here's the biggie: "How do it all myself? How do I save
thousands? Can you explain how exactly I might save thousands,
and then how to execute on that plan?"
do you save thousands?
Consider this: when you pay a fulfillment company to ship stuff from
their location to another they pay UPS, USPS, or FedEx rates (just like
you would) AND charge you a fee per
package to do it, often around $4.00 or more,
plus possible setup and storage fees. If you have 700 packages to
ship in the USA, instead of paying $4 x 700 = $2,800; you do it
yourself and pocket 85% of that money. Is it worth it to
you? It is to me. That's a lot of money! Plus
self-fulfillment is a chance to hang out with my friends for a while
and chat. - You also save on freight by having one less
shipping lane. (The missing 15% is spent buying shipping supplies
how do you execute?
I'm not going to pretend this is easy, but it is rewarding...
the requisite quantity of games freighted to your home office / storage
and shipping location.
your backer report export files from Kickstarter into ONE single tab,
and organize it. Then split
it by region you will be shipping to (USA vs. International(s)).
out the exact ship method and cost by making various practice orders
postage service. Is USPS flat rate best? (Be sure it fits by
testing it, those priority boxes are free!) Don't underestimate that
padded flat rate bubble mailer (roughly twice the size of the small
flat rate box). Don't forget to add the estimated weight of the
shipping materials! (2 to 7 ounces by size... bubble mailer = 1 oz; Small
Flat Rate = 3 oz; Small box = 5 oz; Med Flat Rate = 7 oz).
before your shipment arrives... (ideally back during the budgeting stage,
though I suppose under-budgeting might have forced you to read this ; )
...plan the exact box/bubble mailer dimensions you need to fit the items
(this might mean different materials for different orders, that's ok).
Find the cheapest box (that is that size or slightly bigger) on ULINE.com,
then see if you can get them cheaper on Amazon.com (which you almost
always can). Are they free on USPS.com?
this is still feeling feasible, call your friends NOW to see if they're
willing to help pack for Pizza and maybe a stipend. If they're not,
abandon ship and hire the fulfillment company. I'd suggest at
least 4 people total for 4 devoted hours of work, minimums.
Adjust up by size of event. If you've got the plan, and the
friends, move on to step 6 where committal happens.
'void fill' to fill your slightly too-big box/mailers (a giant bubble
wrap roll or 2, but you'll need half of what you
think you will), Postage labels (after
you peel the sticker labels off, use the paper backing as "free" void
tape, an expensive tape
dispenser, lots of printer ink (I like this
company), a shipping
scale(do not use stamps.com's free one), promotional materials
(business cards, thank you flyers, etc.), and possibly some 'fragile' stickers. Links
are specifically recommended products I've bought and use daily.
your printer to defaults to "fast draft" & "greyscale only".
prepping for more
than 30-40 packages, see the Stamps.com Setup and Use Guide
you have less
than 30-40 packages just use the PayPal
shipping link above and just do one at a time; you'll also therefore
need to prepare a printable packing list from your one-file excel sheet
you made in Step 2. (Use Word's mail-merge if you can.)
ALL your labels to your hard drive in PDF form.
your friends to set up a date. Plan
for a long process and an assembly line. My friends and I could
run our own fulfillment company by now, as we can pump out about
700-1000 orders a day with a rotating group of about 8 people.
your army and begin!
Assembly Lines-Apply as best it works for your situation...
line Phase 1:
container preparer (fold and tape box to shape)
label applier (yes, pre-apply, fill afterward; especially helpful with
the Stamps.com method)
insert inserter (business cards, promotional materials)
of prepared shipping containers for Phase 2...
line Phase 2:
Fillers (all people not needed below)
Sealers (someone will be good at the tape dispenser, put em to work!)
Organizer (putting finished packages in spare boxes for delivery to
support-(Pizza orderer, picture taker, massage giver, and of course...
- Call your
local Post Office to "Arrange a Pickup" for tomorrow afternoon, let
them know the scope of the pickup so they can send the best vehicle.
Hopefully you need "the big truck".
load them onto the truck so you can verify that all were
accepted. Use a "SCAN form" if possible, this makes USPS liable
if one goes missing.
pictures online, in a Kickstarter Update, sing and rejoice! It's
wasn't that easy?
Setup and Use Guide
tips here!-Skip this section if your project is too small to bother
is a very helpful tool that will save you big over going to the post
office (same discounted rates as the PayPal option above), and can save
a lot of time on large quantities of orders. But it's also very
difficult to learn, very hard to troubleshoot, but fairly easy to
eventually master. If you're using this method, this will replace
your #8 above.
and install doPDF (free),
which allows you to save print commands as PDFs ...I'll explain later.
your Kickstarter super spreadsheet (made above) and add the following
column headers off to the right: Order Date, Content Type, Mail Class,
Mail Piece, Package Value, Weight, Length, Width, Height, Tracking #,
Postage Cost, Insurance Cost, Insurance Value, Content Description,
Country of Origin, Print Message. See this
google sheet for a detailed guide on what to put
in each column and why.
your products are 3 weeks
from arriving, open a Stamps.com account, download desktop software,
then call them to increase your Maximum Postage Purchase limit
immediately, explain "I have a Kickstarter". You're also gonna need a
week to understand your Stamps.com software and to get it to do what
you need it to (I'll help), and you'll want lead time on getting ready
before you invite your friends
to the party. (You don't want them showing up before you're done
printing labels, and it's not as easy as you'd like to think.)
you have MORE than 75-100 orders that you're fulfilling, Setup your
Stamps.com ODBC Data Source. This will take several
hours your first few times (Call
Stamps.com for help walking you through this-my
tips below). If they want remote access to your computer to
largely do it for you, you can safely grant it. - You'll
want a new ODBC Source for each greater region you are self-fulfilling
to. For example: I create one for USA, and one for Canada.
If I have straggler international orders (Mexico, etc.) I bunch them
tip: Put any APO (U.S.A. Armed Services) orders with the
Canada/international ones because they require customs forms!
you have LESS than 75-100 orders, enter them on Stamps.com manually
(skip the difficulty of ODBC Data Sources) by copying and pasting one a
time from your excel file. Yes, it will be faster for a one time
75 or less.
Stamps.com's Default Printer to "doPDF", set "print media" to "Generic
4×6-2 per sheet", and create a file folder on your computer for the
exported PDFs. (This
will allow you to manage and reprint labels when errors happen, as
Stamps.com erases them shortly after you print them.)
the errors that prevent "printing" from Stamps.com (you'll see what I
the "Ship Date" to 1-2 days from now, as you won't get them to the Post
Office today. If you get any there early understand that the Ship
Date is only when email notifications go out; you can ship em early or
late with no other consequence.
you can "Print" them to PDFs in groups of 50 or so limited by your
prepaid balance cap. Note: you'll have to manually rename every
item, I suggest a number 1, 2, 3... 25 to go nice and fast; two labels to
to the folder where the labels are saved, highlight 15 of them, and
right click, choose print. (So you don't have to print 1 at a
time. Thank you, Anne.)
8 & 9 until every order is printed.
that was a lot of work. And it sure wasn't easy. But you
did a great job! Spend some of your savings buying your friends
lunch or movie tickets, and your family a nice weekend outing.
They've earned it.
hope I provided enough angles to cover all the possible fulfillment
sizes (small, medium, large) and what you'd need to do at each level to
gotta have questions after reading something this detailed about
something this complicated. How
can I help? Ask in the comments!