Check out al my tips to setting up an effective and organized shipping station to pack orders when you have a small online business.
Well, hello! Welcome to my home-based shipping station area, my name is Joy Kelley, and I am addicted to organizing! Before we go into the details of my shipping station, I wanted to share how I got to the space you see today.
I have been running my small online business since 2013, after many successes and fail processes; I've learned a thing or two about my process and how to streamline it. So if you are looking for help setting up and just improving your shipping workflow, this is the post for you!
First, I have to share that, just like my office, my shipping (And product storage) situation had evolved and changed so much since when I first started back in 2013.
You can actually see in this post how I had things set up when I first started. Since back then, I only had about three different kinds of products, shipping was not very complicated, and most of them were just paper goods. They all fit in a drawer. It was so cute!
As my product line evolved, so did my need for a more organized shipping station. At one point, we had my shipping station on the second floor of my Storefront, and while this was probably the best one yet because I had pretty much all my products and shipping supplies all in one place, it only lasted about a year and a half.
After we closed the storefront (because I was pregnant with our 3rd baby boy and sooooo sick all the time), We moved the shipping station to Ken's home office (his office in on the second-floor down under our garage in a detached building) because it was closer to the outside. We had external help that came to my house and got all the shipping done for me. So having the shipping station outside of our home was what we needed at that time.
Now over time, I worked things out so that most of my products are shipped directly from my manufacturers. And that step alone freed so much space in product storage and also on my supply storage.
Because of this when I started planning to return to my old Studio Space (this is how it looked before we moved to the storefront), I also planned to get a small portion of the shipping station back, so that I could ship the remained of the products myself.
So today, I will share my current shipping space along with most of the items I use, and all the tips that I would have loved to read before I set mine up!
I will go over everything you should have in mind when setting up a shipping station at home.
Below you can see my current shipping station and my small inventory storage. I will share some pictures of where I keep most of my products, but in order to keep the office as clean as possible, I only bring down supplies and products as I need them =]
Ps. My home office is in the 3rd floor down in my house (we live in the mountains, and our house is in a pretty steep hill, so it goes down instead of up, as most houses do)
Now let's get into the fun part, everything you should consider when setting up a home shipping station!
We will cover:
- Setting up a desk
- Basic Printing supplies
- Basic Shipping Supplies
- Branded Supplies
- Storage for supplies
- Storage for products
- Important Ergonomic tips
Setting up a desk
Just like you would od when you work in a stand-up desk when you plan to work standing all the time (I used to have a stool there, but I found out that I never really used it) you need to check on the height of the table.
To fix this, you could easily just use a mechanical desk, like this one. Or if you are working with what you have like I was, you can build a platform. Because I am lucky to have a pretty handy husband, I asked him to build me a small platform, so I could put the table he build me to store shipping supplies and my old Ikea dresser. So it looks like one thing, but it's actually 3 pieces put together and they are at the perfect height for me.
Above you can see a picture of me with the table, it's about as height as my waistline. And for me, that is the most comfortable height, so I can still be able to grab everything from my pegboard and mesh without having to overextend my arms.
I was using a brace because the day before I fell down our stairs while going to the office, two flies of stairs, ouch!
You will need designated areas to work, I streamlined my process, so now I have one area, above my dresser when I keep my black tissue paper (30″ x 20″) so that I can wrap as fast as possible skipping the spot of pulling the sheet of paper out of my drawer. This simple step saved me in storage, so now I store supplies in that drawer and makes me have the tissue paper always ready.
Since all 3 parts of my station were different colors, all I did was to give them a coat of paint (the dresser was actually black!) and TADA! Now they *kind of* look like they were meant to be there hehe.
Basic Printing Supplies
When I started my shop, I wanted to be as eco-friendly as possible, BUT over time, and because of my customer's feedback, I realized that there are some things that they really like to have, that I was not delivering when I first started, like printed gift receipts.
I dragged my feet, but t the end, we need to make our customers happy.
So I started printing things, gift receipt was one of them, I also started adding a personal note from the very beginning, so I decided to save that paper, and set both in the same paper, and while personal notes are not a must, they do bring the shopping experience to another level.
Over time, I switched from writing notes all the time to making a lettered stamp that I put in hot-pink ink for my customers. It brings the same “feel” I wanted them to have, but saves me SO MUCH TIME!
Because I print so many receipts and labels, I also switched from a regular printer to a laser printer for the recepts. And I switched from printing my shipping labels on these sheets, to actually purchasing a DYMO printer and using it with these rolls instead.
The best thermal label printer
It took me about 2 years to finally convince myself to get a DYMO printer, and OMG, I don't know why I wanted so long, if you plan or are still printing labels with your regular printer, stop! Do the math and check how much ink this little wonder can save you! Because it's thermal, it uses heat to print the label rolls that are compatible with it.
Also, a shipping scale is a must! As you can see in my pictures, I no longer have my scale in my shipping station. BUT that is good news!
Because now I know exactly how much each of my items weights alone and fully wrapped. I no longer need the scale right next to me all the time.
The only time I use it is when someone orders a bunch of different things that I know will weight a lot less when their packing is combined. So I keep the scale as well as my DYMO printer under my desk.
I also used to have a full people weight in the office for when I shipped wholesale orders that were heavier than 5lb (the limit of my desk scale) and I would just hold the box and check the weight, then weigh myself alone, subtract my weight and TADA! Cheaper than getting the “better scale” but I am not sure if that was time-saving lol
Another super important aspect is the software because once you start selling in various different marketplaces, keeping track of where to print labels can be a nightmare, not to mention super time-consuming! So as soon as I hit 5 different marketplaces, I started paying for ShipStation. Getting labels with Shipstation is a breeze, and if you set profiles for your items so that you have the exact weight of your packages, it is even faster.
With ShipStation, you can also ship orders in batch from all your marketplaces (I sell on Shopify, Etsy, WooComerce, and sometimes on other flash sale sites). ShipStation sends automatic emails with the tracking codes to your costumers AND notifies the marketplace as well. It's SO WORTH IT!
So to sum up, if you print big quantities, you will need:
- A laser printer: I've had this Brother printer since 2015, it's a workhorse! I use it SO much and it's still going, at some point, I bought a second one for the Storefront, and now my husband has it in his office, we both love them!
- A DYMO label printer: It took me about 2 years to finally convince myself to get this printer, and OMG, I don't know why I wanted so long, this little machine is AMAZING! and if you plan or are still printing labels with your regular printer, stop! Do the math and check how much ink this little wonder can save you!
- DYMO compatible labels: I use these exact same ones and I have for years, they are awesome and I have never had an issue.
- A shipping scale: I actually have the printer that came in my stamps.com kit, it has lasted me so long! I used to have this one, but I found that it was so bulky, I love the sleek profile of the other one.
- Shipping Software: Shipstation is an online-based shipping software, so you can use it on Mac and PC, it has simplified the way I ship and I swear by it. You can set shipping profiles and send automatic emails to your costumers, it's just wonderful! Especially if you sell in multiple marketplaces or different websites.
Basic Shipping Supplies
Streamlining up your product line so you can use as little different shipping boxes or mailers as possible is something I wish I had taken into consideration when I started.
Of course, every time you plan a product, you have to plan for how you will ship, how much that will cost you, and test if those shipping supplies will protect the product as best as possible.
Because it doesn't matter how cute a package is if it doesn't protect the product and thing break on the way.
Now that I don't ship all my products, I've discontinued most of the ones that needed special packaging, like my cake toppers, some of my tumblers, and also the rubber stamps.
Having a small selection of shipping products that work with many different kinds of products not only saves you in space, but it also saves you money, because you can buy in big bulks (you should see us going on a Uline pickup, it's madness) but a bulk pick up can last me a few months and saves me so much money in the long run!
- White bubble mailer: I use the 8 1⁄2 x 12″ mailer for anything that is soft and will not break, like fabric products. I like the white instead of the regular yellow because it's more in brand with my shop, I like to add a bright pink stamp al the top with my shop name. When you buy them at Uline, you can get them for as low as $0.3 each when you buy in bulk.
- Easy-Fold box mailer: For anything that could bent, like calendars, notepads, notebooks. I love that these ones are so forgiven, so no matter if you are shipping 1 or 15 calendars, you can still fit them there and have them perfectly secured! If you buy them at Uline, you can get them for as low as $0.56 each.
- Tab-locking kraft mailer: For all smaller things that could get bent, like cards, stickers, etc. I do have these ones in two sizes, the small 6″x8″ that I linked for all the small things, and bigger ones for prints, but since I discontinued the prints, once I ran out of the big mailers I am not getting more. At Uline, you can get the smaller ones as low as $0.19 each when you buy them in bulk.
Of course, if you ship things like, mugs or bigger items, you would have to find bubble wrap or shipping boxes that fit your items and that allow a secure trip of the items from you to your costumers.
I recommend that before you send your first paid order, you should send a test packing to someone as far as possible, and then have them send it back, so you can make sure that the packing can withstand the handle (or mishandle) of it.
If there I one thing that you will need, and that I go over like crazy is packing tape, I used to get the Uline brand of tape, but after some math, I realized that this one that I get on Amazon, is actually cheaper and it lasts me longer than the thicker one that I used to get a Uline.
And while the thickness might not be the same since I don't ship huge boxes anymore, I don't need box-taping strength tape anymore.
And if all you are doing is smaller packages, don't bother with a super thick packing tape =]
And of course, when we had the Storefront, I liked to have a tape dispenser on each table, so I purchased more of this double tape holder, I ended up with four total but these two are the ones that I now have in my studio, one for the sewing room and one for the Shipping station. I like having washi tape in one and regular scotch tape in the other. I painted them in different colors (actually one of my friends made the glitter one for me! it's my favorite!) using spray paint and after that, I added a clear coat on top.
Of course, when you ship your orders, you want your costumers to get as excited about their goodies as possible. Having cute details doest cost as much as you think and can make your customers experience with your shop an unforgettable one!
Remember how I said that I loved adding handwritten notes? Well, that was not the only thing I used to do that I no longer do. I used to have so many little cards, washi tapes, and twine in every order! I seem to have gone, from minimalistic to extra super elaborate, to a minimalist with impact as I like to call it.
So what does this mean, It means that every piece that I put on a package has been deeply developed and thought out, from the wrapping to the thank you postcard, to my “stamp” note.
I have two different postcards, one that is a general thank you, for all my products, and one that has wash instructions and folding instructions for organic swaddled.
I also have custom-designed stickers, one that I add to seal all my packages after wrapping them in black tissue paper. And others that I add to the packaging if needed.
Storage for supplies
As I mentioned before, I do have a room next to Ke's office, where I store the bulk of my supplies and some of the overflow of products. So I try to keep the supplies organized my use, so the things I use the most are closest to me.
I have mailers in the bottom black boxes, along with the supplies I need in case one of my clients upgrade their shipping from First Class to Priority Shipping. So all of those mailers and small boxes are inside my black boxes.
I also have clear bags that I use to wrap anything that has fabric so that it adds a layer of protection in case the package was to get wet or ripped during transit.
I like keeping the tools I use the most as close to me as possible. So my “thank you” stamp, postcards, and stickers are right in from of me in my black Ikea pegboard.
I actually shared a closer look at the mesh frame where I keep labels, stamps, and twine in my original post here.
I also have two clipboards, where I organize my orders. I used to have the clipboard in the frame, but I like having them out, so I have more space to organize supplies, I also painted the frame, my clipboards, and my cardboard “catch-all” cardboard cubby. So that everything looked a little more tied-together.
Storage for products
Since now, I don't have as many products in my studio. The drawers in the dresser below my shipping station have most of them, and this bookcase (below) stores all the rest.
I painted my boxes and used black cardboard boxes from Ikea to organize everything so that it looks a little less of a mess because, with so many little things, it gets messy SO FAST!
Now, I am going to share the “real” look of part of my storage in the extra room of Ken's office, because I love these bookshelves and cardboard boxes, they are from Uline and I just painted them white so that they would look better in my Storefront. I also used these cardboard boxes, cards, recipe cards, and my mugs fit perfectly inside them.
I also have big metal racks (they were way too messy to take a full picture hehe) and I store everything in plastic totes to avoid dust or anything messing the product.
Since I am no longer making the rubber stamps, I used the same display I had in my craft shows to store them in my office. A vintage countertop fruit basket, similar to this one =]
Important Ergonomic tips
When setting your shipping station, besides the obvious supplies, there are aspects that we should not take lightly, especially if you are going to be packing for several hours in a day.
- Have a comfortable standing mat: In my case, since I already have carpet on the floor, I just added another rug, a small runner, to add more padding, but if I'm working for too long, I make sure to push this ergonomic footrest that I use under my desk, so I can move my feet over.
- Set up a comfortable table height: As I mentioned before, having the correct height is SO important! This, of course, depends on your height. An easy way to do this is with an electric height adjustable table. But you can always do as I did, and get a box so that you can lift your table.
- Get your most-used supplies right in front: When you are doing repetitive motions, it is important to do them with as little muscle stress as possible, this is why having your most-used tools or materials, as close to you as possible is so important. If you are working in front of a wall consider a pegboard or another storage solution to hold things at arm's reach.
- Have enough light: One thing I had to change in my station as the weather changed (because during winter our house is extremely dark) is to add additional close lights, to do this I painted the top of these inexpensive clip lights with heat resistant paint, and add them to the shelve I already had there. As you can see below, this is what my work area looks at night with the lights completely off, and only those two lights on.
And just for fun, let me show you how my shipping station looked like when I had just opened my shop, so let's take it back to 2013 =]
What a change, right?
I hope these points help you with your shipping station, and if you have any questions, just contact me! I am always happy to help!