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Imagine this, you just sold your favorite painting to a collector across the country. She found you through your new marketing efforts, headed to your website, and just had to have the piece. You are skipping your way to the studio when you realize that you have no idea how much it is going to cost to ship this priceless piece. Immediately your heart starts racing...did I️ charge enough? Am I️ going to even make a profit? Where the heck am I️ going to find the material to package this? All artist have had this feeling at some point during their career. Lucky for you, I️ am here to help!
Shipping doesn’t have to be the daunting, time-consuming, profit-eating undertaking that we make it out to be. Instead, with my helpful tips, you will become a shipping master!
Tip 1: Package Yourself
Rushing through or ignoring the importance of this tip could result in your painting arriving damaged, dirty or unprofessionally wrapped up. Packing at home will save you money and ensure the piece is properly boxed up.
I encourage you find packaging that reflects your brand and how you want your business to be perceived by buyers. Put yourself in the client's shoes. Imagine you just purchased a beautiful pair of designer boots, but when they arrived at your door step the box was torn up, dirty and shoe box inside was crushed. You might question why you just paid an arm and a leg for shoes that arrived in such a disheveled state.
The packaging needs to elevate your art.
Someone just invested in YOU and YOUR ART. Make it arrive in a way that aligns with how you want people to perceive your business.
There are many ways to keep costs down but still make an impact. I️ use rolls of craft paper to wrap the pieces like a present. Another option is to put smaller works in clean, white boxes or envelopes before adding bubble wrap. Have fun with it! Add a sticker, a bow, or whatever represents who you are as an artist.
You want your customer to unwrap the bubble wrap and packaging and find a beautiful parcel reminiscent of who you are as an artist.
When bubble wrapping, I️ recommend layering enough bubble wrap to create a two inch buffer around the entire piece. Find a box as close to the right size as possible. (I️ will explain where to source these materials in tip 2) Use craft paper or excess bubble wrap as filler. Craft paper will save you money, but whatever you have on hand works. Then tape up your box and add a label. I also add a few red Fragile stickers or use a sharpie to write "Fragile" on the box as an extra means of protection.
If you mainly work with paper, then you are in luck, paper is the easiest to ship! Simply slip the paper between two thick pieces of cardboard ensuring it won't bend, (again wrapping it or adding a branded touch) then slide the package in an envelope and you are good to go.
* I always include a handwritten note. Clients are collecting and investing in your art and having a handwritten note makes that piece even more valuable for them.
Tip 2: Source the Right Materials
Shipping materials don’t have to be pricey. I️ recommend buying in bulk. Amazon, Uline and even a local office supply store are all good places to start depending on how much you need. I️ also love to reuse boxes. I️ am not the only one throwing away endless Amazon boxes right? Reuse that material. If the boxes are beat up, they might be better to use as extra protection around paper pieces or frames, but definitely put that cardboard to use!
This little trick ensures that you are saving money and the environment!
For larger boxes, I️ recommend using FedEx art boxes or searching TV boxes on Amazon. For everything else, I recommend finding a size that will fit the majority of your work (remember to add a few inches for bubblewrap) and try to buy them in bulk.
*The materials you should always have on hard are:
Boxes, envelopes ( I always use 12x15 envelopes because most common paper sizes fit in them), shipping tape, bubble wrap and craft paper.
*Pro Tip: If you are working on commissions or larger pieces I recommend buying canvases from Blick Art Materials because the canvases will come in a box that they perfectly fit in.
Tip 3: Compare Shipping Rates
If you use Shopify, you can use their shipping tool and save. If you ship through the site it automatically puts in the address and you just add the size and weight and you can save a lot on the label.
*I️ recommend purchasing a cheap scale off Amazon to accurately record the weight of your pieces. Estimating can result in overpaying or receiving additional charges due to weight discrepancies.
Tip 4: Value Your TimeIf you choose USPS, UPS, FedEx or any other shipper, print your labels at home! All you have to do is just drop everything off and sidestep those long lines. I️ go to my local UPS where they have a USPS pickup as well. I️ simply drop everything off at once and am in and out in under a minute.
* If you use Honey or Wikibuy or any other browser extension that saves you money, put them to work on your shipping labels. I️ use Wikibuy which automatically provides me with promo codes to use on the UPS website to save.
Tip 5: Plan Ahead
When you are planning for a collection launch keep shipping in mind.
You can plan to launch all work in the same size range so you can buy a specific box size in bulk. This way you can ensure that you have the exact right amount of shipping supplies for when that collection sells out!
If you order canvases online, from Blick Art Materials for example, save the packaging. Then, when it is time to ship can you replicate their wrapping and use all of their materials again. This is a great option for large commissions.
Tip 6: Price Correctly
One of the most common questions I get asked as an artist consultant is "How do I account for shipping on my website?"
I️ recommend getting a general idea of what it will cost to ship a painting and add a little cushion for supplies and any surprise costs. One way to do this is to practice packaging a painting, then get the measurements and weight. Input this info and a few different addresses from around the country to gauge how much it will cost. It won't be perfect every time, but the more you ship the more accurate this will become.
I️ recommend charging shipping, but another option is to include the cost in your prices. Most customers expect to pay shipping so don't be nervous about charging for it.
For extra large pieces (above 30 inches in length or extra heavy), you can include a line on your website that says contact for shipping costs. This will provide your client with more clarity upfront and will save you the stress of guessing the shipping cost beforehand.
In general with small to medium art purchases, customers expect and are willing to pay 10-15% of the piece’s cost. You can use this to see if you are in line with what they expect to pay.
- Package Yourself
- Source the Right Materials
- Compare Shipping Rates
- Value Your Time
- Plan Ahead
- Price Correctly
Hopefully these tips will save you money and time so you can get back in the studio doing what you love.
I️’d love to hear your thoughts, comments and any tricks you have for saving time and money shipping artwork. Feel free to comment below!
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Photos by Hayley Price & Color Creative Co.
This was very helpful. Thank you. I look forward to reading your blog regularly.