A big shout-out to Dancingcircle who saw a hole in our Beginner’s Guide and ended up filling it in. Shipping is so important for our Etsy sellers and she’s made a great contribution to making it easier. If you have ideas for useful how-tos to help your fellow sellers, post in the comments below or use our pitch form.
Most Etsy sellers know all about how to get your precious packages from here to there.
Wait. You don’t? Well, welcome to the ever changing world of shipping! It’s not always glamorous, but is vital to your online reputation. Here’s a crash course for new sellers or anyone who needs a refresher.
Be Prepared – Create a mini shipping center:
• Invest in a postal scale — You will probably need to weigh packages in order to determine and compare shipping rates.
• Have a flexible tape measure handy — Many carriers use what’s called “dimensional weight” and charge by box size instead of weight.
• Decide what packaging you will use and stockpile supplies —
- Some examples might include: bubble wrap, tissue paper, foam or packing peanuts.
- Keep in mind that thousands of pieces of mail go through a variety of delivery systems each day. Pack your parcel securely to insure safe delivery.
- If you know you’ll be sending boxes regularly it might pay off to invest in a sturdy tape gun and a package of clear, postal grade packing tape.
- Whether you plan to buy boxes, order free ones online from USPS.com or use a form of recycled packaging — be prepared. Don’t wait until the pickup time before you start hunting around for a box.
• Is your item fragile? You might want to affix an alert/warning label to your box.
• Assemble promotional items such as business cards, thank you notes or care tip sheets you intend to send with your package.
Ok – so now you’re ready to prepare a professional package destined to make it around the world safely.
But how much will it cost and what should you charge your customer?
• Do your homework and research at least 2 or 3 carriers. Based on price and time in transit, determine which carriers might work out best for your special items. Spend some time playing with shipping calculators: enter random zip codes near and far with different sized boxes and weights.
• It’s easy to set up your own account through USPS, UPS or FedEx by visiting their websites. Make sure you clearly understand each carrier’s shipping timeframes, if they include delivery confirmation, and where you will need to drop off packages or how to schedule a pick up. Don’t forget to check out their claims or lost package policies.
• Many sellers save time and money by purchasing and printing shipping labels at home online via PayPal or individual carriers’ websites. You will need to buy labels to use with your printer or have packing tape on hand to securely affix labels to your packages. Do not tape over bar codes!
• Shipping companies usually increase rates about once a year. Pay close attention to service updates and announcements. Reputable carriers advise customers at least a month or so in advance of important changes and you’ll need that time to update your listings to reflect higher shipping fees.
So now you’ve got a pretty good idea of what it will cost to send your package from here to there and how long it will take.
It’s time to set up your Etsy shipping profile. Etsy now offers a specific Policy page where you can lay out all of this information (read the Hello Policy article for more suggestions).
Explain your shipping policies clearly and be sure to let potential customers know:
• How often or quickly you ship
• What carrier (or carriers) you use
• Whether delivery confirmation and/or insurance is offered or included
• About how long it will take to receive their purchases
• Whether you offer any “rush” or “overnight” services – especially around the holidays
• Do not select the “everywhere else” option unless you’re confident you can ship your items “anywhere” for the rate you’ve indicated. Don’t get caught in an embarrassing predicament where you end up paying more for shipping than proceeds from the total sale!
Do you plan to ship internationally?
• If so, consider offering service to just a few countries to start with until you’re comfortable with procedures. Various countries prohibit certain items and you are responsible for researching import restrictions. The USPS website is an excellent source for detailed restrictions.
• Pay close attention to customs forms. You may need a telephone number for the recipient. Do not check the box indicating “gift” when sending purchased goods through customs. Shipping internationally gets pretty easy with a bit of experience and it’s fun.
Finally – Get to know your mail or delivery person
The old saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” can really help when you’re navigating the often bewildering world of shipping. Most people love to talk about themselves and their work. A little friendliness can go a long way toward learning the tricks of the trade!
See more tips and tricks for shipping!