I hate seeing people who turn an online business into an online JOB, where they work hours and hours doing everything manually.
That is not the way to do things! You need to automate, outsource, and use all the tools and resources you can so that you’re left to concentrate on the important aspects of your business, the parts that will actually make you money!
Also, please don’t think that you should only start doing this when your business is doing well and making a good profit… which is what a lot of newbie sellers seem to think.
In my opinion that’s completely wrong! You should do things right from the beginning instead of wasting time with outdated and time consuming methods.
And speaking of which, we’re now reaching the crux of today’s post – shipping labels!
I’m still amazed at how many eBay sellers attach shipping labels the manual way (the stupid way is more apt!), which consists of:
- Copying every address from eBay to Excel
- Printing out all of the addresses on one A4 page
- Cutting out each individual address using scissors
- Attaching this uneven, small, and homemade label to each and every package, one by one
I mean, come on!
There is just no good reason to turn such a simple process into something so long and time consuming.
You have two perfect options when it comes to shipping labels – integrated labels and label printers.
For those of you who don’t know, the main difference is that label printers are specialised thermal printers that are used solely for printing labels – that’s their one function.
The two major options for thermal label printers are Dymo and Brother and I personally always recommend Dymo, which is what I use in my own offices.
In my opinion label printers are ideal – they’re small, amazingly easy to use, with incredibly low running costs as they don’t require any ink at all to operate!
Now if we go by the cost of the official labels, made by Dymo themselves, then it’s £10.49 for a box of 520.
That works out at 2 pence per label, which is not bad, but we can still do a lot better!
Rather than buying original Dymo, I suggest simply using one of the highly rated compatible labels that are available, such as this one:
You then get 1300 labels for £8.29, which works out at just over half a penny for each label… that’s more like it!
But of course you do have to buy the printer in the first place. A good choice that will be more than enough for 99% of eBay sellers is the Dymo 450, which is currently £53 on Amazon, though it does often sell for cheaper than that as well.
Either way, it is a cost that has to be taken into account, and while it’s a miniscule investment to make in your business considering the time it saves and the incredibly low running costs, it is still an investment!
And for some new sellers who are just starting out on eBay, £50 is too much to spend on a label printer. That money could be better spent on more stock, a logo design, etc. etc.!
So does that mean they need to get out their scissors and start cutting labels by hand, as I described earlier?
No, not at all!
That’s when I suggest simply using integrated labels. Unlike thermal printers, these integrated labels work with your normal home printer.
But unlike thermal printers, they don’t just give you a label – they print an invoice with a peelable part that contains the shipping address.
I’m sure you’ll all be familiar with these as you’ll have seen them when ordering from Amazon or any of the other big online companies.
So one obvious advantage of using integrated labels vs a dedicated label printer is that it prints an invoice at the same time, if you include one in your orders. If you use a Dymo label printer and want to include an invoice then you need to print that separately!
Another advantage is that you can buy integrated label paper that also includes a peelable return slip, saving time on customer service and return processing.
Really it’s a matter of personal preference which one you prefer, as they both have some slight pros and cons.
But what I want to find out, and the main purpose of this post really, is the overall cost of each option.
As common wisdom is that integrated labels are much cheaper, because you don’t need to buy a printer (after all, nearly everyone already has a printer at home, so…)
Well let’s test that theory now then and see if it holds true:
Integrated Labels vs Thermal Printers – Pricing Showdown
For our test, we’ll be using an imaginary new eBay business that makes 3 sales a day on average, so roughly 1000 sales in a year.
- Initial Cost – £50
- First Year Label Cost – £0.006 x 1000 = £6
Total First Year Cost – £56
- Initial Cost – £0
- First Year Label Cost – £23.50
First Year Ink – ?
Now this part is actually very hard to accurately estimate, as it depends hugely on the printer model – some can print for a few pennies per page, whereas more basic entry models can cost 5-6 times as much! Then of course there’s also the question of using original ink vs using compatible inks…
I think the most accurate estimate is to use compatible inks with a fairly basic/mid-level home printer. I can see from Amazon’s best seller list that the HP 301 is the most sold ink, so we’ll use that.
I found a compatible ink pack for £17, which has a yield (supposed of course) of 960 pages in total, which means:
- First Year Ink Cost – £17
Total First Year Cost – £40.50
Winner = INTEGRATED LABELS
So on the face of it conventional wisdom is right, integrated labels are cheaper than thermal printers.
However, there are a couple of points to bear in mind – the ink cost will probably be much higher for integrated labels as it’s very rare to reach that manufacturer estimated page yield, especially when using recycled cartridges.
Secondly, the ongoing cost of the thermal printer is significantly less, so if I just increase the time period to two years, it’s already cheaper:
Total Two Year Cost:
- Thermal Printer – £62
- Integrated Labels – £81
So in my opinion the final result is a tie – integrated labels are a great option when you’re just starting out and you really can’t spare the investment in a dedicated label printer, but I love having one tool specifically made for one job, so will always suggest a Dymo label printer if possible, just like this one which we use in my office:
Also, this is basing everything on the assumption that you already have a printer at home, which may not be the case and this means you need to purchase a printer either way.
But at the end of the day the cost for either option is miniscule, so you shouldn’t base your decision on that anyway!
You should consider things like:
- Whether or not you print invoices for every order
- Whether or not you want to include return labels with your orders
- Which printer will work best in your office/set-up (thermal printers are much smaller)
And finally, one very important point that most people neglect when making a decision – the software you’ll use for printing.
Basically with integrated labels you can print orders in bulk using special software:
And of course if you use multi-channel selling software, such as Linnworks, then they also have the capability to print integrated labels in bulk.
Linnworks can also print Dymo labels in bulk, but if you’re not using Linnworks, then you have to create your own Excel spreadsheet to import and export orders in bulk from eBay and print them in bulk. Otherwise you have to manually print each label for each order.
In recent eBay Seller Announcement, eBay mentions that there will be label printer integration with the new Seller Hub. So we have to wait and see how it will work with thermal printers and integrated labels as well.
So I hope this shows that it’s not all about price, but thankfully in this situation whatever option you choose is multiple times better than the “manual method”! 🙂
Okay that about brings us to the end of today’s post. I hope you’ve found this quick guide and mini-showdown useful.
If you have any questions or if you have any tips on label printing yourself, then please feel free to post in the comments section below and I’ll personally get back to you within 24 hours, Monday to Friday.
Otherwise, until next time!
All the best,