I want to help you build a sustainable, profitable handmade business that makes you consistent income and sales. I only ever teach or recommend marketing, social media, pricing, production and branding tips that I’ve personally used successfully in my own 7-figure handmade businesses.
I'm Mei, from Los Angeles!
starting a business
get more traffic
running a business
make more sales
growing a business
mindset & productivity
pricing & money
selling on etsy
selling on amazon
Your small handmade business is now growing, with customers coming from all over the United States.
Now, what’s next on your business checklist?
Maybe it’s time to go international!
Practically speaking, the next step after doing really well locally already is to cover more ground – to bring your products to different countries by offering convenient, secure, and reliable international shipping.
Shipping is a delicate aspect of running a handmade business.
You spend hours and hours creating all of your beautiful products, and the worst-case scenario is finding out that your products got destroyed en route to their destination.
In this blog post, I want to help you master international shipping and dealing with customs duties and all of that fun stuff.
I want to help you prepare for all the paperwork you need to file and the packages you need to secure.
Avoid the fear and overwhelm of shipping internationally with this practical guide I prepared for handmade business owners.
So let’s get started building your international shipping strategy!
To determine which countries you want to ship to, it would be helpful to do some research first.
Questions you could ask yourself are: is there already a demand for your products in those specific countries? Do you have enough people interested in your products to make shipping there worth it? And are their local postal services reliable and trustworthy?
For example, if your product is knitted sweaters, there probably will be little demand in tropical countries where there is rarely a need for warm clothing.
It is all up to you to add or limit the countries you’re going to ship out to. So do your research first before making your final decision.
It is also wise to consider which products can take the tossing and turning and turbulence of international shipping.
The biggest fear that handmade business owners have is whether or not their products will break during transportation.
If you can handle the risk of shipping fragile items abroad, then you can add them to the list of products you’re going to make available for international shipping. If not, you can always just choose a few products you’re comfortable shipping out.
Aside from this, also consider whether or not your products are legal in each country you’re shipping to.
Each country has a specific list of prohibited and restricted items.
You don’t want to unknowingly ship products that are included in this list and undergo so many legal proceedings or pay expensive fines.
Shipping services allow you the option of getting insurance for your packages.
This is to minimize your risk in case of emergencies, especially if the package gets lost or damaged.
Insurance is important for high-value and fragile items, so it’s up to you to decide whether or not you’re going to insure your packages.
Protect your packages from unforeseeable events and worst-case scenarios.
If your package is damaged or lost en route to its destination, your shipping provider may reimburse you a certain amount depending on the value of the item.
Your customers will definitely appreciate it if you offer insurance for their packages if you sell higher-priced products.
For me with my $28 jewelry, insurance isn’t usually worth it to my customers so this isn’t something I’ve implemented in my business unless I’m shipping out a very large order or a wholesale order to a retail store.
Also, keep in mind that some services like USPS Priority and Express include insurance up to $50 and $100 respectively.
Each country has different sets of policies regarding customs duties and taxes.
This can get confusing, so let me make this simpler.
Customs duties are fees paid to each country’s government, and it is meant to limit how freely each product can be let into the country.
And this limit depends on how each product affects the economy. So this means duties do change sometimes.
Taxes are also amounts set by the government added to imported products. Most countries implement Value-Added Tax (VAT) or Goods and Services Tax (GST)
The thing is, not all products are subject to duties and taxes.
Your package would first undergo inspection by the receiving country’s customs officers, then they decide if your package will need to incur any duties or taxes.
If they do, they’ll send a note to your customer telling them they need to pay up first before they can receive their package.
If you want to give your customers a hassle-free shopping experience, you can build the cost of duties and taxes into your products’ prices.
This way, you’re taking one less thing off their plate.
However, since not all packages and products get taxed, I wouldn’t build this tax into your product pricing because then it inflates it for everyone shopping from your store.
So there’s another option.
You can let your customers know clearly upon checkout that they’ll be responsible for any duties and taxes, on top of paying for the product and shipping fee.
The rule of thumb is that you should never pay any of these fees. Your customers should always be the ones to shoulder the shipping fee, customs duties, and taxes.
Never let these fees cut into your profit margin.
Dealing with customs can get pretty scary, but let me simplify it for you.
Most countries require that each package has specific documents such as customs forms attached to them.
You can manually fill in customs forms at your local post office or shipping software like ShipStation automates this process for you.
Since I have my ShipStation integrated with my Shopify and Etsy stores, it already has all the details from the order that we need to include in the customs form.
You will need to specify each item’s price, type, weight, and dimensions.
Everything has to be accurate to speed up the process in customs and not delay your packages’ arrival.
Pro tip! I recommend putting the customs forms in transparent and waterproof envelopes or “slip pockets” that you can attach directly to the package.
Most shipping providers offer slip pockets for free.
You can get slip pockets for free via the USPS or UPS website.
Be very careful when packing up your products to avoid all the stress that comes with shipping your work from one country to another.
Pack them up safely and securely. So, double up in cushioning or bubble wrap especially if your products are fragile.
Make sure there is no room in the package for your product to be bouncing around because that can break it.
You want your product to be snug inside the package.
I use padded envelopes for most of my jewelry orders because they cost a lot less than boxes and they’re cheaper to ship.
But I still put my jewelry in boxes to provide them with more support.
Make sure to keep a record of all the steps you took to ship out your first international order.
This way, you will be able to build and replicate your international shipping strategy and make the process easier, faster, and better in the long run.
If you have any questions about shipping handmade products internationally, feel free to let me know in the comments.
And don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel for more handmade business tips and tricks!
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This workshop is for anyone who makes and sells a handmade or physical product, including jewelry designers, artists, paper designers, bath & body product makers and more!
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