Shipping 101: How to Stay Organized & Efficient on Shipping Day
Written By Alyssa Ficcaglia
Whenever I chat with other makers and ask them “what is your least favorite thing to do in your handmade business?”, one of the common answers is shipping products. Shipping is probably one of the most tedious but necessary parts of your online business. There are a lot of little components that go into shipping an item and it’s not a process you can rush through. Not only do you have to worry about making sure your item stays safe and protected during shipping, you also have to make sure your packaging looks good and neat. A messy package sends a bad vibe to a customer and while it may not seem like a big deal, customers actually really appreciate when the packaging is as beautiful as the item they ordered inside it. So how do you keep the shipping process easy, organized, and efficient? Here are a few things I do to keep shipping day manageable and less chaotic.
1. Prep Work
I can’t stress enough how important and beneficial it is to prep as much of your shipping process ahead of time as you can. I’m not just talking about printing out packing slips and shipping labels ahead of time. By getting prepped I mean building boxes, pre-cutting bubble wrap, filling boxes with the first layer of packing material, and putting fragile stickers on your boxes. Just by having bubble wrap pieces cut to the exact size you need for your items is so helpful. In our business we make wood signs and have our standard sizes. I always have a stack of bubble wrap pieces cut and on stand by for each of our popular sizes, so come shipping day all I need to do is grab the size I need and wrap the sign. The idea of prepping is to have everything you need at the ready so you can just form a one woman(or man) assembly line to speed up the shipping process. So take a look at how you do things now and see where you can start making prep improvements. Even if it means spending the night before shipping day to get everything you need set up and ready to go.
2. The Paper Clip Method
This method is most useful to those who have to weigh each package prior to printing out their labels. In the beginning when I was wrapping each sign in brown shipping paper, my weights per item varied. When I was making the switch to boxes I didn’t have a good idea of what the weight for each size sign was. This left me having to wait until the day of to print shipping labels and since each item needed to be weighed I was packaging one at a time and printing one label at a time. This slowed my shipping process down a lot, so to try to speed things up, I would package an item and set it aside with the order sheet laying on top of the box. I found the problem with that method was a small gust of wind from me walking by would send my order sheets flying, mixing up orders, and causing me to have to reopen the boxes to make sure the right item was going to the right person. I quickly changed to the paper/binder clip method. For this method, I would put the item in the box and instead of sealing the box shut, I would leave one end open and use a paper/binder clip to attach the order sheet to the box. This helped me keep orders organized so all I had to do was pick up the box, weigh it, print the label, and seal it. The paper clip method gave me the ability to package everything at the same time, weigh everything at the same time, print all the labels together, seal each box and put their labels on. I have since figured out a set weight for each of my items and created a cheat sheet for myself that hangs on my wall right above my shipping station.
3. Scheduling a Pick Up
One of the most helpful tools at your disposal is offered by your preferred mail carrier service. USPS, FedEx, and UPS all offer the ability to schedule a pick up for your packages. I use the USPS service, so for discussion purposes that will be the one I use in this example. Scheduled pick ups are a huge stress reliever and help save you time and a trip to the post office. By scheduling a pick up at your home, store, or office you don’t have to feel pressured to get everything packaged and ready to run to the post office before they close that day. USPS requires you to schedule pick ups a day in advance, so typically I will have everything I plan to ship ready by the end of the day so I can schedule my pick up and put all the packages out on my doorstep the next morning. It’s that simple and the service is free as long as you select the option to have the packaged picked up when your regular mail is delivered. There are occasions when something goes wrong and your packages are not picked up but if you catch it early enough you can still make it to the post office before they close. It is rare for this to happen, but make sure you plan accordingly. This option isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. In fact, I still go to the post office here and there just because I love all the people that work at our post office. Figure out if this works best with your workflow and schedule and go from there.
Shipping is always going to be one of those things in your business that you wish could be a little less time consuming, but by implementing a few of these tips into your routine shipping day can be a little less stressful and a lot more enjoyable.