If shipping your handmade products has you pulling your hair out and you don’t know where to start, then stick around because I’m sharing the 3 key things you need to have in place to ship like a pro, worry-free!
Hi, I’m Mei Pak and I help makers, artists and designers make a consistent income from selling their handmade products online.
Shipping Handmade Products
I have shipped hundreds of thousands of packages in my time as a business owner and I’ve seen just about every situation imaginable.
Shipping can make or break how you feel about your business when you get up in the morning.
You're a maker and you spend all of this time making items and you want to get them out in the world. But if shipping is a hassle, then you’re going to be really frustrated and tired about this process.
That’s not what we want.
You want to basically snap your fingers and have those packages out the door, and that's how it can be if you get a system in place.
Today, I'm going to talk about 3 key things:
- Product Packaging
- Shipping Software & Websites
- Shipping Tools & Equipment
1. How to Package Products for Safe Travel
The goal is that you’re printing your shipping labels at home. It's super easy to do, and it will allow you to dedicate more time to actually making things, which is what you love doing, right?
I want to make it clear that you don't need to be selling dozens and dozens of items a day to make it worth setting up a shipping system from your own home.
Even if you're only shipping a small number of packages, the prices have come down a lot on printers and software and the time savings that you’ll gain by getting some of these services is so worth it.
The first thing I want to talk about is how to package your products for safe travel.
The first step in any shipping operation is putting the products in the box.
When you take your beautifully handmade item and put it in a box, I want you to pretend that the box is being thrown around in the back of a truck. Then ask yourself whether your customer will be happy with what they get when it arrives?
I know that seems dramatic, but that’s actually what happens!
Your item is going to be taken from your house put in a truck, then another truck and it's going to get thrown around the factory and then probably put on some more trucks before it ever reaches its final destination.
I’ve even had one of my packages run over by a truck!
I’m not saying we need to all account for that since that’s a pretty rare occurrence, but you get my drift. You want to make sure that your items are packed very VERY well.
Not only is your box the first thing a customer receives, but it's the first bit of branding that's in their hands.
It tells them what they can expect about the product that’s inside the box.
So look across your range of products and find the sizes that will work best for you. Then select the boxes or mailers that are going to protect your items.
If it means paying a little bit more for bubble wrap or a specially sized box, it's usually worth it.
You want to consider the trade off between the cost to ship an item and the fees you may be charged if the customer gets a damaged product.
For example, if you ship ceramics and one out of every 20 of your items comes back broken, you know, it's probably better for you to just pay an extra 50 cents to get the proper packaging to begin with.
One thing that's amazing about the United States Postal Service is they will provide boxes for you for free for Priority and Express mail. You can order those online at usps.com.
They’ll even ship it to you for free as well, or you can grab them at your local USPS store.
When I was first starting out with USPS’s free boxes, I always felt weird just taking their boxes and walking out of the store without paying for anything, but that is how it works.
Remember, this is only for their Priority and Express mail boxes.
It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re looking to save on costs.
Weight will also be a consideration.
I love bubble wrap over another filler like newspaper. Newspaper can be heavy, whereas bubble wrap is just air.
Personally, I sell jewelry and I package each item in their own gift box which provides some of its own protection. Then I use bubble mailers as the shipping packaging.
I rarely use boxes, only because I don’t need to with my product. They tend to cost more to buy and they weigh more as well, which makes my shipping prices more expensive.
So there’s definitely a lot of room here to strategize how you ship your products, especially since you have to strike a fine balance between giving your products ample protection while not paying an arm and a leg each time you ship.
2. Shipping Softwares and Websites
The next thing I want to talk about is software and sites that you can use to buy postage from home instead of having to wait in line at the post office.
Here’s what should happen:
- An order comes in and it either automatically goes to some kind of shipping software, or you just input the details by copying and pasting it into a shipping program.
- You package up your product
- A label comes out of a printer and you put it on the shipping box and it's out the door!
With a workflow like that, it can take two minutes to get something ready to ship.
Now this workflow isn’t going to be free, but it’s going to save you a ton of time. That’s worth the small cost it’ll take to get this set up.
You do not need to be shipping a lot of items to make this worth your money.
You’re going to need some shipping software that integrates with your website and anywhere else you sell online.
Some popular options are:
These softwares will most likely have some pretty cool features, like being able to pay for postage online and printing out labels so you can prepare your packages for shipping directly from home.
What’s nice about this is you can then schedule a free USPS pick up the next day and your postman or woman will come and grab your packages from your front door.
That means you don’t need to haul all your packages into your car, drive to the post office, park your car, wait in line and drive back home.
Another feature you can get from these softwares is calculated shipping.
This is a feature that grabs the USPS current shipping rates, looks at the weight you’ve set for your products, and gives you the most up to date shipping price you’ll have to pay.
It does all of this in a matter of seconds! You’ll never have to wonder how much a package will cost to ship.
If you sell larger items and you prefer to use DHL or FedEx, most of these softwares also connect with those services, so you’re not just limited to USPS.
These softwares will also print a customs form at home, which is super nice because those forms are tedious and time consuming to fill in by hand.
3. Shipping Tools & Equipment
There's not a ton of equipment needed since we've already talked about boxes and packing materials.
There are three additional things that I think you really need to get this off the ground.
- Weighing scale, so you know how much items weigh
All of the features that we just went over only work if you have an accurate weight on your products and what you’re shipping.
Most shipping services charge you a different price based on the weight.
You want it to be accurate so you’re not underpaying or overpaying.
Now, you can use your regular inkjet or laser printer and get label sheets like this one but what I really recommend and love are thermal printers.
Thermal printers work like magic! Heat passes over the labels and that’s what creates the “ink” on the labels.
This is great because you don't need to purchase ink like you would with a regular inkjet or laser printer.
It also means that if your package gets wet in the rain, the ink doesn't run or smear all over the place.
Thermal printers also usually come in much smaller sizes than your typical inkjet or laser printer. They weren’t really designed to print documents.
These thermal printers work with thermal shipping labels that come with sticky backs so it’s so easy to just print the label, peel it off the sheet and apply it to your packaging.
You also won’t have to use tape which can be a big fuss when you’re printing with your inkjet or laser printer on regular printer paper.
There are different popular brands when it comes to thermal printers, check out Zebra printers. That’s what I use and I just buy mine refurbished for a really great price, around $100.
There’s also Dymo printers which tend to be pricier but they’re trendier.
I hope you've enjoyed these tips on how to package and ship your handmade products.
If you enjoyed this post or have any questions, leave a comment below.
Don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel for more tips and inside secrets!