For the first 6 months we sold on eBay we would pack up all of our orders, write what item was inside on the top of the box, and trek to the post office. I have many pictures of my wife at the post office at 1:00 in the morning, standing at the shipping kiosk, and looking like a very angry little eBay elf. One day, we were sitting in the hospital waiting room for the birth on our nephew, I was killing time on my phone and saw an offhand comment about a thermal printer. I did some research and found that I could print from home anytime and it was actually cheaper than going to the post office! I could even schedule pickups! I might never have to leave my house again! So if you’re serious about eBay (or any other home business) it’s time you start to ship your eBay orders from home…
PACKING THE ITEM
Hopefully you’ve had this part down for awhile. Unless they’re very unusual, we pack all items similarly. We have 2 different sizes of boxes, and two different poly mailers. The idea here is to become as quick as possible. For example: shoes always go into box #1, t-shirts, shorts, etc go into the small poly mailer. Jackets go into the big poly mailer unless they sold for over $100 in which case they go into box #2. Pretty soon you’ll have your own system figured out and can have this whole process streamlined! Never be intimidated by large items, packing eBay orders is as simple as putting something in a box with padding.
In our “How To Ship eBay Orders From Home” tutorial, the first questions of course is, how do I print the orders? Well luckily, there are only two options to talk about, and only one of them is any good….
INK VS. THERMAL PRINTERS If you know the weight of your items, you can actually print your shipping labels from any home printer! This is the most expensive home shipping option by far because of the paper and ink cost. It is also the most time consuming as you will need to cut out and tape each label to the box. This is a definite step up from printing at the post office because it allows you to use eBay’s shipping service and get a discount (shipping directly from USPS’s website will also give you a discount). If you are serious about selling online however, getting a thermal printer is the only long term solution.
If you decide to get a thermal printer, say goodbye to buying ink! Thermal printers use heat to transfer an image onto a label. They can print a label in under 2 seconds, cost less than $0.02 a label, and make you look much more professional than taping a giant piece of paper to your box. Many people are reluctant to take the dive into buying a thermal printer but here’s a secret, you have to spend money to grow your business. If you are dragging your feet, your business growth will slog along as well. We consider buying a thermal printer one of our best investments for our home business and have used it to ship thousands of labels so far. If you have to save for one, start now.
We spent around $200 total (we already had the laptop) to get everything we needed to start shipping from home. This included the printer with all the necessary cords and software, a scale, and enough labels to ship everything we own and then some. While it can be done much cheaper, (or for free if you have a home printer and scale already), we chose a long term option that could grow with us as with scaled our business.
TO GET STARTED, YOU REALLY NEED 3 THINGS:
Scale: Smart Weigh Digitial Postal Scale (Get It Here)
Why we chose that one: It was literally the one one we could find with everything we wanted!
- Detached monitor. If the readout is on the scale it is impossible to see when you stick a huge box on there.
- Both AC and battery power options. If we have a box that’s too big for the desk, we can unplug it and weigh in on the kitchen floor using battery power.
- 110 lb Capacity
- Price: At less than $30, this scale is a total steal
Printer:Zebra LP2844 Thermal (Get It Here)
Why we chose that one: The LP2844 is the workhorse of thermal label printers. It has been used for many years in both home and commercial businesses. Because of this, there are not only a ton of refurbished models for sale, but there is a huge amount of support and information available on setting up and using these machines. We know of sellers who have printed 20,000+ labels through one of these with no issues. Look for them on both eBay and Amazon.
Why we chose that one: Labels are labels. We choose low cost 4×6 thermal labels and buy them in bulk!
If you look on eBay or Amazon you can actually find a package which will give you everything you need for under $200. Just make sure you’re buying a reputable dealer who can give you tech support if your printer malfunctions or you need help setting it up.
DO YOU ACTUALLY WEIGH THINGS AS YOU LIST THEM?
I admit it, I no longer weigh items as I list them. The reason we stopped weighing items is that we are familiar enough with the weight of the items we sell that we can guess their weight closely enough. If you ship flat rate, there is never a need for weight guessing. If however you choose to ship by weight, as we do, USPS prices change by the pound (For priority mail anyway). For example, a 3lb 4oz box is the same price as a 3lb 15oz box. So we figure we can get within that 1lb range. We do however weigh items precisely for shipping.
People who should weigh items as they list:
Those who ship a lot of first class packages
Those who send alot of packages overseas
WHAT IF I OVER/UNDER CHARGE SHIPPING?
If you undercharge for shipping, oh well! Make it up out of your pocket. You are prohibited by eBay’s policy from asking for additional shipping (not to mention the fact that it would be immoral). If we overcharge, we keep the change as compensation for materials used. You win some, you lose some, and overall it evens out. We never refund shipping as we figure the buyer was willing to pay that amount. We do however do our best to charge accurate shipping and, if we guess, typically guess on the light side to save the buyer money. Just be sure to hide the shipping amount on the label.
WHERE DO YOU GET PACKING MATERIALS?
If you ship flat-rate, USPS provides packages free of charge and will deliver them straight to your door! Request flat-rate boxes here.
As we prefer to ship via calculated shipping, we are always on the lookout for supplies! We buy boxes in bulk from a local shipping company (buying boxes one at a time “as needed” is 10x the price…). Our packing material comes from various other places. We snag stacks of newspaper/ads as stores through them out, use recycled products from a local college, and even received a bale of last weeks edition from a local paper. Call around to stores/publishers in your area and tell them that you’d be happy to take what they have off their hands!