Etsy Seller Series: Shipping Supplies and Postage

Today in my Etsy Seller Series I am going to share all about shipping information.
I have had my Etsy shop since February 2012 and believe me when I say that I have learned a lot in that time!!

Shipping Supplies

One of the best investments you can make in starting your small business (or hopefully a big business) -- in my opinion -- is in shipping supplies. You spend a little extra money buying in bulk quantities and you end up saving TONS of money down the road!

When I first started out in my little shop I was using shipping supplies that I had purchased from Target, Wal-Mart, or Staples. As my sales increased I realized that while convenient… it wasn’t really cost effective. I was paying almost the same price for my shipping supplies that I was for the actual postage to ship my items. Ya… seriously!!

 I finally learned the ins and outs of the Post Office {which I will share a little later} and wised up to better shipping supply options. My all time favorite place to purchase shipping supplies is U-Line. You will pay a little more for shipping, but your order gets delivered usually the next day, and you get a lot of BANG for you BUCK!

 I purchase most of my packaging supplies from U-Line. The packing tape is a great deal, but I only purchased the refills from them here. You can buy the actual tape dispenser as well, but I simply used one that I had bought from Target. The rolls were the same size {be sure to measure yours} so I did not need to purchase another one. 

Another great thing to buy from U-Line is poly bags. There are a bazillion different kinds {zip-top, gusseted, writable, self-sealing, etc} so you are sure to find what you are looking for. If you are selling supplies or items that need to be bagged it's a great source. I highly recommend using poly bags for two reasons
     1. It helps to protect your items in shipping in case your envelope or box were to get wet or damaged.
     2. It just looks nice and professional!

 As far as supplies to ship your items in you have several options. Here are the ones that I use most often.
     • Tear Proof Mailers: These come is varied sizes so be sure to take into account the size of items that you are most likely to be shipping. I generally choose envelopes that are slightly larger than my items and sometimes longer. Then they can accommodate a better range of products and you can always fold down the envelope as you seal for a more snug fit.
Flat Rate USPS Shipping Envelopes/Boxes: If you are shipping small things that tend to weigh a lot… these are absolutely the way to go! They come in different sizes and have different postage amounts. The ones most commonly used are the small flat rate envelopes and boxes. They are $5.25 to ship and you can fill them with as much as you can. They cannot weight more than 4 lbs if you ship them internationally. You can also order them for free on the USPS website and your mail carrier will deliver them to you free of charge. I tend to order 50-100 at a time. It can take a couple of weeks for them to arrive so be sure to plan accordingly. **The regular (letter size) flat rate envelopes are available at your local Post Office as well. However, if you are looking for the larger (legal size) flat rate envelopes they are available ONLY through the USPS website.  


When it comes to postage here is what you really need to know: 

 • Anything 13oz or under can ship USPS first class. This includes small packages (no larger than 13” on         one side), envelopes, bubble mailers, etc.. 

 • Anything over 13 oz has to be shipped Priority Mail. 

 • All flat rate envelopes are Priority Mail. 

 • The only way to guarantee delivery by a specific date is to ship via Priority Mail because it is guaranteed to arrive in 2-3 business days in the US. 

• Priority Mail come with a tracking number. 

 • First class mail CANNOT be tracked. You can purchase a delivery confirmation number, but that only tells you when it has been delivered, not where it is along the route. 

• Any packages shipping internationally HAVE TO be shipped with a customs form. If you mail a regular envelope you can ship it without a customs form. 

• International pricing changes a lot. If you are going to be shipping a lot internationally you are best off going to your local Post Office to find out what the current limitations are.

Once you have your products packaged you can address them and head out to the Post Office …. OR … you can print your own postage from home. Amazing, right? You used to only be able to print postage on the USPS website… and even then you COULD NOT print shipping for packages being sent via first class. Then you could print shipping directly from Paypal. That was great, except for the customers that didn’t purchase with Paypal.

 The great thing about selling on Etsy is that they now offer the option of printing your postage directly from them. What does that mean? Well, for starters you get a slightly better shipping rate. All packages also come with free tracking numbers. The postage cost is added to your Etsy bill making it easy to keep track of shipping costs. You can view the tracking numbers, order numbers, and the cost of shipping all in one place and easily click on the receipt number to view the order. Talk about easy, peasy!!

 If you choose to print your own postage you need to invest in a postage scale. I used rewards money from Staples {that I got for recycling ink cartridges} to purchase mine a couple years ago. I don’t need anything fancy. My scale only weighs up to 5 lbs which is plenty for me.

If you plan on shipping heavy items be sure to invest in a scale that will meet your needs.

Depending on the volume of orders you are shipping you can also purchase a postage label printer. Etsy has hooked up with DYMO to offer a printer at a discounted rate. BUT, you have to purchase the refill label paper rolls, and to me that's just an added expense. Instead, I opt to print them at home using my regular printer and simply cut them out and tape them on my packages. It's easy, cheap, and I don't have to find space in my office for the label printer.

PLUS, you can go to the USPS website and schedule a pick up at your house by your mail carrier. Really. You click on a couple things, choose a date for your packages to be picked up, and as long as you have at least one Priority Mail item you can have your mail carrier pick it up at your door, at your mailbox, on your porch, or directly from you. When you request the pick up, the website give you pick up options to choose from. It is so easy! There is no need to even go to the Post Office! For me, with three little ones at home, that's a definite bonus!!

As I have said in previous posts from this series, presentation IS everything. You want to make your customers feel special. That's what keeps them coming back. Packaging is one piece of that puzzle. Once a customer places their order you are responsible for filling that order on time, and in a fashion that they will feel like it's Christmas when they receive your package in the mail. You know how it is... you've probably received packages that made you feel all warm and fuzzy and those that just didn't. Which place are you more likely to give repeat business to, or to recommend to your friends!?!

Feel free to let me know if you have any questions about shipping supplies or postage. I'm not an expert, but I am definitely here to help!

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Check out the other posts from this series: 
Etsy Seller Series: Getting Started 
Etsy Seller Series: Setting Up Shop Part 1 (Your Public Profile) 
Etsy Seller Series: Setting Up Shop Part 2 (Info and Appearance)
Etsy Seller Series: Payment Options


  1. Hey, thanks for spelling all this out. So, for clarification... do you still recommend priority mail or if the item is very lightweight (i.e. small blanket or bib) do you think it makes more sense to use an envelope and print postage?
    How did you personally factor in shipping costs to sale prices or did you just set them on etsy?

    1. Good question! I set my shipping price on Etsy. I prefer to keep shipping costs separate from the cost of my goodies! :)

      In general, people like to save money on shipping when they can-- I know I do! For this reason I offer First Class shipping on anything that I can send First Class (has to weigh under 13 oz). I always give customers who want faster delivery the option for Priority shipping, even on the smaller more light-weight items. Then if they are willing and want to pay for the shipping upgrade they can.

      Really, shipping preferences are up to the customer, but if you are using Etsy, you can set your own shipping costs based on the weight of the item you are shipping. You can include optional shipping costs in your listing so that customers can see what their options are -- or list them in your shop announcement on your main page. You could also write in your listing that the item will be shipping First Class, Priority, etc. and let customers know that they can contact you if they are interested in prices for other shipping methods.

      Does that help?


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