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 twelve ecommerce and dropshipping entrepreneurs about the stories behind their first sales.
They share what it felt like the moment of their first sale, as well as their winning marketing channel and strategy.
They spill on the embarrassing mistakes they made on the way, and share their advice for anyone still trying to make it happen.
BONUS: We surveyed a group of dropshipping entrepreneurs on Facebook to find out about their first sale. Want to know what we learned? Check out the infographic at the end of the post.
- Ran Moore, eliotgrey.com
- Tin Ho, Dropshipping Entrepreneur
- Zoe Abel, Fashion entrepreneur
- Kobe Gatsby, Dropshipping entrepreneur
- Tim Vangsness, Dropshipping Entrepreneur
- James Holt, Dropshipping Entrepreneur
- Ronnie McKenzie, Dropshipping Entrepreneur
- Scott Hilse, “One-Product” Dropshipper
- Ashwini Ramanisankar, yellowtwig.com
- Nate Schmidt, Dropshipping Entrepreneur
- Karolis Rimkus, Side-Hustling Entrepreneur
- Yuliya Chernykhovskaya, Successful Dropshipper
- Take the Next Step
- BONUS INFOGRAPHIC!
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.
Tin Ho, Dropshipping Entrepreneur
It was seven days after my launching my store, and I remember being in my room and hearing a ka-ching sound. It was the sound of my Shopify app going off, telling me I had my first sale! 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, Fashion entrepreneur
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.
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 owns designs that I really liked, running a store felt less like work and sales came faster.
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 going 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!
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 to 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!
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 on 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 keys 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.
Scott Hilse, “One-Product” Dropshipper
In my first store, I had a few sales but it ultimately failed. When I got my first sale in the store that really took off I remember I was driving Uber in LA at the time. I looked at my phone and I had two notifications – I had a passenger to pick up, and I had my first sale!
It was pretty fast for me, it only took me two days to get that first sale, and it came through Facebook advertising.
I think the key for me was that I kept it simple. I changed my whole approach by focusing on selling one thing first, not many things at once. As the saying goes, “The man who chases two rabbits gets none.”
Get the full story behind Scott’s success here.
Ashwini Ramanisankar, yellowtwig.com
My first official sale was from my family (thanks!), but my first sale from a customer happened about two months after I launched my store.
I was getting into bed for the night. Before I go to bed I usually look up my site for a few minutes to check how things are going. I saw a pop up I had installed saying someone had bought an item a few minutes ago! I was so excited and opened up my Shopify account and saw that there indeed was a sale! It was from a customer that I had met at the farmer’s market where we had a stall the previous weekend.
I had already spent a decent amount of money on Facebook Ads and Google AdWords, but I was still learning to get them right. I had been getting site visits but no sales. Getting out there and promoting it in person gave me credibility and helps people trust that it’s not a fake site. I also got a lot of feedback that made me go back and fix my navigation, so that helped the site work better. There’s really nothing like having a face to face conversation!
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 used his side hustle to finance 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 Yuliya and her partner Mike’s journey to ecommerce success in our interview.
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.
We surveyed a bunch of entrepreneurs at various stages in their journey about how they got their first sale.
Here’s what we found out.