Ecwid is officially Lightspeed! It’s business as usual, only better. Learn More

Everything you need to sell online

Set up an online store in minutes to sell on a website, social media, or marketplaces.

How to Start an Online Store Without Inventory Investment

13 min read

Are you interested in starting an online business? Do you think you have what it takes to run a successful ecommerce store? But maybe you don’t see how you can start without spending a fortune on inventory or web design?

If this is the case, you’re not alone. There are thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs out there like you, with incredible business skills and unique ideas, who find themselves stuck with the outdated mindset that they have to be ready to invest a ton of money on inventory in order to start their own ecommerce store. All without the guarantee that they’ll investment will pay off.

In this short guide, we’ll cover what you need to know to start an online store without inventory and help you reach the financial freedom and success thought by many in the past to be impossible. We’ll be going over the many ways you can start a business without a budget and destroy the outdated notion that you must blindly invest a ton of money on inventory to get started.

How to sell online
Tips from e-commerce experts for small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs.
Please enter a valid email address

Is It Possible to Start an Online Store Without Inventory?

For many ecommerce beginners, one of the most challenging aspects of starting a business is deciding what products to sell. This often creates anxiety and stress, as choosing the wrong product could lead to massive financial losses. Thankfully, this is no longer a problem thanks to the many options available out there that require little to no upfront investments, or in other words, zero inventory. This allows new entrepreneurs the ability to test different products and business ideas without commitment.

Yes, you’ve heard it here first! It is possible to start an online store without inventory. By using any of the following methods we’re about to cover next, you won’t need a lot of time or money, nor will it be necessary for you to find a storage space for or pay in advance.

Let us jump right in and find out how. But before we can get into the many different ways you can start selling online without inventory, it’s essential to understand you’ll first need to build and set up your online store. This is so you can add all of your products and offer a way for customers to checkout and purchase from you.

Creating a Website to Start Selling Without Inventory

As we already learned, it is possible to start making money selling the products you like without the need to buy in bulk or handle shipping. Everything can be done from the comfort of your home with nothing more than a laptop and some creativity. The glue that holds all of this together and makes it all possible is nothing more than having your own website so customers can easily find you, share your business with others,  and shop from you.

Although the different methods we’ll be covering next don’t necessarily require any capital investments, they do require business owners to identify their niche,  establish a solid business plan, and put in the effort to create a reputable and sustainable online store. Although this might sound like a lot of work, and perhaps money, nonetheless, you can easily have a free online store ready and start taking orders in a matter of minutes with Ecwid’s Forever Free plan.

This plan offers new entrepreneurs the opportunity to get started without any fees that get in their way. Once they’ve found the right products and decide it’s time to grow, they can always choose to upgrade plans and take on the opportunity to add unlimited products to sell on their ecommerce store. Under this plan, if you happen to have an online store already, you can always connect it to the Ecwid platform and start taking advantage of the many features available without the need to start from scratch. This way, you can easily put together your dream website and start selling from anywhere.

4 Ways to Start Selling Online Without Inventory

Now that you already have the foundation required to start selling online and advertising your products on any platform you’d like, it’s time to find out how you can start adding inventory to your store without the need to purchase anything before you make a sale.

Yes! Under any of the following models we’re about to mention, you’ll only be paying for a product once a sale is made. This way, you’re guaranteed to always make a profit without any risky investments. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular ways to start selling online without inventory and piles of wasted products. You’ll be able to try as many products or ideas as you want without any financial impact until you find the right fit for you.

1. Affiliate Store

This is a pretty popular method of selling products without the need to keep stock, primarily because of how convenient and simple it can be, with most of the burden being placed on the large-scale company you choose to work with.

Let’s find out how it works…

With affiliate marketing, you’ll be promoting someone’s already purchased and tested products, with the expectation of receiving a commission fee once you can make a sale. All you need to do is find an affiliate company to work with and then start promoting their products through your online store, social media, or even blog.

The biggest downside to this method is the company you choose to work with is the one to set any commission rates. Some don’t like this idea and prefer working under no supervision and in a way where they have complete control of their gains. If this is your case, the following model is probably going to sound great to you.

2. Dropshipping

Dropshipping is currently one of most people’s favorites, mostly because of how much control and freedom it offers them. Using this method, anyone, no matter the experience level, can run an online shop without the need to invest a fortune in inventory.

This is how dropshipping works:

Set up your website. This can only take a few minutes, depending on your needs and preferences.

Choose your supplier of choice. Common options are Alibaba or Ali Express, but you can always choose from the hundreds of options available on our Printful APP.

Add your products. Once you decide what products to sell, you’ll need to add them to your store. With Ecwid’s Printful app, available for free on our app market, this is now easier than ever. Your store can be fully stocked in just a matter of minutes.

Start Taking Orders. Set up your return policy and checkout preference and get ready to start selling. Once your store is filled with your products of choice, it’s all about waiting for your next order.

There is no need to worry about printing out shipping labels and packaging your products for shipment. Printful should take care of all of your received orders. With Printful, once a customer places an order, the platform and suppliers are rapidly notified so the product can be packed and sent to the customer in your name.

Once the order is fulfilled, suppliers take their portion and you take yours. It’s that simple!  Find out more about dropshipping with Ecwid and all about installing the Printful app to start dropshipping today.

3. Print on Demand

Next, we have Print-on-demand, which can be very similar to dropshipping. Just like with drop shipping, you’ll be able to use the Printful platform to take care of any part of the order fulfillment process under the print-on-demand model.

With this business model, you’ll be connecting your online store to a print-on-demand service in charge of creating your custom products with whatever design you provide. With print-on-demand, you can choose to sell designed t-shirts, tote bags, mugs, hats, keychains, and so much more.

There is no need to purchase any of your designed items before you make a sale. All you need is an online store or place to display your graphics and products, and once an order is made, your print-on-demand service will make the item and have it shipped to your customer in your name. This is an excellent option for those with great design skills, but you can also choose to outsource your designs if you’d like.

4. Digital Products or Services

Last but not least, you can also try selling digital products like a specific design or eBook or provide a digital service like a training program or streaming services. The sky’s the limit when it comes to this unique method of selling online without inventory. Some of the most popular items that work great under this method are graphic design, web design, or copywriting services.

You can easily set up your own digital service business and website with Ecwid and start reaching out to customers immediately! With a specialized service to offer and a website in place, you’ll have your own copywriting or graphic design business, to advertise on any platform you’d like or add to your marketing emails. This helps avoid the need to sell or purchase a physical product or pay for a location.

Start Selling Online Without Inventory

As you can see, it is easier than ever to start selling online without inventory — something most of us would have never thought possible a few years ago, and it looks like it is here to stay. The reality is that there are many advantages and reasons to start an online ecommerce store based on a business model like print-on-demand or drop shipping. The rewards can go from low startup costs, minimized risks, independence from traditional ways of income to an easy setup and fulfillment process.

No matter how you decide to sell your products, whether you choose to purchase inventory or not, you can take advantage of Ecwid and start selling online with minimal risks and high chances of finding a product that could change your life forever. We encourage you to give it a try,  and tell us how this guide was of help to you in the comments below!

Do you want to learn more about launching an online store?

Table of contents

Sell online

With Ecwid Ecommerce, you can easily sell anywhere, to anyone — across the internet and around the world.

About the author

Max has been working in the ecommerce industry for the last six years helping brands to establish and level-up content marketing and SEO. Despite that, he has experience with entrepreneurship. He is a fiction writer in his free time.

Ecommerce that has your back

So simple to use – even my most technophobic clients can manage. Easy to install, quick to set up. Light years ahead of other shop plugins.
I’m so impressed I’ve recommended it to my website clients and am now using it for my own store along with four others for which I webmaster. Beautiful coding, excellent top-notch support, great documentation, fantastic how-to videos. Thank you so much Ecwid, you rock!
I’ve used Ecwid and I love the platform itself. Everything is so simplified it’s insane. I love how you have different options to choose shipping carriers, to be able to put in so many different variants. It’s a pretty open e-commerce gateway.
Easy to use, affordable (and a free option if starting off). Looks professional, many templates to select from. The App is my favorite feature as I can manage my store right from my phone. Highly recommended 👌👍
I like that Ecwid was easy to start and to use. Even for a person like me, without any technical background. Very well written help articles. And the support team is the best for my opinion.
For everything it has to offer, ECWID is incredibly easy to set up. Highly recommend! I did a lot of research and tried about 3 other competitors. Just try ECWID and you'll be online in no time.

Your ecommerce dreams start here

We use cookies and similar technologies to remember your preferences, measure effectiveness of our campaigns, and analyze depersonalized data to improve performance of our site. By choosing «Accept», you consent to the use of cookies.