The Stay True Project PART IV: Order Fulfillment & Shipping

April 29, 2013

Welcome to part four of the five part Stay True Project series!

In previous parts of the series I discussed how I brought the Stay True idea to life, creating the Kickstarter project, printing & production of the products, and now is the time to cover the daunting, frustrating, and most important part of running your own online shop: fulfilling customer orders and shipping.

What you'll find in this post: 5 self shipping tips, the 5 step easy shipping process, 3 step process to shipping internationally, and more!

Let’s jump into it and learn how to handle shipping t-shirts and products across the world!

The basics to shipping products

Nearly everyone has mailed a letter or shipped a package, so to the average person shipping may seem like a small matter. However to a business or solo entrepreneur, shipping is a lot more complicated than expected.

If you’re shipping out your own products you’ll have to consider packing supplies, delivery confirmations, accurate costs to ship, shipping internationally, returns, customer experience, and the list goes on. Stuff that I’ve never even thought about until I took the time to research.

I’ve read forums with people asking for specific help on shipping solutions, and most of the time this was the answer they’d get in reply: “I’m not telling you any details! You have to do your own research!”

True... not everyone’s shipping experience is the same. But to those starting out, I’m here to share everything I can to make your life easier!

5 self shipping tips:

  1. Uline has cheap shipping materials of great quality
  2. Get a shipping scale to weigh your packages. You’ll need it.
  3. Use PayPal to print shipping labels.
  4. Ship orders within 1-3 days of purchase to keep customers happy.
  5. Don’t charge a lot for shipping! $3-5 is enough to ship a t-shirt, unless it’s shipping internationally.

These five tips originated from Thread’s Not Dead (p.131) by Jeff Finley. I’m taking these tips and sharing them through my own experience. Pick up the book if you’re at all interested in the apparel industry or growing yourself as an entrepreneur. It’s worth every penny!

Creating a fun customer experience

I love that Christmas morning feeling when I get a package in the mail.

That’s the feeling I want to instill in every one of my customers. I want to show that I really care about them, because their support in my work means the world!

With every order I hand-stamp and write a thank you note, as well as throw in some stickers and buttons as an added thank you.

The customer’s experience goes a long way, and I want to make sure that there is a smile on their face every time they open a package from me.

Shipping with USPS

I do all of my product shipping with USPS. Their service is most effective at the lowest price. I’ve honestly had a flawless experience using their shipping services and I highly recommend using USPS if you’re starting out.

When you first research your shipping options, you might get a bit confused with the many different services to use: Express, Priority, Prepaid, First-Class, Standard, Media... Which service are you suppose to choose?

I’ll make it easy for you. Ship First-Class! Shipping first-class is fast (delivery is in 3 days or less) and affordable for packages up to 13 oz.

The 5 step easy shipping process:

  1. Receive customer order. Print out packing/order slip.
  2. Pack and weight merchandise. To help keep the process organized I usually write the customer name, package contents, and weight on a post-it note when I'm fulfilling multiple orders.
  3. Log into PayPal and either click print shipping label through the order's transaction or manually create a shipping label.
  4. Print shipping label and affix it to the package. I use a clear packing envelope from Uline, but you can also tape the shipping label using clear packing tape.
  5. Drop off the packages at your local post office or Pakmail. If you have one, maybe two packages, and you’re shipping first-class, then you can also send it out in your home mailbox.

If I have an order come in that’s too large to fit into my poly mailers, I simply use USPS’s website and order a pack of Priority Mail Boxes for FREE. Using these boxes you’re required to ship Priority though. So don’t forget to choose that when creating your shipping label.

Shipping internationally with USPS

I was surprised and excited when I had received a few international orders.

Here I was thinking, “Wow! My work is going to be hanging up on someone’s wall or be worn by someone else across the world!”

But then it hit me: how do I get this across seas and into their hands?!

Unfortunately shipping internationally isn’t cheap and can get quite confusing, but don’t let that scare you. Selling your own products is fun!

3 step process to shipping internationally:

  1. Receive the order. Pack and get ready to ship.
  2. You’ll need to fill out a customs form (in the US at least). To do this I simply use USPS’s website to fill-out the customs form online then print it out.
  3. With the package sealed and customs form in hand I run it to my local post-office. They scan the barcode on the printed out customs form, and I then pay for shipping!

The process sounds easy, but it took a lot of research to figure that out (unfortunately).

If you have orders flying in and the demand for international orders are there, then check out Endicia or Both have features to automatically fill out customs forms, and from what I’ve heard makes the shipping process a lot easier. I don’t have packages flying out the door on a daily basis, so I have no need to be paying for those services.

The Stay True Project PART V: Setting Up Shop & Making Sales

In the last part of the Stay True Project series I discuss how I opened up my online shop and what I do to keep it running.

Part I: Bringing the Idea to Life

Part II: Creating the KickstarterP

art III: Printing & Production

Part IV: Order Fulfillment & Shipping

Part V: Setting Up Shop & Making Sales

See my latest work and more on Instagram @BrentGalloway