Ah, shipping. The greatest business mystery of all time, or so it seems. If you’ve ever went to ship an item to a customer and was astounded at the cost, then this blog post is for you.
First, let’s talk about pricing. Retail vs commercial is essential, and as a business owner you have every right to commercial prices. You will not get the cheapest price at the window in your local post office, or even on the USPS website. You’ll need to use some kind of shipping platform.
There are numerous, but my preferred platform is Shipping Easy. It’s perfect for somebody who’s just starting out, since it’s free for under 50 packages a month. This will give you the commercial pricing rate with USPS, and it will also allow you to ship from home so you don’t have to deal with the long line at the post office. You will also need a postal scale. The one that I personally use was $16.99 from Amazon - the link to every product mentioned in this post can be found at the bottom of this blog post. When you’re ready to ship an item, simply pack everything up in your polymailer and place it on your scale. You are always going to want to round up to the nearest ounce, otherwise you will run the risk of USPS either refusing your item or charging your customer the overage.
To understand how to ship the cheapest way possible, you first need to know about the different ways to ship items. For anything under a pound, be sure to always ship first class. This will keep the cost to under six dollars. To ship first class, the most economical way to do so is by using polymailers for your items. I also got mine from Amazon and I recommend the medium size which is 10” x 13” . Keep in mind, first class packages do not come with insurance like priority mail.
Now you may need to ship something that is over a pound. This is where it can get a little tricky. Most people will recommend the USPS flat rate priority mail padded envelope. While this is a great way to ship, it may not be the most cost efficient every single time. The problem with these mailers is that they do not hold a lot. Let’s say for instance you need to ship a pair of shoes to a customer. This mailer will not work as it’s not big enough. This means you’ll need to use a box, which are typically more expensive to ship.
This is where you will need to literally weigh your options. USPS has a few different options in this case.
Option 1: Flat Rate service. When this was announced, it seemed great. However, the commercial rate for a medium box is $12.85 and a large box is $17.65. That is extremely expensive, especially when the boxes aren’t that big. These are really only cost efficient for super heavy items - so if you ever want to mail a few concrete blocks, this is the route for you. They can be ordered free on the USPS website and delivered right to your door.
Option 2: Your own box. Sometimes this is the cheapest, which is why I say you need to weigh your options. When you’re not using Flat Rate, the price varies based on three things: weight, size, and distance. This will still ship via priority mail, just be sure to enter the dimensions and weight of the box properly when creating your label.
Option 3: USPS Regional Rate. These boxes are great in a lot of cases, and in my experience have been cheaper than using my own box. There is Regional A and Regional B. They vary slightly in size, but neither are that big.
Always price everything out.
Now you may be asking how you can print labels from home and not ever go to the post office. That is a great question. Once you input all of the info into Shipping Easy (or whichever platform you have decided on), you can print your labels out with a regular desktop printer. I have the HP Deskjet 3755. You can print on regular paper and tape them directly to the package, or you can print on shipping labels that are adhesive. I use the shipping labels I purchased on Amazon rather than taping regular paper to the package. Then I simply schedule a pickup on the USPS website, and my local post office picks up my packages for free during my regular mail delivery.
At the end of the day, opening a package should be a great experience for your customer - after all, it is their first impression of your business (next to branding, of course!).
I hope this has helped you! Please feel free to put any other questions you may have in the comments.
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