Beginner's Guide to Shipping From Home on eBay

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Selling on eBay can be an effective way to make money online, but shipping policies and practices can be intimidating to those new to online sales. It's not as difficult as it might seem, though. Millions of eBay sellers ship packages from home every day, and you can too. 

Consider Shipping Options and Practices Before You List

Not all items are the same, nor will all items cost the same to ship. Size, weight, and other factors all come in to play, and it's important to know how before posting an item for sale.

How much does it weigh? Does it need to go in a box? Will it need a lot of extra packing materials for cushioning?

Depending on what you're selling, it's a good idea to keep a variety of boxes on hand to ship items of different sizes, shapes, and weights.

Items weighing less than 16 ounces can be shipped First Class, and you want to utilize this when you can because it is cheaper than Priority Mail and your competition already is doing it. If a package weighs more than 16 ounces, it must go Priority.

Post an eBay shipping flow chart in your work area to refer to as needed, and print your shipping labels directly from your eBay shipping workflow. This means there is no need to go to the post office; your mail carrier can pick up items right from your door.

Stockpile Common Sizes of USPS Shipping Supplies

The most commonly used USPS shipping supplies are:

  • Padded flat-rate envelopes (PFRE)
  • Tyvek envelopes
  • Shoe boxes
  • 6 x 6 x 7 cube boxes
  • 8 x 8 x 12 boxes
  • Shirt boxes

All of these can be found on the USPS website and shipped directly to your home for free. If you over-order or accumulate more than you will need, just give them to your mail carrier to take back to the post office. These supplies can only be used for USPS Priority Mail.

You may not turn them inside out to use for other classes of mail. The post office does not provide shipping materials for free for first class.

Order Poly-Mailers for First Class

Poly-mailers are best used for nonbreakable items such as clothing. These are slick, white, tear-proof mailers that are waterproof. Many major retailers like Kohls, LL Bean, and Old Navy use these mailers. Your best bet is to buy a combination of different sizes until you know what size you will use most often. Poly-mailers cost about 3 cents each, depending on the size. Order small combo packs on eBay to get started. 

Use Calculated Shipping

Calculated shipping usually is the fairest option for your buyers. When listing an item, choose the calculated option and enter the weight of the item, including the weight of the packaging. Ebay's shipping workflow is integrated with the USPS, so when sellers choose calculated, buyers will see the shipping cost based on the weight, class of mail, seller's zip code, and their own zip code. You don't even have to think about it—eBay and USPS will calculate the shipping cost for the buyer automatically.

Padded Flat Rate Envelopes (PFRE)

USPS offers a padded flat rate mailer that is perfect for some clothing items, household items, books, and other smaller items.

The shipping cost is around $7 and the weight can go up to 70 pounds, but they are not designed for breakables. The PFRE is a case of "when it fits it ships." Do not shove large items in these mailers just to save money. When packing items, keep the buyers' needs in mind. Not only can envelopes burst open, but buyers have the opportunity to rate sellers on eBay regarding shipping. 

Tyvek Envelopes

If an item must go Priority and it won't fit in a PFRE, the next option is a Tyvek envelope. These are larger than PFREs and are made of a paper and fiber material that is moisture-proof, durable, and flexible. The Tyvek is good for larger clothing items, linens, blankets, stuffed animals (plush), some handbags, and soft goods that won't crush. Use a Tyvek instead of a box when it makes sense. Boxes add weight, and weight adds to the cost of shipping.

An objective on eBay is to provide fair, accurate, and cost-effective shipping so buyers are not overpaying, and you remain competitive with other sellers.

USPS Priority Boxes

If an item is too heavy for First Class, won't fit in a PFRE, or it doesn't make sense to use a Tyvek, the next option is a box. USPS offers a wide variety of boxes in many shapes and sizes. If you are new to eBay and just learning to ship, avoid Flat Rate boxes. They are confusing at first (because there are so many options) and they are not always the best deal for buyers, especially if buyers end up living close to you. You may alter regular Priority boxes, also known as Frankensteining, but you may not alter Flat Rate boxes because the fee has been determined based on a specific size.