TEST Etsy Newbie Bootcamp: Class 8 Shipping and Packaging

Welcome to our Etsy Newbie Bootcamp! If you want to take part in Bootcamp and get one-on-one mentoring, or answers to any of your questions, please drop us a line at TorontoEtsyST@gmail.com.  

If you want to open an Etsy shop, just follow this link!


Then, be sure to check out:
TEST Etsy Newbie Bootcamp: Class 1 How to Open an Etsy Shop
TEST Etsy Newbie Bootcamp: Class 2 Branding & Shop Banners
TEST Etsy Newbie Bootcamp: Class 3 Shop Profiles Bios and Photos
TEST Etsy Newbie Bootcamp: Class 4 Make Listings Tempting
TEST Etsy Newbie Bootcamp: Class 5 About Pages

TEST Etsy Newbie Bootcamp: Class 6 Shop Policies
TEST Etsy Newbie Bootcamp: Class 7 Communication
Remember: If you already have a shop, or you open one today, please let us know how to find it! We will be featuring some of our favorite newbie items right here. 

 Today we're tackling a topic which is a big issue for almost all Etsy sellers. Unless your products are strictly digital files which can be downloaded directly by customers, you need to figure out your best strategy for Shipping and Packaging. The learning curve for setting up your own optimal shipping practises can be steep, and it's one topic our Newbie members have told us they want to learn about.

Fragile Handle with Care Stickers by madeiracrafts

What you want to do to prepare for that 1st (or next) sale

  • Plan ahead and do a little research.  Hey - you're doing that, right now! Also, Etsy itself published a great article called Canadian Shipping Demystified.   (There are similar articles for several other countries. Try searching the Etsy blog if you're outside Canada). You'll want to have reasonable shipping policies set up and clearly explained in advance (see TEST Etsy Newbie Bootcamp: Class 6 Shop Policies for tips and details on how this is done). You may find that these are a work in progress - but that's okay. If your plans and pricing estimates don't work out perfectly the first time, you can always update them to better reflect your costs and experiences. Most sellers find that as they get more sales (and more frequent sales) the trick to both preserving their sanity and to being efficient is to streamline their shipping process as much as possible. Have everything you need on hand and a regular routine for both packaging and shipping procedures.
  • Set your shipping prices (and be fair to yourself).  Some sellers prefer to keep shipping costs low and would rather increase the cost of listings instead. Sometimes buyers are happier to spend their money on the item than 'wasting' it on shipping. I find that it's easier and more straightforward to have my shipping prices be pretty representative of my costs. As long as the cost of shipping is distinctly less than the item for sale, I think most buyers don't mind - but you may want to play with this balance and see what works for you. Wherever you put the shipping cost, whether it's hidden in the item cost or simply the shipping cost you need to make sure you're covering: actual fees (from Canada Post or other carriers, Etsy or PayPal), packaging, and your time (those packages aren't going to mail themselves!). To estimate fees from Canada Post in advance use their handy online tool: if you enter your postal code, the package's destination, dimensions and weight it will tell you your price options. (For Newbies outside Canada, most countries have some similar online tool. Check your nation's postal service website).
  • Packaging materials and plan. You'll want to make sure you have packaging materials on hand. Things which you should consider are: cost and hence bulk and weight, safety of the item, environmental impact (how much waste are you making? can you use recycled or biodegradable materials? can you use reusable items?), branding and labelling. In Class 6 we showed how BeaconsfieldCards' shipping policy keeps an eye on environmental impact and how highlighting that her clear card protector bags are compostable and biodegradable could gain the allegiance of customers. Newbie madeiracrafts offers Fragile stickers which might be just the thing for carefully packaging your wares. Sometimes these competing concerns can conflict; a fragile item might be safer with more packaging, but that might cost more and create more waste. You may find a little trial and error is in order to find the best solution for you. 
  • Clear policies and strategies for international shipping.

    Elephant Ellen by Iamcuriousmonkey

    Shipping internationally automatically increases your pool of potential customers! It isn't much more complicated than selling domestically. Check Canada Post's Delivery Standards in advance so that you can clearly communicate what customers can expect (see Class 7 for Communication tips). You'll need to fill in a customs form declaring the content, value, and origin of the items. Etsy has a great tutorial called

    Shipping How-To: Custom Forms, Duties, and Taxes

    Most post offices will let regular users have a pile of the self-adhesive Customs forms (CN22 and CN23), so you can do your paperwork in advance. They'll also usually give you sheets of 'Air Mail' stickers if you ask. Remember to alert customers that their nation's Customs can delay or charge duty on imported items; experienced sellers advise that you mention that Customs duties are the responsibility of the buyer in your  Shop Policies (see Class 6 for details). It is unlikely that your listings will include Non-mailable items but if you sell anything that could be considered dangerous, you'll want to familiarize yourself with regulations and restrictions. Most Non-mailable items are already prohibited by Etsy so you shouldn't be selling dangerous goods or restricted animal products anyway. If you sell something you suspect may be restricted, like food or anything containing animal products, you can look up any country in the world to see if the items which are prohibited. Most Etsy buyers are in the US, where in general, laws are similar to our own. A lot of information is available on the USPS website. If the shipping address of an American customer includes only a 5-digit zip cope, you can append the additional 4 digits by looking up the address in the USPS zip cope look-up tool. Since this helps them sort mail it can increase the speed of delivery. Other places Etsy is popular include the EU, and Australia. The EU does have some protectionist policies, and in the Etsy forums, you can find discussions about duties imposed on Etsy goods for EU buyers. Shipping to Australia, of course, takes a bit longer, but sellers report that Australian buyers are aware of this and are very understanding. Sales to other countries are in general less common. This means you can write standard messages regarding shipping methods and delivery standards for your customers and will likely only need to look up information if you get a purchase from an unexpected place.


If your wares come in standard sizes, or even a fairly controlled range of sizes, a good way to make it easier to create new listings is to set up some Shipping Profiles. Once you've made and packaged one fairly standard sized item (say, one dress, one Giclée print of a certain size, one necklace, or what have you) you can measure its dimensions and weight. Then, use the Canada Post online tool to figure out the shipping prices to likely destinations (or equivalent in your country for sellers outside Canada). There are flat rates for most international services like regular Letter Mail, Small or Light Packet Air US or International. It's actually more variable within Canada and can cost more than shipping internationally! Most sellers opt to list shipping within Canada at a more or less typical average price, and then use the flat rates for the US, the EU and Australia. Statistically, you are more likely to be selling to a Canadian buyer in a city, than in an expensive, remote region, so the risk of undercharging is not high. I like to also include an 'Everywhere Else' option; though I am making a guess at the shipping rate, it does allow buyers to purchase an item no matter where they are located. You can always amend your  Shipping Profiles if you find you have customer(s) from a new country or region, or Canada Post increases their rates. You can create a  Shipping Profile for each type of object you sell, with shipping rates for anywhere you are willing to ship your products. Every time you list a new Object Type A, just load your pre-save Object Type A Shipping Profile and you're set!


Experienced Etsy sellers are preparing for the Christmas rush already and will have begun to stock and feature items accordingly. In fact, you can now sign up for Etsy's own Holiday Boot Camp 'your guide to prepping for and successfully riding the holiday wave.' Sign-up here if you'd like to receive their bi-weekly classes.

It's very difficult for a Newbie seller to predict how their sales will be affected, so the trick is to be as prepared as you can be. If you planned to offer anything especially for Christmas, get it into your shop, carefully tagged, and featured as soon as you can (see Class 4 Make Listings Tempting for suggestions). Stock up on your packaging supplies. The amount of time it will take for deliveries, during the holiday rush will increase considerably! Be sure to check the Canada Post website for their Holiday Mailing deadline guide (which will be posted by late October or early November). When they do post this year's deadlines, you should add that information to your Shop Announcement, Shop Policies, Receipts (via Shop Settings Info & Appearance), Shipping Notifications and any direct communication with your customers. 

Please note: while many sellers offer expedited shipping during the holiday rush, you cannot sell expedited shipping as a stand-alone listing. All listings must be for physical, tangible objects or downloadable files. You can sell a shipping upgrade if it comes with something, or you can let customers know you would be happy to provide a revised invoice. Hopefully in the near future, variable shipping rates will be something we can add directly to listings.  Edited September  25: Good news! Etsy has added variable shipping rates!

Branding and Packaging

The items available on Etsy vary greatly! It's hard to write a one-size-fits-all guide, but here are some tips which may help you.

Seed Swag
Cubit's seedpackets
Printing your own return address labels or other branding can be useful. The outside of the package is the first thing the customer sees!

The Etsy Packaging Flickr group can be a good place to look for creative packaging solutions. TEST's own Cubits for instance makes distinctive envelops for their organically-grown seeds.

Including a business card, postcard or other promotional material - maybe even with a coupon code for future purchases - can be a useful way to get repeat business. Small details make an impression: many Etsy sellers include little freebies or say, a handwritten thank you note.

Saving Money and When to Splurge

Join Canada Post's VentureOne to get a 5% discount on shipping.

Use a scale, rulers or measuring tapes to plan a package which fits within a smaller shipping size and weight category.  As Etsy points out "For Oversize Lettermail and Light Packet parcels where the 2cm thickness restriction is very key, you can purchase a special plastic template from Canada Post. Sellers call it the “slot of doom” because when you have one millimeter too many you pay the more expensive rates. The product number is 540008029." Cardboard jewellery boxes can be trimmed to fit within the slot of doom.

While American buyers might be used to Tracking Numbers, these are only available with more expensive shipping options. Most Canadian sellers stick with Lettermail, Light Packet or Small Packet service, but inform customers that they will be happy to produce a revised quote for special shipping service (including Tracking Numbers, Insurance or Expedited Service).

Occasionally the price difference between regular service and Xpresspost within Canada is small. You can really impress a customer by upgrading their service and delivering items before they expect them.

Interesting boxes, cardboard, foam board, brown package craftpaper can be found at affordable prices at various dollar stores and (for our Toronto sellers) many shops in Chinatown. A variety of online sellers provide things like cellophane envelops for cards or art prints; you can team up with other sellers to buy these items in bulk. Many businesses will give away their used, but strong, cardboard boxes if you ask (including grocery stores and the LCBO). You can find tutorials online for making your own mailers from recycled materials like cereal boxes.

Check out our other SHIPPING TUTORIALS!
Class 19 Shipping Snippets and Class 21 Setting Shipping Rates

 The Toronto Etsy Street Team loves Newbie shops! You can find some of our favorite listings from talented Newbie sellers, including those featured in this class in our new TEST ♥ Newbies section. Be sure to stop by often to see what's new in this evolving, curated treasury of amazing Newbie finds!

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  1. Thank you so much for your amazing classes! They have been invaluable to me in setting up my shop! I finally opened last week after a couple of months of research and I am learning more every day! Thank you so much!

    1. Thanks for your message Christine! We're glad to hear it. Let us know your shop URL and drop us a line at TorontoEtsyST@gmail.com if you want to be added to our mailing list for Newbies.


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