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Bonus Mid-Week Lesson: Shipping Tips and Tricks

Feb 5, 2015

by Jess Van Den handmade and vintage goods

While shipping can be a tricky part of selling handmade goods online, it’s a critical business skill to master. Savvy shipping strategies will not only help ensure your products arrive safely; they’ll keep you from losing money on unexpected costs, especially when shipping internationally. Today’s lesson will take you through the fundamental steps of covering your shipping costs, and provide you with helpful tips for shipping via Australia Post.

  1. Account for shipping and handling within your business plan.

Whether you charge for shipping separately or include it in with your product cost, it’s important to avoid shortchanging yourself on the shipping. While covering postage costs might be okay for the occasional sale, it will severely cut into your profit margin when your volume increases.

I prefer to always list my shipping charges separately, but if you plan to offer free shipping as a part of your marketing efforts, be sure to factor shipping costs into your product prices to cover the loss. For more tips on tracking expenses and pricing your products, read How to Price Like a Pro.

  1. Factor your packaging into your overall postage costs.

From bubble wrap to cardboard boxes, packaging materials can add up quickly. Your final shipping cost should incorporate not only your postage cost, but the price of your packaging materials, too. I add approximately an extra dollar per sale to my shipping cost to do that. Again, you might choose to just increase the cost of your product slightly to account for it.

  1. If you undercharge for shipping, be ready to take responsibility.

When you’re learning the basics of shipping products of varying shapes and sizes to different locations, a learning curve is inevitable. If you do undercharge a customer for shipping, be prepared to cover that extra cost yourself. I’ve made this mistake before, and so have most online sellers at one time or another. Odds are you’ll only undercharge once in a big way before becoming more diligent in your shipping research.

  1. Research your options ahead of time.

It’s worth the effort to calculate common postage costs early on, so you don’t lose money through erroneous rates later on. We’ve all been there; I remember a parcel I sent when I just started out, which I thought would be $2, but ended up costing $10. As it turned out, my initial estimate was right, but when the post office suggested a different rate I went along with them because I didn’t know any better. Take the time to research your options ahead of time, and you’ll avoid costly headaches down the road.


Making the Most of Australia Post

  • Make friends with the staff at your local post office! They will be invaluable allies as you grow your business. Next time you go in, ask them for the latest pricing guidelines booklet. You can also download all of the up-to-date postal guides on the AusPost website.
  • If you’re shipping internationally, download the International Post Charges Guide for a breakdown of postage prices by zone and country. It’s a bit of a tedious read, but it means that every time you add a new product, you’ll have the shipping costs handy and ready to reference.
  • Once you start shipping regularly, open a Business Account with AusPost. A few of the benefits include:
    • No more waiting in line; you get a book of postage forms to fill in, so each time you ship, you just fill one of these in at home, then drop off your parcels along with the form without having to wait in line.
    • You pay your bill once a month. That means that your money is in your account longer, and record keeping and accounting becomes way easier — just having one postage bill a month rather than lots of little receipts to worry about.
  • If you’re sending 20 parcels or more a week, consider signing up for a high-volume parcel contract here. Also check out the eParcel and Click & Send options.
  • Understand the difference between a “Large Letter” and a “Parcel”. AusPost currently defines the maximum dimensions for a large letter as 260 x 360 x 20 mm. The key measurement is the 20 mm, or 2 cm height. Once you’ve made friends with your local post office staff, ask them for a letter gauge. It allows you to check your parcels at home to see if they fit through what some people call “the slot of doom”. If your parcel fits, you can send it as a large letter — both domestically and internationally — and that makes your postage much cheaper than sending it as a parcel.


If you have any questions or any tips of your own, make sure to pop over and share them in the Facebook group.


Homework: Work out the postage cost on at least three different items — both domestic and international.



  • artdecadence

    Chrisy McConnell from ARTDECADENCE said 4 years ago

    Thanks Jess. It took me awhile to become proficient with quoted postage but, after a few big blunders, I think I'm on track now. I also added a little onto cost of item to cover packaging as I felt better about doing this than adding it onto postage.

  • rarebeasts

    Brian McNamara from rarebeasts said 4 years ago

    Super valuable tips, thankyou Jess.

  • GoldenBookJournals

    Emily from GoldenJournals said 4 years ago

    I didn't know you could ask for a gauge!!

  • nivisto

    Nick from nivisto said 4 years ago

    Thanks for the great tips. Here's one of mine: Sending a letter with Auspost that weighs between 250g to 500g to the US via airmail costs $16.50 but sending a parcel up to 500g costs $14.10.

  • dragonzwench

    DragonzWench from DragonzWench said 4 years ago

    Watch your weight. some padded post bags weigh a lot less than others and this can make a huge difference in postal charges. the old cardboard ones size"O" weigh 49grams and the lightweight paper and plastic ones weigh 13grams this can be a husge difference if you are shipping something very light. eg; I posted a parcel to US this morning cost was $2.75 and weight was 47gram. if I had used a cardboard padded bag, it would have weighed more than 50grams and would have cost $7.20. postage cost is a big factor when buyers look at total cost for an item. so keeping postal charges as low as possible is important.

  • sodaladesigns

    so da la designs from sodaladesigns said 4 years ago

    I made my own gauge for this which was very handy. I do worry about sending overseas though even if it is under the 20mm limit. My post office also said that you can't do though for express post as they specify that letter envelopes are for documents only.

  • chelseamaydesigns

    Chelsea Hantken from Pollypixels said 4 years ago

    Great tips! Thank you Jess!

  • earthstonesau

    Jon Mommers from EarthStonesAustralia said 4 years ago

    Great content and advise, thank you. I ship a lot of fragile items, both within Australia and overseas. It is more important to me to have the item packaged and protected than to save on postage. I must admit to having lost sales and customers because of postal costs, especially to Europe. That being said, refunds are more costly, especially for items that are poorly packed. Nothing, however compensates or repairs the damage done to a relationship with a paying customer, for the disappointment they experience when they open a package and find it damaged because of poor packaging. This type of damage is avoidable, we take great pride in our craft, good packaging ensures your customers experience the excitement of opening your package and their pride in owning one of your items. I still make mistakes occasionally on postage, these days this happens normally when combining items in to a single package or for not allowing enough for the weight of stickers and paperwork to be added to the box after it has been sealed. A 10 gram mistake on a 500 gram parcel to Europe will cost you $18.20 basic Airmail

  • msanhpaints

    Anh N from MsAnhPaintsPortraits said 4 years ago

    Didn't know opening a Business Account was free either- awesome! If you overcharge, then I noticed you could issue a refund. Does Etsy charge for this 'refund' transaction? And thank you for another useful post, looking forward to the next. :)

  • belnico

    Bel Patterson from NicobellaOriginals said 4 years ago

    Thanks for the advice! I shudder at parcel prices as I sell paintings and it's the real downside of selling online is the shipping costs. also my paintings are all sorts of sizes, which makes me think I should just concentrate of a couple of sizes so I'm sure of the shipping costs and don't get pinched later on.

  • empressbat

    empressbat from EmpressBatsEmporium said 4 years ago

    i have had customers ask me why i have charged X amount when the stamps were only $7.20 (parcel post) i messaged them back saying its the cost of my packaging... i wish easy would call the shipping costs: 'post and handling'.. or something so people understand it isn't just the price of the stamp they are paying for

  • wearablesok

    rosie from MissKnitYarns said 4 years ago

    great tips, especially getting to know your PO staff. I've been going to the same local post office for 10 years now. they save me money all the time with their suggestions, keep me up to date with any changes happening, catch any mistakes I've made, etc ... and are just great for a chat too :) if you want to keep up to date on your prices it's also handy to know Auspost changes postage rates twice a year -before easter around march/april and before Christmas -around October/November. ** there's a change due march 2 for domestic rates -regular and express and pre-paid bags

  • philliplh

    Phillip and Majella from ExquisiteGem said 4 years ago

    Great tips - love our local post office staff in Ayr! Very helpful!! We incorporate the cost of packaging into our prices rather than adding extra to the shipping costs. We are definitely going to open a business account.... like right NOW!! :-)

  • PoseyandChelle

    Posey and Chelle from PoseyAndChelle said 4 years ago

    Wonderful tips. Some great ideas to help keep international shipping costs down, we'll implement a few of these ideas. Off to the post office tomorrow to ask for a letter gauge too!!

  • victoriag06

    Victoria FitzGerald from vfitzartist said 4 years ago

    This is super helpful - I didn't know you could get a business account with Australian Post. I will definitely have to check that out soon :) I also put the postage price into my product price - Free Australian shipping looks much better to potential customers :)

  • Epheriell

    Jess Van Den from Epheriell said 4 years ago

    Glad you found the lesson helpful, all! Jon - absolutely true - safe packaging is the most important thing.

  • emmapro

    Emma from BreathofJoy said 4 years ago

    I do find shipping confusing, and australia post website a little confusing too... Thank you for the help! I'm glad you covered this:) I made my first sale yesterday, so I can finally experience shipping and handling for real! I hope they're ready for a pile of questions, haha!

  • scrapaliciousdelight

    Susanna Di Paola from ScrapaliciousDelight said 4 years ago

    Some good tips thank you! I think things would be a lot easier if we could charge due to weight of you packages

  • AfroShe

    Ruth Wallis from AfroShe said 4 years ago

    Great article! Very helpful indeed...especially the bit about Australia post 'Business Account'. @empressbat Re: 'Postage & Handling' cost ...You could include this on your customers invoice so they see that it isn't just the stamp cost that they are paying for (this is what I do).

  • lykkeandleylah

    Verity from ReFindFurniturePerth said 4 years ago

    Do you have any suggestions for furniture/larger items which cannot really be shipped. I currently have a note in each items listing & policy stating it is local pick up only & that delivery via courier can be arranged by the buyer at their own expense. As you must enter a rate for shipping, I have set it at $0. I've researched into what other etsy sellers do and found opinion and methods vary. I was wondering if there was a correct way? Thank you!!

  • sewcutequilts

    Jennifer from SewCuteQuiltAndKnit said 4 years ago

    I've tried and tried to get a letter gauge but they refuse to give me one. I'm going to make my own with the left over cut-outs when I get around to making my light box. I love my little white polymailers, they weigh almost nothing and I can smash the air out to get it under 2 cm.

  • kazzycaboodles

    Kaz from kazzycaboodles said 4 years ago

    My local PO was so helpful with information - they gave me the postal rates booklet as well as a letter gauge. If you aren't lucky enough to snag a letter gauge, you can make one from cutting gaps in thick cardboard and basing these sizes on the maximum thicknesses listed in the postal booklet. If it slides through easily then it is okay. Just be aware that postal rates can (and do) change on a regular basis. To keep up to date on these changes regularly check the Australia Post website (particularly under their media releases). Thanks so much for all of the helpful information! xxx :)

  • ECFGroupAU

    Tracey Sharp from ECFstudio said 4 years ago

    I too find the Australia Post information a bit confusing but there have been some great tips in this lesson and from everyone's comments. Thankyou!

  • vanessadowney

    Vanessa Downey from RosesUpcycled said 4 years ago

    Love all the tips and information you have been giving. We currently have an issue as we sell upcycled furniture so every piece is a one off size and weight. If we could put in the shipping rate to "contact owner" instead of having to put a price this would be a good option. Or if you have any other suggestions, that would be helpful. Thanks.

  • johnnyshi

    Johnny Shi said 4 years ago

    This has been extremely helpful. For awhile now I have been debating having the shipping covered in the product cost or not. In my opinion it feels like a bigger risk because like you mentioned I would have to take responsibility for the underestimated costs. I will definitely be doing more research now. Thank you for helping me with this decision.

  • vonideludela

    Voni from GlobalDivaStyle said 4 years ago

    Australia Post website is a dog's breakfast! Way too many options, zones, extra charges, insurance etc. So confusing! Why do we not have this integrated with Etsy AU, like they have in Etsy US? Or on eBay for that matter? It's impossible to list individual options for every country you shop to, especiallyl when you're happy to ship worldwide. We also can't print shipping labels like they can Etsy US, and get a shipping discount when we use that facility, just like Ebay. I wish Etsy AU would align their functionalities with Etsy US. So much better and easier. I am wasting too much valuable time on this.

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