Essential Shipping Tools and Tips for New Sellers
New to selling and wondering what shipping tools the pros use to ship their orders?
New sellers generally spend more money on shipping than veteran sellers. If you’re a new seller and taking your packages to the post office to ship, then you’re not getting commercial rates. You’re also wasting time waiting in line.
Sellers with any volume of sales will generally have a process and tools to streamline shipping. Even if they’re using another service to get commercial shipping rates, they’ll still need to enter dimensions, weights, and print labels.
What can you do to help streamline your shipping process? You’ll want to consider purchasing one or more of these tools.
Even if you’re using USPS flat rate boxes and envelopes to ship your products, there will be many instances where you can save on shipping by using cheaper services.
Sellers who offer free shipping are losing money by not buying a scale in order to get the best possible shipping rates.
Consider purchasing a cheap digital scale on Amazon.
Digital scales should be around $20 to $30, though if you need legal-for-trade or NTEP scales, that’ll cost even more. It’s not likely you’ll need a legal-for-trade scale if you’re shipping, but sellers who need it will already know.
Below are three top results for “shipping scales” on Amazon. Note the weight limits. Consider how and where you’ll be placing these scales. Some are designed for tables, like the first ACCUTECK scale, requiring a lot of lifting, while others can be placed on the ground with the display placed elsewhere.
The last thing you want is to purchase the first ACCUTECK scale only to realize that you’ll have to lift every single package onto and off the table just to weigh it.
If you’re shipping or expect to ship heavier packages, you’ll want to get a scale that can handle those.
Avoid using an inkjet printer for your shipping station. While inkjet printers may be cheap, the cost of ink can be extremely expensive, sometimes exceeding the cost of the printer after just one replacement.
While inkjets do provide color printing, you’ll almost never need to provide invoices or packing slips in color. Most customers just throw those away anyhow.
Instead, consider using a cheap multifunction laser printer, or even better, a thermal label printer. Save your inkjet printer for color or photo prints.
Laser Printers (or Multi-function/All-in-One Laser Printers)
Laser printers have multiple advantages over inkjet printers. First and foremost, the cost per page is just a few cents compared to an inkjet printer.
Take a look at the images below for the price per page cost of an HP inkjet printer and an HP laser printer from Best Buy. The HP 63 Black Ink cartridge (single) retails for $18.99, while the HP 17A toner cartridge retails for $65.99.
Also note that some printer models will not allow you to print black only if other colors are out, and color cartridges may cost more. If you don’t often print color, then those nozzles may clog. You’ll then have to run cleaning processes or replace the cartridge altogether.
Cost per page for the HP 63 black ink cartridge: $0.0999, almost 10¢ per page.
Cost per page for the HP 17A black toner cartridge: $0.0412, about 4¢ per page, less than half the cost of an inkjet print.
Consider getting a multi-function or all-in-one laser printer so you can also scan, copy, and fax.
Some features to look for:
- Automatic duplex printing (automatically print on both sides of the paper)
- Availability and quality of generic toner replacements
- Drum units (Brother printers generally have a separate drum unit compared to other manufacturers)
- Refills (if you’re attempting to refill instead of replacing the toner cartridge)
- Wireless printing or compatibility with Windows, Mac, or mobile printing
- Purchase enterprise models for high-volume printing
- Multiple input trays for different paper types (regular paper and label paper)
Thermal Label Printers
Many sellers like using thermal label printers because they eliminate the need for ink and toner. They’re also more convenient and less wasteful. While you can print, cut, and tape shipping information onto a box, it doesn’t look as professional. And it’s very time-consuming.
Another option is to print labels through the laser printer. But this can be a waste if you’re also printing invoices or packing slips. You’ll often have to switch out paper types or print invoices or packing slips on more expensive label paper unless you have a printer with multiple input trays.
Consider purchasing a direct thermal label printer that handles wide 4″ x 6″ shipping labels. These will also handle smaller labels, giving you more flexibility.
The most popular thermal label printer is the Dymo LabelWriter 4XL, pictured below. The 4XL uses label rolls that have a hole, so you’ll need to purchase either original Dymo labels or generics that are specifically compatible.
Generic labels come in various designs and specs, so be sure to check the description if you need the labels perforated or waterproof.
Another option is to use a thermal label printer that is compatible with free UPS shipping labels. If you’re already using free UPS labels, then the Rollo label printer may be a good choice.
Check out our article on thermal label printers to see even more models you can use to print wide 4″ x 6″ shipping labels.
Have an eBay store? eBay sends store subscribers a coupon for free shipping supplies every quarter.
If you ship primarily using USPS Priority, then you can request free USPS Priority boxes and envelopes.
Some sellers like to recycle boxes. This is an option if you’re not selling a lot of products or if you don’t have your own brand. If you have a brand, you may want to use new boxes for better brand perception.
The customer’s first perception of you is the packaging, so you’ll want to make a good impression for your brand.
Make sure you remove any previous labels from the box instead of taping over them. Not only is leaving a previous label on unprofessional, but it exposes the previous customer’s information.
Buy bulk shipping supplies from vendors like Uline for better pricing. If you’re purchasing shipping supplies like padded envelopes from your local Walmart or office supply store, then chances are you’re spending more on shipping supplies than you should.
Check out our article on shipping supply vendors for a comparison of prices.
While Amazon and eBay give you better prices than retail locations (including USPS), they’re not always the lowest.
Try getting quotes from other services like PirateShip to see if you can save even more on shipping. Or connect with a shipping integration for your eBay and Amazon business in order to get commercial rates and easily manage all of your shipping in one place.
Some of these shipping integrations offer a free trial or free service for low-volume sellers.
Check out other free tools new eBay sellers can use in order to streamline their sales.
If the majority of your shipping goes through USPS, consider using a SCAN form to save both your time and the postal worker’s time. These forms will allow the postal worker to scan one barcode to receive all associated packages. Many shipping integration services will give you the ability to print SCAN forms.
Shipping services may also give you access to cubic pricing, which is great for shipping small and heavy packages.
Read our article on different types of carton and box sealing methods including tape. See if using quieter tape or a different sealing method will help for your needs.
The upfront cost of purchasing all this hardware may be a bit high, but the long-term savings far outweigh initial costs. Even switching to a label printer will save you on ink, toner, and paper costs (if you’re using free labels).
Shipping shouldn’t be a frustrating process. With the right tools in place, you can streamline your shipping operation and devote more time to growing your business.