So many people are asking how they can make money online and how to get started. I personally started as a freelance translator and then made the step into dropshipping. Would I say it is a good business model for digital nomads, though?
Yes, it is. It takes some time to set up and get it running but I believe it’s an excellent income source for digital nomads. The main reason is that you can do this from anywhere in the world. But there are more benefits and only a few disadvantages.
Many people suggest blogging/content websites, cryptocurrency, freelancing, selling own products and so on. These may work as well but most of them take a long time to make money off of it. If you need a somewhat faster cash flow, I suggest you look into dropshipping.
What is dropshipping?
Maybe you have never heard of dropshipping, which wouldn’t surprise me at all.
You create an online store and sell products from manufacturers or importers. No warehouse, no manufacturing or stocking, no shipping. You basically do the marketing of products for manufacturers. This way they don’t have to deal with the selling part and you don’t have to deal with the manufacturing part. It’s like teamwork.
Why do I think that dropshipping is great for digital nomads?
You’re probably still asking yourself why I would promote this on my website. My husband and I own a dropshipping store and had another one that we sold. I’d say we are pretty successful in it. My husband did nothing else than dropshipping since we started our DN life in 2016. I jumped on the train in 2017.
So, what are the reasons?
Not trading time for money
One of the biggest issues with digital nomad newbies and making money online is that they trade time for little money. They start freelancing as a teacher, VA, translator, writer, and other things. This often comes with an hourly or per-word wage and can get stressful quickly because most newbies won’t get much $$ for their work until they have a proper portfolio.
With dropshipping, on the other hand, you can make money in your sleep or while you are enjoying a coffee at the Mediterranean coast. Of course, this is after you put in work that doesn’t get paid. Once you have a bunch of products online and your ads are running, this is very likely to happen. I remember so many situations when this happened to us. Sometimes we would wake up and see the Shopify notification on our phone. When we did the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, we had 4 big sales with 11.5K in revenue. That’s a really nice feeling!
For a real-life experience, let me give you more insight into my background story.
This way you’ll see that picking the right business model is crucial to being a successful digital nomad.
When I freelanced, I had to work every single day and I made an average of US$ 700. I worked at least 40 hours a week and could barely afford my expenses. I was living from paycheck to paycheck. Although 700 bucks go a long way in South-East-Asian countries, I sometimes had to ask my (now) husband for money because I haven’t had enough to cover my bills. It stressed me to the max. After a couple of months of freelancing – 10 to be exact – I was burned out.
This is when I got into dropshipping. I knew it’s a better way of making money but I couldn’t dare the step on my own. My husband’s shop was starting to bring more and more money. He started the business in the fall of 2016. At the beginning of 2018, I joined him and the sales grew exponentially ever since – more traffic, more sales, more happy customers & a better life for us.
Before he “hired” me, we started an AliExpress store that failed. Shortly after that, we started another dropshipping store together. We made it profitable in the 2nd month already – wow! This was the success I was longing for. It showed me that it is indeed possible. After 2 more months, we realized that we have to do a lot of customer service after the products were delivered. So we sold the store. We didn’t want two customer service intensive stores at the same time.
My husband does customer service, orders (including contacts with suppliers), books, and managing the ads team we hired. He works between 5 min to 4 hours per day. I am doing background stuff like SEO, managing our VA, reviewing her work, scheduling blog posts, and so on. I do that within 6-10 hours per week now. Up until September in 2018, it was more like 4-8 hours per day. The shop is bringing in way more than I had with the freelancing jobs and I don’t work as many hours anymore.
I am no more trading my time for money.
Be your own boss
I think I am not a good “employee” and as a freelancer, you are basically an employee, even though you are “free”. I always struggled with authoritative persons and hierarchy in businesses. Now, I am equal with my partner, run my own business (this blog) and don’t have to listen to bossy figures, who don’t know what they are talking about. I could NOT go back into the normal job where people tell me what to do and where they can’t teamwork properly.
If you are the same type of person, you may start running your own dropshipping business.
Relatively easy and quick to set up
It’s not as complicated as it may sound. It is fairly easy to set up with Shopify. After the initial set-up, you just have to optimize, scale, add more products, and do customer service.
Let’s say you can dedicate around 40 hours a week. It will take you a few weeks or a month to build the website, get your first suppliers, upload the first products, set up ads, and make your first revenue. Of course, with freelancing, you’ll make money quicker, maybe. However, you might get paid later or you’ll only find bad gigs at the beginning, which may only pay $5 an hour.
Dropshipping will not pay you out right from the beginning and you may have to invest money. You’ll earn more and more a few months in, though. We had our store at a profitable level in the second month because we worked hard on products (30-50), branding, and we didn’t pay for a company to set up ads for us. So, we didn’t invest much except for our time.
You can do this remotely
An online store doesn’t have the ties to a physical location. So, you can run your shop from anywhere. With Google Voice and Skype, you can take/make calls from anywhere around the world.
Easy payments and payouts
You can use Paypal for payments if you don’t have a credit card. However, a credit card makes it easier because you can deliver the product quicker, which will make customers happier.
Downsides of dropshipping as a digital nomad
Honestly, there are only 2 downsides, which may not bother you at all.
If your store is based in the US and you are in Europe or Asia, you may have to stay up all night for customer service. This is actually the major reason why we are thinking about selling the store. We have such high-ticket items (averagely 4-15K) that people want to make sure that we are real. So, we get many calls. We also recently had issues with a scam company that set up our phone number as a redirect. So, we are getting 2-6 calls a day from people who aren’t even interested in our store…
However, if you don’t go that high in product prices, you’ll likely don’t have as many calls as we have. Probably just once or twice a week.
You always need good WiFi
If you have to make calls, you need a reliable good WiFi connection at all times. This can be quite challenging in some areas of the globe.
High-ticket items are the way to go
We sell high-ticket items (US$ 1,000-20,000). You need fewer sales per months to make a living. Fewer sales also mean less work in placing orders. When we did the Facebook AliExpress business, we sold products for below $50. We had to place so many orders and it was just terrible, in my point of view. Every sale made a few cents or dollars. With our current store, every sale makes hundreds and thousands of dollars in profit. That’s definitely a nicer option!
And think about it: Whether it’s a $5 item or a $10,000 item, they both take the same time to create the perfect product page. So you might as well put that precious time into selling the more expensive products in order to convert more profit.
What you need to get started
Dropshipping is not for everyone, but you don’t necessarily need knowledge in sales and marketing. You can learn those things on the way. It’s not a science. It’s relatively simple.
If you start at 0 (no skills in shop design, ads, and social media), I would suggest taking a course.
There are tons of courses out there to get started. Quick hint: They are pretty damn expensive. There are also some mean scammers out there. I honestly can recommend Ernest Epps (here is the FB group), he is a great tutor and very successful with his stores. In my point of view, he is not bragging as much as others are and he actually owns stores. So he can give you great advice! Dropship Lifestyle also has a great program. My husband learned everything from them and never regretted paying for the course.
There are probably a lot of free sources too, but the problem is that you have to find all the gold nuggets in the Mount Everest of fools gold. Some resources are just very poor and won’t bring you in the right direction. So, it’s better to get advice from honest people and pay for education.