Most sellers today that aren't using drop shipping fulfillment partners likely pay for and print shipping labels for their products directly from the My eBay area of the eBay website or from Selling Manager.
Those that don't do this probably assume that it's difficult to do so, expensive to do so, or that it requires specialized knowledge or equipment. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth.
Myths (and Truths) About Printing Your Own Labels
- You need a special account or membership. All that you need to pay for shipping through PayPal and print your own labels is a PayPal account-nothing more.
- You need an expensive shipper's scale. In fact, ecommerce sites like eBay or Amazon can supply the required sort of scale for between $10 and $20. Just search either site for "postal scale" and sort by price. Given the time and effort savings, a scale is a worthwhile investment.
- You have to have special knowledge or skills. Nope once again; in fact, in the simplest case you simply fill out a simple one-page web form, providing a destination name and address, package weight, and package dimensions-things you'll know about your packages anyway in most cases.
- You need special labels and a special printer. You can print postage using your own standard inkjet or laser printer and basic copy paper, if that's what you have, then tape or stretch-wrap the labels onto the package. Yes, if you do a large volume it can be more convenient to buy pre-sized peel-and-stick labels and/or an appropriate printer, but it's certainly not required.
- It's embarrassing or complicated to ship prepaid packages. In fact, you just drop them off at a carrier location. They're accustomed already to accepting a large volume of shipping-prepaid packages. You get to avoid the line and the hassle and just leave them quickly and go.
- There are no benefits apart from saving time when shipping. In fact, this isn't true; by printing and paying for yourself and having to use the web-based forms involved, you can compare shipping prices for different dimensions, types of packaging, and service levels to find what works best for you. And if you ship using the per-item links on eBay for your sales, eBay will automatically mark your packages as shipped, notify your buyers, and provide them with a tracking number-all in all, a much bigger time and convenience savings.
So, given all of these facts and advantages, what's not to like about paying for and printing shipping labels on your own, rather than at the shipper's counter? Nothing! Let's get started-it's easy!
Paying for and Printing Your Own Shipping the Easy Way, Step-by-Step
Since most people not yet paying for and printing shipping labels on their own have hesitated because of a fear of difficulty or complexity, we're going to give the easiest possible way to go about doing this-but it may be surprising to you just how easy it actually is.
- List your items with free shipping. Don't worry about the cost; either list your items using the auction format, where free shipping items earn a bidding premium, or price your fixed-price listing accordingly to accomodate the difference. Listing with free shipping using the "Expedited shipping" method on eBay's selling form gives you maximum flexibility when it comes time to package and print.
- Get ahold of a stack of appropriate boxes. The easiest possible way to do this is to go to your local USPS location and get free Priority Mail boxes in the size and quantity that you need. Yes, Priority Mail is slightly more expensive than Parcel Post via USPS, but for most types and sizes of items the free boxes make up for much of the difference in cost and the fact that eBay's seller performance rating is based in part on delivery speed makes up for the rest.
- Pack the item and weigh if necessary. Once the item has sold, package it up one of the boxes you obtained. Note that you can often save a little bit on shipping fees by using a non-"flat rate" box (though for very heavy items, you can also save a great deal of money on shipping costs by using a "flat rate" box). If you haven't used a "flat rate" box, weigh it on your postal scale. (Trial and error leading to experience, or a bit of experimentation at the next step, can help you to decide between flat rate and non-flate rate boxes.)
- Visit the USPS shipping form. Log into your eBay account, visit your list of recent sales in My eBay, and choose "Print shipping label" from the action drop-down list for the item you're shipping. (In most cases, this will be the pre-selected link.)
- Fill out the form completely. Happily, there's not much to do here. eBay automatically fills in your address and the buyer's destination address. This is primarily where you list the kind of packaging you're using, the package weight (if you've not used a "flat rate box"), and the package dimensions (if you've not used standard Priority Mail packaging). You can see the advantages of using a flat rate Priority mail box now; you just choose "small," "medium," or "large" flat rate box and you're done, without having to weigh or measure a thing!
- Submit payment and print. When you finish the form, buy the postage. The value will automatically be deducted from your PayPal balance (using the funds you received from the sale of the item-nice and streamlined) and you'll be given the chance to print your label.
- Affix the label to your package. Attach the printed label to the package in a safe way. If you've printed on peel-and-stick paper or labels, peel and stick to the package. On standard paper, use clear tape to attach to the box and simply apply enough tape to cover the entire label with at least one layer of tape so that the paper and ink don't suffer if the package gets rained on or snags the corner of another package in the truck. Alternatively, your local office supply store will have a stock of inexpensive clear peel-and-stick pouches that can also be used to affix labels to packages. Be sure that the entire label is visible and lays flat (so that its bar and QR-style codes can easily be scanned).
- Deliver or schedule a pickup. Take the package with the affixed label to your local USPS office and simply leave it at the counter (making sure that someone has seen you do this and acknowledged your drop-off). If you have a few parcels, visit the carrier website and schedule a pickup. A driver will come by to collect them, and off they go. That's all there is to it-the postage is pre-paid, so you don't need to wait in line or do any paperwork.
- Enjoy the automation benefits. After you do this, your package will have been automatically marked as shipped so that your buyer can see that it's on its way; they will have been sent an email message confirming shipment; and they and eBay will be able to easily track the package via the tracking number that automatically appears in the system.
It looks like a long list, but as you read through it (and carry it out), you'll find out just how easy paying for and printing your own shipping can be-and that there's really no reason these days not to do it.