A Guide to Shipping Your First Order

One of the most exciting moments as a shop owner is when your first sale comes through. Someone decided to spend their hard-earned cash on something you've made? That's a validating, motivating, and maybe a little intimidating feeling. But never fear, we're here to help. Grab a roll of packing tape, and let's get started.

Pack your products

Didn't plan in advance? No problem. Let's figure out what shipping materials you'll need.

  • The first priority is to make sure the order arrives undamaged. For fragile items, be sure to have a nice sturdy box and some bubble wrap or other padding on hand.
  • With the product safe and sound, keep the package as small and lightweight as possible. This keeps your shipping costs down.
  • And speaking of weight, you'll need to know the weight of that package. If you don't own a scale, try your local post office's self-service station.
  • Look for price breaks. For sellers in the United States, those Priority Mail boxes and envelopes you've seen at the post office are not only free, they're cheaper to mail than an unmarked package of similar size. The USPS also has a large number of free shipping supplies online.

weigh and print and ship

A little something special

As customers get to know you, they'll become faithful fans. Start things off right by including a personal touch.

  • Write a thank you note (you can even just write "thank you" on the packing slip if you're short on time).
  • Make your shipment special. Wrap that shirt in tissue and tie it with a bow, or slap a great-looking sticker on the box.
  • It's always fun to find something extra with an order. Include a piece of candy or a card with a discount code for their next order.
  • Need more ideas? Check out our Packaging Guide.

Choose a carrier

Deciding between UPS, FedEx, USPS, your country's postal system, or other options? Consider speed, price, and how easy it is for you to get to a drop-off location (or whether they can pick up the packages from you). Those will all impact your business.

  • You'll almost always save money if you pay for shipping and print a label online.
  • Look for price breaks for specific sizes, weights or types of items. For example, if you're in the U.S, USPS Media Mail is a lower rate specifically for items like zines, CDs, books, and vinyl records.
  • Most carriers offer package tracking or delivery confirmation services at no extra charge. Take advantage of that so your customers can stay updated about when their package will arrive, and so you're alerted if an issue occurs in transit.
  • Spring for extra insurance if your item is valuable, fragile, or one-of-a-kind.
  • Avoid using express services. The cost for speedy shipping adds up quick!
  • Feeling lost? Some places like The UPS Store or other full service shipping stores are more hands-on. Bring your product and they'll sell you a box, pack it, and ship it for you. You pay more for this service, so once you've got more orders under your belt, try to handle packing on your own.

A quick side note: It's no fun to talk about, but be aware of the risk of fraud. Always use a carrier you trust, not one your customer requests. A request like that can sometimes mean it's a fishy order. Read our Fraud Guide for more warning signs.

Mark as shipped

Don't forget to keep your records neat and tidy, and check that order off your to-do list! Make sure you have a way to reference the shipment date and tracking number, if needed. If you're using Big Cartel for your shop, you can save tracking numbers and other details about the shipment in the private notes section of the order detail page.

stamps

What did you learn?

With the package on its way, think about what you've learned. Ask yourself some questions, and be ready to make adjustments.

  • Do the shipping prices in your shop cover your expenses?
  • Should you order shipping materials in bulk and keep them in your studio or office?
  • How can you simplify the process?
  • Could you help your customers more efficiently by creating an FAQ page in your shop to answer common shipping questions?

Shipping is a living, breathing process. Postage prices change, a new product will need a larger box, or maybe you’ll switch to a new carrier. You might not need to change a thing right now, and that’s great. But when order volume skyrockets in your shop, it’ll be time to look at shipping integrations, scheduling pickups, and maybe even hiring someone to help pack up those products for you. Don’t be afraid to keep refining your shipping prices and process as your business grows.