over them

Organizing my time

When starting my project there were a lot of things I knew I needed to learn or improve on. My project had 5 individual areas to it (project research, product research, the website, social media pages, Facebook ads, & documentation) and I found it difficult to focus on one area at a time.

I took each area of my project and broke each down into actionable goals for each week. I then broke it down even further into tasks to be completed and scheduled them for specific time slots throughout the week first using Trello but switched to Google Sheets midway because I found it easier to examine what I finished and needed to do.

Trello is a good system but whenever I completed a task, I had to move it to a ‘Finished’ list along with other previous tasks. I liked how Google Sheets allows you to strike through items you completed. They also provide a template which saved me at least an hour of work time. My only advice for people using Sheets for task management is to save a copy of the template in a sheet tab.

Here’s what they looked like.

My initial task management system on Trello
My updated task management system using Google Sheets

I didn’t come up with a concrete coloring system but anything that required revision or editing (either documentation or video documentation) was assigned a light purple/pink color and tasks that were either urgent or had a deadline were assigned a bright red color.

Facebook wouldn’t run my ads

After setting up my first business account and scheduling the first ad campaign I came back to my computer the next day to find Facebook wouldn’t run any ads for various reasons. The first time was because I didn’t have a business email setup.

When I set up my account, I used my personal email account but it was never inputted into Facebook Business Suite.

Next, my products were not ‘verified’. To solve this issue, I went to Shopify and manually had to change the country of origin to the United States on each product (all of their descriptions stated they were American-made). After making these changes, Facebook approved the products for advertising.

Finally, Facebook never ran my final ad campaign because I had the word ‘tobacco’ in one of my product names (a Tobacco and Musk scented candle). Facebook doesn’t allow for tobacco or nicotine products to be advertised on its platform and I guess this includes scented products as well.

Other than that every other problem I faced was solved with Google, the website’s FAQs, or trial & error.

What’s next?

I’ve decided I will be putting my store on hold for two reasons. Firstly, I struggled with feeling a connection to my business. My intention with creating a dropshipping store was not necessarily to create a long-term business but rather to use it as a platform for teaching myself what it takes to start an online store.

I had zero personal connection nor experience with the products I was selling which if I was going to start a long term business, that would be a big problem.

The second reason I decided to discontinue my store is that I simply don’t have the time or budget.

As far as the skills I learned this month I plan on finding a task management tool and organization idea that best suits me and my current living arrangement. I also want to continue to document my work each and every day so that nothing slips through the cracks.

I also plan on using my Facebook ads, automation, and other tool knowledge to good use for my personal business plans and hopefully other business ventures in the future.

My Final Advice

I’ve always believed that just jumping into something is the best way to learn. You’re never going to be fully prepared so the sooner you try the better. Regardless of whether it's a success or a failure, you’re going to learn a lot. This project is a perfect example of that. So why not take a chance and shoot for the moon?

If you want to connect or have any questions, feel free to contact me here.

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