Shipping. Whether you're new to the process or have been shipping for years...that word brings about some complicated emotions. It's a hassle. It's messy. It's confusing. There are too many box sizes/packaging products/tapes/labels to choose from.
But providing shipping is also one of the best ways to reach a wider audience and grow your business.
So let's break down shipping into more manageable pieces, shall we?
First things first, we have to get your product packaged up and ready to ship out!
What You'll Need:
- Clear packing tape
- Bubble wrap
- Packing peanuts, kraft paper or air pillows
- Sharp scissors or a box cutter
- (Optional but impactful) Thank you card
When it comes to boxing up your finished pieces, there are many options and preferences. The video below is one of our preferred methods but you can replace the filler bubble wrap with kraft paper, air pillows or packing peanuts. Whatever works best for you (I recommend not throwing away any packing materials from Amazon or other orders!) but the main goal remains the same - you want to shake the box to ensure nothing is moving or sliding around. The less your product shifts inside your box, the less chance for breakage!
There are some things to keep in mind when it comes to box sizes and total weight. It can make a huge difference in your shipping cost if your box is "too big." Let's take a deeper dive into that right now!
Dimensional Weight (Why Your Box Size Matters)
If you have ever shipped a package that cost 3 times the amount you thought it would, you have likely experienced a dimensional weight upcharge.
So what is dimensional weight? Simply put, the amount of space your box occupies. The USPS standard shipping rates apply to packages with a volume of 1 cubic foot or less. Don't worry - we give you info on how to figure out your box volume below!
Why does dimensional weight matter? Shipping companies want to make as many shipments as possible per truck/plane/ship so if your box takes up more room than their standard unit, you will be paying for that extra unit's spot on the truck.
Grab a tape measure to figure out your box dimensions in inches - Length, Width, Height. Sometimes those are written on the bottom of the box you are using but it helps to get into the habit of measuring your boxes to make sure you get a true estimate on shipping costs (especially if you are having your client pay the shipping costs before you send the package out).
One thing to note - if your package is 10.25" on one side, round that up to 11". The shipping companies round up to the next inch marker in their calculations, even if it is only slightly over. They will also take into account if your box is bulging in any section and will measure the tallest/widest point of the box.
Now that you have your length, width and height, multiply those numbers together. A cubic foot (a 12"x12"x12" box) has a volume of 1728. When you multiply your dimensions, if the resulting number is equal to or less than 1728, your package will fall under standard shipping rates.
There is a misconception that your box size has to be under 12" on each side to avoid the dimensional weight overcharge prices. Luckily, this isn't true! I used to ship a lot of wreaths and used 20"x20"x4" boxes often. Since those have a volume of 1600 and have less volume than a cubic foot, they fall into standard shipping prices.
How to Estimate Shipping Costs
Now let's move on to how to actually estimate your shipping costs!
The Tools You Need:
- Tape Measure
- Precision Scale
Every shipping company has a shipping calculator that you can use to estimate your shipping cost.
You will need to know the length, width and height of your box. Use your tape measure to determine those sizes (in inches) and round up to the nearest inch.
You will also need to know the weight of your box. For this step, use a precision scale as you will want to know how many ounces your box weighs.
The shipping calculator will also ask for the zip code of where you are shipping from and to (UPS and FedEx may also ask for the exact address of where you are sending the package).
Once you have entered all of the information, you will see shipping estimates for each shipping option.
Shipping Software and Savings
There are quite a few shipping softwares out there that can help you cut shipping costs. Pirateship and Shippo are two of the most frequently mentioned and are free to use! You will still need to know your box measurements and weight, the address to which you are shipping but you will also need to have a printer and labels. Once you print off your label and place it on your box, you are ready to schedule a pick-up (something you can do within either of those softwares) or bring it to your shipping store for drop-off.
USPS, UPS or FedEx?
- If your package is under 1 cubic foot, USPS is usually the cheapest option
- If you have some flexibility with the arrival date, USPS can be a cheaper option for smaller packages (Please note - Priority 2- or 3-day shipping is NOT guaranteed to arrive on the date they give you. That is just an estimate)
- For the most part, USPS does not deliver on Sundays
- To guarantee a delivery date, you will need to ship your package Priority Mail Express which is a hefty cost
- Recommended for packages that have a volume greater than 1 cubic foot
- They usually arrive quicker than USPS
- Can schedule delivery on a Sunday
- To guarantee a delivery date, you will need to ship your package Next Day Air
- Offers similar benefits as UPS but is generally a little more expensive
- Guarantees delivery dates on all Overnight options
We all go through this!
Shipping can be complicated, but it is also a rite of passage for any online retailer and small business! With a little practice, you’ll have this stuff figured out in no time. Until then, for any questions, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck and happy shipping!