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A breakdown from the smart and ethical to the down right wrong way to boost your income off an internet side hustle.

If you have stubborn debt and are looking for ways to boost your income, online side jobs can be tempting. One I’ve started and swear by is drop shipping.

If you search the term on YouTube the results will light up like a Christmas tree with experts claiming they can teach you how to replace your income by selling products online that you don’t actually own.

If you’ve haven’t already, read my previous post about what drop shipping is. Big-name retailers drop ship all the time. But they’re not the only ones who can reap the profits selling goods online.

Anyone with a laptop and spare time can.

It costs practically nothing to start. So I’ve started doing it myself in my spare time. If you’re just learning about drop shipping, don’t get lost in the idea of making quick cash. Just like any other business, there are risks and ethical dilemmas to face if you decide to start doing it yourself.

Read on to learn the basic methods these gurus teach, what investments are involved, and how to avoid scaring off potential customers by ripping them off. Of course, that is, if you feel drop shipping is a good fit for you.

Here are best to worst practices for drop shipping.

1. Sell through suppliers who’ve approved you

Minimum work involved: $200-$300 investment in an eCommerce site and advertising, and quite a bit of time and effort

This is how I decided to give a crack at drop shipping. To me it’s ethical and how the big guys like Staples, Sears, and Best Buy do it too.

In this scenario, the drop shipper approaches selling just like a traditional retailer would. They have a relationship with the people whose products they’re selling. This means you’re buying at wholesale prices your customers couldn’t get unless they become approved sellers too.

How does a person on a laptop get approved to sell by wholesale suppliers?

Definitely not by listing their items on eBay. Individuals who actually get approved to sell other people’s products have built their own online stores, offer great customer service, create unique advertising, and are prepared to go through the formal negotiating process to become authorized retailers.

For all of this effort, drop shipping gurus like former cookie salesman Anton Kraly recommend selling expensive items, so you only have to make a few sales a month to cover advertising and pay the $30 fee that keeps your site running.

Downsides to this method:

This method requires a lot of commitment, market research, and time. It could take months to be ready to make a sale if you’re also working a lot — and even then you have to offer great customer service on the sales you do make, or risk losing your suppliers.

How this can work for you:

Your digital marketing skills far outweigh your financial capacity and you’re willing to tackle things slowly over the long-term. Without pulling tens of thousands of dollars out of your butt to pay for inventory and retail space, this could be a way to start your own business.

2. Sell through suppliers who sell to anyone

Minimum work involved: Some time and effort, any level of investment in Facebook ads.

AliExpress is a site very similar to Amazon. It is made up of suppliers in China and elsewhere and will sell to anyone.

Aliexpress drop shippers find low-cost passion products and use targeted Facebook advertising to reach customers with the same passions.

For example: I could list this $7 deer purse for $30 and spend $5 a day to reach hundreds of deer lovers on Facebook. There’s a webinar floating around by this guy Alex Becker  who talks about making $200 a day selling a wolf mug that cost $8 on AliExpress.

How? He marketed to Game Of Thrones fans on Facebook.

Why don’t people just shop on Aliexpress themselves then?

Because there are plenty of online shoppers who would prefer to buy from a beautifully designed website, or funny Facebook ad over an international sellers portal they are unfamiliar with.

Because of this, many Aliexpress suppliers encourage drop shippers marketing to customers in the U.S. to list their products and to even use their product images.  Everything is considerably cheaper than similar products in U.S. stores, and there’s even an app that will import products directly from Aliexpress, mark them up, and fill orders automatically.

Downsides to this method: Anyone who orders from Alibaba or Aliexpress has to deal with 2-4 week shipping times.

This makes angry customers and chargebacks from credit card companies when customers think their product was lost. That’s a lot to deal with for low-profit margins, and there’s still something that bothers me about selling from a source your customer could access themselves.

How this can work for you: If you don’t have a lot of time, but want to learn more about building a website or social media. This could be a way you can invest in yourself and not take attention away from your current job without paying or going back to school.

3. Sell through suppliers you have no contact with  

Minimum work involved: A few hours of your time, and practically no upfront costs or investments.

I first became aware of individuals drop shipping through this method formally referred to as “retail arbitrage,” which is basically the same concept.

Drop Ship arbitrageurs find items on one publicly accessible website, mark them up, and list them on another.

For example, this cat toy sells for $22 on eBay and it’s $15 on Amazon. I rewrite the description, then list it myself on eBay for $21 and corner that market.

If someone orders, I accept their money, use it to buy the toy on Amazon and change the shipping address to my eBay customer’s info instead of my own. Then pocket the $6 difference in price.

Seems easy enough. And I could earn $6 per sale without doing much.

Downsides to this method: Low-profit margins, the original supplier ends up losing money on returns from sales they didn’t handle themselves, customers can get upset if their item arrives from a different seller than they ordered from, and your seller profile suffers when people realize you don’t have anything to do with your products.

How it could work: You’re trying to decide if you want to work online and don’t mind getting some bad reviews in the process. Without having to invest in anything, this could be a way to experiment with online selling to see if you like it.

So there you have it. A look behind the curtain for just one of these make-money-online methods that you can potentially do without quitting your current job.

Please be careful with any of these methods though. There is nothing worse than investing in something you believe will solve your problems, then find out you wasted your time. Use your gut — and your brain!

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Meet the Author

Kelsey Bell

Kelsey Bell

Illustrator and Animator

Bell was an illustrator and animator for


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