Story by Elle Hewitt, a loyal sixads customer.
When the pandemic hit the world and I lost my 9 to 5, I decided it was time to follow my dreams instead of looking for another job!
With some rainy day savings in my bank account and no job to fill my days, it was the perfect time to give my 4+ year dream a try.
So, I opened an online climbing t-shirt store in hopes of finding an untethered lifestyle.
Dropshipping had always been in the back of my mind as a potentially sustainable business that would let me make money and travel the world. That idea paired with my experience as a graphic designer gave me the confidence I needed to take the leap.
Long story short, I made $10k in around 2 months. The beginning was difficult. I burned thousands of dollars on underperforming Facebook ads (around $3000 to be precise!). Not because they don’t work, but because I didn’t have the knowledge or experience I needed. There were definitely moments when I felt like I failed and threw around the idea of finding a real job, but I decided to stay positive, keep pushing on, and follow my dream.
I looked at it as an “investment” in my future. And my hustle paid off - after I found winning products and an advertising strategy that worked for my business, I quickly made my first $10,000 in sales!
This is how I did it.
1. Creating my brand and setting up a Shopify store
Since I knew what I wanted to sell, I didn’t have to go through the difficult process of finding products for my Shopify store. If you don’t know what you want to sell, this post will be helpful.
So, I started by setting up my store on Shopify. Why Shopify:
- Website builder and templates. You can have your shop up and running in a day with an easy-to-use website builder and a bunch of free and paid templates!
- Integrated payment processing. If you’ve never had an e-commerce store, integrated payment processing is a blessing in disguise!
- 24/7 live support. For me as a beginner - it was comforting to know I had someone to talk to if I ran into trouble while setting up my store.
- Tons of free content. There’s a bunch of free content on Youtube, Shopify, and other blogs online about how to set up a store and sell on Shopify, plus, plenty of information on what to do if you run into trouble.
I went for the 14-day free trial as I wasn’t sure which Shopify plan would work best for me.
Even though I knew what I wanted to sell, I still had to think about my brand. I started Googling what branding is and how to do it. It wasn’t nearly as easy as I had originally imagined. I realized that I had to create a logo, choose a name for my website, decide how to price my products, create social media accounts, and find out who my “perfect buyer” was.
After I had all this sorted, I came up with a domain name and proceeded with adding my products and customizing the theme on my Shopify store.
2. Choosing a print on demand service
Thanks to Shopify’s huge app store, I found Printiful, a print-on-demand service that helped me create unique climbing t-shirt designs and also enabled my customers to create their own custom t-shirts with their product personalization tool.
Printiful also had a wide selection of products I could put my designs on, so if I wanted to add more diversity, I could start selling climbing hoodies, sports bras, tights, and so on. This was great as I was already thinking of ways to expand my business.
Once I connected Prinitiful with my Shopify store, I was able to:
- Create unique climbing t-shirts
With their tool, I was able to choose the type of t-shirts I wanted to sell, their color, and upload my designs onto those t-shirts.
- Check my designs in person
With this setup, you can place a small order to try them out before you start selling t-shirts. This feature allowed me to be sure my t-shirts looked great both in my store and on me. (I was also thinking of doing a photoshoot with the items I ordered, but wasn’t quite at this stage yet. I wanted to make a few sales before paying for a photoshoot.)
- Upload t-shirts with my designs
I was able to use my unique designs in my store.
- Craft beautiful product descriptions for my t-shirts
I had a lot of help from a few friends who work in e-commerce. They helped me find keywords and craft the descriptions.
- Launch my store
Finally!! I was able to put my store online - my dream was coming true, I had something to show to my friends and family, and could finally start marketing and make money!
My store was live and it was beautiful! I was on cloud nine. All I needed now were visitors - people who would love my custom t-shirts and buy them! Sounds easy, right? Unfortunately, I wasted a lot of money and almost closed my store before I reached my goal - $10k in sales!
3. Advertising on Facebook and wasting a lot of money
I started out with 10 unique climbing t-shirt designs. In hopes of not wasting money or time, I decided to advertise on Facebook only. Advertising solely on Facebook turned out to be a huge mistake.
I didn’t have any digital advertising experience but I thought: “How hard can running ads on Facebook be? Everyone’s doing it!” I read multiple blog posts on different types of Facebook ads, on how you should set up your ads, and on what works best for clothing stores. I thought I knew what I was doing and decided to start with ad sets for all 10 of my products with at least 4 ads in each ad set.
To my great surprise, nothing happened. I was creating beautiful photo ads with different images, headlines and text, choosing broad targeting to reach as many people as possible and nothing happened… I got some traffic, people were browsing the site, had some add-to-carts but no one was actually buying any of my t-shirts. I made 5 sales a week. That wasn’t even close to enough when I spent around $3000 dollars on Facebook ads in two months.
After a few unsuccessful months and a lot of money wasted (and a few tears, let’s be honest), I started thinking that no one was interested in climbing t-shirts anymore and I should just stop.
But this was my dream and I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel! I decided not to give up just yet, google some more, and see what would happen if I changed my strategy.
4. Testing products and advertising on more than one channel
At this point, I figured that maybe some of my products weren’t good enough or eye-catching. I decided to research them one by one to see what kind of t-shirts (tank tops, crop tops, colorful or not) would fit the market best before I started scaling my ads with high budgets. I had to find what was fashionable at that time, what was unique and different, what kind of t-shirts people were interested in buying. So that was the first part.
Next, I researched A/B testing for ad audiences a bit, and decided to not only test different designs but also, show those designs to different people. Here I chose to target audiences with various interests (engaged shoppers interested in clothing, shopping, fashion) and then narrow the audience even more by including people who also are interested in mountains and outdoor recreation. This way I was able to see which products performed best with which audiences.
I also started reading about multi-channel marketing and began thinking about branching out to other advertising channels. Maybe my buyers were on Google or Instagram, not only Facebook?
So, once again I turned to the great Shopify app store. I hoped to find an ad automation app that would help me advertise on other platforms without having to figure out multiple dashboards. Setting up ads on Facebook is hard, but setting them up on Facebook AND Google is even more complicated and time-consuming.
Luckily, I stumbled upon sixads. It’s an app that helps entrepreneurs who have very little experience in digital advertising run ads on Google, Instagram, and Facebook. I felt like I’d hit the jackpot! I was excited to try this app but also very cautious as it sounded too good to be true.
My strategy for product testing using the sixads app:
- Review the performance of the ads I ran on Facebook before sixads.
- Find ads that had more than 5000 - 7000 impressions and a click-through rate of 1.5% or higher.
- Delete products and ads for anything that didn’t generate the numbers above and replace them with new products.
- Start anew by running ads on Google, Facebook, and Instagram for all my products with sixads. (Compared to Facebook, creating ads with sixads was easy. I set my ads up through their simplified process in a few minutes. It would’ve taken me at least an hour to do this directly on Facebook. To make the process quick and easy, the app offers pre-filled ad texts and chooses visuals for you. I just had to approve the texts and visuals, set targeting and a budget).
- Analyze performance after a few days and see which ads reached at least 1.5% CTR with 5000-7000 impressions. (In the sixads app, there’s a single analytics dashboard where you see how your ads are performing across all three channels. So I could easily kill ads that didn’t perform.)
- Stop running ads on products that didn’t perform well on any channel and replace them with other products.
- Scale the budget for the ads that generated the most sales.
Guess what! Some of my t-shirts sold better on Google than Facebook!
Using this strategy I was finally able to generate positive profits. I was making enough sales in a month to cover ad spend, scale the ads that performed best, AND put money away for a future photoshoot. I finally felt like I’d found my honey pot! I nailed product testing and found an advertising strategy that worked like a charm for my store! All I had to do to earn even more was repeat the process.
5. Repeating the process until I earned $10k in two months.
I was spending around $1000 a month on advertising through sixads and generating a revenue of around $3000 a month. To reach my dreams of traveling the world in a van, managing my own store, and climbing, I needed to earn at least $10k in two months. It was a lot of money and I wasn’t sure I was ever going to reach it.
I knew I had to try. So, I decided to scale my advertising and the number of products I was selling. If I doubled the products and ad spend, I should double my revenue, right?
Here’s what I did:
- I reviewed all my products in the store and how their ads were performing.
- I found that I was making $3000 a month with 20 products in the store.
- I added 10 more new products and ran ads for each of them to test which ones would sell.
- While testing new products, I doubled the budget for my 5 best sellers.
- After I tested those 10 new products, I picked out my 5 best sellers and doubled their budget.
- I repeated this process until I had 40 products in my store that had a CTR of at least 2% and then increased their budget.
According to my calculations, I needed to make $1250 a week for 8 straight weeks. After a few months of constant testing and scaling, I reached $1250 a week. To continue making this much for two months, I just needed to keep a close eye on ad performance and continue what I was doing.
Of course, as you probably know, the Facebook algorithm can be temperamental and brings a lot of ups and downs. I remember one instance very clearly. One day a campaign was delivering my desired returns on advertising spend (ROAS) and then the next the ROAS went down to 2,5.
When my ROAS went down to 2,5, I was scared that I’d lose all that I’d built, but I kept my hand steady, gave it a few days and the performance bounced back. This is why it is important to look at the numbers and ad performance. Make your decisions based on solid data. You don’t want to kill your ads too quickly!
Bingo! When everything was in place, it only took me two months to get a little over $10k in my bank account. I was finally ready to get a van and plan my trips to the best climbing locations around the world!
Dropshipping is not easy. Success does not come overnight and most of the time you will struggle just to break even. Set goals to reach a certain amount of money in a certain amount of time, but be ready to fail and have a backup plan.
My two cents on dropshipping success:
- Be passionate about what you sell.
- Test all your products.
- Advertise on more than one channel.
- Use Shopify apps to automate the processes and save your time. I used the sixads app and Printify.
- When you finally discover that recipe for success, scale it!