When I first started selling online, packaging and shipping took up more of my time than the actual production. I was so excited to have sales that I wanted each and every package to be beautiful and special. After each envelope was hand-lettered on an expensive hand-stamped label, I’d walk to the post office a mile from my studio and wait in line to have it posted. Even just writing that feels like going back to the neanderthal days! Now that I’ve shipped over 600 packages, I have learned a thing or two about shipping your product efficiently. Here are some steps for shipping your product and processing orders quickly so that you can spend more time making profit and less time futzing with paper and stamps.
Mock up your packages.
Just like those fake gift-wrapped packages behind the customer service counter at the mall, you’ll be able to recreate your own packaging more quickly and efficiently if you work out a practice piece first. Designate some creative time to come up with a way of shipping your product that’s attractive, easy to recreate, and made from inexpensive supplies. Once you’ve come up with something that works, don’t put it away! Keep it on your desk, in your shipping center that you've set up for processing orders (more on that later), tack it up to the wall, etc. Now you’ll have a visual guide to assist you until you know your method of shipping your product like the back of your hand.
Decide on a preferred shipping method.
This may take a while. Test out all the mailing methods that apply to shipping your product and decide which you like best. Aim for a system that will allow you to print your postage at home. USPS.gov has an online system that allows multiple styles of postage, but this only works on PCs. Another handy shipping system is through Paypal, which is quicker, but only allows shipping on items purchased via Paypal. No matter which online method you use you’ll want to purchase a postal scale. They’re relatively inexpensive and you can purchase one at most post offices and office supply stores. You can even schedule package pickups through the USPS website, which will mean processing orders even more quickly — no more trips to the post office or time spent standing in line!
Purchase in bulk.
Once you’ve chosen your system for shipping your product, you may want to purchase labels that work with that system. Avery sells labels with completely opaque coverage, so you can recycle boxes without address interference. You’ll also want to purchase envelopes and boxes to suit your product. Purchase these in bulk, as the prices double or even triple if you purchase them in small amounts. Be aware that packaging supplies will take up space, but even so the amount you save is worth it when processing orders speedily!
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Set up a shipping center.
I know this is tough. You’ve already pushed your spouse out of his or her cobweb-laden workspace in the basement, covered the dining table in glue and glitter, and “cleaned out” your kids’ closets, but a dedicated shipping center for processing orders is absolutely essential to keeping on top of shipping your product. Store the majority of your bulk shipping items in the garage, attic, anywhere dry, but keep a healthy amount together with your scale and other packaging items. Play around with the placement of your packing and shipping goods and in no time your packaging will become part of a swift and easy routine!
As with anything, practice makes . . . better! Wrapping your items over and over again will make the packaging part go quicker and come together more attractively. Likewise, shipping your product over and over will help you come up with a system that works for you. Whether you ship alphabetically, organize product to be shipped by weight, or color, just keep at it until you find a groove!