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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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