Whether you run a small business from home or you just want to move your belongings to a new location, learning the right way to ship a package is vital. This knowledge will help you avoid delays, reduce costs and prevent damage.
In this guide, we cover the step-by-step process of shipping, factors that affect the cost of shipping, and the cheapest way to ship a package.
How Do I Ship My Package?
Whether you plan to go to the post office or send your items from the comfort of your home, you need to follow these steps to ensure efficiency.
1. Ensure your items are shippable
Everyone knows that anything illegal in either the receiver’s or sender’s country or state is banned by default. But, certain items are prohibited explicitly by each carrier. Some of them include:
- Perishable goods
- Alcoholic beverages
- Tobacco and tobacco products
- Lithium-ion and Lithium metal batteries
- And more…
It is essential to know that the list of prohibited items depends mainly on the carrier and shipping volume.
If you’re not sure about any item, check your carrier regulations or contact them directly.
2. Get Shipping Supplies and Info
The two essential things you need to ship packages from home are already part of your daily life: a computer (smartphone) and an Internet connection. There are other things you need to do to make the job easier.
Scale: When shipping from home, you need a scale to measure the package in order to calculate the cost. Some shipping services include free scale as part of your membership. If you have no scale, you can opt for flat rate shipping boxes.
Printer: You need a printer to make shipping labels. There are special label printers made for this task. However, a regular laser printer or inkjet can still do the job. If you don’t have one, some shipping companies bring forms for you to fill out.
Labels: You can print the labels on ordinary papers or half-sheet self-adhesive to look polished and save time.
Shipping Details: The main info you need to ship a package is the recipient’s and sender’s address and phone number.
Packaging Materials: Depending on the item you intend to ship, you may need an envelope, a tube, or moving boxes alongside cushioning materials.
3. Pick a Carrier and Shipping Service that Suits Your Need
No particular carrier or shipping service is considered the ultimate standard for shipping a package. Any shipping method you choose depends mainly on your parcel’s size, weight, speed, and distance.
Best Option for Next Day shipping
UPS and FedEx are the best options available if you need to send a package urgently. With offices strategically located in various parts of the world, some of the next-day options guarantee delivery by noon the following day.
- FedEx Standard Overnight, Priority Overnight, and First Overnight cost roughly $85 to $210 for packages less than 5 pounds.
- UPS Next Day Saver and Next Day Air costs roughly $140 to $150 for packages not heavier than 5 pounds.
Best option for 2-3 Day Shipping
USPS priority mail works best for 2-3 days of shipping. This shipping service removes the stress of weighing your packages before shipping them. It comes with “flat rate” boxes, and you don’t have to bother about the weight of your items as long as they fit inside the box.
Even though USPS offers the lowest rate, it does not guarantee 2-day delivery. If you must send any package within 2 days, UPS 2nd Day and FedEx 2 Day are your best bet, and the cost ranges from $20 to $50.
Best options for Heavy Packages
Also called the standard post, USPS Retail Ground is the most affordable way of shipping your package. It gives you room to ship packages up to 70 pounds.
But this shipping method is the slowest; It typically takes between 2-8 business days to deliver your items. It is ideal for people shipping heavy items.
UPS Ground and FedEx Ground are great alternatives to try out. Most Ground shipping services start from $20 to $80, depending on the box size.
Best option for physical Media
Media Mail is an economical way to send educational materials and media. Items you can ship include disks, books, printed educational charts, manuscripts, medical blinders, etc. However, you won’t be allowed to send computer hard drives and video games. Delivery is usually within 2-8 business days.
USPS, FedEx, and UPS offer this service, and you can send a 5 lbs package for as low as $5.9.
4. Pack and Measure Your Items
Items can be packaged in an envelope, a box, or a tube, depending on their size, shape, and weight. You can add cushioning in the box for fragile objects and tape the box shut with packing tape or cover the tubes adequately.
Not only should you choose a box that is slightly larger than the things you’re shipping, but you also want to make sure there’s room to accommodate almost too much packing material – peanuts, foam, etc.
5. Clearly Address the package
You can address your package in three different ways. DIY labeling is the simplest way to do it. All you need is a legible permanent marker you can use to write the address clearly on the envelope or box.
Alternatively, you input the delivery information on your carrier’s website and let them print out and deliver the shipping label for you.
Finally, the third option is also DIY. You will have to fill in the delivery details online on the carrier’s website and print out the label yourself.
Regardless of the method, you opt for, remember to place the recipient and sender’s address on the same side of the box.
6. Measure Your Package
To know the cost of shipping your package, it’s vital to know the precise size and weight. If you’re shipping from home, you’ll need to measure and calculate the cost yourself. Most carriers and shipping agents have online postage calculators, and you can get postage prices by entering your package information.
However, if you’re not shipping from home, an official at the post office will measure your package and calculate your price.
7. Schedule a Pick-up or Take Your Package to the Post Office
If you’ve picked a carrier and packed your package properly, it’s time actually to ship the package. You can pick a couple of different options, but the simplest method is dropping the box off at a local post office.
But if you ship packages frequently or have a busy lifestyle, you can leverage the ship-from-home method. Most carriers offer a home pick-up option, and you just have to find a well-covered dry place to keep the package.
Alternatively, you can find your carrier’s drop-off location using a GPS tool on their websites.
Lastly, there are many approved postal providers or third-party shipping agents that are always available to deliver your package to your carrier’s office.
8. Track Your Shipment
Even though it typically comes at an extra cost, tracking your shipment allows you to follow your package in transit and spot its location. Also, you’ll be able to find out if it’s delivered or not in real-time.
Factors That Affects The Cost Of Shipping
The distance you’re sending your package to and from significantly reduces the cost. It is typically calculated based on 8 shipping zones. The closest to you is zone 1, and the farthest is zone 9. The more zones your package crosses, the higher the shipping rate.
It is essential to keep in mind that some shipping services are not zoned, which means you pay the same rate no matter the distance.
How fast you want your package delivered will increase or reduce your shipping cost. Most carriers offer different time frames ranging from overnight, next day, 2-3 days, and up to 8-days delivery.
The faster you want your package delivered, the more postage you pay. This makes overnight delivery the most expensive, depending on other factors.
It is crucial to consider the weight of your package when determining your shipping cost. Using the calculation tool, you can calculate it easily on a shipping company website.
Even if you’re going for flat rate boxes, larger boxes usually charge higher rates. USPS offered cheaper rates for lightweight packages, while UPS and FedEx Ground services offered lower rates when shipping heavy packages locally.
Some packages might not be heavy, but they occupy much space. This is when the size of the package matters. The more space the package occupies can increase the shipping cost significantly.
There are options available to help you manage your package space, and flat rate boxes are one of such options. Even if it does give you the cheapest rates, you’ll be able to maintain a steady postage price.
Other Factors to keep in mind
Some features offered by shipping companies can make you overlook the cost. A cheap service without an efficient tracking service, insurance, or does not guarantee delivery within a specified timeframe may cost you more than the actual price. Some cost-sensitive shipping features to consider include:
Tracking offers visibility throughout your package movement to its destination. You’ll be able to spot the location of your package in real-time.
Because your items can get lost or damaged, it is wise to choose carriers that provide insurance for your package. Even though it may cost you extra, it is better than a cheaper option that doesn’t cover you.
- Delivery Guarantee
Before picking a cheap shipping service, It’s advisable to check if they commit to their delivery timelines. You can look out for reviews online or friends that have used a particular carrier or service.
- Handling Fee
When shipping valuable and fragile items, you should confirm if you have to spend extra on handling fees. This will help you prevent damage that may occur when your fragile package is handled like any other package.