7 Common DropShipping Mistakes & Errors

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Common dropshipping mistakes and errors lead to an empty shopping cart, pictured here, in a deserted parking lot.

Dropshopping. The very word evokes mixed emotions wherever you go. Some will tell you it’s a hoax, a multi-level marketing scheme for paid courses on the topic. Others will tell you to try dropshipping and sell your store as quickly as possible once it gets remotely profitable. Others yet will swear by it. They will tell you it changed their lives. Admittedly, this last category is far rarer than the other two, and the reason why is the former ones run into so many common dropshipping mistakes and errors that failure is unavoidable.

Although I’ve written about dropshipping mistakes and errors in a previous post,

I wanted to write about these errors in more details and focus on technicalities rather than “mindsets”.

However, that doesn’t negate the fact you do need a VERY positive mindset prior to entering the dropshipping business. You’ll need to surround yourself with people who have either done it before and succeeded, or who have a very optimistic outlook on the matter. You’ll run across numerous challenges, some of which may seem unsurmountable. And if these challenges aren’t enough, you’ll run across a plethora of people whose views very negative. They will find a hundred and one reasons why dropshipping is a waste of your time, then will spew out a list of other business ideas (ie the next “shiny object”) to pursue.

Very common dropshipping mistakes and errors is what likely sunk their ship.

The suggestions I share below are but a microcosm of the macrocosm of issues you may run across while drop-shipping, but not falling into these traps will definitely help your chances of success! At the end of the day, however, your core discipline is all that will carry you through.

So here are the 7 most common dropshipping mistakes and errors which digital nomads commit:

1. Copying Someone’s Niche

Copying someone’s niche is hands down the biggest dropshipping mistake you can make. It is an error of colossal proportions, especially if you copy-paste your competition’s domain. Think about it. Do you know of any successful competition out there whose sites look like replicas? Of course not.

This error is very common. 

It usually ends up with the copycat site going down for infringement of copyright or being served a cease and desist order. If you are copying a successful domain, you have to bear in mind the owner may have tons of experience in that field. They may have significant retail knowledge. They may be experts at Adwords. They may have excellent relationships with their suppliers, and above all, they may know their legal rights inside and out.

Do not commit this common dropshipping mistake.

It may seem like an easy-in on the surface, but it can turn into one hellish experience. Depending on the “degree” of copying, you can end up wasting your time on a niche that just doesn’t work for you–due to any of a hundred number of reasons–right down to being served a lawsuit if your wording is too close to the original (and I’ve seen it happen to two people). The penalty for copyright infringement is up to $150,000, even if you take the site down after being warned.

Red copyright word on a laptop keyboard; it replaces the location of the enter key.
Such an innocent-looking button, but $150,000 per violation is sure to awaken even the greatest sleepers. Don’t copy anything from anyone’s website–make it your own.

The latter can shut down your relationship with Shopify or other storefronts–once and for all. They just don’t want that kind of risky customer.

The truth is, anyone with a lot of retail experience can launch any store with a high likelihood of success. This leads us to #2.

2. Not Having Retail Experience

A few years ago, when the market was far less saturated, you could dropship with little to no retail experience. Well, at least for a while. Then, dropshippers with retail experience hit the market. Your competition may have worked in the retail domain for years. They may know sales psychology, they may understand consumer behavior, and they may have honed their critical thinking and problem-solving skills in the real world.

Opening a store with absolutely no retail experience is a very common dropshipping mistake.

There, I said it. 

Retail is immersive. It requires 25 hour work days during its infancy. Anything and everything goes wrong at first. It’s like a baby, constantly crying at first. I know it’s not what you want to hear–but I’m not here to tell you what you want to hear. I’m here to tell you what is.

If you think there’s easy money in drop-shipping, retail experience will tell you there is, but only after you’ve paid a hefty price and mastered an emotionally-taxing learning curve. My advice is to get some hands-on retail experience so you don’t get shell-shocked when crap hits the fan–and hit the fan it will.

3. Not Working The Hours

I love Tim Ferris’s book “The 4-Hour Workweek“, but it just doesn’t apply to entry-level dropshippers. Look, it just doesn’t, especially when you start shipping heavy items and you need to set up freight yourself, which is very time-consuming. You’ll also need to contact new suppliers, negotiate with customers, constantly research market prices, and much, much more.

A gorgeous beach in Mauritius. Limestone mountains can be seen in the background and tall palms in the foreground. A couple are jogging on the beach.
Everyone in the world wants. To get to this, you need to slave away as you build your ecommerce empire. Everything takes time.

The number of hours you put in at first will directly correlate with your success, and this is especially true for your first 2-3 months. Once you get a flow going, and some money, you can train someone to help you, but you can’t train anyone until you know all the ins and outs. You need to clock in the hours and the experience that comes with it. Be ready to work 8-12 hour days, 6 days a week.

You may eventually feel like you’re still working at that hellish office job back home.

4. Launching Only One Store

This is such a common dropshipping mistake. If you’re going to set up a store, why not set up three? If you pick a niche, might as well pick two complementary ones and work on those too. You will triple your chances of success in case your first attempt flounders. You should have a multiple store mindset and get out of that common one-store rut. Many new entrants “test things out”, but that’s exactly where they fail. If you’re going to do it, go all-in. If you go in half-hearted, you’ll fail. Again, I’m not trying to motivate you with hoo-haa non-sense. I’m being realistic.

Work on multiple stores, put in the hours, and keep the coffee pot going. You’re engaging in retail business and retail is a bitch, which only keeps making more puppies.

5. Thinking of the Money Only

Hey, we all want to make money. We buy courses to teach us how to make money. We buy books, we attend seminars, and we hire consultants to help us make more money. But successful drop-shippers all have one thing in common: they understand the customer always comes first. The customers can sense when you care about them more than the money. They recommend you. When issues arise, customers who know you care can sense it, and they will be far more patient with you as you work to resolve the problem.

I care about my customers! I love them, that’s why I’m doing this…

… is the immediate defensive response most dropshippers have. The truth is, and most dropshippers wouldn’t admit it, but they view customers as money, not as a person with feelings. This is where retail experience comes into play. The more years you have under your belt in retail sales and service, the more likely you are to understand what makes a customer tick and tock. You can’t just switch on the “I care” button.

A sign held by two hands which readS: People Buy from People They Trust.

Keep your eye on the customer, not the money. Buy books on the topic and understand you may very well lose money dropshipping, before making any. In my case, I lost five thousand dollars my first two months due to various issues. I considered it part of the “learning fee”.

6. Launching With Too Few Products

Have you ever gone to a store and seen too few options available? Did that not make you look elsewhere? Launching with too few products, or seasonal products, is a common dropshipping mistake. In my opinion, a store’s initial product line really shows how committed one is to their store’s success. Why not wait an extra week or two and get more suppliers and upload more products? Not only will your store look visually more appealing, which is extremely important, but it will greatly increase the chances your customers will stick around and buy from you.

Launching seasonal products is somewhat of a subcategory to this error.

If you are selling snow skis, most of your business may come during the fall or winter months. With some exceptions here and there, I just don’t see many people purchasing skis in the middle of the summer.

A boy sandboarding on a sand dune in the desert at dusk.
“Seasonal? Who says surfboards are seasonal?? You wait…you’ll be the richest man in Al Qassim, Mohammed!” (ps. dibs on this niche!!)

Now that’s okay if you have several stores going, each covering specific seasons, but don’t bank on summer sales for winter products. Anything that has to do with the outdoors can fall in the seasonal category.

7. Vague or Generic Store Policies

Don’t copy and paste shipping policies from other sites. Take the extra step and rewrite all policies in your own words, or hire someone who can. The worst thing you can do is to plagiarize, then receive a copyright infringement notice/lawsuit. Plagiarizing policies is a surefire way of knowing you are not serious about your business. Take it seriously, do the legal research, or hire a cheap attorney for several hundred dollars and have them write your policies.

A common dropshipping mistake is to use “blanket” policies which can be bummed off of some courses online.

Not only do these have so many legal loopholes (read: they don’t work), but stricter cards like Amex may not recognize them at all. Your representment options will be very limited in the case of a chargebacks. You need to research proper shipping, return, and privacy policies. Any other tab on your website that requires wording need to be entirely “yours”. Make them relevant to the specific item you are shipping.

Be sure links to these policies are included in your order confirmation emails, and copy and paste the shipping & return policy in that same email too. Also, be sure the links at the bottom of the checkout cart reflect the same policies on your main page.

It takes only one large, bad order to sink most ships.

And that order will come.

That’s right, one big order that gets you all excited at first, then slowly kills you with problems. Before you get into dropshipping, it is very important you are aware of these common dropshipping mistakes. Ignoring them is only going to make things much harder.

Dropshipping can be very lucrative, if it is approached properly. The common mistake, however, is to just charge in like a bull with your head down, thinking “you got this”.

You don’t want to join the vast majority who failed.

Think long and hard before getting into dropshipping as it can be a logistical nightmare. Remember, retail is about detail. And dropshipping is not a bootstrapping business, no matter what anyone tells you. You’ll learn this in due time. And if I’ve discouraged you from pursuing it, I’ve done you a favor.

And if you’re even more encouraged, then this business is for you.

Have you ever tried dropshipping? What were some common dropshipping mistakes you committed? What other common dropshipping mistakes would you add to this list?

Additional resources I highly recommend:


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