Shipping Basics To Know For Beginners

Learning how to ship is fundamental when you want to start a side hustle or a small business and sell online. While there are many resources on how to ship a package out there, let’s get down to the basics. Here is your guide to shipping basics you need to know as a beginner.

How Much To Ship A Package?

The first to know about shipping basics are what are the factors that determine how much it will cost to ship a package. There are three mains factors that determines the cost of shipping:

  1. Package Weight
  2. Package Dimensions
  3. Distance Traveled

Once you know these three things, you can then choose the carrier and the shipping speed. There are 3 major carriers here in the US: USPS, UPS, and FedEx. There are local carriers that you can use that can be cheaper for shorter distances. Of course, there are also carriers like DHL that specialize in international shipping.

The next factor that will determine how much it will cost to ship a package is the shipping speed. How fast do you need for your package to be delivered? A general rule is that the faster the speed, the more expensive it will be to ship. Different carriers will charge differently.

How To Get The Cheapest Shipping Rates

When it comes to getting the cheapest shipping rates, you need to know where you can buy your postage. This is especially the case with USPS and UPS. You can buy your USPS postage at the counter from your local post office. However, that will be the most expensive option. If you buy through USPS Click-N-Ship at, it will be cheaper.

But the cheapest place to buy USPS postage will be by using a third party like Paypal or shipping software. Shipping software is websites like and You are able to buy postage for a discount from them because they have a negotiated commercial pricing with USPS and UPS.

They are able to pass on that saving to you when you use their service. Pirate ship only uses USPS as their main carrier but Shippo has USPS, UPS, and DHL express for free. You can still use FedEx along with other international and regional shipping carriers with Shippo. There are a 5 cents per label fee or you can pay per month with a subscription to ship with over 55 carriers. Start Shippo 30-Day Free Trial at

What Do You Need To Ship A Package

In order to ship a package, you will need the full address of the recipient. To make sure that the address information is correct, you can check google maps to make sure that numbers and letters are not switched. Once you verify that, you will move onto your actual package.

Other than your shipping material, two things are essentials to shipping. The first is a shipping scale. You will need one that tells you the weight down to the tenth of an ounce. This is important for packages weighing less than 1 pound because there is a difference in price between 3.4 ounces (round up to 4 ounces), and 10.2 ounces (round up to 11 ounces).

The second item you need for your shipping basics is a measuring tape. You will need to know the length, width, and height if you are using your own boxes. And the length and width for your own bags.

If you are caught guessing on the weight or dimensions, you can incur fees that will cost more for the long run. These shipping basic tools do not cost much and you will use it for years to come. Then you will need a printer to print your shipping labels.

Thermal printers are extremely useful because you will not have to cut or tape any labels but you don’t have to invest in one starting out. You can use your regular inkjet or laser printer.

Packing Your Shipment

When it comes to packing your item, there are a few shipping basics to know. First, if you have fragile or breakable items, you will want to make sure that the item is protected. You do this by preventing the item from moving in the box. Use enough padding around that does not add weight to your package.

Certain carriers are notorious for tossing packages and not being gentle with them. You will want to follow their packing guide to make insurance claims, especially for expensive electronics. If the item is not breakable, such as clothing or other fabric, use light shipping materials like poly mailers to minimize weight.

You can reuse your amazon boxes or other bags that you have already. However, they may not make a good presentation for the recipient. For FREE shipping resources, check this post.

How To Choose A Shipping Carrier?

When it comes to choosing a carrier, determine what is most important to you. For most small businesses, it is important to have the cheapest and most reliable carrier. The truth is, all major shipping carriers have their strengths and weaknesses. However, being able to save on shipping means you will get to keep most of what you earn.

So we will focus on which carrier offers the cheapest rates based on the type of package that you are planning to ship. If you are shipping a package that is less than 1 pound, the cheapest shipping rate will be with USPS First Class Mail. If your package is heavier than 1 pound, you will need to see how big the package is.

Because if it is small and compressed, the next best option will be to use USPS Priority Flat Rate envelopes or boxes. You can find them at your local USPS or order them for free at If your package will be traveling shorter distances, Pirate Ship’s cubic rate.

The cubic rate uses the outer dimensions to determine the cost, instead of weight so it is great for small but heavy items traveling short distances. It still uses USPS but is only available through them. Here is the link to determine your cubic dimensions. See below for how much it will cost to ship. You can also find this table from

General Shipping Summary Guide Table

This summary table below is a general guide for the type of package that you may be sending. If there are regional carriers in your area, we recommend you check them out as well, depending on the distance your package is going. Check out all related articles below for a step-by-by guide on how to ship each type of package.

If Your Package Is:Then Use:
Less than 1 poundUSPS First Class Mail
Small but heavy, short-distancesUSPS Cubic Rate
Small but heavy, long-distancesUSPS Flat Rate Envelope
USPS Flat Rate Boxes
Large and lightUSPS
FedEx SmartPost
UPS SurePost
Large and heavy, slowFedEx SmartPost
UPS SurePost
Large and heavy, fasterFedEx Ground
FedEx Home Delivery
InternationalPirate Ship Simple Export Rate
DHL, DHL Express

Remember, you will save money buying all these postages from shipping software, instead of directly from the retailer.

Where To Drop Off Mail

The beauty of buying your postage online is not only saving money but saving time. Here are your package drop-off options for each carrier.

Where To Drop Off USPS Packages

When you buy your USPS postage online, you do not have to stand in line at the post office to drop it off. You will find a package drop unit in the lobby at your local post office. They are normally next to the self-serve kiosk. You pull down the handle to place your packages and push it back up.

From time to time, the package drop may be full so you cannot pull down the handle. In that case, most post offices have a counter where you can drop off packages with shipping labels already. If you’re not comfortable with dropping your packages off this way, you can stand in line. The postal worker will be able to scan the package and give you a receipt that way.

Where To Drop Off UPS Packages

You can drop off your UPS packages at your local UPS store or at most CVS stores or Staples.

Where To Drop Off FedEx Packages

You can drop off your FedEx packages at your local FedEx store. Like UPS, they have a partnership with other stores. You can drop off your packages at Staples, OfficeMax, or Walgreens.

Where To Drop Off All Your Mail

If you use multiple carriers, you may not want to drive to all different carriers to drop off all your mail. In that case, the best option is to drop off your packages at a private postal center. These are normally private postal businesses that accept USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL, and other mail for free.

Shipping carriers have a collection time arranged with these private businesses so your package is safe with them. In fact, we find that our packages scan more quickly using these private postal businesses than to drop them off at the local post office.

Shipping Insurance

Our last tip for shipping basics is to know that your USPS Priority comes with built-in insurance. If you have lost or damaged mail, make sure to file a claim. It is really easy to do and we show you a step-by-step guide here.

UPS also comes with $100 built-in insurance. Make sure you check what you can recover from your carrier if your package was mishandled so that you’re not out of product and money.

Whether you bought your postage from Pirate Ship, Shippo, or other shipping software, you are still covered for shipping insurance. That is if you bought USPS Priority or postage from other carriers. So make sure to see if you can get compensated for lost or damaged mail.

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How To Ship a Package With USPS Click-N-Ship

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