Online marketplaces, auction sites and ecommerce platforms make it possible for anyone to start a home-based business. Best of all, the shipping processes involved in getting your product into your customers’ hands have been simplified with the ability to buy and print postage labels online.
The question is which of the many options available for printing postage from home is best for your business. Many marketplaces and auction sites offer a way for you to print postage and shipping labels. PayPal Shipping is an option for members of PayPal’s payment service. Major carriers like USPS®, UPS® and FedEx® all offer a way to print postage through their websites. And then you have online shipping services that can address all your shipping and fulfillment needs.
Your options for printing postage at home
Online marketplaces and auction sites
What could be easier than printing postage and shipping labels through the platform that you sell on? If your business is new and you sell exclusively through one marketplace, this can be a great way to start out.
The downside is that marketplaces often negotiate postage rates with a single carrier. This can limit the choice of services available to you and your customers. Plus, you want to make sure your marketplace is passing those negotiated savings on to you by comparing prices for that service on the carrier’s website.
PayPal has revolutionized the way consumers pay for products online and in the real world. Now, PayPal Shipping offers home-based sellers an easy way to print USPS and UPS postage online. This service works especially well if you sell through eBay, but it can be used by anyone with a PayPal account.
PayPal Shipping has its limitations. Not offering FedEx as a carrier is one—sometimes you need to get that package out overnight. PayPal Shipping only offers the option to ship via USPS and UPS.
USPS, UPS and FedEx all offer a way to print postage and shipping labels from home through their websites. For example, with USPS, you can ship any Priority® or Express Mail® package using their easy-to-navigate Click-N-Ship® platform.
An obvious disadvantage going the carrier route is that you are limited to the services of that one carrier—and each carrier’s services are limited online too. A not so obvious disadvantage? You can often find deeper discounts for these same services elsewhere.
Subscription-based shipping solutions
Printing postage at home has given rise to a whole new industry: subscription-based online shipping solutions. These solutions or platforms are dedicated to helping businesses of all sizes meet their shipping and fulfillment needs in one interface—from printing postage to viewing consolidated reports. Shipping solutions also offer a choice of carriers, allowing you to choose the best service for each order. Most importantly, they can provide substantial discounts on postage above what the carriers offer online.
Subscription-based implies fee-based. And yes, you do have to pay for these services. Prices vary, but they are manageable for even a fledgling home-based business. A subscription with PitneyShip starts at only $4.99, a cost easily recouped with the discounts you receive on First-Class letters, Priority Mail packages and UPS daily rates.
Other considerations for printing postage at home
The more you mail and ship the more options you need. Being able to compare and choose between carriers, services, and classes of mail allows you to identify the least expensive and most timely option for each of your orders.
The ability to batch print shipping labels is also an important consideration for high-volume shippers who send more than 20 packages per week. Batch printing allows you to print postage for multiple recipients at the same time, saving you loads of time and frustration.
All major carriers, online marketplaces and online shipping services accept credit cards when you buy and print postage labels online. You might be charged a minimal service fee for the transaction, but this pay-as-you-go option is used by many home-business startups.
Need more options? Look for an online shipping service that offers a prepaid deposit account that lets you deposit money in advance and draw on funds as needed or one that offers a line of credit that lets you consolidate sending expenses into one monthly bill. For example, PitneyShip subscribers can apply for a line of credit through the Pitney Bowes Bank and use it to pay for postage, meter rentals, shipping and supplies.