A guide to postage and packaging for craftware

So you've set up shop on Etsy, eBay or Handmade at Amazon, you've uploaded your carefully chosen photos and created item descriptions, and are now ready to sell your crafty wares. There's just one lingering question - how do you get your lovingly-made products to your customers? As a small or even a micro business, knowing where to begin when it comes to sending your items can be confusing.
We're here to help! Together with some successful small craft businesses we've put together a handy guide that will help you through some of the pitfalls you may encounter.

Calculating shipping times and costs

Knowing how much to charge is the first hurdle, so do your research to find the most cost-effective way of sending your items. If you anticipate that you will be sending parcels regularly (hopefully you will be!) then finding a delivery company which offers discount for bulk will certainly be in your favour. 
Platforms such as Etsy and Amazon are handy as they let you set your shipping profiles and save them. This means you can calculate your shipping costs In advance and aim to get them as exact as possible. It's worth spending some time getting this as accurate as you can to avoid losing money on unexpected postage costs. Equally, though, offering cheap shipping can be a real selling point - helping to put you above your competitors. For help with calculating shipping costs take a look at our article: How to calculate shipping costs for your small business.
Offering next day delivery is a real plus to help small businesses stand out. For larger items such as crochet plush toys or scrapbooks, this service is available as standard with ipostparcels. For daintier items such as jewellery, handmade soap, keyrings or coasters that weigh up to 2kg then the extra small service may be perfect. This gives the option for 2-3 days or next day delivery - ideal for low cost items where a larger shipping expense seems unreasonable.
Check prohibited/restricted lists
Before listing your items, make sure you're aware of any restrictions that may affect you sending them. This is particularly applicable if you plan to offer international shipping - something that many small businesses do as it hugely widens the customer base - opening even a tiny business up to a global audience.
Make sure you have looked at the rules for individual countries - although all differ you may find that there are some common themes between them - cultured and natural pearls, for example, crop up on a lot of restricted and prohibited lists. Of course you cannot check each country in the eventuality that you may receive an order from there, a quick check before shipping the item will prevent any delays at customs - or even your package not reaching the customer at all.
You should always check the restricted and prohibited lists of your chosen parcel delivery company too - as there are some items which cannot be sent in domestic or international post - or that come with restrictions - as they may not be covered by insurance.
Items on the ipostparcels prohibited list include craft supplies such as paint and inks or liquids. Breakable items - such as particularly fragile glassware or pottery are also not permitted. Valuable goods such as jewellery, precious stones or metals and artwork also find themselves on the list.
All is not lost however - if you are a purveyor of handmade jewellery, a ceramicist or an abstract artist - then you can still send some of these items - they will instead be transported on a no compensation basis. It's worth noting that this restriction is more aimed at covering high value precious metal and gemstone jewellery, rather than costume jewellery.
While delivery companies aim to look after your goods as carefully as possible, incidents may occasionally happen that are out of their control, so this covers them for carrying particularly high value items or those more likely to break.

It's all about the packaging!

Pay attention to the presentation of your items - from the outer box to the internal wrappings, aim to ensure these reflect your brand and best present your goods. Make it an experience for your customer - much as you would in a shop. 
People love receiving crafty items in fabulous packaging. Take some time to think about how you want your package to look. Colourful tissue paper not only protects items, but it will give a gift-like experience to the receiver. 
Gaynor Armitage sells handmade glass beads and jewellery through her website Purple Cobwebs. She advises: "Tissue paper and organza bags make the recipient feel like they are receiving something special. I also enclose business cards that explain that my lampwork beads are made with love at the flame and kiln annealed so that people appreciate the uniqueness."
Branded stickers from companies such as MOO are relatively inexpensive and give a professional yet quirky look. All this will make your products stick in the buyer's mind. Don't forget to include a business card and other literature in the parcel - including reminders such as special offers or return customer coupon vouchers in the packet is a must. 
Check out our article for more ways to help you make your packaging stand out > read more.
One final important tip is to make sure your craft products are packaged securely to protect them on their journey. Mary Kearney makes and sells handcrafted bead jewellery and says: "I always wrap delicate items in bubble wrap to ensure they reach the customer in tip-top condition".
We have a whole range of guides aimed specifically at small businesses, so take a look at these for further help on running your online business. If you have any questions about sending your parcels then get in touch and we'll be happy to help. Good luck!

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