Behind the Scenes: Shipping for Online Jewelry Business

etsy jewelry shipping materialsShipping Day at Hint Jewelry

Sounds like a mundane topic for a Behind the Scenes look at making Hint Jewelry and charms: however, 13% of my overhead expenses are devoted to shipping costs and a good portion of my labor is focused on packaging and mailing merchandise.

Being a person who loves to create efficiencies, I am extremely aware that the shipping portion of Hint Jewelry could do with some streamlining, and I've added it to my list of goals for 2010. In the meantime, I'm sharing my current shipping process so that when I do revamp this portion of my business it will allow for some comparison and perhaps generate helpful tips by other readers.

Most people who purchase charms or jewelry from Hint Jewelry on Etsy use the PayPal interface, which makes shipping easy because I generate labels through their Multi-order shipping feature (if you are a merchant this link is located on the left side of your PayPal account under the tools menu). The labels generate a bar code that I swear have some sort of positive impact on the postal service because shipping seems to go faster. I currently print these labels out on 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper, trim them to size, and affix them to the envelope with packing tape. For international shipping, I don't use PayPal because they only offer Express or Priority shipping online. For international packages, I create my labels in Microsoft Word, fill out the green customs form for packages under 4 lbs. (form number 2976), and then stand in line at the Post Office and let the professionals take over. My international packages are untrackable because I am unable to purchase Delivery Confirmation on First Class overseas.

For Hint Jewelry, I only ship on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I can process all packages in bulk. I ship everything using the United States Postal Service, First-Class Mail Parcel (2-5 days), Package/Thick Envelope with Delivery Confirmation Service. Most of my packages weigh under 2 ounces and do not require insurance, so postage costs between $1.41 and $1.58.

If you do have an online business that requires shipping, I found it valuable to calculate the total cost of materials, postage, and labor when determining what is a reasonable amount to charge for shipping and handling. Here is a sample breakdown of what I discovered when I looked at the cost of packaging and shipping a piece of Hint Jewelry:

Materials & Postage
Moo.com MiniCard $0.24
Small Gift Box $0.46
Plastic Baggie $0.06
Large Ribbon $0.09
Small Ribbon $0.01
Kraft Bubble Mailer $0.10
Paper for Label $0.01
Black Toner for Printer $0.09
Packing Tape $0.05
Bubble Wrap $0.05
Paper Receipt $0.08
USPS Postage $1.58

The total cost comes to $2.83 for each package. It probably takes about 10-15 minutes of labor to put together a package and send it off in the mail. Once you start factoring your time into the equation you begin to get a better picture of what is a reasonable charge for shipping. Ironically, this exercise really helped me break free of wondering about other merchant's shipping costs and honoring the work that must go into sending me my latest fav book from Amazon.com.

Shipping Material Resources
Novel Box Company - Chocolate Kraft Cotton Filled Box 3 x 2 1/8 x 1 inches
RoyalMailers.com - #000 Kraft Air Bubble Mailers with Self Seal 4.5 x 8 inches
Moo.com - MiniCards
Staples or Office Depot - packing tape, receipt book, plastic baggies, paper, bubble wrap, and toner
Michaels - ribbon

branding business with rubber stampsStamps for Branding the Hint Jewelry Logo

Another area of packaging that I would like to upgrade is Hint Jewelry's branding. For the most part I have been relying on rubber stamps with my logo to reinforce the Hint Jewelry brand name on my packaging. The stamps seem fun and quirky, so I definitely feel like they may have added to the charm of my business, but I've never received any feedback so it may all be in my imagination :)

I designed my stamps using Adobe Photoshop and then submitted the images to Rubberstamps.net. I have a stamp for my receipts that allows me to write a personal note to friends who have purchased an item. I have my own "Fragile" stamp using a font that seems more friendly then the one you can purchase at Office Depot. And lastly, I created a stamp that places my logo on rustic, brown Kraft coin envelope (2 1/2 x 4 1/4 inches), which I use to package my charms.

moo minicards business cards jewelryHint Jewelry's MiniCard from Moo.com (front and back)

Another important marketing tool is my business card. I have gravitated towards using Moo.com for all my business cards because frankly I love their easy software and the unique size of their MiniCards. I also enjoy being able to have many different designs in a package of a 100 cards.

silver spider charm necklace packageKeeping Hint Necklaces Untangled During Shipping

One nagging aspect of packaging delicate Hint Jewelry has been preventing the tangling of chains. How do I ship a delicate sterling silver chain necklace all the way to Australia so that when the wonderful person on the other end who opens it up can slip this necklace on without getting a headache from having to untangle a mess? Well, this part is still a work in progress. I've tried a variety of approaches, but lately I haven't experienced any negative feedback from my method pictured above. Using the cotton in the gift box, I gently wrap the necklace around it length wise and slip it into a plastic baggie. My idea is that the pressure from the baggie tucked under the cotton will hold everything in place.

jewelry gift wrapping shippingGift Wrapped Jewelry for Hint

I slip a business card into the box and then use two different sizes of ribbon in contrasting colors to complete the gift wrap. I'm still enjoying this geisha inspired East meets West gift wrap that I came up with and will probably continue using it in 2010.

Here are some things that I am looking to improve on packaging and shipping for 2010: more efficient methods of receipting and accounting, a shipping label printer, and redeveloping my branding.

The most important upgrade will be a printer for labels. Slowly I have been researching a Dymo LabelWriter printer and have accumulated some helpful links along the way:

Etsy Forum on Dymo Printers
Etsy Forum on Shipping: PayPal, Endica, Stamps.com
Brother QL-570 Professional Label Printer that was recommended by a fellow Etsy seller

If you own an online business, I'd love to hear any tips you have for shipping and packaging merchandise. More importantly, if you have received Hint Jewelry and charms and would like to offer feedback on shipping and packaging that would also be warmly received.

Be sure to explore more of my Behind the Scenes blog features to learn more about creating jewelry and running an online business!


  1. Good post, Beth. Maybe it is a mundane topic but absolutely essential for an online business. It's interesting, I think that my cost break downs are nearly identical to yours. Yes, I too have gone that step to tediously figure each and every little bit so that I could find the fairest price for shipping and handling. I'll be checking out some of your suppliers. I buy most of my mailers and such at PaperMart.com as they often have smaller quantities at good prices. Last year I invested in a lazer printer and guillotine, and while the start up costs were high, in the long run it has kept my costs down. I also have a series of stacked bins on wheels that shipping supplies are stored in so that if the work surface is full, I can temporarily move to the dining table. OK, I am blathering here. This is my least fav part of the business but one that I've spent a lot of time thinking about. Have a good day and enjoy the weekend!

  2. Wow Beth! That is a wealth of information you just shared. I do not yet have an online presence but I have been asked by so many, most recently someone from Australia, so this is all great info for me!
    I do firmly believe in branding as an integral part of your business. I LOVE the Moo cards and hope to have those one day, but I recently found a local seller (also on Etsy) who printed up the most incredible array of cards for me in all sizes and shapes for afixing to my jewelry of different types. I think next time I have business cards I will go with her and her environmentally friendly inks, etc. (Check out Rethink Ink on Etsy or contact me for more info).
    I just ordered new boxes in a soft metallic copper. I am in the process of ordering clear labels that are printed in bright copper foil with my logo. These will fit on all boxes, packages, envelopes, letters, etc. I also purchased custom printed 1/2" chocolate satin ribbon with my logo and company name stamped in foil. It looks really professional and I like that. I also have copper organza bags that I love to use.
    I really liked your breakdown of the true cost of shipping. And including your time in that as well is important! When I do get myself online, whether my own website for ordering or Etsy, I will bear all that in mind.
    The local buyer's guide office designed my 2-part invoice sheets. I didn't have them bound, and they are not numbered. But they have my logo and all my info and it really presents a polished look to the purchase. I like your little stamp! That is such a clever idea!

    Again, thanks so much for sharing your experience and knowledge with the rest of us struggling with the same. Your generous spirit is so very evident.
    Enjoy the day!

  3. What a great article! I wish I had had a tutorial like this when I first started out! You are the best!

  4. These kinds of posts are super helpful--not fascinating but essential bread and butter. This kind of stuff can gobble up a lot of time and resources--your links are especially helpful. A good source for packaging or stamps is like GOLD!! I ship in cardboard boxes and found that PackagingSupplies.com has pretty good prices. I think I lose a little money on shipping but my current theory is to use cheap shipping as a draw. I try to keep that in mind when pricing my items. Thanks again! Look forward to more.

  5. How reassuring to know that this was a helpful post. I held back for a while because it just seemed so boring, but like you've all confirmed it is a huge part of a business and one that seems to be slippery to grasp. Thanks for sharing all your suppliers and tips for packaging/branding. I've enjoyed learning more and I'm sure future readers will appreciate your experience and insight!

  6. Thanks for all the info and helpful hints. It might seem like a boring topic but really it's not. I think it is one that many people need help with, me included. I've received one of your packages before and everything was packaged perfectly. I really like the smaller size of your business cards and the vivid color.

  7. I can't thank you enough for this great information! I have just started shipping my jewelry and have not been able to get a handle on this task--one that I loathe to do.

    Also, thanks for the great links to resources and the photos of how you put it all together. I'm sure it sounds like a no-brainer, but it is really quite the opposite for me! I've saved this post in my favorites!

  8. Great post! Shipping takes SO much time. I don't have a dymo printer but get blank labels from planet label and run them through my laser printer. It's SO much easier than printing on paper and taping.

  9. Hi Beth,
    I currently purchase my boxes, ribbon and tissue from a company call Nashville Wraps. They have a line of boxes made of recycles material and a good ribbon selection (buying in larger quantity helps).

  10. Great info. I especially enjoyed reading this post because being a new seller on Etsy, there are a lot of things that I am constantly trying to streamline and improve upon. This post shows that running your own business is a continual learning process. And I like that.

  11. Hi Beth. Good post post! Ha, ha! Sorry - a British joke as we talk about posting our packages, not mailing them!

    One thing I started a few months ago was insuring all my international packages. As you can't track these items, I always felt nervous sending them and having no real proof...or comeback. I use Shipsurance - www.shipsurance.com. You just do it online, and can complete it from a day before your ship to a day after you've shipped. They are cheaper than USPS and very easy and efficient.

  12. Great post and I really thank you for the time it took you to write about this important aspect of shipping. Hope all is well with you!

  13. Laura, Ruth, and Sue thanks for adding your resources to the this post. I'm going to have to check out this www.shipsurance.com because it sounds really neat!

    Stacie and Leslie so wonderful to see you both :)

  14. You may want to check out these sites also

    http://www.PrintsMadeEasy.com <---they are currently offering 100 FREE business cards that you can custom design on their interactive website and they will ship right to you.

    You may also want to check out http://www.Postcards.com <--- same deal, custom printing, any size, high-gloss, excellent quality and service

  15. Great post! I just commented on your Etsy forum thread (someone bumped it up today).

  16. excellent post & beautiful jewelry!

  17. Love the post! definitly makes me reconsider what my costs really are. Will definitly be looking into some of those suppliers as well.


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