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Being in the retail end of things for some time you learn lots, especially when your clientele expands to shipping across country and overseas. Most of the most valuable lessons of shipping etiquette is learned good old fashioned hard way, you either over charge and your customers thing you're nuts, or you undercharge and you basically eat the rat (and feel cruddy to boot).

So based on the experience I would like to share with you some shipping tips, techniques and ideas! Here are some smart shipping considerations to keep in mind when managing and shipping your items:

1.) Before posting your items for sale be sure to measure and weigh your art piece. Including this information on your auction site or web site is also valuable for customers.

2). Purchasing bubble wrap, corrugated frame corners, tape and other shipping supplies on-line (like on eBay) can save you a lot of money, they are very reasonable if you purchase then on-line even with the shipping, the local packaging store tends to be more costly. Buying on-line also provides door to door service.

3.) Get a box that fits your item, have enough to surround the edges (3-4 inches) enough for the bubble wrap to cushion, but not too much where your item is swimming in the carton. Collect and save scrap corrugated squares to back the canvas in or to provide support to the paper or unframed pieces.

4.) If you are shipping smaller pieces or are relatively flat like watercolor/acrylic paper works or canvases that are smaller than 19x17, you can get Priority or Express boxes for no charge from the US Postal service, you can ship these boxes flattened as well. The great thing about USPS Priority shipping is that it's really inexpensive, you can get package tracking for only .35 cents and they have insurance available. UPS includes the insurance in the shipping up to 100.00, the amount thereafter is minimal and well worth it.

5.) If at all possible, have an area where you can keep all your shipping supplies together, so you can manage all of your shipping and packaging in a single place. If you do not have a place in your studio, home apartment, garage to do shipping, getting a box to keep your supplies in can prove useful.

6.) Include a note with your sent items thanking your customers for their sale, this really makes your new collector feel like they are dealing with a professional, makes a great impression and say a lot about who you are.

7.) Have all your paperwork, labels, any insurance or tracking tags completed and your package all ready to go when entering the doors to the post office or UPS. Being organized like this will help in getting you in and out. (The clerks and customers will also appreciate this!) USPS labels, tracking and insurance tags are also no charge, feel to pick up these supplies from the post office, they may also be ordered from the USPS website:

8.) If you have on-line processing for UPS/FedEx be sure to keep hard copies of your transactions/tracking numbers, it's better to be safe than sorry.

9.) Keep all your shipping and tracking receipts organized by day, week or month (depending on your shipping frequency), keep them in an envelope/box with your shipping supplies. In the event you need to reference any information, you will know where it is and you can expedite the tracking quicker. After shipping, email your customer to give them the scoop on their package, provide them with the tracking numbers. Most times customers like to see the on-line status and they appreciate this. Don't make your customer wait for this information.

10.) UPS and USPS are great sources for shipping on domestic (USA) shipments. Depending on the shipment size etc can vary on the shipper. For International Shipping USPS is very reasonable, they have an area on their website to calculate shipping costs: I have found this to be average source of exact information, however if you go to the post office and inquire directly with the clerk, they will look up the data for you, every country is different and each has their own shipping requirements. FedEx, DHL, Airborne are far too costly sources for overseas shipping.

Some Serious "Don'ts" When Shipping:

1.) DON'T put your paper works of art in a flattened box without any type of protection (wrap in tissue, plastic or craft paper), this will protect your art.

2.) DON'T use newspaper to directly wrap your items. Bad, very bad. News print rubs off and will damage/tarnish your work of art.

3.) DON'T scribble the mailing label, if you have poor penmanship then print out the address directly from your customers email and adhere that to the package.

Final S.O.S. Thought... Invest the time and effort to pack your items well, by being in a rush to make it to the post office/shipping depot can potentially harm your buyers investment. Because the objective is to make them smile when they open it .... right?

Sonya Paz is a professional fine artist/painter living in San Jose, California. Sonya is also an established web and graphic designer and has written many articles based on her experiences in the corporate world and how she manages her fine art business today. In 1996 - 1998 Sonya wrote the "Funky Thought of the Week" for the on-line publication Soho Saltmines.

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