Today, I’m going to chat about shipping, and the pros and cons of upgrading to Endicia, a service which allows you to print your own shipping labels.
It costs a monthly fee and has some downsides, but it has capabilities that are unavailable on free sites (like the USPS site or PayPal). I can’t tell you what’s right for you… but I’ll spill everything I know so that you can make the best decision for you!
Why I ditched PayPal Shipping
If you’re a PayPal user, and a customer purchases an item from your site (or Etsy), it’s quite easy to ship a package using PayPal’s shipping tools. You can print the postage from your computer, and the shipping information is already stored from the purchase.
For a long time, I was content using PayPal’s shipping tools. I couldn’t do everything, but it was easy, free and fairly convenient.
And then… do you remember when I made my first kit club shipment? Because the club is a one-time-payment (a subscription) for 6 months of kit shipments (and not one payment per shipment), using PayPal’s shipping wouldn’t work. And the USPS site doesn’t allow you to print postage for first class domestic or international mail.
So there I was. 120 boxes that I couldn’t print shipping labels for. I spent one and a half hours at the post office.
That’s when I decided: Hey! My time’s worth something, too! And I signed up for a Premium shipping service.
Etsy’s Shipping Tools
Etsy recently enabled a shipping tools on their site very similar to PayPal’s, but better, since they allow you do do first class International shipping.
If you’re business is located on Etsy, I recommend using it. It’s free and works fabulously.
I, unfortunately, couldn’t rely only on Etsy’s shipping tools because the majority of my shipping comes from items purchased on my website (and not Etsy).
Endicia is a ‘premium’ shipping service, that allows you to print postage from your computer… but all types of postage (including first class international and media mail).
I signed up for the Standard Package, which is $9.95 a month. I felt like it was a little bit of a splurge, but if it could save me 1.5 hours in the post office, it just might be worth it!
Because everyone wants different things out of their shipping solutions, I’m just going to list the pluses and downsides I’ve found, in random order. Some of these things may matter to you, some may not.
Plus: you can ship International and Media Mail
Maybe it sounds silly to say this again… but being able to print out a customs form (instead of filling out by hand) and print first class postage (unlike the mega-expensive Priority you’re forced to buy on the USPS website) is a really exciting thing.
Downside: the labels use up a lot of paper and ink
With Endicia, you use specific software (called ‘Dazzle’) to configure and format your labels. There is no setting for adjusting the amount of ink used or the number of labels per page. This means that, if you’re using a simple ink printer, you will be printing very dark, small labels in the middle of a huge page. Which you will need to cut out.
I called customer service about this, because I assumed I was missing a setting. I wasn’t. I was told that the system ‘is really meant for being used with label printers’, which print using heat transfer and not ink.
I used up an entire ink cartridge in a week and a half. In the end, I bought a Dymo Label Printer, and think it’s worth it… but that’s a story for another day.
Plus: the software keeps all of your confirmation numbers in one place
This is handier than I thought it would be!
When a customer inquired about their package, I hopped over to Dazzle, searched my records and had the tracking number within seconds.
Plus: the software saves customs info from one purchase to the next
This is a handy little feature I hadn’t counted on! When shipping my kit club shipments, I was shipping out 32 identical packages. But, instead of needing to type the contents and value for each package, the software carried the information over from one package to the next.
Downside: if it doesn’t recognize an address, it won’t print
This may not be Endicia’s fault (possibly a post office regulation), but it’s a pain.
When you type in an address, the software runs a search to ensure it is a verified shipping address. However, if it doesn’t recognize the address, it won’t allow you to print a label.
This means that addresses like rural or international ones (where there may be a line of address that’s ‘unusual’) aren’t always accepted. I’ve always been able to weasel the software into accepting a format eventually, but it sometimes means swapping two lines of an address. For the package, that may mean a slower delivery time because the address is in an altered format.
For me, it’s totally worth the $10 a month. I’ve saved a lot of time at the post office.
However, if I sold primarily through Etsy (or even if I didn’t have a kit club), I think I would have remained happy with the free shipping tools available.
There’s no ‘right’ answer about whether upgrading to a premium shipping service is for you… but I hope I’ve given you enough details to help make the decision!