Someone recently asked me the question Can I dropship without Shopify?”. This got me thinking of all the alternatives to running a profitable dropshipping business – without spending any money upfront.
Don’t get me wrong. I still think that Shopify is the fastest and easiest way to start a dropshipping business.
However, you will need a few hundred dollars to get started. You will need a Basic Shopify plan which is about $30/month.
While that does not sound like much it can quickly add up if you start adding a few apps to that. If you can’t customise a theme you might have to buy a good one or get someone to do some edits for you.
Chances are that you won’t see any profit in your first month. If you are a complete noobie then it can take time to learn the ropes before you start seeing any profit and every month you keep racking up those Shopify bills.
The $30/month may not seem like much if you live in the USA or Europe but in many parts of the world that is a lot of money.
This begs the question: is there a better way to start dropshipping without Shopify?
The answer is most definitely yes! There are a number of ways to learn the ropes of dropshipping without a Shopify store.
There are a few more challenges though because Shopify is so popular and you can find information about anything Shopify related so easily.
There are also so many apps that you can do almost anything without any technical skills whatsoever.
How To Dropship Without Shopify
In order to run a dropshipping business, you need some sort of storefront where customers can buy your products.
You need some sort of platform where you can accept payments and if you don’t use Shopify then you need to find alternative ways to do this.
Ebay is one of the largest online marketplaces and next to Amazon is probably the biggest concentration of buyers online. Ebay has died out a bit in recent years but it still has huge buying power.
Ebay has become a very popular platform to dropship on. They openly allow international sellers to sell to any country and that means that you can dropship to any country from Aliexpress.
While Ebay is not completely free, it is a great way to learn the ins and outs of dropshipping with a very small budget. You basically just need to cover your listing fee which is as little as $0.50. The rest of Ebay’s charges and fees can be covered after you made the sale (no direct expense to you).
???? Benefits of Dropshipping on eBay:
Ebay already has a huge amount of traffic that you can just tap into. One of the hardest parts of running an online store is finding traffic for it. If you have a Shopify store then you will most likely have to go and buy traffic from Facebook Ads or from Goole Ads.
On Ebay, that is all free and that is usually 80% of you budget that would otherwise go to traffic. This means you can quite literally just create great listings and start making sales for free.
You will, of course, need to have some cash to fulfill orders but the risk is very low because you already made the sales.
Ebay is the cheapest way to start a dropshipping business. It is also the easiest way to start making sales because traffic is readily available.
???? Disadvantages of Dropshipping on eBay:
Dropshipping on Ebay is very competitive. You are competing against a lot fo Chinese dropshippers who are selling stuff for peanuts.
Because of this the margins are super thin and you will need to set yourself apart from these Chinese dropshippers if you want to stand a chance.
Ebay requires you to disclose the location of where you are shipping from so if you dropship from China then there is no way around it.
Many buyers in the USA are now reluctant to buy products from Chine and the slow shipping time is but one issue post COVID-19.
Ebay is also ruthless when it comes to refunds. They almost always side with the buyers and if your product quality is not great then you can easily be left out of pocket due to refunds.
Fulfilling a few dozen orders on Ebay will require some ninja organizational skills. You need to keep track of your Ebay orders and the corresponding dropshipping orders from Aliexpress and makse sure you keep your tracking numbers updated.
How to make dropshipping on Ebay work:
Firstly, I would steer clear of Ebay USA. It’s just riddled with problems when you dropship from China. Ebay has a presence in almost every major country and I would suggest you start with your own country if you can.
Knowing your own language and your own market can be a huge advantage and selling on Ebay outside of the USA, Canad and the UK is far less competitive.
If you do want to sell in the USA, Canada and the UK then you need to sort out your fulfillment. Shipping from China simply won’t cut it.
Look at Spocket and source your products from USA suppliers. That way you can offer fast shipping and offer quality products. Sprocket is a great way to automate your dropshipping business on Shopify by using USA suppliers but you can still use it without Shopify.
Etsy is the biggest online marketplace for handmade products. It is very popular in the USA, Canada and the UK and is known for selling quality products.
Etsy has huge buying power and just like Ebay it has its own traffic which allows you to tap into a ready-made marketplace where you can start driving sales by just listing your products.
The problem with dropshipping on Etsy is that you can not sell commercially available products. Everything you sell has to be unique, handmade and/or have some sort of custom element to it.
This negates much of what you can sell from Aliexpress but there are some great dropshipping options.
Using print on demand products is the way to go on Etsy and in my opinion, this is the best way to start dropshipping without Shopify.
I’ve written a more detailed article on Etsy dropshipping and I would encourage you to read that.
If you are selling your own unique products then Etsy is a no-brainer. It is hands down the best marketplace for unique handmade products.
???? Benefits of Dropshipping on Etsy:
The biggest benefit of dropshipping on Etsy is that it gives you access to Etsy’s huge marketplace with millions of buyers. Al you have to do is list your products.
Etsy is not entirely free. There is a $0.20 fee for each listing you put up. So if you list 10 products it will cost you $2. You will also have to pay transaction fees but Etsy deducts that automatically during every transaction.
Another great benefit from dropshipping on Etsy is that you can automate your entire business if you use Printful to fulfill your orders. Unlike Ebay, this makes it virtually “hands free” once you’ve set up your Etsy store.
???? Disadvantages of Dropshipping on Etsy:
Etsy limits you greatly in the type of products you can sell. In terms of dropshipping you really only have 2 options.
The first is to somehow customize products from China. Custom engraving or laser etching is the most popular way to do this.
The second is to use print on demand products through a print provider like Printful. This is the best option in my opinion because they are based in the USA and can quickly ship quality products to your Etsy customers.
The problem with products from China will always be shipping times and Etsy simply won’t tolerate 2-3 weeks shipping. Unless you can find a Chinese supplier who can do express shipping (5-10 days) I would not even attempt it on Etsy.
Etsy can be ruthless and are known for shutting down stores that break their rules.
3. Woocommerce (WordPress)
Woocommerce is probably the best alternative to Shopify. In theory, you can do everything with Woocomerce that you can with Shopify. The only difference is that Woocommerce is free.
Yes, it’s free – for the most part at least. Woocommerce uses the WordPress CMS which is the most widely used platform that almost 60% of all websites on the internet uses.
Setting up a Woocommrce store is not entirely free though. To set up your dropshipping store on Woocommerce you will need:
You will need a server to host your store on. I would recommend Bluehost. They have super cheap hosting plans starting at $6.95 and you can easily scale up as your store grows.
They also make installing and working with WordPress incredibly simple.
You will need a domain name. You can buy a .com along with your Bluehost hosting for as little as $10. This is an expense that you would have had with Shopify as well.
Plugins are the “apps” you plug into your WordPress site to turn it into an online store. Woocommerce is the main app that allows you to create a store. You will also need a theme and several more apps to make it work seamlessly.
While a Shopify store will cost you at least $30/month plus a $15 domain, a Woocomerce store on WordPress will cost you just $5/month for hosting plus a $10 domain to start.
Setting up your dropshipping store, however, will require a plugin like AliDropship. This is similar to Oberlo for Shopify. It basically automates your listings, your orders, and your fulfilment through Aliexpress.
The Alidropship plugin is a one-off fee, unlike Shopify apps that have recurring monthly fees. It may be a bigger expense upfront but over the course of a year, is still %0% cheaper than Oberlo for Shopify.
???? Benefits of Dropshipping with Woocommerce:
Woocommerce is a very cheap option compared to Shopify. Since you host the store on your own server, you are in complete control of everything.
Shopify is hosted. They control almost every aspect of your store which gives you very little control over certain aspects of your own store.
Woocommerce store usually looks much better and have far better conversion rates than Shopify store simply because you can control the checkout and everything in much greater detail and make it much more efficient than Shopify.
???? Disadvantages of Dropshipping with Woocommerce:
This will require some tech skills. This is not an easy setup even if you do know WordPress well. Even though there’s a lot of great documentation available it will still take time and it is not nearly as intuitive to set up as Shopify is.
Since you are hosting your own store, everything is up to you. If something technical goes wrong then YOU have to fix it. Unlike Shopify, you don’t have the backup of a huge platform that is known to be stable.
Even though Woocommerce is much cheaper than Shopify, it does have more upfront costs. With Shopify everything works on monthly subscriptions while Woocommerce everything is a one-off purchase.
If you don’t want the hassle of setting up your own store on WordPress I would encourage you to check out the packages that AliDropship offers. They have great themes and you can buy ready-made stores that are already set up.
All you have to do is plug in your domain and your hosting.It is well worth it because it can save you weeks of work and trying to figure things out.
You also get the AliDropship plugin already configured and set up which is the most essential part of running your dropshipping business.You also have access to their support and they can quickly help you with almost anything. Click here to read more >>
4. Square Online Store
Square Online Store is arguably the easiest way to start an online store. This is the eCommerce branch of Squarespace which is one of the most popular online website builders.
Squarespace is well known and next to Wix it is probably the biggest online website builder. It is known for its easy to use interface and everything is drag and drop.
They also have some great training videos and you will never be stuck trying to figure out what to do.
???? Benefits of Dropshipping with a Square Online Store:
Their stores look amazing. The designs are clean, the stores are fast and it is almost impossible to build an ugly looking store with this platform.
Everything is drag and drop which makes it insanely easy to build a store. It is ideal if you have no technical skills and really just want something quick, easy and that looks professional.
If the question is “can I dropship without Shopify and do it 100% free” then this is as close as you will get. The best part is that the Square One Store is 100% free. The only charges are for transaction fees but that is standard no matter where you sell.
I would recommend you upgrade to their Professional Plan as that gives you you own domain for just $12/month and it removes all the Square One branding from your store.
???? Disadvantages of Dropshipping with a Square Online Store:
While Square One is great for setting up and running a store, it is not necessarily great for dropshipping. There are no apps that can help you manage orders and you will have to do everything manually.
If you stick with their free plan you will not have your own domain and you will have their branding on your store so I suggest you upgrade to their $12 plan as it is super cheap for what you get.
Once you start getting a lot of dropshipping orders with your Square One store I would suggest you set up bulk orders with your Aliexpress supplier. That will allow you to use spreadsheets instead of placing individual orders.
Mozello is almost exactly the same deal as Square One Store It is an online store builder that is hosted by Mozello and it is focused on ease of use.
It has a very easy to use drag and drop store builder that is easy to use and allows you to make really good looking stores with very little effort.
Their free plan allows you to ave a store address like “yourname.mozello.com” but if you want your own domain you will need a Premium plan.
I would highly recommend the premium plan. At just $7/month os gives you a free .com domain which is already a $15 saving. The Premium Plan also removes the Mozello branding from your store.
???? Benefits of Dropshipping with a Square Online Store:
Setting up a Mozello store is quick and easy – and it looks super professional. The easy of use and the cheap price tag is definitely the biggest drawcard.
If you have zero tech skills and a very low budget then this is an option you should seriously consider.
It plugs into Paypal seamlessly and you can easily start accepting payments in just minutes.
???? Disadvantages of Dropshipping with a Mozello Store:
Your Mozello store will also not have any automation available for dropshipping from Aliexpress. You will need to list products and manage orders and fulfillment manually.
Again, this is great if you only sell a few products per day but once it gets to 20+ per day it can get out of control quite quickly.
While the free plan is enough to get you started it does have a lot of limitations and splashing out the $7 is well worth it to get your own domain.
Alternative Ways to Use Shopify (Cheap) for Dropshipping
There is a way to use Shopify that is dirt cheap. While a Standard Shopify plan will cost you $30/month there is another way to use Shopify for much cheaper.
You can use a Shopify Buy button for just $9/month and this will allow you to still sell products and accept orders.
This is a very basic option but in theory, this is all you really need. This buy button works with Weebly, Wix, WordPress or Squarespace and allows you to use any of these website builders to sell products.
All 4 have free plans which means you can build a free website and simply add the buy button to make sales.
While this is not a traditional store setup, it will allow you to craft specific content and then add a buy button to allow customer s to check out and make a purchase.
With a bit of effort, you can easily make it look just like a standard online store.
One downside is that there is no automation of your dropshipping business. Just like Squre One Store and Mozello you will need to set up products manually and manage orders and fulfillment manually.
This is a pain but manageable – unless you do hundreds of orders per day in which case you will be able to afford a Shopify plan anyway.
This is really just aimed at getting you started for cheap.
Dropshipping Without Shopify – Conclusion:
So, can I Dropship without Shopify? Yes, you can! But that does not mean that you should. The Shopify dropshipping model works well because it is like a well-oiled machine.
All the apps and training are readily available and it makes it easy.
Woocommerce on WordPress is your next best option and if you do not want to pay the recurring Shopify subscription then I suggest you simply buy the AliDropship plugin, and be done with it.
Ebay and Etsy are two great options because they are marketplaces that come with traffic and buyers! It can be a very lucrative setup if you sell the right products and you d a good job.
Both Etsy and Ebay are strict though and both have a lot of rules you need to comply with. Breaking any of their rules can mean the end of your business – overnight!
Using Squire One Stoe and Mozello are great options if you are on a super tight budget and have more time than you have money. They are not ideal platforms for dropshipping but they most certainly can be used.
Dropshipping with these 2 platforms will require a lot of manual work – tasks that would be completely automated by Shopify and Oberlo or Woocommerce and AliDropship.
In the end, you have to weigh up your options. Do you have more time than money? What’s your long term ambitions and what are you willing to put up with by not dropshipping with Shopify?