Perfect Your Tindie Shipping Game
I’ve written for Tindie for several years, and maintained a , but my journey as a seller didn’t really start until September of last year (2020). After a bit of prompting, I put up my Raspberry Pi fan control PCB as a through-hole device, which features a transistor and flyback diode for “EZ” Raspberry Pi fan control.
Since then I’ve processed a meaningful number of orders, learning quite a bit about shipping and product design along the way. While I still have much to learn, here are a few tips based on my experience, that can help you get products to your customer on time, intact, and at a reasonable price.
Machine Printed Labels, Padded Mailer
When I started selling, I initially wrote out addresses by hand on packages. This works when you sell one or two items, but gets old very fast. Another alternative is to print the address on a piece of paper, cut, and tape to your package. It looks a neater, but is still inconvenient to do over and over.
A third option–reasonable in medium quantities–is to print out a packing slip from Tindie and take it to your local post office or private mailing outfit. This gives you the benefit of guidance on rates, however, it also means taking a trip somewhere, spending your valuable time.
In the US at least, if you purchase a scale, you can actually generate your own postage online. While there are other options, I personally use a service called to purchase USPS postage. They’ve got a very streamlined setup, allowing me to copy addresses from Tindie, paste on their site, and print labels on a standard 2D printer. However…
Label Printer: A Logistics Super Power
Printing out labels that need to be cut and taped to an item is OK, but being able to copy/paste/buy/print/slap label on package with tracking included is truly amazing. In my experience it’s as if I’ve obtained some sort of new teleportation power, zipping packages with a few keystrokes. To temper this enthusiasm, the reality is that $100-$150 for a label printer () may take a significant amount of time to pay off in terms of saved labor.
Is buying one the right choice for you? As with many purchases, the answer is “it depends.” In reality, you should probably factor that cost, as well as materials, and even handling time into you shipping rate.
Optimize Your Product for Shipping
While marginally successful, my first EZ Fan iteration had components that weren’t particularly flat, including connectors that could poke into a padded envelope. After some thought, I redesigned it as a surface-mount device, slimming down the little PCB for shipping and use. This made it much slimmer, perhaps even slim enough to send in a standard letter. Would that even be possible?
Mail as a Letter?
Using surface-mount components and low-profile headers, it is indeed possible to make a board so thin that it can fit inside a standard envelope for shipping via USPS via a single stamp. To qualify as a standard letter, an needs to be a maximum of 1/4 inch, and the weight needs to or less – both seem like reasonable restrictions.
My newly redesigned-for-shipping meets these restrictions, and I even came up with a cardboard backing system in which I could place a board, along with wires and heat shrink if they were ordered as well. It’s a really a clever system… or so I thought.
Shipping as a Letter: Too Clever by Half?
Shipped the first (purchased) EZ Fan V2 today!
— Jeremy Cook (@JeremySCook)
Sometimes is great and needed, but other times there is a reason “we’ve always done it this way.” While it’s possible to get boards to customers in an envelope, it also opens up products to damage. Even if such occurrences are very intermittent, damaged goods are not great for your reputation, and a simple letter is likely not what the customer is expecting.
Secondly, while it appears that this method is acceptable for domestic mail in the US–consider that there’s little difference between such a product and an electronic greeting card–the USPS international letter about the contents value being $0.00. One could put the appropriate international postage on a letter-shaped package and see what happens, but it seems you’d be skirting the restrictions here.
On the other hand, designing your product around such a restriction–even if not actually necessary–isn’t a bad thing. You may find that this results in lower PCB costs, as well as a space saving design that makes it more appealing in its final use.
I’ve tried to concentrate on bubble mailers for my products. Depending on what you’re actually shipping, you may have to resort to using a good old-fashioned box and potentially paying a bit more. Just be sure to include that in your price so that you’re still making a profit!
It’s an amazing feeling when people want to spend their actual money on a product that you designed. With the proper setup and inventory, when a purchase is made you have to do little more than click a few buttons, drop purchased items in a package, and get paid.
For any Tindie-specific shipping questions, answers to a few . You can also if needed. If you have any shipping tips or stories you’d like to share, feel free to ping us on on Twitter, and you can find me personally .
The Creativity Podcast–of which I’m a host– to discuss the finer points of shipping on Tindie if you’d like to hear more! Finally, a slightly more personal version of this post was first published on .