Tuesday, 18 October 2016

How To Ship A Package

This article series on how to ship a package is entirely dedicated to the magical world of shipping labels. It’s a following to my popular article on how to package a product.

Shipping is a major pain point for most hardware entrepreneurs. Packages blocked at the customs, delays and mistakes, extra fees… A way to limit issues is to properly take care of your shipping labels. These little sticky papers are one of your keys to better logistics.

Most shipping failures come from a lack of information.

In this article, you will learn how to:

Part 1: Understand shipping labels
Part 2: Print your shipping labels (coming up)
Part 3: Prepare your shipment (coming up)
Time for a bit of label geeking:

What is a Shipping Label

Shipping labels provide key information to each actor of your supply chain to move your package from one hand to an other, from the warehouse to your customer’s doorstep.

Each carrier (UPS, DHL, FedEx, Amazon…) uses a specific template for its shipping labels. You need to follow the templates provided by your carrier to ensure good delivery.

Each carrier designed their label so that they are optimized with their own process, at the routing center and at the storage warehouse. Shipping labels are designed to be read by both machines and humans. Being clear and easy to read is a top priority.

On a shipping label, you’ll see barcodes, numbers and letters. Each area is being used along the way to inform specific partners of the supply chain.

If you look at this sample from a UPS label, here is what you see:

A/ The name and address of the sender (you)

B/ The name and address of the recipient (your customer)

C/ A MaxiCode: it’s a code that can be read in any direction by the machine.

It contains all information needed for the delivery: postal code, country code, service class, tracking number, date, package quantity and weight, address validation, and ship street, city and state.

D/ The Routing Code: it tells how to route the package within the UPS building.

E/ The Postal Barcode: it shows the zipcode of the destination

F/ 1Z Tracking Number: that’s the number you give to your customer so that he can track his package

G/ Level of Service: it describes your chosen level of service provided by the carrier

Don’t worry. Most of these information are automatically generated by your carrier.

The main information you need in order to fill a label are:

your name and address
the name and address of your customer
the level of service (priority, by air…)

Templates can vary but overall shipping labels follow international standards. It’s good to know that:

the standard size in the industry for shipping labels is: 4×6 inches. If your package doesn’t fit this label, other standard formats are: 6×3 inch and 4×4 inch.
You can’t reuse old labels. A new label has to be created for each package since each of them contain unique coded information.

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” says Albert Einstein.


How to Fill Out a Shipping Label

You have 3 major options.

Option 1 – Use Online Carrier’s Label Templates
For small orders (average of 3 a day), you can use free printable labels provided on your carrier’s website.

It’s the best way to do things right, but not the best one to go fast and automate since you have to go on the website for every order.

Every carriers offer online tools to help you create shipping labels that fit their specific requirements.

You’re expected to connect on their website, fill out the label template and download the file that you will then have to print at home.

Here is where you can find each online tool (they usually requires to sign up first):

FedEx, Create Shipment
UPS, Create a Shipment
DHL,Online Shipping
Amazon instructions here
eBay, eBay labels, instructions here
Option 2 – Use a Shipping Label Software
This option is a good one if you work mostly offline and don’t want to rely on your carrier’s website. You’ll also have more freedom in the customization and automation of your labels. Choose this option if you have many labels to fill every day, don’t have easy access to the Internet or use multiple carriers.

The “problem” with using carrier online label tools is that they require you to go on their website every time, login and follow the whole process. It’s time consuming and not efficient if you have more than 5 labels to create per day.

A good way to go around this problem is to use a tool to automatically import template from your carrier and fill the label locally in your computer.

Let’s look at the different label software available:

Shipping Labels Software
Software Cost Description
Avery Free Leading company for label sheets ready to print at home or at the office.
Microsoft Word $100 per year Word has a built-in feature for creating and printing labels.
OpenOffice Free OpenOffice offers many shipping labels templates to work from.
GLabels free Free software to design labels. It populates Avery label page for easy home prints. No text formatting.
Scribus free Scribus is an open source software to create layouts from texts and images. It can be used to create labels.

GLabels and OpenOffice are great options. They are open source and easy to use. Avery makes sense only if you use a home printer and Avery label sheets (we’ll see in Part 2 what are your other options).

Option 3 – Automated Shipping Tool
A third option is to sign up to an online service that automatically aggregates order information from multiple platforms and carriers and fill forms accordingly. Most of the time, you’ll have to pay a monthly fee.

It’s the neat option if you have a serious amount of orders every day (more than 20) and are ready to pay.

4 big shipping services are Stamps.com, Endicia, ShipStation and ShippingEasy. Let’s see how they compare.

Online Automated Shipping Services
Service Name Basic cost per month Description
Stamps.com $15.99 Stamps.com lets you create shipping labels and import orders from multiple selling platforms (see the full list here) letting you choose the most efficient shipping method. Discounted rates with USPS are offered thanks to a strong partnership.
Endicia $15.95 Endicia is an all-in-one service taking care of fulfillment and creating shipping labels. Focus is given on international shipping. Discounts are available. Compatible DYMO LabelWriter 4XL
ShipStation $25 ShipStation is a popular option that integrates with an impressive number of selling platforms (see the list here). Discounted shipping rates available. Fulfillment and shipping labels creation. Return label included
Shipping Easy $0-$29 ShippingEasy offers the same services (list of integrated selling platforms here)

To pick the right service for you, main criteria to take in consideration are:

which selling platforms do you need to integrate: ShipStation is a good fully integrated solution.
how many shipments do you make per month: If less than 50, ShippingEasy is a good affordable choice.
where do you ship to: Stamps is a good choice for domestic US shipping. Endicia is better for international.

To conclude and just in case you were wondering, don’t try to fill out shipping labels by hand. Don’t try to create a template from scratch. In the shipping world, the game is to follow carriers’ instructions as closely as possible.

Your choice between online generators, label software or shipping service mostly depends on how much time you want to spend filling out labels.

0 to 5 orders per week: use your carrier online tool
5 to 10 orders per week: use a label software
10 to much more per week: subscribe to a shipping service
See you soon for Part 2 of this article series on how to ship a package: “Print shipping labels”. And by then, share your experience in the comments below!

Hold mail

Stop junk mail

Change of address

US mail tracking

USPS hours

How To Change Address Of USPS

If you’re planning a move, your to-do list likely includes such tasks as creating a home inventory, packing boxes and renting a moving truck. But one thing that you don’t want to forget is ensuring that others know how to reach you.

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) offers three basic options for getting mail at your new address.

1. You can fill out a change-of-address form so that first-class mail sent to your old address is forwarded to your new home. The free service lasts for 12 months. After that, any mail sent to your old address is returned to the sender, said Sue Brennan, a USPS spokeswoman.

2. You can sign up for Premium Forwarding Service, which lets you to get mail forwarded only temporarily. This is ideal for people who have dual residences so “if they live in Maine in the summer and Florida in the winter, their mail could follow them,” Brennan said. However, there’s a cost. You must pay $15 to enroll in the service and $17 each week your mail is forwarded to you.

3. You can use the USPS’ General Delivery Service if you move to a new town but don’t yet have a permanent address. With this service, people can reach you by sending mail addressed to you, followed by the words “General Delivery” and the name of the city and the state, and the nine-digit ZIP code of the main post office. For example, a letter could be addressed to Jane Doe, General Delivery, Your Town, Your State, 11111-1234, and Jane Doe would be able to pick it up at the post office for up to 30 days after its arrival.

Changing Your Address Permanently

To change your address permanently, you’ll have to fill out a change-of-address form. You can fill it out online, do it at your local post office, or download the form online and mail it to your local post office. The easiest way to do so is to fill out the form online, but you’ll have to use a credit or debit card; you’ll be charged a non-refundable $1 verification fee. According to the Postal Service, the fee is designed to protect you from fraud. The USPS matches the credit or debit card information with the address it has on file to make sure that you’re the one who’s changing an address, rather than an identity thief.

When filling out the form, you’ll be asked whether it’s a permanent or temporary move and when the mail should start being forwarded.

Don’t wait until the last minute. The USPS recommends that you fill out the form a at least seven to 10 days before you need for the mail to be forwarded. You also don’t want to fill out the forms too soon. The initial mail forwarding date should not be more than three months in the future.

You’ll also have to indicate whether you’re changing an address on behalf of an individual, a family or a business. If you receive mail under more than one name, such as a maiden name or an alias, you should complete the change-of-address process for each name. Members of a family who share the same last name need to fill out only one form.

Don’t Stop With the Postal Service

While it’s important to change your address with the Postal Service, that does not remove the need to alert all of your service providers, banks and credit card issuers about your move. Since your mail is forwarded only for a year, you run the risk of having your service providers lose track of you after the time expires unless you tell them where you are.

“It is important to maintain an updated physical address because your credit card issuer will need to periodically mail important account updates and information,” said Natalie Brown, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo.

Some creditors and service providers have their own rules about when you must let them know of the address change. For example, Discover credit cardholders must contact the company within 15 days of moving, spokeswoman Katie Henry said.

Even if you use online banking and don’t get any financial statements in the mail, you still should alert your bank and credit card companies about your address change, said Sukhi Sahni, a spokeswoman for Capital One.

Hold mail

Stop junk mail

Change of address

US mail tracking

USPS hours