The Business of Art: Shipping Tips

It's been awhile since my last Business of Art post, but rest assured I didn't totally forget about them.  Today I'm going to give you a few tips on shipping because shipping related questions tend to pop up quite frequently.  

Packaging

Before you ship your prints, stationery, etc off to their happy new homes, they need to be packed safely.  First of all, that means using cello bags or glassine envelopes or something similar to protect your item during shipping.  I order these things from Clear Bags where I can find various sizes of these eco-friendly flap seal bags along with various sizes of glassine envelopes.  I use the flap seal bags for my prints and stationery products but I really like the glassine envelopes for packaging stickers and other small items.

Once your items are tucked safely into their bags or envelopes, it's time to actually pack them for shipping.  

I buy the vast majority of my shipping supplies from Uline because I can buy in bulk and save a bit of money.  If you're just starting out though, I recommend Valuemailers where you can buy smaller quantities of shipping supplies still at a good price.  You don't want to invest in a huge quantity of some shipping supply only to discover that it won't work for your product, right? 

Here's a short list of the basic packing and shipping supplies I keep on hand:  

* 3 x 4 inch glassine envelopes for packaging stickers and other small items

* assorted sizes of flap seal bags for prints and stationery products

* many rolls of clear packing tape

* 3 x 15 inch mailing tubes for sending large prints

* assorted sizes of rigid photo mailers for prints, stationery, etc.  

* a few regular boxes in various sizes for larger orders and wholesale orders

* 4.25 x 6.75 inch mailing labels

* tissue paper, it's lighter than bubble wrap and easier to use

* and of course, postcards, business cards and other freebies I include with my orders.

Shipping

Now that you've got everything neatly and safely packaged, you need to figure out how to ship.  

The obvious answer is the USPS.  You just need to address your packages correctly and head down to your local office to purchase postage.  But sometimes the lines at the post office are a pain so it makes sense to start printing your own postage at home which you can do using several services.  

Scale:  If you decide to start printing your own postage, you're going to need a postal scale.  Nothing fancy, just a small 5 lb. scale should do the job.  You can order them for less than $30 here or find one locally.

USPS website:  You can print some postage from the USPS website using their Click-N-Ship service.  But you can't print First Class postage, Priority Mail is your cheapest option other than just purchasing stamps.  

Paypal:  Yes, you can print postage directly from Paypal!  It's a fairly simple and straightforward process, just locate the order you want to ship in your Paypal account then select Print Shipping Label and fill out the form.  There are two things to note about Paypal shipping though.  

First, for domestic orders, Paypal automatically includes Delivery Confirmation so it's up to you to know whether or not your pacakge qualifies for that service.  That means that your package needs to be either thicker than 3/4 of an inch or needs to be rigid, like a rigid photo mailer.  If your package doesn't meet these requirements, there is a chance that your customer will be required by the USPS to pay additional postage for a Priority Mail upgrade before they can get their package.  

And second, if you are shipping internationally, Paypal only offers Priority and Express Mail International because they require that shipments be trackable.  For international shipping, these methods are quite expensive and you will be better served to find another shipping service.  

Endicia and Stamps.com:  These are both postage printing services that require you to pay a monthly fee in addition to your postage purchases.  I've tried both services and in the end settled on Stamps.com because I found the software to be more user friendly which saves me time.  And when I signed up for Stamps.com, I got a free 5 lb postal scale.  In addition, both services offer discounts on Delivery Confirmation and other services.  But what I really love about Stamps.com is that I can fill out my customs forms for international shipments right in the software and it prints out on my mailing label.  No more wasting time filling out triplicate forms for the USPS!

All in all you have to figure out what the best shipping solution is for you.  If you're just shipping a few packages a week, it's probably most cost effective to just ship at the post office.  But when you're business picks up, it will make more sense to start printing your own postage.  You'll save time and time is money when you're running your own business!

I hope this info helps a bit.  Please let me know if you have any questions about packaging and shipping!