So you’ve finally taken the plunge.
You’ve started your own ecommerce store.
You’ve spent hours deciding on what to sell, finding reliable suppliers and setting up your store.
And now it’s time to make sales.
But let’s be honest, this is the hardest part.
“Build it, and they will come,” might sound great on paper, but in the ecommerce world it’s not that straightforward.
Getting to that first sale requires a solid dose of hustle and creativity.
And for every entrepreneur, getting there is a little different.
But what does the journey to the first sale really look like?
To answer that question, I spoke to 18 ecommerce and dropshipping entrepreneurs about their path to the first sale.
They shared what it felt like at that moment, hearing the sweet ka-ching sound as their Shopify app notified them of their very first sale.
They’ve also shared what marketing channel got them their sale, the mistakes they made along the way, and their best tips for anyone still trying to make it happen.
- Shri Kanase, Fashion Dropshipper
- Ran Moore, eliotgrey.com
- Yuanda Wang, Tech Dropshipper
- Julie Starr, Long-Time Ecommerce Entrepreneur
- Rodney and Kory, Gaming Dropshippers
- Tin Ho, Dropshipping Entrepreneur
- Zoe Abel, marigoldshadows.com
- Christoph Filgertshofer, 18-Year-Old Pro Dropshipper
- Ryan Carroll, Swimwear Dropshipper
- Kobe Gatsby, Dropshipping Entrepreneur
- Tim Vangsness, Dropshipping Entrepreneur
- Ovidiu Sofron, Multi-Store Dropshipper
- Ronnie McKenzie, Dropshipping Entrepreneur
- Nate Schmidt, Dropshipping Entrepreneur
- Karolis Rimkus, Side-Hustling Entrepreneur
- Yuliya Chernykhovskaya, Successful Dropshipper
- Marcelo, Women’s Fashion Entrepreneur
- James Holt, Dropshipping Entrepreneur
- Take the Next Step
- Want to Learn More?
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Shri Kanase, Fashion Dropshipper
I still remember the day like it was yesterday, because that specific moment jump started my entire business career.
I had just gotten home from a long day of school and as always, rushed to see whether my Instagram influencer ads had provided any results. At this point I had gotten used to seeing an empty dashboard. But this day was different.
Not only had I gotten my first sale, but the customer had actually ordered two of the items! I froze in my chair, unable to properly understand what I was seeing. The moment was such an achievement for me that I cried a little that day. My first sale came 17 days after opening my third Shopify store.
The biggest thing that made the difference between my previous two failed stores and this one actually getting results was that I took the time to find out where my audience hung out.
Instead of blindly jumping into one marketing platform and emptying my pockets, I spent hours doing market research beforehand and tried to find magazines, community pages and the key celebrities that dominated my niche. For this first product, there were a handful of Instagram influencers and I simply tapped into them. So one of my dropshipping secrets was to grow an Instagram audience first.
“Never spend money before doing some digging into markets.”
Ran Moore, eliotgrey.com
After suffering a heart attack last year in April 2017, I had to find another way of earning money while working from home.
I started my ecommerce business in November of the same year. At first, I had a few different men’s fashion products, but they didn’t sell. Then I came across this leather coat that I felt captured the perfect look for my store. I added it to my store, spent time writing my own product description, and posted it to a men’s Facebook Group.
Next thing I know, I’m sitting at home and a notification popped up. I checked it and practically leaped from my chair in shock. I had made my first sale! It took me two weeks after opening to make my first sale.
The key to my first sale was persistence. If it doesn’t work at first, try and try again. I think it’s very important to write your own product descriptions, it helps with SEO.
My advice for anyone starting out is just to keep trying! Never give up. There’s always room for improvement and success.
Yuanda Wang, Tech Dropshipper
My first ever sale happened in my dorm room in university. I had just learned about dropshipping and saw that fidget spinners were selling like crazy. I was a dead broke student at the time so I couldn’t afford to do advertising and was using the Shopify free trial to run my store.
My advice is to do something different and be unique, craft an offer rather than just trying to sell a product. I framed my offer in a free + shipping method, and the thread title was something along the lines of, “This store is giving away free fidget spinners, just cover shipping”.
“Everyone is preaching Facebook and Instagram but there are tons of other platforms to advertise with.”
Try new things and don’t give up, your next advertising idea that you have could be the way you get your first sale.
Read more about Yuanda’s rise from absolute beginner to successful dropshipper.
Julie Starr, Long-Time Ecommerce Entrepreneur
I first started my ecommerce store 11 years ago when I recognized a need and I decided to fill it. I had no idea what I was doing but I was motivated.
About a week after I officially opened my store, I was on vacation in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida and I checked my email and saw that I had made a sale. It was small, maybe only $60 or so dollars, but it was validation. At that moment I realized that this was real and that I could make this work.
I hadn’t used any advertising to get this sale, which means in only a week someone had found my product organically. Today, 11 years later I still do not use paid ads to drive traffic. The key to making this sale was that I was filling a gap in the market, because I was one of the first online retailers to sell within my niche.
Once we launched our website and posted it to our social media accounts sometime around mid-late October, we started getting some organic inbound traffic. We were hoping for some traffic just to get an idea of the bottlenecks in our store, but did not expect to get any sales… until randomly we got our first!
The first purchase was for $7.09 and it came through Instagram within the first few days of launching, we instantly texted each other from our homes and celebrated!
We knew this was likely just luck, but hearing that ka-ching through the Shopify app on our phones gave us instant motivation to step things up and get ready for the coming Black Friday and holiday season.
“We were ecstatic that we actually got someone to trust our website enough to put their payment information down, and this got us thinking that we were actually on to something with potential.”
We knew that it would cost us a lot of money to test audiences on Facebook, so instead we took the time to build an account on Instagram that had a highly engaged audience in a niche market. Once we generated a very strong micro audience of a few thousand people we decided this would be the time to test our products and see if the community responds.
For us, we believe that the key to our early success was this focus on generating an organic audience and defining our target market before launching the website.
Although this approach may not be the quickest way to generating sales, it provides a very important engine in the background that can help when you start to struggle with your ads and experience ad fatigue.
By capturing an audience of a few thousand people for free, you gain the ability to test products and promotions for FREE and gather useful data that you can use to test on a larger scale.
Tin Ho, Dropshipping Entrepreneur
It was seven days after my launching my store, and I remember being in my room and hearing that ka-ching notification sound. It was exciting because I felt that all the late nights and hard work had finally paid off. It solidified my belief in ecommerce and the dropshipping model even more!
The sale came from Facebook ads, where I was testing several different products at the time. Out of the 10 products I was testing, only two of them sold. I believe that the key to getting the sale was that I tested so many different products rather than putting all my eggs in one basket by putting all my money into one product.
My advice to other people that are looking into ecommerce and dropshipping is don’t give up if your first couple of products don’t sell. It may feel like you are spending a lot of money but keep doing your research and keep testing different products. You will eventually find a winning product that sells. All it takes is one winning product.
Once I found my first winning product I was able to scale it to make back all the money I invested in testing, and make some profit. Also, remember that you are building a business and in most businesses, you have to invest a lot of money before you see a return.
“The great thing about dropshipping is that you do not have to spend thousands of dollars to start and buy inventory to sell, but like any other business you still have to invest.”
Zoe Abel, marigoldshadows.com
The Lead Up
This is actually my fourth Shopify store. I had a store selling face cream, another selling cosmetics, and I opened my third to be an online store to support my brick-and-mortar store. We sold clothing mostly from other brands. I added a few of my designs, and they actually sold better than anything. I realized I was trying to do too much and I wasn’t really passionate about anything I was selling except my own designs, so I sold the first three and opened a fourth store, marigoldshadows.com.
I had the store set up for a few weeks before I got my first sale. I took my time building it and didn’t advertise it for a while.
“I was at the cashier at the car wash and heard a ka-ching sound. I looked at the cashier thinking it was her and she looked at me, then I saw my phone and realized it was the Shopify app!”
I had spent about $150 with Facebook to get my first sale for $50, which definitely isn’t profitable. Fortunately, it’s gotten so much better. I’ve had to silence the Shopify ka-ching alert!
I think the key to getting your first sale or any sale is to learn who your target customer is, it’s not always who you think they might be.
You’ll also find the most success when you sell something you’re genuinely interested in. When I started selling my own designs that I really liked, running a store felt less like work and sales came faster.
Read more about how Zoe mastered her business’ Black Friday Sales.
Christoph Filgertshofer, 18-Year-Old Pro Dropshipper
I was in a restaurant with a couple friends of mine and suddenly I heard this ka-ching sound out of my pocket. I took my phone out and saw my very first Shopify sale notification.
“It was completely crazy for me, because I had already given up hope. I instantly loved the sound, it was a huge motivation for me to push further and get more and more sales.”
I used Google ads in the beginning but it didn’t work. So I switched to influencers, which again didn’t really work. Next I tried Facebook ads, but again these seemed to be a failure. Finally after multiple attempts, the first sale came through with a Facebook ad. It was about 2.5 weeks after launching my first store.
Just keep trying different marketing techniques until you find one that works for you. My advice is also to not give up! Look at people who have already succeeded in your niche and replicate what they have done.
Ryan Carroll, Swimwear Dropshipper
When I got my first sale I remember I was at home casually eating avocado toast for breakfast. I felt my phone buzz so I checked it thinking it would just be a text message but it was a Shopify notification that I got a sale for $53!
I opened my store on January 1st, 2017 and I got my first sale on January 2nd, so it took me less than 48 hours. This sale came through running Instagram ads.
I think the key to getting my first sale was understanding trending products in the fashion industry for my target demographic. For me it was watching what big public figures like the Kardashians are wearing and then selling similar products on my store.
Read more about how Ryan runs his business from his laptop anywhere in the world.
Kobe Gatsby, Dropshipping Entrepreneur
My first sale was unexpected. I had built two stores already and was starting to re-evaluate my process, wondering if I was doing this right. The ad went out at 3pm and the results were typical; little traffic, a few comments, $0 sales. Later that afternoon I wrote it off as another trash ad. Then an unfamiliar ka-ching sound went off. And then another. It was $60 in sales in two minutes.
The best way to get your first sales are through Instagram influencers or basically any traffic source other than Facebook directly. Instagram influencers allow you to use common sense and target a niche of people who are passionate about what you are selling. You’ll get proof of concept and make a little money too if you do it right. The entire purpose of this is to get that pixel data and move to Facebook ads, which are the holy grail. From there it’s relatively smooth sailing.
Tim Vangsness, Dropshipping Entrepreneur
When I got my first sale, it was the greatest feeling! I had just spent that night setting up my store, and I had the app on my phone set up so it would give off an alert when I got a sale. I had some ads running, and as I was drifting to sleep I remember thinking, “I can’t wait to check it in the morning!”
Just as I was falling asleep, I heard the notification on my phone go off. I don’t know what happened, but it must have just been a massive rush of adrenaline, and excitement, my heart started smashing in my chest almost to the point where it hurt! I checked my phone and it was a $9.50 sale, haha.
“But then I couldn’t sleep, and I was straight back onto the website adding more to it. I was up all night that night.”
The sale came pretty quickly because I had a good source of traffic, so I was probably getting a few hundred views to the website per day. That traffic took a while to build up, it was probably six months of developing the website to get that traffic. But as soon as I changed the products in the store and starting running ads it happened pretty quickly, probably within four hours.
In the end, I had to turn the Shopify notifications off because every time it rang my heart just beat too fast!
Read more about Tim’s advice for starting a dropshipping store with $500.
Ovidiu Sofron, Multi-Store Dropshipper
My first sale was when I was driving to the store. I had connected my phone to the Shopify app and all the sudden I got that sound — ka-ching! At first I was thinking, “What is that sound?” and when I saw the notification then I got a rush of adrenaline. I was ecstatic, but nervous at the same time.
The first sale took about six weeks after I started my ecommerce store, and came from a Facebook ad. The key to the sale for me was hiring people who understood how Facebook ads really work. Don’t do it blind.
“My advice is to know your strengths, and get help in the areas that you’re not strong in.”
Ronnie McKenzie, Dropshipping Entrepreneur
I think I’d just launched a set of ads on Facebook within the last hour, and I was still launching a slew of other ads. That sale literally came about so quick I was lucky to catch it. I hadn’t even downloaded the Shopify app yet!
The sale came from a pair of sneakers I felt particularly confident about. I made that first sale within the first $2 of ad spend! Those sneakers went on to be the best seller in the store, and I had sold over $300,000 in a few months before selling my store.
I was super excited to have that initial confidence boost, and it put fuel on the fire to keep me going. I barely slept for the next five months while trying to build my store into a juggernaut.
For someone starting out I would suggest 95% of your effort should be on finding those killer products.
“Bad ads will sell good products, great ads won’t sell bad products.”
Once our store is set up and super professional, the effort is on product research. There are so many other key factors that need to be taken into account to make it sustainable, however once you get the sales popping it’s much easier to bring in the systems to really make the store work.
Nate Schmidt, Dropshipping Entrepreneur
I remember I was sitting at my desk (where I was 99% of the time back then) when I got my first sale. It was only $7, but I’m not sure if I’ve felt a better feeling in my life. First thing I did was call my parents and ask them to meet me for dinner so I could convince them to let me take a semester off college.
It took about two weeks from when I opened the store to when I get my first sale, which came from Facebook ads. Honestly, I think a lot of it was luck because I barely made any sales on that store after that (it failed). The good news is that the next one I started took off like you wouldn’t believe!
My advice for others is that your first store will almost undoubtedly fail. But it’s a learning process. You have to fail forward and learn from every mistake. Take what you learn and try again and again until you find something that works!
Karolis Rimkus, Side-Hustling Entrepreneur
When I first started my running clothing store, I wasn’t sure which products would work. I was going through runners’ forums with my personal profile, reading people’s concerns about their bad running shorts or terrible headbands. I would offer suggestions on what to improve and slide in links to my products here and there. That’s where the first sale came from, and it took me a couple of months to get there.
The Lesson Learned
The first sale actually came from the Netherlands, and no one bought anything from there ever since! I was also a total noob, and didn’t know how to set up my payments properly. They paid through Shopify Payments, which were unavailable in my country, and so Shopify refunded them the whole amount in a week. But that still counts as a sale, right?!
Read more about how Karolis turned his side-hustle into an eight-month trip around the world.
Yuliya Chernykhovskaya, Successful Dropshipper
I remember that for our first sale I was terrified because it was a bigger order. Plus everything went wrong. Her order got delayed, then it arrived broken. Then I tried to give her a gift card to make it better, and the gift card wasn’t working. But luckily, as soon as that first sale happened I got a lot more that went smoothly.
For that first sale, it took us about two weeks and came from Facebook ads. I spent way too much money on ads for the first two months, and didn’t profit much at all because of that. But I think that helped a lot in figuring out what didn’t work quickly.
The Lesson Learned
I was very trigger happy with my ads at the beginning. If I woke up the next day and saw that an ad did really well, I’d massively raise the budget. And then if the next day I saw that it did badly and I’d completely kill the budget. And so with the Facebook algorithm that doesn’t really work so well. Now we give it at least three to seven days to really gauge the performance of an ad before we kill it or scale it.
Read more about the secrets behind Yuliya and her partner Mike’s successful dropshipping business.
Marcelo, Women’s Fashion Entrepreneur
My first sale was on the first week that I opened the store! It was a great feeling when I saw and heard the notification, I got so excited and since that moment I knew I could achieve (almost) anything.
My first sale came from Instagram, and the sale was due to engaging with Instagram users. I was liking and commenting on their pictures, and trying to think what I would like as a customer.
James Holt, Dropshipping Entrepreneur
The Lead Up
My first two Shopify stores never made a sale. I was listening to the wrong advice and frankly, half-assing it and expecting to make money. Only once I took the time to learn from real experts, invest in an existing store and do Instagram shoutouts (instead of messing around with Facebook ads) did I made my first sale.
It took a little time, but once that first sale came, it wasn’t just one sale – the sales notifications on my phone started going off like crazy!
I still remember that I was sitting at my desk, where I was supposed to be studying for a high school exam, but I couldn’t take my eyes off my phone as it kept lighting up with sales notifications.
Since then, my advice to everyone is:
“Start with Instagram influencers instead of Facebook ads. Transitioning later is easy once you have the data for a lookalike audience.”
Regardless of how often I give this advice, most people ignore it. Oh, well. More money for those who listen!
Take the Next Step
Every entrepreneur’s journey is different, and persistence pays off. Whether it took them four hours or two months, every one of these business owners made it to their first sale.
So don’t be discouraged. Everything you try will teach you something new and get you a little closer to your goals.
And if you’re struggling for ideas of what to try next, we’ve got a book for that. Check out our free ebook 50 Ways to Get Sales With Dropshipping.
Start selling online now with ShopifyStart your free trial