Welcome to Craft Venture ““ business and marketing tips for indie online business owners. Like me! Im Brenda, owner of Phydeaux Designs on Etsy and 1000 Markets, and Phydelle Designs on Etsy. This week, we continue our focus on the busiest retail season: the holidays. In particular, this week is about shipping around the world ““ key to a strong retail season!
I’ll never forget the intermingled joy and terror I experienced when I saw my first order from outside the United States. Joy and glee, because WOW, people on the other side of the globe would be wearing my scarves! Absolute terror, because I had no clue what to do next. What I did was to immerse myself in an international shipping crash course. That lasted until the point that I finally broke down and signed up for Endicia so that I could more easily ship first class, and thereby changed my entire life as a small business owner.
Guess what? Shipping, even around the world, isn’t that hard! I am going to share a few key tips and tricks for you, along with resources that you may continue to refer to. If I can do this, trust me, you can do this!
I should start by apologizing to our international readers, because I don’t know about your postal and shipping systems. I can only talk about the USPS (United States Postal Service). I would love it if you would talk about your country’s system in the comments!
Unless your business is entirely digital or service based (e.g., digital downloads, online consulting, graphic design), chances are, you will need to ship products to customers. Step back one moment and think from a buyer’s perspective. How do you want your package(s) to arrive? Unbroken? Secure? Do you want a pretty and unique package? Do you want your jewelry in a well padded box? How do you want your glass items to arrive? Do you want your prints and photos to arrive unbent? Do you want cheap shipping or are you more interested in fast/express shipping? Is signing for a delivery a nightmare for you, with workday obligations?
Now back to your seller’s perspective. Did thinking through the previous questions change your current thinking about shipping at all? I think about shipping as a goal: where do you want your item to go, and how do you get there? If you know how you, as a buyer, would want your item to arrive and know, as a seller, where you need to ship to, then it’s just a matter of doing a little research about your shipping options so you know how to get from point A (sitting in front of your computer, looking at an order that just came in) to point B (a safe arrival of your item plus a happy customer).
What do you need to know in order to ship outside the US? The weight of each item (for the customs form) and the overall final weight of your package. If you use priority or express shipping, you don’t necessarily need the final weight of your package, as long as it doesn’t exceed the weight limit of the priority package/envelope you’re using. Here are two key things related to your item weights:
Weigh your item before you list/upload you r item! In response to my call for shipping tips and tricks via Twitter, Kate from girlsavage said, “Get a digital scale so you can weigh packages & look up postage on USPS.com before listing.” Postal scales, whether digital or non-digital, are essential. Unless you ship priority only, your item’s and package’s weights determine the cost of your postage! You can find an inexpensive scale at any office supply shop or on good old eBay. You don’t need a huge or expensive scale, just one that weighs at least as much as your packaged item(s).
Regularly test your scale’s accuracy. Find an object with a known, unchanging weight. Weigh it using your scale – if your scale is off a little, adjust it so that the weight matches that object. And round up if your package looks like it’s a little over the ounce mark. Better to be safe than sorry!
So you have your weight. What now? Go to the USPS website, which you should bookmark and refer to often. Then look for “calculate postage” on the top toolbar. Now you can check domestic and international shipping rates, and even compare rates based on service used. Below are the rates for an 8 oz. envelope shipped to Australia.
Oh, look! Each service has a different price, depending on which column you’re looking at. Why’s that? If you purchase your postage online, you pay less. I’ll say it again. You pay less. I don’t know about you, but being able to do all my shipping, including paying postage, from the comfort of my home, is invaluable! Add in discounted shipping for doing so? I’m there! Plus, I save money on gas, reduce wasted time waiting in lines, and have more time to create and market!
You will save the same amount of money by service using the USPS’ Click-N-Ship, Stamps.com, Endicia or Paypal. Well, that’s not really true, because only Endicia includes international first class shipping! You may use the others for international priority or express shipping, but not first class.
When you calculate postage for your item’s shipping expense, base your shipping on several zones: US (domestic), Puerto Rico (also domestic), Canada, Mexico, and for many items, the rest of the world can be based on Australia’s shipping rates. Check the rates for your particular items, based on type of service and weight. In my Etsy shop, I’ve set up my shipping based on weight: 2 oz, 3 oz, 4 oz, all the way up to 8 oz, then 12 oz (the next level in Endicia). Since doing this, I’ve not yet ended up losing money on shipping. I sometimes refund a customer a dollar or so, but I’m on the mark 90% of the time!
Using Endicia saved my life as a small business owner. With a fulltime day job, I don’t have the luxury of being able to go to my post office in order to ship. I was shipping priority in order to ship internationally, which is expensive for my customers! I now weigh my final package using my trusty non-digital scale, open up Endicia, fill in the details, including my customs paperwork, triple check that I’ve not made a mistake, print, slap it on my package, and then do one of several things:
. Schedule a pickup via the USPS (they’ll pick it right up from my front step)
. Drop it off in the blue USPS mailbox that’s on the way to work (you can do that for international orders under 13 oz and with purchased postage – if you put a bunch of stamps on there, it will get returned – I’ve learned this before the hard way)
. Drop it off at the APC that’s on the way home from work if it’s too large to fit in the drop off box or heavier than 13 oz.
. Drop it off at my local post office on my way to other errands.
Still on the fence?
Also in response my call for shipping advice, Lisa Souza, said, “Endicia for Mac makes it super easy for the USPS. They will handle the insurance at a better rate.” Good to know you can use Endicia for both Macs and PCs.
Lisa Salamida, from Savor Soap, graciously gave me permission to let you all know about some great tutorials she created for using Endicia (you’ll find these helpful even if you sell on a venue other than Etsy). Click on the screen shot or link below to go watch!
Oh, there’s so much more I want to tell you about shipping internationally! Please be sure to read the customs regulations to new countries that you’re shipping to! And please please fill out your customs forms accurately ““ don’t mark your wares as gifts or at less than what a customer paid, in order to save your customer duties and taxes. If you break postal regulations, you’re breaking federal law ““yikes!
Let me know what other questions you have about international shipping in the comments! We may need to do a part two next week! Also, please share with us your own tips and tricks. Do you print your postage from home? Is it worth doing so? And let us know if you ship internationally now – or if you don’t! If yes, has doing so increased business for you? If not, what’s holding you back?
Image credits: 1. Happy holidays – tree pattern, set of 8, by in-vita paper studio; 2. Vintage black postal scale, by hindsvik; 3. Video tutorial for using Endicia for first class shipping, by savor soap