Shipping Labels Made Simple: A Beginner’s Guide to Sending Packages Safely

July 1, 2024

As a seller, you know that getting your products to your customers in a timely and efficient manner is crucial for maintaining customer satisfaction and building a positive reputation for your business. 

That’s where shipping labels come in. 

These small but mighty labels contain all the essential information needed to ensure your packages reach their destination safely and on time.

But fear not if you’re new to shipping labels – we’re here to explain the process and provide you with the knowledge and tools you need to navigate it. 

Whether you’re running a small online store from your home or managing a bustling e-commerce empire, mastering shipping labels will help you streamline your shipping operations and keep your customers happy.

So, let’s dive in and uncover the ins and outs of shipping labels, allowing you to ship your products with ease and efficiency. 

Quick Guide

  1. What are Shipping Label?
  2. How Does a Shipping Label Work?
  3. How to Create a Shipping Label?
  4. How To Print a Shipping Label
  5. Different types of shipping label
  6. Five Tips for Shipping Label
  7. Conclusion
  8. Frequently Asked Questions

What are Shipping Label?

Imagine you’re sending a package to your friend. Now, before you can send it off, you need to put some important information on the package. That is a shipping label.

A shipping label is like a special tag on your package. It’s not just any tag though, it’s important because it contains all the key details about your package and where it’s going. Think of it as the package’s ID card.

Here’s what usually goes on a shipping label:

  1. Recipient name, address, and phone number:

This section contains all the information about the person or business receiving the package. It includes their name, complete address (including street, city, state, and ZIP code), and often their phone number. Having accurate recipient information is crucial for ensuring that the package reaches the right destination.

  1. Sender Address:

The sender’s address is where the package is originating from. It includes the sender’s name and complete address, similar to the recipient’s information. This allows the carrier to know where the package is coming from and who to contact if there are any delivery issues.

  1. Tracking name and barcode:

The tracking number is a unique identifier assigned to each package. It allows both the sender and the recipient to track the progress of the package as it moves through the shipping process.

The barcode associated with the tracking number is scanned at various points along the journey, updating the package’s status in the carrier’s system.

  1. Unidirectional or QR code:

Some shipping labels may include additional codes, such as unidirectional or QR codes. These codes may contain supplementary information about the package or serve specific purposes, such as facilitating automated sorting or providing access to additional shipping details.

  1. Weight:

The weight of the package is often indicated on the shipping label. This helps the carrier determine the appropriate shipping cost and ensures that the package is handled properly during transit.

  1. Shipping Method:

The shipping class on a shipping label tells carriers how to handle the package and whether it needs special treatment, like being delivered faster. It’s crucial, especially if your online store offers different shipping choices, like quicker delivery for a higher cost. You want to ensure customers get the service they paid for and anticipate.

  1. Payment:

The payment section indicates who is responsible for the shipping costs. It may specify whether the shipping costs are prepaid by the sender, to be paid upon delivery by the recipient (COD – Cash on Delivery), or billed to an account with the carrier. Clear payment information ensures that the package is processed correctly and helps prevent any delays or misunderstandings during the shipping process.

Understanding the various components of a shipping label is essential for ensuring that packages are correctly addressed, properly tracked, and efficiently delivered to their intended recipients.

Note: The standard size of a shipping label is 4 x 6 inches (10 x 15 cm). Other standard sizes are 6 x 3 inches (15 x 7 cm) and 4 x 4 inches (10 x 10 cm). 

Now, let’s move on to how does it work?

How Does a Shipping Label Work?

When you drop off your package at the post office or hand it over to a delivery person, they scan the shipping label. This scan tells the delivery company’s system that your package is on its way.

As your package travels, different people and machines scan the label at different points – like when it gets loaded onto a truck or when it arrives at a sorting center. Each scan updates the system, so you and the recipient can track the package online.

Finally, when your package arrives at its destination, the delivery person scans the label one last time to confirm delivery. And just like that, your package safely reaches your customer!

How to Create a Shipping Label?

Let’s break down each step in creating a shipping label:

  1. Visit the website of your local shipping carrier

Start by visiting the website of the shipping carrier you plan to use, such as USPS, UPS, or FedEx. These carriers typically offer online tools or portals where you can create shipping labels for your packages. 

  1. Take a shipping label template

Once you’re on the carrier’s website, you may have the option to download a shipping label template. This template is a pre-designed form that includes fields for all the necessary information required for shipping. Look for the option to download the template in a format compatible with your computer, such as PDF or Word.

  1. Utilize a third-party solution

Alternatively, if you’re managing a larger volume of shipments or prefer a more streamlined process, consider using a third-party shipping solution. These platforms often integrate with multiple carriers and offer additional features to simplify the shipping process. Research and choose a third-party solution that best fits your needs and budget. 

  1. Ensure that all necessary information is included

Whether you’re using the carrier’s website, a template, or a third-party solution, it’s crucial to include all the required information on your shipping label.

This information typically includes the sender’s and recipient’s addresses, package dimensions and weight, shipping method, and any additional services or instructions.

  1. Safely attach your shipping label

Once you’ve filled out the shipping label with all the necessary information, it’s time to print it out and attach it to your package.

Print the shipping label on adhesive label paper using a printer connected to your computer. Make sure the label is printed clearly and legibly. Carefully affix the shipping label to your package, ensuring it’s securely attached and won’t become damaged or detached during transit. Place the label on a flat, clean surface, preferably on the largest side of the package.

By following these detailed steps, you can successfully create a shipping label for your package, ensuring it’s properly addressed and ready for delivery to its destination.

How to Print a Shipping Label?

Printing a shipping label involves generating the label and then printing it using appropriate methods. Here are some methods:

  1. From order

Most major shipping companies offer the convenience of printing shipping labels online. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Go to the Orders page on the website of your chosen shipping service provider.
  • Look for the Shipped section and find the order you want to print the label for.
  • Double-click on the order to open it.
  • Once you’re in the order details, go to the Shipment section.
  • You should see buttons or options to either Print Label or Download Label.
  1. Generate from shipments
  • To print shipping labels, start by going to the Shipment section on your shipping provider’s website. 
  • Once there, locate the order that’s currently in transit and click on it. 
  • Look for the “More” option, and then select “Label Print/Download.”

Methods for printing shipping labels:

For those running a home-based online store without a warehouse setup, printing shipping labels from home is doable. 

Common sizes for mailing labels are typically 4 x 6 inches and 5.5 x 8.5 inches. However, it’s important to consider your e-commerce shipping options, get the right packaging materials, and factor in shipping costs into your planning process. This ensures a seamless shipping experience for both you and your customers. Here are two ways:

  1. Typical inkjet or laser printer
  • One of the most common methods for printing shipping labels is using a standard inkjet or laser printer.
  • After the shipping label is generated digitally, it can be printed onto adhesive label sheets.
  • Users can typically choose the size of the label sheet to match the size of the shipping label.
  • The printed label is then peeled off and affixed to the package.
  • This method is suitable for low to moderate shipping volumes and is cost-effective for small businesses.
  1. Printer for thermal label
  • Thermal label printers are specifically designed for printing shipping labels.
  • They use heat to transfer ink onto special thermal label paper, eliminating the need for ink cartridges or toner.
  • Thermal label printers are often faster and more efficient than standard printers for printing shipping labels.
  • The labels produced are durable and resistant to smudging or fading.
  • This method is ideal for high-volume shipping operations or businesses with frequent shipping needs.
  • Thermal printers come in various sizes and capacities, from desktop models suitable for small businesses to industrial-grade printers for large-scale operations.

Different Types of Shipping Labels?

Let’s dive into each type of shipping label:

  1. Arrow Labels

Arrow labels are pretty straightforward – they have arrows printed on them. These arrows indicate which way the package should be oriented during shipping.

They help ensure that fragile or sensitive items inside the package are handled properly.

For example, if you’re shipping a box with delicate items that need to stay upright, you’d stick arrow labels indicating “this side up” to make sure the package isn’t turned upside down during transit.

  1. Fragile Labels

Fragile labels are like little warnings for your package. They typically have the word “fragile” printed on them, often in big, bold letters.

These labels alert handlers that the contents of the package are delicate or breakable. It’s a way to remind everyone to be extra careful when handling the package. Fragile labels can help reduce the chances of your items getting damaged during shipping.

  1. International Shipping Label

International shipping labels are a bit more complex because they include additional information required for shipments crossing borders.

These labels typically include fields for the sender’s and recipient’s addresses, as well as space for customs declarations such as the contents of the package and its value.

They may also include international shipping symbols and codes required by customs authorities to facilitate the smooth movement of packages across international borders.

  1. Dot Labels

Dot labels are small, circular stickers often used for inventory management or categorizing packages. Each dot may have a different color or code, representing different characteristics or destinations for the package.

For example, in a warehouse, dot labels might be used to indicate which items are on sale, which are low in stock, or which need special handling.

Dot labels can help warehouse staff quickly identify and sort packages, making shipping more efficient.

Five Best Tips for Shipping Labels

Take these best practices into account when generating shipping labels for your orders.

  1. Accept Your Shipping Requirements

Before you even think about printing a shipping label, it’s crucial to understand what you need. Consider factors like the size and weight of your package, how quickly you need it to arrive, and any special handling requirements.

For example, if you’re shipping a glass or plates, you’ll need to find out about special shipping rules for hazardous materials.

Understanding your shipping needs helps you choose the right options and save time by ensuring a smoother shipping and delivery process for your customers.

  1. Cross-check Your Shipping Information

One tiny mistake in the shipping information could lead to big problems – like your package ending up in the wrong city or even country!

Before you print the label, double and triple-check all the details: the sender’s and recipient’s addresses, ZIP codes, and any special instructions.

It’s also a good idea to make sure you’ve selected the correct shipping method and any additional services you need, like insurance or signature confirmation.

  1. Keep the Shipping Capital Ready

Shipping costs can add up, especially if you’re sending out lots of packages or shipping large or heavy items.

Make sure you have enough funds set aside to cover shipping expenses. This includes not just the cost of postage but also packaging materials like boxes, tape, and padding.

If you’re shipping packages regularly, consider setting up a separate budget or account specifically for shipping expenses to help you stay organized and on track financially.

  1. Partner With a Shipping Carrier

Instead of trying to handle everything yourself, consider partnering with a reputable shipping carrier.

Shipping carriers offer various services and options to suit different needs and budgets. They can help you navigate the complexities of shipping, provide tracking information for your packages, and offer support if any issues arise.

Look for a carrier that offers competitive rates, reliable service, and good customer reviews.

  1. Partner With a Third-Party Logistics

If managing shipping logistics feels overwhelming, consider partnering with a third-party logistics (3PL) provider.

3PL companies specialize in managing supply chain and logistics operations, including shipping and fulfillment.

By outsourcing your shipping and logistics to a 3PL, you can save time, reduce costs, and focus on other aspects of your business, like product development or customer service.

Conclusion

Shipping labels play a crucial role in the shipping process, providing essential information for carriers and recipients to ensure packages are handled and delivered accurately. 

Whether you’re printing labels at home or using online tools, understanding the importance of clear and accurate labeling is key to successful shipping. 

By following best practices and utilizing available resources, you can streamline your shipping operations and enhance the overall shipping and delivery experience for both you and your customers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are responses to the most frequently asked questions about shipping labels.

Are Shipping Labels Free?

Creating a shipping label doesn’t cost anything, but you can’t send the package until you’ve paid for the postage.

Can I Print Out Shipping Labels at Home?

Yes, you can print out shipping labels at home! Many shipping carriers offer online tools or portals where you can create and print shipping labels from your computer. Once you’ve filled out all the necessary information, you can simply print the label on adhesive label paper using your printer. Then, you can securely attach the label to your package and it’ll be ready to go. Printing shipping labels at home is convenient and can save you time and hassle compared to going to a physical shipping location.

Can I Handwrite a Shipping Label?

While you can handwrite the shipping address if it’s clear and readable, you’ll still need a barcode generated by the carrier. However, handwriting addresses can be slow, especially if you have many orders to fulfill. It’s more efficient to use online tools that streamline the process and save you time.

Can You Tape Over a Shipping Label?

Certainly! If you’re using clear tape and ensure that both the shipping address and barcode are completely visible, then you can handwrite the shipping label.

How to track a package using the shipping label’s tracking number?

You can keep tabs on a package by inputting the tracking number on the carrier’s website or using their tracking services. This lets you keep an eye on the package’s journey as it happens.

Are shipping labels necessary for domestic shipments?

Indeed, shipping labels are vital for shipments within the country and across borders. They offer crucial details for carriers and recipients to manage packages accurately.

 

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