Shipping From Home: Choosing Your Carrier (Part 1)
How To Get Started Shipping From Home
Part 1: Choosing Your Carrier
Want to get in on the ship-from-home trend? Already in the business and want to up your game? This series will show you how to get started, plus some brands that are doing it right.
Whether you're shipping five orders a week or 50, every package is your chance for a happy customer.
First things first: Pick your carrier.
There are a few factors to consider before choosing a shipping carrier. While you can always browse through FedEx, UPS and USPS (United States Postal Service), if you don’t know how to answer these basic shipping standards, it’ll be hard to decide which shipping carrier and method is best for your small business.
Here are some factors to consider when it comes to small business shipping:
Are you a fully established shop and shipping 100 packages a week? Or are you just starting out and anticipating your shipping volume to be a few packages a month? No matter the frequency of your shipping, mail carriers offer a variety of business plans.
On average, how much do your products typically weigh? Unless you are using a flat-rate box, the weight of the object can affect the cost of shipping.
Another weight-related consideration: Even if you have a product’s weight and simply want a shipping cost estimate, sometimes shipping providers won’t give you a definitive answer unless you input a delivery address. If you don’t have a specific address in mind, have on hand a few ZIP codes where you’ll likely be delivering—where do your customers typically place their orders from? Zoning maps show you how fast a package will get delivered depending on your shipping headquarters, but it doesn’t hurt to see ballpark estimates of how much it would cost to send a package in each delivery zone.
Will you be shipping ground, priority, or first class? Will you offer your customers one shipping option or will you have multiple shipping methods for them to choose from? Keep these questions in mind when choosing your carrier.
Are you only shipping domestically or will you be shipping internationally as well? This affects which carrier you choose, as some have much better overseas coverage than others. No matter what, be sure to include your shipping rules somewhere on your website, and make them clear and easy to find. You’ll save yourself a lot of emails and social media comments asking these questions if you already have them listed!
We’ll dive deeper into physical packaging materials in Part 2 of our series, but for now consider whether or not flat-rate boxes will work for you. With a flat-rate box, you pay the predetermined rate listed regardless of weight, shipping speed, or where the package is shipping to. Plus, you can pick up flat-rate boxes for free at your local post office, UPS, or FedEx.
If you sell small, heavy items, flat-rate boxes are a great option as long as your items fit in the box. But if you’re shipping nearby and your products don’t weigh much, flat-rate shipping can cost you more.
Don’t be afraid to comparison shop.
USPS, FedEx or UPS are the most commonly used shipping carriers. Here’s how they stack up against one another:
- Click-N-Ship: Pay postage and print labels online.
- Home Pickup: Schedule and ship parcels without ever leaving your front doorstep.
- Free Priority-Mail Starter Kit: Fill out a form about your business and a USPS Business Solutions agent will get you set up with a free shipping kit.
- Every Door Direct Mail Advertising: Market to your audience by reaching them with direct mail. Fill out a form about your current advertising efforts and request your free kit.
- Reserve a PO Box: Don’t want to receive business-related mail at your home address? USPS can help you get a PO box solely for your company.
- Reward System: Sign up for a My FedEx Rewards account and gain rewards the more you ship—great if you’re going to be a high-volume shipper!
- Packaging Help: Visit FedEx’s Packaging Help Hub for FAQs, calculating your dimensional weight, and familiarizing yourself with packaging terminology.
- Schedule Pickups: Schedule and manage pickups from the comfort of your own home.
- Postcard Printing: Use FedEx Office to print custom postcards or coupons to include in your shipping parcels (inserts are a great way to set your small business apart!).
- Temperature Control: Shipping food, beverages or fresh flowers? FedEx offers temperature-controlled shipping packages with cold and heated options.
- Business Discounts: Gain access to business-related discounts including accountants, marketing, and employee background screening.
- UPS Connect: Free brainstorming sessions regarding your business plan and shipping needs.
- Manage Finances: Manage and allocate costs of shipping with UPS financial and payment services.
- Schedule Pickups: Schedule a pickup directly on the UPS site.
- UPS Returns: Watch inventory and manage logistics without skipping a beat.
For even more information on each of the big-name carriers, check out our recent piece, Shipping Carrier Breakdown: USPS, UPS, and FedEx, on the MINI PAK’R blog!
External shipping platforms
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of dealing with mail carriers, another way to get the most out of shipping for small business is by using a shipping solutions platform. Here, we’ll compare the two industry heavyweights of the moment, but there are a slew of shipping platforms out there—we encourage you to do a little digging and choose the best fit for your business needs!
- Shipstation: One of the main benefits of Shipstation is its ease of store integration thanks to the platform’s extensive list of store integration compatibility partners. Because of this, connecting your store to Shipstation is incredibly simple. Once connected, your orders will automatically be pulled into Shipstation, where you can view the order, see customer information, pay postage, print labels and customize delivery emails without ever leaving the site. Keep in mind this kind of convenience comes at a price, and Shipstation requires a monthly fee to use their platform. Depending on your needs (number of users, customization, shipping volume), there are six plans to choose from.
- Shippo: With Shippo, you have the option to Pay As You Go. Shippo is free to sign up and does not charge monthly fees. The only thing you pay for in the Pay As You Go option are the shipping labels and the actual shipping carrier fee. If you print labels with Shippo, tracking is included. If not, Shippo charges a very small fee to add tracking. Shippo also offers free address verification within the U.S. (they charge $0.06 for non-U.S. locations). Shippo’s weakness is website compatibility. Big name e-commerce sites like Amazon and Shopify are on the list, but in comparison to ShipStation’s store integrations partners, Shippo’s store integration list is much smaller.
If you’ve picked your carrier and are ready to get started shipping, read on in Part 2 of our How To Get Started Shipping From Home series: Tools & Materials!