48 – Packing & Shipping Your Art & Products
Packing & Shipping Your Art & Products

Resources Mentioned

Artists Mentioned

In the last few episodes, Nikki and Laura have been talking about selling for the holidays and one thing that can really make or break your customers’ experience of your products is how you ship them. And when we say shipping, we mean a lot more than just the service and logistics you use to ship. We’re talking about the way your products are presented in the package, as well as the protection and container you use for the package to ensure that your products arrive safely. You want them to be presented beautifully, but you also need to do this within your own budget. There are so many things to consider, so we break them down for you in this episode and give you some helpful tips we’ve learned along the way.
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Topics discussed

  • Ideas and products for packaging your art and presenting a great unboxing experience
  • How to protect your products and fine art during packing and shipping
  • Matching packaging to brand values
  • Setting up shipping on your online shop
  • Calculating packaging / shipping costs
  • Ways to reduce shipping costs
  • Using a mail service/plugin for your website
  • Communicating your shipping and returns policies on your website
  • Offering free shipping above a certain dollar amount
  • Support/returns/replacing items that were lost or damaged
  • Automated or personal emails to connect with your customers

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Nikki

0:01
Laura, what are we talking about today?

Laura

0:04
Well, Nikki, in the last few episodes, we’ve been talking about selling for the holidays. And one thing that can really make or break your customers’ experience of your products is how you ship them. And when I say shipping, I mean a lot more than just the service and logistics you use to ship; I’m talking about the way your products are presented in the package, as well as the protection and container you use for the package itself to ensure that your products get there safely. You want them to be presented beautifully, but you also need to do this within your own budget. There are so many things to consider. So we’re going to break them down for you in this episode and give you some helpful tips we’ve learned along the way.

Nikki

0:43
All right, let’s dig in.

Laura

0:47
Hi, this is Laura Lee Griffin.

Nikki

0:49
And this is Nikki May with the Startist Society, inspiring you to stop getting your own way and start building an art biz and life that you love.

Laura

0:58
We are artists who believe strongly in the power of community, accountability, following your intuition, taking small actionable steps and breaking down the barriers of fear and procrastination that keep you stuck.

Nikki

1:12
Follow along with us on our creative business journey as we encourage you on yours.

Nikki

1:20
So let’s talk first about packaging up your art and products. It’s so important to make a great first impression and a great unboxing experience for your customers, especially for gifts.

Laura

1:31
Think about examples that you’ve received in the mail, the ones that gave you a wow factor when you opened them, the ones that make you think, Wow, this thing is really special. Don’t you want your customers to feel the same way about your products? Great packaging helps elevate them; here are a few examples.

Nikki

1:51
So as we mentioned in our greeting card episode, you can use acid free clear plastic or biodegradable sleeves to protect your prints, greeting cards and small original art. Laura and I both used a brand called Clear Bags and we’ll link to them in the show notes. You can buy the sleeves with or without a sticky flap to seal them or you can seal them with a branded sticker. I personally have stickers that I designed with my logo that I ordered from Sticker Mule, but you can also print stickers yourself at home.

Laura

2:22
Yeah, I think Avery has them in packs like where you can buy the round sticker just a standard one and print them out easily yourself. But if you don’t have the budget or time to create a branded sticker you can purchase beautiful rolls of 500 stickers for under $10 on Amazon that say things like Thanks for supporting my small business. I use these myself and we’ll link to those in the show notes.

Nikki

2:44
For jewelry and other small objects you can either have custom branded boxes printed in bulk from a printer like UPrinting or Packlane or you can just purchase a nice sturdy box from a packaging store like Uline in like white, Kraft, black or your brand colors. When I sell my jewelry I have nice little kraft jewelry boxes that I have a rubber stamp with my logo on it that I just print on the top.

Laura

3:12
Oh nice. Yeah, and for shipping I think it’s important to have that protection of the box. I know for my jewelry, when I’ve done in person sales, I’ve used those really pretty organza bags that you can put jewelry inside. Those are nice, you still need to protect it somehow. Be it either some good tissue paper or something like that. So you’ll want to include some padding inside that box so your jewelry is protected. And then you can wrap the box with a ribbon or you can seal it with beautiful stickers. And for your inside packaging. If you’re a surface design artist or illustrator, consider having some custom tissue paper printed from No Issue with your designs on it. And we’ll link to them in the show notes. You can use a single sheet to wrap your items for a unique unboxing experience. You could wrap your prints with a sheet and close the paper up with a sticker. Or you could have a rubber stamp made with one of your designs and stamp it on some plain white tissue paper with ink.

Nikki

4:07
Yeah, I ordered Bonnie Christine’s planner a couple years ago and she has the most beautiful tissue paper that she had made with one of our repeat patterns on it. And I’m actually still using that paper in collages.

Laura

4:19
Yeah, I actually ordered one of her planners last year and I loved that unboxing experience. She also includes really gorgeous business cards that have gold foil accents on them just to elevate that whole thing.

Nikki

4:31
Yeah, definitely consider including extra little surprises in your package like free stickers, postcards, business cards with your artwork, or even handwritten notes to elevate the experience. And you can include a packing slip just make sure to leave the price off if it’s marked as a gift, right. These extra packaging inserts can be great low cost targeted marketing tools. You can use them to cross sell promote products that might be interest to that specific customer, or even to promote products that you just have a surplus of that you’re trying to get rid of. Right? These inserts can also be used to ask for a review or a request to share on social media.

Laura

5:14
Yeah, I actually just received a package recently from August Wren, and it was a scarf that I purchased for a friend’s birthday. And I love that she included some free colorful postcards of her artwork inside. She even decorated the outside of the envelope a bit with some sketched flowers. So it’s just nice little extra touches. But the person who I think does this best, in my opinion, is Helen Dardick. And we’ll find some videos from Instagram to put in the show notes to show you where she decorates her packages with black Sharpie markers. And it is artwork in and of itself; it is absolutely gorgeous. And she does it so quickly. Well, maybe it’s the time lapse video, I’m not sure. But she does it beautifully. And all she’s using is like a kraft envelope and a black marker, not expensive supplies.

Nikki

6:01
Alright, so for the most part, we’re talking today about products that you’re shipping yourself. But even certain print on demand companies like printful have begun realizing the importance of the white label experience. For example, they offer the option of uploading your logo to include on the shipping box or envelope. So it actually looks like it’s shipped from you. It just has their return address instead of yours. And they also allow you on some of their products, mostly apparel, to include your logo on their printed tags. So the entire product is branded by you, right. You can also include custom postcards and inserts inside the box to duplicate that experience that you’d provide if you packed it yourself. And that’s something you can just build into your pricing if you want to uplevel your print on demand customer experience.

Laura

6:51
Yeah, I love having that custom experience, but you didn’t have to do any of that work yourself in the packaging.

If you’re selling something three dimensional, like ceramic ornaments, you can add gorgeous silk velvet ribbon to them and create custom hang tags, you know, printed at home or through a printer. I’ve actually seen people a lot of times use business cards that way, they’ll just have a whole bunch of business cards printed, but they’re printed as hang tags. And then you might punch a hole in them and then use it as a hang tag, which I think is super clever. And then you can take any three dimensional objects and cradle them with tissue paper inside of a gift box which you seal with a sticker. And you’d then want to protect the box inside of a larger mailing box with added filler for something that’s fragile. In fact, that can get a little tricky. So let’s talk a bit about protecting your artwork and the products that you’re sending by using the right packing materials.

Nikki

7:46
Yeah, let’s get started with suggestions for packing fine art. Okay. First, it’s really important to protect the surface with a layer of either glassine wax paper. What you use depends on the medium, but you don’t want to let bubble wrap come in direct contact with the surface of a painting or drawing.

Laura

8:08
Yeah, it can get stuck to it, especially if you live in Texas and are ever shipping in the summer heat.

Nikki

8:13
Right. I ordered some handmade light fixtures once they had several layers of plexiglass painted with alcohol inks and were wrapped in bubble wrap. And they arrived with a bubble wrap pretty much melted into the plexi and destroyed.

Laura

8:30
Yeah, I forget that that Kentucky gets really hot too, right?

Nikki

8:33
Yeah. You don’t have this singular claim to.

Laura

8:40
So did you go back to the artist about it when that happened?

Nikki

8:44
Um, yeah, I let him know what happened. And, and he he offered to repair or replace whatever was damaged. But also FedEx actually reimbursed us for the insured amount because it really shouldn’t have been ever in such a hot environment.

Laura

8:59
Yeah, and that’s good, but it’s best to just avoid the situation entirely if you can by just packaging things in a way where that wouldn’t happen.

Nikki

9:09
Definitely. So, next step, make sure that you wrap your artwork in layers to add multiple levels of protection. For flat artwork, you can add some flat cardboard, make sure it’s acid free. Cut it down to the size of your piece, or for three dimensional objects. Make sure that you get a box that’s as close to the size of the piece as possible because you want to you want to tight fit with a layer of bubble wrap inside.

Laura

9:37
Yeah, so it doesn’t jostle around.

Nikki

9:39
Yeah, absolutely. And you want to wrap the entire thing in bubble wrap as tight as you can. And you can even add like extra cardboard pieces are kind of like crumpled up pieces of paper to the corners or any fragile parts of a three dimensional piece just to make sure that it’s extra tight in there.

Laura

9:57
Yeah, it makes a huge difference. I’ve noticed those those corners. You know, when I’ve had things delivered with them or without them, they almost inevitably arrive damaged if there isn’t something protecting them.

Nikki

10:07
Yeah, I always save those when I get them in packages just for this.

Laura

10:11
You can reuse them. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So where would you buy the flat cardboard pieces you were talking about? Where would you Where would you get those.

Nikki

10:19
So you can buy that stuff from places like Uline. They’re, I mean, they specialize in packaging and shipping materials. So they’ve got huge options to choose from a massive catalog. Yeah, which even if you order something online, they’ll still keep sending you those messes.

Laura

10:38
We’re not talking about saving the environment.

Nikki

10:42
Sadly not. Anyway, I also save, aside from the cardboard corners, I save boxes and sheets of cardboard from things I have delivered to me as long as they’re in good condition and not covered with somebody else’s branding. That way, you have things to use and you are you are helping save the environment in a tiny little way. Yeah, then for for wrapped three dimensional items. Once you have that wrapped in bubble wrap and you’ve got this weird shape, you’ll want to fill the bottom of a box with some sort of packing fillings that that fill in that empty space around it before you put the piece in and then add more on the sides and tops.

Laura

11:25
Yeah, if the piece is very fragile, you might think about using two boxes with a bit of the extra packing material for added strength and protection. And you want to make sure that each step of this project is done neatly and with the the experience of the recipient in mind so that it appears very thoughtful and professional.

Nikki

11:44
And as far as what to use for packing material, consider the experience of the person unpacking it. I want my purchase protected, but I cannot stand when I open a box and have to dig through styrofoam popcorn that ends up all over the floor and in my dog’s mouth.

Laura

12:00
Plus, it’s horrible for the environment. So if you’re going to use some sort of foam pieces inside of your packaging, choose the biodegradable kind. And also it’s important to note that most galleries if you were selling artwork through a gallery, they don’t allow styrofoam popcorn anymore, so why not use air bags or packing paper instead?

Nikki

12:22
Personally, my dog Rocket loves to pop bubble wrap. So I’m always happy to get a box with bubble wrap. I mean, it’s so cute. I’ll even show a video in our show notes of Rocket popping bubble wrap.

Laura

12:35
I’m pretty sure that Gus is frightened of any large popping noises so he would just be huddling in the corner with his tail between his legs.

Nikki

12:44
That sounds like Gus

Laura

12:47
Now you should look at matching your packaging to your brand values. So are you all about natural products? If you are maybe don’t use plastic or styrofoam wherever possible. Can you use recycled products and or encourage your customers to reuse the packaging?

Nikki

13:03
Yeah, personally I love the way Uppercase Magazine has switched from plastic magazine mailers to craft envelopes. And they even include a note encouraging subscribers to reuse them and even create art or with them. That’s awesome. So some other packing material considerations. For prints individual cards and small flat original works on paper, use a stiff mailer and protect the print with a plastic sleeve or a piece of cardboard matte board or foam core cut to fit. You can find print backing boards online at most packaging retailers. And like I said, just make sure it’s acid free.

Laura

13:42
Yeah, if it’s not acid free, it can basically eat into that print over time and yellow the paper for example. So that’s why it becomes important if somebody leaves it in that sleeve long term. Now for soft items like t shirts or tea towels or tote bags, use poly mailers or bubble mailers. They’re lightweight, they can adjust to different volumes and weights. And I actually purchase some really cute poly mailers that are bright teal from Amazon because I am all about to. So they work really great for my brand and they’re really striking to receive in the mail, so they’re perfect for non fragile items.

Nikki

14:20
You can also get custom branded poly mailers from Sticker Mule and other online printers.

Laura

14:26
Yeah, those can be a little bit expensive, but heads up at the time of this recording, Sticker Mule actually offers weekly deals if you sign up for their newsletter. They basically give crazy discounts on one product per week. So if the mailers come up on that list, that’s a really great chance to buy some and test them out.

Nikki

14:45
Yeah, I take advantage of those specials all the time. I don’t think I’ve ever paid the full retail price for anything from Sticker Mule.

Laura

Let’s keep that a secret.

Nikki

I’ll never tell. And finally, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but for oversized work on paper or canvas, consider using a tube mailer, you can deliver paintings unstretched, and the customer can have them re stretched. If not make sure the buyer knows that a large canvas will be costly to ship.

Laura

15:16
I’ve definitely heard horror stories about large stretched canvas paintings being poked through with a forklift before. So having a rolled painting does make that less likely to happen.

Nikki

15:29
Oh my god, Laura, as we speak, I’m visiting a friend who just moved and has a large painting that she loved. That arrived with a giant slice right through the middle.

Laura

15:38
Oh my gosh.

Nikki

15:39
We’re currently brainstorming many ways to add something to make that look intentional.

Laura

15:44
It depends on what the subject matter is. But yeah…

Nikki

15:47
It’s a three foot apple.

Laura

15:50
Okay. Well, hopefully she had some moving insurance that will help out with that. I’m hoping Yeah, yeah. Okay, so we’ve talked about packing your artwork and your products. But let’s talk about the actual shipping piece of the puzzle.

Nikki

16:05
Oh, well, first, one of the most difficult things I deal with as a web developer are shipping details for your e-commerce shop. Right handling the actual shipping logistics on your website can be quite a challenge. If you only have a few products that are all the same size, shape weight, it can be really straightforward. Yeah, for example, if you sell paintings on canvas, and a few set sizes, and a handful of sizes of prints, you can weigh in, measure each in their packaging, and just set a price per product once and forget about it, right. But it gets a lot more difficult when you make a zillion different things. And they might all be unique. So you have to either way each individually as they’re completed and listed to sell, and then enter each shipping price individually. Or you can just come up with a few set prices for like small, medium, large or light and heavy and set a flat rate. That feels easier. It’s a lot easier. But just know that in this case, you kind of figure you’ll be over on some items and under on others, and you just kind of Hope it all evens out in the end, right? I’ve even suggested for a few of my artists, website clients with high end paintings or pieces of jewelry, to just include the cost of shipping in the item price and eliminate the need to worry about it all together. If your price point is high enough, you should be able to fit that in and then customers always love to see free shipping on our website.

Laura

17:36
Yeah, that’s true. We’re kind of accustomed to it now because of Amazon, you know, and all of these these big box providers.

Nikki

17:43
But you got to remember, we aren’t Amazon and our customers need to understand that. And for the most part people purchasing from small businesses, and individual artists do get that we need to make sure our costs are covered.

Laura

17:56
I actually offer free shipping on my WooCommerce site today. But the only thing I’m shipping right now are class kits for the puppet classes that I teach. So I actually build my classes with one product with two variations with and without a kit. But I keep the shipping cost free and currently only offer it to us customers for the version that’s the shipping with kit version, right but now that I’m going to be adding some physical products to my site, I’m really nervous about getting it set up correctly, especially if I’ll be selling some items like Christmas ornaments that would ship from my own house, along with print on demand products like t shirts that would ship from someplace like printful.

Nikki

18:35
And that brings me to the next point where shipping costs become extremely challenging is when you have a variety of different products that are either drop shipped from another location and or print on demand products that are made and shipped directly from the manufacturer or multiple manufacturers combined on your website with items that you shipped yourself.

Laura

18:56
Wait, you do that on your own website, right?

Nikki

18:59
I do. On my website, I have things I ship from my studio and products from three different print on demand vendors. Oh, that sounds complicated. It can be if a customer buys a combination of things, each vendor can have a separate shipping line item in the shopping cart. And that can really be confusing for the customer. To be honest, I’m still figuring out the best way to handle that seamlessly on my own website. So currently I just I just have a message on the shopping cart explaining it a bit and encouraging them to get in touch if they have any questions.

Laura

19:35
Yeah, like if they’re buying a T shirt and a mug and something else and they have three different shipping fees. They’re like Wait, why am I getting tried three different shipping fees. So I think it’s a good idea to have the message but I know some artists who have similar challenges and they just make sure that they talk about it in their terms and conditions as well as their shipping like their shipping FAQs. Definitely. And Nikki, you know, I’m a finance girl, it’s what I do for a living in my day job. So really important to know all of your costs, including things like packaging materials, boxes, tape, stickers, your own labor…

Nikki

20:16
Bourbon is a packing material, isn’t it?

Laura

20:20
It is for you, Nikki, it is for you. Your own labor or the cost of paying someone to help for packing and shipping. Whether or not sales tax must be included in your shipping fees. And be sure that you know the requirements of your own state or country, any import or export fees for international shipping, you may want to incorporate some verbage on your website that customs fees are the responsibility of the recipient, for example. And then think about how will you ensure the package I mean, most carriers include insurance up to a certain amount. So you want to make sure that you know that amount and think about what your costs would be if the piece is lost or destroyed. Or you had to replace it for some reason.

Nikki

That’s a lot of things to think about.

Laura

Yeah, it’s a lot of things to think about and take into consideration. So when you’re coming up with your shipping costs don’t think the USPS or FedEx or UPS fees like those rates are the only things that you should consider. That’s why it’s called shipping and handling costs, right can be a lot of handling involved, for example, my class kits I’ve been charging around $8 for them. And this is not like like incremental on top of the class fee. And this is not a moneymaker for me at all. It cost me probably, it cost me probably around $4.50 to mail my packages via USPS. And that’s first class which includes my e commerce solutions discount, plus I pay like 50 cents to $1 for the stiff envelope that that I ship the kits in and then that leaves around $3 for the cost of the card kits inside and my labor. So in all honesty, I probably not charging nearly enough.

Nikki

21:55
Yes, there’s really no way around it, shipping is complicated and can be very expensive. But we’re going to give you a list of ways that you can help reduce your shipping costs. Okay, first, make sure you choose the best packaging size for your product. Choose lightweight packing material and boxes and keep the size as close to your product as you can. Because size is a factor in shipping costs as well as weight. And if you consistently use an odd size or shape, consider designing your own packaging.

Laura

22:31
Right and see if any organizations that you belong to has bulk discounts through a specific shipping service. I know that the AFCI, the Association for Creative Industries, for example, offers a FedEx discount to its members

Nikki

22:45
And compare shipping rates with different carriers to find the best rates this will be different depending on your country. And use flat rate shipping whenever possible. It makes it easier to set rates on your website if you know everything fits into small medium or large flat rate boxes. And then the cost isn’t variable by weight.

Laura

23:05
I get that Nikki for the simplicity on a website. But I have to say the cost of those flat rate boxes can be really high. I know the large box for example for USPS runs over $20 domestically and frequently it cost less than that if your product isn’t super heavy.

Nikki

23:22
That’s true. So you may decide to only use flat rate boxes for really heavy pieces. And many carriers provide free shipping boxes and envelopes. If it’s not super important to have your own branding on the packaging.

Laura

23:35
Yeah, consider offering local delivery or pickup. For safety reasons, I wouldn’t use my home address for that. It really is best if you have a separate gallery space.

Nikki

23:44
Yeah, I live in a small town and the people doing local pickup are people I know, so it’s fine for me.

Laura

23:50
Yeah, I live in the DFW Metroplex, population 7.6 million people. It’s pretty safe to say that I don’t know them all.

Nikki

23:58
Yeah, my town, which is technically considered a micropolis, has 25,000 people and I know most of them.

Laura

24:07
Because you drink bourbon with them all.

Nikki

24:08
Yeah. Anyway, at least for us, if you ship a lot of products, consider using a service like Stamps.com or Send Pro Online which charges you a monthly fee, but usually provides you with a postage scale for free and different media for printing postage at home. Some will be included some of you can purchase along with offering lower negotiated posted rates than you get directly through your local post office.

Laura

24:37
I actually use a free WooCommerce shipping plugin on my own site which gives me discounted rates on USPS and it also allows me to both pay and print off first class shipping labels with package tracking directly from my website. It automatically sends my customers an email with their tracking number as well as showing their order has been completed. So it works really well for me with small volumes, because you have to process single orders at a time, you can’t like print six labels at once, for example, right. But if I had larger order volumes, I would probably move to an option that was paid like Shipstation, which does a much better job of things. But it does charge that monthly fee.

Nikki

25:18
And Shipstation is pretty much the same as the ones that I just mentioned. And all of these, all of these, if at least, if you’re using WooCommerce have plugins that you can integrate them directly with your website. Yeah, that’s pretty cool. Yeah, and for printing postage, you can print it on your inkjet or laser printer. But if you’re turning into a shipping factory, consider getting a thermal label printer to print directly on rolls of self stick labels. They’ll have a higher upfront cost, but save you money on ink and labels in the long run. I know I’ve used one called Dymo Label Writer for several retail businesses that I’ve worked with, and they’re fantastic.

Laura

25:57
Yeah, my brother has one of those types of printers, and he absolutely loves it for his eBay sales. Now in my head, I want one and think that I should have one. But I definitely cannot justify the cost. I think in my head that I have millions of customers, but clearly I don’t.

Nikki

26:13
Well, maybe you should set a target goal of when I ship X number of items per week regularly, you’ll treat yourself to one. Yeah, or better yet, better yet, convince your brother that he needs a newer better one, and you’ll be happy to take his old crappy one off his hands.

Laura

26:30
That’s where I should start. Because you know, people like new toys. So as soon as the newer better one comes out, then maybe I can get the old one horse. Alright, that sounds like a plan. Renee, if you’re listening, don’t tell Matt about this plan.

Nikki

26:47
All right, let’s also talk about the importance of having a shipping and returns page on your website. Yeah, Shopify actually has a great blog article about what it should include, and they even provide a template. We’ll link to that in the show notes. So we won’t be exhaustive here, since we’ll provide that link. But make sure to include things like how things will be shipped or using the USPS, FedEx ups? And, and also talk about when they’ll be shipped? Will you do it the same day as the order in two or three days? Or do you ship every Friday?

Laura

27:23
Yeah, and if you have a holiday schedule for shipping, you’ll want to communicate that, for example, if someone wants to purchase a gift from you, when is the latest day that they need to purchase the item to make sure that it arrives in time for the holidays?

Nikki

27:38
Yeah, you’ll want to use your shipping providers, cut off dates and add the time that you know you need to package and get them shipped to determine what those dates are for print on demand sites, they’ll tell you the cut off times.

Laura

27:50
Oh, that’s cool. I’ll be honest, in the last two years, probably largely due to the pandemic. I’ve seen some significant increases in USPS delivery times. So I always tack on some additional days just to be on the safe side. In my case, I’m shipping card kits that have to be delivered before a specific class date. So it’s super important to me that they arrive on time. So I generally allow 10 day shipping for that, even though locally, it could normally deliver in like two to three days.

Nikki

28:19
Smart. So you’ll also want to list what shipping options you offer first class priority overnight? And what the delivery times are for each.

Laura

28:29
And you may want to communicate your costs like is there a packaging handling fee? Do you charge extra for gift wrapping? Are you doing flat fee pricing? Or is it a size weight calculation? Or is it by quantity? Do you offer free shipping over a certain dollar amount?

Nikki

28:47
Yeah, I think you and I both do that on our sites, Laura. You’ll also want to address whether or not you ship internationally. And if you do how some artists will have international cost calculated in the shopping cart. But some will say something like prices are for us shipping only please contact us for international shipping. Yeah, you’ll also want to include other details such as tracking availability, since sometimes tracking isn’t available once it leaves the United States, approximate time insurance, whether that’s included and how any customs fees will be added.

Laura

29:22
Yeah, and the good news is a lot of these are one time things you have to kind of figure up upfront with the products you’re selling. So once you’ve done all that work upfront, it’s not like you’re having to rehash this every time. Right now I have actually seen some artists that charge an estimate for international shipping, which they highlight as an estimate in their product listing. And then they have a follow up invoice once they know the full amount that it will cost from the carrier. And it’s nearly impossible to know beforehand. When you package a piece especially like a large one. And it’s going someplace you don’t normally ship to what that’s actually going to cost and customs fees can happen even later. I would definitely add a clause saying that those are the responsibility of the rest Seaver, I can tell you I’ve shipped a product once to a friend in Europe via FedEx. And I think the value was around 60 euros, and she received an invoice from FedEx, Belgium for about 40 euros and customs taxes on that package, which, of course I ended up paying. But that is ridiculous, right?

Nikki

30:18
Holy. How do you say crap in – wait, hat language do they speak in Belgium?

Laura

30:25
Well, they speak several languages. Let’s just go with merde, which is French.

Nikki

30:30
All right. So you also need to tell people what your return policies are? Do you offer refunds or store credit? Do you have a restocking fee?

Laura

30:39
Make sure to let people know if there are no refunds on custom or Personalized Products? Who pays for return shipping? If an order is damaged, incorrect or lost? What will you do?

Nikki

30:51
We’ll talk about this a lot more in upcoming episodes. But for print on demand orders, your customer will let you know if there’s an issue. And the companies we recommend are all great about quickly replacing any item that arrives damaged or with printing issues.

Laura

31:04
Which is nice that you’re not having to do all of that yourself.

Nikki

31:09
That they, yeah pretty quickly. I’ve had it happen. I mean, it happens, mistakes happen printing mistakes happen. But anytime a customer has let me know I’ve just let the company know what the issue is, and they asked for a picture of it and then they immediately just replace it, you don’t have to return any items.

Laura

31:29
So a few other things to consider after your work ships, provide the customer the tracking info and let them know when to expect their delivery. As I mentioned earlier, most good shipping or e-commerce solutions should do this automatically if it’s built into your website, but you might consider following up with your customer once the order arrives to see how things are going ask for photos of the work in their home review of your product on your website, etc. I mean, this is a great way to use email automations you can sync up your e-commerce store to your email service like like MailChimp, and then you can have something sent automatically to them. So you don’t have to do it manually.

Nikki

32:10
But also don’t discount the effectiveness of a personal touch, especially if you know the person who purchased a particular piece. And you can add something really personal to a follow up email. For example, I’ve probably had bourbon with half the people who have purchased my work.

Laura

32:27
Wait, I thought we established earlier in the episode that you have had bourbon with the entire city 25,000 people?

Nikki

32:33
Yeah, probably probably. Anyway, I’m sure I can come up with something inappropriate to include in a follow up email that you, Laura, would not approve of.

Laura

32:46
Nikki, I don’t approve of most of what you say.

Nikki

32:48
And that’s why I say it.

Laura

32:52
Okay, what are our key takeaways for today?

Nikki

32:56
Well, first, we know we’ve presented you with a ton of things to think about. So we’re gonna provide you with a free downloadable checklist of what we consider the most important things to consider.

Laura

33:06
And here’s the thing. When you’re just starting out, you don’t need to go invest hundreds of dollars in custom packaging boxes, tissue paper and fancy e-commerce shipping plugins, you can start right where you’re at, include a custom handwritten note, draw a little illustration on the outside of your package with a Sharpie pen. Make a special experience without having to spend a chunk of change, the rest will all come with time.

Nikki

33:33
Where you can’t skimp out however, is on the level of protection for your products in your packaging. The most beautiful unboxing experience is definitely ruined by a broken product.

Laura

33:43
Exactly. Okay, now it’s your turn. Do you have some great suggestions we didn’t mention on today’s show? Or had questions we didn’t answer. Head on over to the Startist Society Facebook group, or our Instagram at Startist Society and let us know

Nikki

33:59
for today’s Startist Society show notes, and to get your free packing and shipping checklist, go to startistsociety.com/shipping.

Laura

34:08
And we just want to take a minute now to say thank you for being our listeners and joining us on this creative business journey. A big part of the way podcasts get found is by new ratings and reviews. It can really help us reach more startups like you and help grow our community. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, it would mean so much to us if you’d take a few minutes to leave us a five star rating and a review.

Nikki

34:32
In addition to helping us reach more people, hearing what you enjoyed and what you learn helps us plan future topics. You can have an impact on what we talk about. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

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