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3 ways to sell online with no inventory


For the productive and the passionate, the gifted and the go-getters it can be utterly soul-crushing to work in a job you hate. A job that claims to offer reward and opportunity, but brings only dead end after dead and the only opportunity on offer is the opportunity to inflate your employer’s profit margins and add to your boss’ bonus.

If only you could go into business for yourself. Sure, success is never a guarantee and you could fail at any moment… but at least you’d be free to fail on your own terms. In theory, the open market is laid bare before you. In the digital age, virtually anyone can make good money selling their wares in the infinite marketplace of the internet.

But while you know that legions of successful entrepreneurs are made online, you’ve still yet to take the leap yourself. Why?


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Why haven’t you started your own business yet? The answer is almost definitely money!

It’s not because you’re a glutton for punishment. It’s not because you’re lazy or indolent. And it’s certainly not because you need your daily fix of office gossip from your mate in accounting. If you’ve long cherished the idea of running your own business but have yet to dive into the foaming waters of entrepreneurship, it’s almost definitely because of money.

While starting an online business means that you don’t have to pay for a high street storefront or a fancy office, you still need to spend a significant amount on inventory, right? After all, you can’t trade online if you have nothing to sell. And with banks and lending institutions still reluctant to lend to new and unproven businesses, even a decade after the financial crisis you could be forgiven for thinking that you’re all out of options.

But you’d be wrong.

There are a number of ways in which you can start up a successful online business without spending a penny on inventory. Or filling your home up with so many boxes that you lose sight of the dog for days on end.

Make and / or sell something digital

It’s not just physical assets that have value in the digital world. People pay good money for digital assets of all kinds. It’s just a case of choosing the ones that align with your skills, knowledge and experience.

No matter what makes you special both personally and professionally, there’s a way in which people can benefit from it online.

Graphic designers and illustrators can design and sell digital images including logos, banners and other forms of digital copy for businesses and creatives. Photographers can make good money doing headshots for local actors or taking shots of business’ stock.

Fitness and nutrition buffs can compile their knowledge into an ebook which can help legions of people around the world achieve their goals. Musically talented? You can write and publish your own online courses! Academically gifted? You can get paid good money to write essays for students to use as study aids.

Or if you prefer to write fiction you can crowdfund and self-publish your own novel in ebook form or digital comic book.

The possibilities are absolutely endless. You don’t even need to quit your job just yet. You can start building a portfolio and growing your online presence in your free time.

Partner with a dropshipper

If you’re unfamiliar with the term dropshipping, don’t worry. It’s not an aggressive paramilitary manoeuvre. It’s just a way of selling a wide range of products to highly motivated customers around the world without needing to buy and store them yourself. Heck, you don’t even need to handle the products.

Dropshipping is what’s known as a “fulfillment model”. The product is supplied by a third party supplier who takes care of all the costs and logistics associated with shipping and storage. All you need to do is to facilitate the sale, pass the order to the supplier and take your cut of the transaction.

And by no means are you restricted to a single supplier either. The beauty of dropshipping is that there are so many potential partners out there, you can curate a wide range of products across multiple suppliers into your own online store with its own theme and branding that are built around serving a particular niche.

Which niche is entirely up to you, but as in all businesses, it helps to focus on something you’re both knowledgeable and passionate about. Pet products, fashion accessories and toys are all products with which many find success through dropshipping.

Of course, even though supply and shipping are taken care of by the dropshipper, you are still responsible for your brand. Make sure you try out and inspect all products yourself to ensure that it’s something you’d be happy to put your name to.

Dropshipping is a low-margin game meaning that you need to make a lot of sales to find real success. But with so little overhead cost you have absolutely nothing to lose!

Join an affiliate program

Affiliate programs are a great way for bloggers and other creatives to monetise their output by partnering with brands that the people who follow their work know and trust. Whatever you do online, if you have an audience, there’s a good chance that you can make money through affiliate marketing.

There are a wealth of affiliate programs out there, including many run by trusted brands like Amazon, eBay and Fiverr. The best affiliate program for you will depend on the niche your content caters to and the buying habits of the people who follow you online (which is why market research is so incredibly important).

By displaying an affiliate link or banner on your blog, website or page, readers are taken to a unique storefront where they can buy products and services that are of interest to them, and you get a cut of the sale for facilitating the transaction.

Like dropshipping, don’t expect huge margins on each transaction, but as your following and influence grow, affiliate marketing can become increasingly lucrative.

Get virtual help to power your web-based business

Whichever of the above you choose, as your business grows you’ll inevitably find yourself getting busier and busier. You’ll need help managing your schedule and fielding the influx of calls from prospective customers and other contacts like affiliates or suppliers. This can impact heavily on your productivity and profitability.

Don’t leave these to chance! Trust a virtual assistant or virtual receptionist to handle and divert all incoming calls so you can screen out the distractions and make a great impression on important contacts.

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