When you imagine a Shipping Department what comes to mind? Well, mine is an extra bedroom in our house used as an office, nothing fancy. But it's where all the packing goes down! So let's talk about sending packages off into the world. If you are new to shipping pottery or any of your handmade creations, shipping your first package can be intimidating. Like, Holy ship!! Four years ago when I started building my online sales I really had no clue about the amount of work that goes into shipping. How hard could it be right? A box, some wrapping and out the door. No. It has taken many steps and years, yes years, to get to where I am today with shipping. So lets look at some key issues with shipping, what's needed, how to label, where to store everything and all that jazz. This will be a multiple part post because of the amount of info. involved. I'll have links to products discussed in each part. Some links are directed to my amazon affiliate page, meaning if you buy it through there they throw me a few cents, if you don't dig that no worries. Feel free to search for the item in amazon or elsewhere, just wanted you to know :) Holler at me with any questions, enjoy!
Flashback to May 2016
We are going to start at the beginning for the first part of this Tips from the Shipping Dept. series. Let's remember a place and time when I was a little budding Hillbippie, bound and determined to sell my wares online. I was new to the scene and figuring it all out on my own after the passing of my boss, friend and mentor. Coming off the momentous task of completing all outstanding orders for her company, Liberty Pottery, (like 300+ mugs). All whilst setting up my own studio and working through the grieving process. It was a strange time in my life, so many emotions. Jumping in with both feet into a business that I wasn't sure I could run on my own. Purchasing the studio equipment and setting it up in our home. Having no real back up plan but a heck of a support system with my parents both being potters and my husband Benji who is an actual saint. Not sure how to translate what I was doing and or had done into what I wanted to do. Here I was, in my basement alone, muddy hands, a vision and a spark. What does this have to do with boxes? Each part of my story is entangled to the next so so I enjoy explaining/over explaining/ re-explaining so you can really feel & see where I'm coming from.
Ok, all about B O X E S
“Boxes, where are there boxes? You just wander down the street going in and out
For real, you get into boxes. At least I do/did. And yes, in the very beginning I used what I could find. Old wine boxes from my in laws winery, boxes from stores, old amazon boxes. Really no shame when it came to getting a good box. As you grow you'll find you need a better source and specific sizes plus constantly looking for boxes leave you feeling kind of racoonish. At first I looked into buying boxes, at the time it wasn't worth the investment as I was just figuring out how to sell online, also it was all a bit overwhelming. Then I found out that the USPS offers free boxes, FREE! These #4 boxes from the USPS are just the right size for one mug, they measure 7x7x6, and they are free (FREE). You can order them directly from the USPS website (click here) in bundles of 10 or 25 and they'll ship flat right to your door. A lot of post offices also stock them so if you ask them for a few #4 boxes they'll be able to help you out. Once I was needing larger boxes to ship bigger pieces or multiple pieces I would use the #7 box measuring 12x12x8 (click here to order). Now it can get confusing because there are priority boxes as well as flat rate boxes. Their website is a little confusing as well, they offer so many boxes/mailers. As I was told by my post office lady, flat rate boxes are best for heavy items. Priority is the way to go for mugs as I'm concerned. Typically one of these boxes with one mug will weigh approx. 1.7lbs. Which will cost you less than a small flat rate box to ship. One #4 box will cost approx. $7-8 to ship in state as compared to the smallest flat rate of $12-13. I used these boxes for the last 3 years and have shipped hundreds of pieces with little to no broken items. In the few cases of breakage I've had it was my error in packing, not the box.
About a year ago I had an idea that would up my shipping game as well as help protect my wares, another box! I started researching kraft gift boxes from various places like Uline & Amazon. I found a gift box that measured 6x6x4, which would fit one of my mugs perfectly. They come in a variety of sizes as well and cost approx. 50-70 cents per box. (Click here) After I got the boxes I started thinking about what I could add to the mug and box to make it special, like opening a present. I chose white paper bags and some tissue paper, all of which could be branded. So my packing now went like this: Mug wrapped in a paper bag, wrapped in tissue paper, put in the gift box. My outer box is stuffed with kraft packing paper (more on that in the next post) and then the gift box is placed in the outer box also wrapped in kraft paper and then covered with even more kraft paper!! Double boxed!! The gift box is also a great place to add your branding. I'm a big fan of stickers and have been getting all of mine through Stickermule. They offer great deals and high quality stickers and labels.
Most recent upgrade!
,The top goal I had was to one day be able to buy shipping boxes. They are constructed of stronger cardboard and the overall aesthetics of a branded cardboard box is important to me. It makes Hillbippie look like it has it's shit together even though I typically do not. I have priced them over and over again but never pulled the trigger. It was an added expense that I finally felt comfortable to tackle, plus I was out of Post Office boxes. There is a local packing supply store right near where I pick up my clay in Cambridge, Ohio. I stopped in to see if you could buy boxes directly from their store front which is also a UPS drop off. I was in luck!! They stock a variety of sizes that you can buy right there, why is that exciting? No Shipping fee!! So I snagged some 9x9x9in. boxes for a great deal, around 50 cents a piece. I have been using them for about a month now and I'm loving the overall look of my packaging. It was the final puzzle piece I had been missing. Plus the added construction and a little bit larger size really makes me feel like my wares are cushioned and protected. Since I wanted to add some branding too them as well, the side of the boxes are a blank canvas. I screen printed my logo in black on 2 sides and my tap (also branded, more on that later) comes down the other 2 sides. Overall I'm please with my boxes and it has been a heck of a journey to get here. Holler if you have any questions and I'd be glad to answer. Next up...PACKAGING! Stay tuned :)