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One of the most intimidating things about opening an Etsy shop is figuring out how to handle shipping. If you are anything like me, I barely even sent mail prior to selling on Etsy. I knew I had products I wanted to share, but knowing all the logistics of shipping and handling almost kept me from getting started. Before I set up my shop selling stationery, I had done all the work in figuring out how to produce my product without putting together a shipping plan.
When I got my first order, my immediate thought was “how the heck am I going to ship this?” Slightly frazzled, I went to the nearest office supply store, bought a box, some bubble wrap, and figured it out!
Luckily, Etsy makes it easy with their labels so after printing it off I used Google maps to find my local post office (yes, I didn’t even know where it was – now I’m there a few times a week) and dropped it off. After fulfilling several orders, I learned a few tricks, time and money savers, and the keys to figuring out shipping on Etsy.
Like I mentioned, when I got my first order I had zero clue what to do. Luckily, I was able to pop into the closest Office Depot and find an appropriate box, some bubble wrap, and tape. I printed the shipping label off from Etsy using my printer, cut it out, and taped it onto the box. After researching where my post office was, I drove over and dropped it off. My package arrived safely to the buyer, but I quickly learned I was spending entirely too much time AND money on my shipping process.
USPS has flat rate boxes that make the shipping process SO much quicker, cheaper, and overall easier. You can even order them online and have them delivered right to your door! I often use their small and medium sizes for my orders and they fit perfectly. The boxes are for priority mail, usually 2-3 days of transit time, which is much faster than ground services by UPS or FedEx. They’re also great because weight isn’t an issue, so I don’t have to spend time weighing the packed boxes. If your products fit nicely into on of their flat rate boxes, I highly suggest using them – the boxes themselves are totally free!
Of course, not all products fit in the USPS flat rate boxes. I have thin flat, rigid mailers and bubble mailers that I use to ship samples or orders of single cards. I purchase them on Amazon in bulk to save both time and money – it’s cheaper to buy in a large quantity and I’m not running to the store every couple of days to get more. Having them on hand in my office is key to getting orders shipped quickly and Amazon makes it easy to reorder when I notice them getting low.
For larger orders, I source boxes from The Container Store. I happened across their shipping section while in store looking for other things and a light bulb went off. The Container Store has perfect shipping boxes in various sizes at a very decent price. I like that their boxes are white (instead of cardboard brown) to match my branding and I keep them stocked in my office.
Although I haven’t used them myself, Uline and PaperMart are other companies who specialize in shipping supplies. The minimums can be a little higher, but if you notice your Etsy orders are all ending up shipping in the exact same size box you are likely to be able to get a great deal. Both companies also have specialty packaging if you need something you can’t find at a local office supply store.
When shipping through Etsy using non-flat rate boxes, I weigh my packages at home using a small shipping scale. This way, I can continue to print my own labels and avoid the line at the post office. I have this one, which costs under $20 and weighs up to 50 pounds. It was affordable and gets the job done.
If I have an extra large order, it can be cheaper to go through UPS or FedEx rather than USPS. Although USPS wins in affordability for smaller packages, it’s good to use this option for bigger boxes. I don’t weigh my packages before taking them to UPS, as they’ll do everything for you there. The lines are usually much shorter than that of the post office, so getting in and out isn’t normally a big deal.
Etsy makes it uber simple to print shipping labels directly from their site. It also helps ensure there are no address mistakes and keeps everything organized very nicely. Buyers get a notification email with tracking information when their order is shipped if you print the label through Etsy, it’s really a win-win-win.
In the beginning, when I first opened my Etsy shop, I was printing every label from my inkjet printer, cutting it out with scissors, and taping it on the package. Not only did it take FOREVER, but it didn’t look super professional. It also used a ton of paper, ink, and tape. I purchase a Dymo printer and it changed my life, y’all. It uses thermal printing technology which means you never have to buy ink. Say goodbye to cutting and taping, because these print out as stickers. It can be a bit of an investment if you’re a new seller, but the labels look so nice and you’ll be celebrating all your new free time.
I use the DYMO LabelWriter 4XL and love it! Not only for the reasons above, but because Dymo has excellent customer service. A couple months ago my printer was acting wonky, spitting out blank labels, so I called their help line. They are so kind and walked me through a few fixes, but nothing was solving my issue. Since my Dymo was less than two years old they had me ship it back and sent me a BRAND NEW ONE the very next day. I can’t say enough good things about my shipping label printer!
On Etsy’s shipping label page, choose the “format for 4×6 label printers” option at the bottom of the right side bar. When you purchase shipping, it will automatically format them for the Dymo. The label printer is by far one of my favorite business tools since I’m able to save both money and time using it.
The Post Office (and Home Pick Ups)
I don’t know about you, but where I live the post office line is always forever long and slowly moving. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, it’s crowded with people and ain’t nobody got time for that. If you’re following my above tips and using your stocked packaging, weighing your orders, and printing your own labels you don’t have to wait in line. Every post office I’ve been in has a drop off area for boxes that are ready to ship. As long as you don’t need a receipt, you can walk in, drop it off, and walk out – no lines, no interaction, easy and on your way!
To make this process even easier, you can schedule pick ups through USPS if you’re mailing at least one priority item. Visit their website, put in your address, and the next day the carrier will pick up your items. This doesn’t work great for me because I live in a townhouse and don’t have anywhere I feel comfortable leaving my packages outside. If you have a house with a front porch or another safe spot, take advantage of their pick up!
Make Life (and Biz) Easy
I only ship items two (max three) days a week so that I can batch my process of packing, printing labels, and taking trips to the post office. It really helps with time management, allowing more time to focus on the other (many) parts of running my Etsy shop.
Don’t let shipping logistics be what keeps you from opening an Etsy shop. It can seem intimidating at first, but once you begin selling it all becomes second nature – promise!
Curious about what it takes to open an Etsy shop? Download my free guide to getting started on Etsy here!
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This was super helpful! I didn’t know about USPS free priority mail boxes. I just ordered the size I needed, after reading your article. So glad I didn’t waste money just to get the shipping boxes.
Hi Angelique! I’m so glad you found it helpful! The USPS boxes are awesome – free, order online and have delivered, rates stay the same no matter the destination or weight. It’s a win/win/win!
To everyone on this thread. FedEx also has a One Rate 2day service with a letter size, large and small polyurethane pak, small box and medium boxes that are also free and can be ordered and delivered when you open a free business account. Rates are $7.50 – $13.95. Ask your representative for the Business Discount Plan 6U and be sure they guide you through the process to create the shipping label directly from your desktop or any FedEx Office will do it for you when you give them your account number.
My experience with USPS has been a nightmare this past couple years for dependability and reliability. Personally U’ve shipped my last package with USPS! FedEx also offers you 25% off ground shipping with the above mentioned business plan. Just my experience.
This is great info, thanks for sharing!
What if I don’t have a certain product? I wanna start my own and I’m an amazing seller, I don’t have my own product to sell? How would I start than?
Hi Leslie! I’d start with what you know how to make first. Maybe browse Pinterest to get some ideas and see what you’re drawn to! Figuring out what to sell can be overwhelming, but you can always adjust and pivot once you get started. Best of luck!
Hi! I am confused as to how you pay for the labels after you print them? I plan to get the boxes from USPS then print the labels on Etsy using printer. How does this work?
Hi Nicole! If you print directly from Etsy, they’ll be charged to your account there. You can view it under the Finances tab of your dashboard. Hope this helps!
So when it comes to bigger packages, you found it best to make your own boxes? I sell hand made signs, wood items, Watercolor, etc and I have a really hard time with the bigger items and knowing what to do with shipping! Any suggestions?
Hi Chloe! What sizes are your signs? USPS flat rate boxes might be worth looking into, I know some are long and thin – perfect for signs! For my orders that don’t fit in those, I buy packaging on Amazon or from the Container Store (they have the nicest boxes!). U-line is also good if you are able to buy in bulk!
Hey! Thanks for the reply! I have signs that are as a big as 42×19! So they are tricky to know how to package on them because the sign cost + shipping can add up fast!
Thank you so so much !! This was very helpful, I just ordered my boxes from the usps, I’m so exited, shipping is something that has held me back in the past from starting my Etsy shop, when I’d think of shipping it always sounded like a lot of work, but not no more!! Thanks to you.
I’m excited about the Label printer as well I’ll definitely be getting one in the future.
Hi Jessica! You’re so welcome. Shipping definitely held me back when I was getting started, it gets easier each time you do it! The USPS flat rate boxes are a great way to get started. Love my Dymo label printer, I highly recommend investing in on once the orders start rolling in!
Hello, I’ve searched EVERYWHERE trying to figure out why I need to purchase shipping labels from etsy, rather then just hand write addresses on my packages. Hope someone can help me understand this. Thanks!
Hi Allyson! It isn’t mandatory that you purchase the labels through Etsy – I’ve just found it to be a lot easier! It automatically provides tracking to your buyer and keeps a record of the label. Pre-weighing packages at home and printing the label allows you to just drop in the mail (or at the post office) without having to wait in lines. Hope this helps!
This has been by far the best info that I have ever read about shipping ! I have been wondering and asking all around about the shipping process and no one else had answers. Thank you so much. This info was a godsend for me ! You are truly a blessing ! ❤️
Hi Samantha! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment – I’m glad you found it so helpful! Shipping is definitely an obstacle to overcome with getting started. Best of luck with your online selling! 🙂
Hi Steph! It’s funny that I came across your post, as I am setting up my Etsy shop, and am slow doing it because of this very thing! The whole postage thing is throwing me for a loop!
Thanks for your great advise! I’ll be using it this week! I hope to open shop on 10/1/18. It is called NaturalSouthPaw. I am selling herbal soaps and other bath and body products. I hope you stop by!
I’m so glad you found this helpful – keep up the good work! 🙂
Hi, thank you for this post, am grace from Nigeria and would Like to start an esty shop. The challenge now is that I don’t know how to go about the shipping aspect, when I get an order, can you pls put me through.
I’m not sure on the shipping/mailing services that Nigeria has, but hopefully the above tips will be a good starting point for you! Once you actually get an Etsy order, you can print the shipping labels directly from your dashboard. The buyer’s info and address will already be listed, which makes it super easy!
Hi grace, good day and how are you, I just get to this post today,am from Nigeria as well and am also facing this shipping challenge and its been delaying my etsy shop till now, I don’t know if you’ve find a way around shipping in Nigeria and I hope you can put me through on how you do it, please your reply will be appreciated,you can reach me through this email, Oladipupo3789@gmail. com, thanks.
Amazing article, thanks for posting it! As a newbie, this is very, very helpful!
Hi Ally! Thanks much for commenting – I’m so glad you found it helpful! -Steph
Thank you so much for writing this post. The info is going to help me a great bit. I want to get that printer ASAP. It sounds like it’s a great investment.
Hi Julie! You’re so welcome, I’m glad you found it helpful! The printer is a serious game changer when it comes to shipping, you’ll love it!
I’m about to start selling on Etsy and been heavily looking into the shipping process. This article by far has been the most helpful. I do have a question . Although you can get the Priority Mail USPS boxes/envelopes for free, can you still use Etsy to calculate the shipping costs/ get the shipping label and go through Etsy?
I’m sorry if that’s a little confusing, but I would love to be able to get the shipping supplies for free from USPS, but without paying their ridiculously high shipping rates.
Is the packaging just packing regardless, and you can use the discounted shipping prices off Etsy if you are using the free USPS boxes/envelopes? Thank you so much in an advance!!
Hi Samantha! Yes, you can purchase the Priority Mail labels through Etsy and get a discount to use with the Priority Mail boxes. You got this, don’t overthink it! : )
hi, this was helpful…
Need some advice
I sell scrabble tiles on Etsy… Shipping is so HARD! Cause it depends how many tiles they order for the weigh of the box. Any way to control this on Etsy?
Hi Ashley! Yes! If you have the listings set up in different quantities, you can create shipping profiles for each item. Since USPS recently changed some of their rates, you can also have Etsy auto-calculate shipping costs based on the buyers zip code (in the US). Within each listing, you can set the parameters for Etsy to calculate versus manual shipping. If you want to create a few profiles and assign to different listings, you can do that under Shipping Settings within the shop manager. Hope this helps!
Love the article but can have I buy shipping labels that are for a fixed rate or does it only count for the calculated rate on Etsy. This is the only thing that has been confused.
Hi Carleigh! I’m not 100% sure I understand what you’re asking, BUT if you don’t want to use the Etsy calculated shipping (I don’t!), you can turn it off under the shipping settings. I still create shipping profiles for each of my different categories and then assign those to each product. Hope this helps!
I have been selling on Etsy for only 2 months. A couple sales but my main concern is should I list my home address as the return address? any suggestions would be helpful.
Hi Jackie! Yes, unless you have another address (office or PO box) where packages would be sent in the case of a return. Keep up the good work!
Wow! Indeed shipping and its process has really held me back from opening my Etsy shop for several years now since a friend mentioned it (Etsy) to me. I have several questions that get me confused at the end of the day and I drop the idea again and again. Now I’m determined to open one before the year runs out. I find this post very helpful and I hope it solves all my shipping problems by the time I set up my store and gets an order.
Hi Vivian! You can do it, don’t let the overwhelm of shipping hold you back. Cheering you on!
Loved the article! What is the best way to handle multiple sized items and multiple item sales? One of the items I have could fit in as little as a 6x6x4 box but I have other items that need a larger box and I would need another larger box for multiple item orders. Do I just supply several size boxes? Also, do you use the flat rate boxes and just post a flat fee on the listing instead of using the Etsy calculated shipping? I am just getting started and still researching the best avenue to take with shipping before i purchase supplies. Thank you!!
Hi Lindsey! I’m so glad you found it helpful! I definitely have the same struggle with my shop – every order is different, so I keep a variety of boxes on hand. I try to use the USPS flat rate boxes as much as possible, but sometimes have to use something different for bigger orders. I prefer the flat shipping – it was much easier to set up on Etsy since I have a variety of different order sizes. I did use the shipping profiles to create rates for similar items and can go in and edit those easily as needed! Hope this helps, best of luck!
Shipping has had me stumped for weeks now! I’ve been delaying opening my Etsy store until I have it resolved. Thanks so much for this article! My only question now is “how do you manage shipping prices when offering free shipping “? Do you integrate the cost of shipping into the product price, or is there another way of managing it?
That’s a great questions.
Looking forward to the answer.
That’s a great question.
Looking forward to the answer.
The whole article was great and the questions were all relatable.
I might have missed it, but do the Etsy labels cost additional money? Me and a close relative are thinking about starting an Etsy, but I’m worried about messing something up. We’re in middle school, so a lot of investments we won’t be able to get until we get more orders. If there are any extra tips, can you please reply with them? I did get your guide though, which I still need to look at 🙂 Thank you so much for the info!
Hi there! It’s no additional money to purchase the labels through Etsy, in fact for USPS labels you actually get a bit of a discount : ) It’s totally normal to feel like you’ll mess something up – and to be honest, you probably will at some point, we all do. It’s a learning process, but don’t let that fear keep you from getting started. The Guide is the best place for all my extra tips! Good luck with your new adventure!
Okay, thank you so much!
I have a small bubble envelope sized item I want to ship. Can I just put a stamp on it and drop it off?
I would check the measurements against USPS description for what is considered a “letter”: https://bit.ly/3aM3pwV
I still have to put in the weight and size every time I list an item, even though I am trying to use flat rate and set up shipping profiles. My listing will not go in unless I “fill in all the blanks”
The shipping is very confusing. I use a 4inch square box for almost everything, nothing weighs more than 12oz. (The free flat rate boxes don’t come in that size either.
Hi Moe! Try setting up the shipping profile outside of the listing: Settings – Shipping Settings – Add a shipping profile. This should save it to your shop so when you list an item it’s an option from the drop down menu which will make it much easier!
Hi! Thank you so much for this post! So far I’ve been going to the post office to mail my orders and I’m looking for a way to simplify that. I know you stated the flat rate boxes but I still had a question that hopefully you can answer for me … I send my orders in 9×12 stay flat mailers and decorate the front to make it more personalized… would I need to place that inside of a flat rat box for quicker shipping or should I buy a priority mail stamp? I feel silly asking but figured it was worth a shot. Thank you so much!
Hi Almary! Thanks for commenting, I’m glad you found it helpful! I’m not familiar with stamps for priority mail I would just put it inside the flat rate box if that saves you on $! If you’re shipping something light in a flat mailer, I imagine it would still be more efficient in the packaging you’re using but it’s definitely worth exploring the options!
Hello! This was super helpful! My question is….
some of my products are small… like a bookmark… it truly can fit in just a regular envelope. When I use the auto recommender option for shipping it says it will cost $2.74 (from my city to like Chicago for example) …. so my question… If I set a fixed rate or like a $1 , if they add more than 1 of those same items to the customer’s cart… will that be $1 for the entire order or is the “fixed” amount just for that specific item that we list?? So if they add example a Bookmark, but then also order a little sign that the shipping will be $4… will those items be combined? Will shipping will be a total of $5 for that order?
Sorry … this is the part that is totally confusing me… (I think $2.74 for 1 bookmark is pretty high for shipping) lol
Hi Melissa! If someone purchases multiple items, it should charge the higher price (for whichever item that may be) and then the add on price for the less amount. I agree that is high for a bookmark, but I believe that is the cheapest you can send an item with tracking. However, I’ve bought small things on Etsy (postage stamps, cards, etc) and the seller has shipped it to me in a regular envelope with a single stamp (0.55). I think this would be the best option for something small and inexpensive, but be prepared for the “I never got this” messages since there’s no proof of tracking. You’ll just have to weigh out which options works best for your biz. Hope this helps!
Thank you for this! It was super helpful! I do have a question about shipping priority! Do you have to use USPS boxes to shop priority? My shop sells macrame wall hanging so my boxes will be long and thin. I know USPS doesn’t have boxes that would fit my needs, so I’ve taken USPS priority off as an option for shipping. But can I still ship this way without their box? And will the USPS only pick up for priority mail? My boxes don’t fit in the drop box at the post office! THank you!
Hi HarleyAnn! I’m glad it was helpful! To use the flat rate pricing, you’ll have to use the flat rate box. However, you can still ship USPS Priority in any type of package. They’ll also pick these up : )
Extra super great info! Quick question: if I use the Etsy print from home option for my labels and the flat rate postal boxes, how do I get the weight right as far as making sure my printed label covers the correct cost of the shipping? Is that where the scale you mentioned comes in? , and I would weigh my packed items then input that info into Etsy for the label?
So glad you found it helpful! Yes, exactly – I recommend a scale to make sure things are accurate and the one linked above is great! I’ve been using it for over 4 years : )
I have never shipped anything internationally from the U.S. so I wasn’t sure if I should offer to international buyers. Does Etsy do labels for those as well? Is there any other information or advice you could provide about shipping internationally? Thanks so much for your help!
Hi Colleen! Yes, you can absolutely purchase international shipping labels through Etsy. I’ll be honest – I am not super familiar with international, I’m in the US and have shipped to Canada a handful of times which was super easy. You can go in and play around with the fees under your shipping settings and there’s more info here on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/seller-handbook/article/updates-to-international-shipping-with/889461205987
If you have a small/ light weight product, I say try it out! If you sell something large or heavy, shipping rates can get pretty expensive, but you never know who might be willing to pay for it!
Can you send letters with this method and just put them in the mailbox or do they have to be dropped off at the USPS store?
You can always drop in the mailbox! Often letters won’t need a full label, just a stamp but refer to the weight!
I’m just starting on Etsy and I don’t understand purchasing labels from Etsy. If I’m printing labels at home, what am I paying for? The customer is paying for the shipping, so is it just a fee they take?
The customer pays YOU for shipping, then you’re purchasing the label : )
That was so an impressive article Steph!
It’s one of my challege to prepare the shipping labels and make sure they arrived on time.
However, somehow USPS is very slow I think because of the covid. There is so many place to get sources but one of my greatest company that I work is ilovemat.com and they have really nice for shipping their products on time. I have no clue how they make that much fast and wayfair as well. I would love to know about fast shipping options on Etsy.