Kelly Hamilton is the one-woman show behind Mint Afternoon. A Seattle, Washington, native, she has spent the last year in England studying while running her Etsy shop from abroad. Here, she shares her experience and tips on international shipping.
I started my shop from my home in Seattle as a creative outlet while I was working a tedious office job. Over time my shop has grown and developed and become as much a focus in my life as my job. When I decided to pursue my MA in Communication Design in the UK, I knew I had to find a way to keep my shop open. It has been quite a year, as I have had to tackle a whole new set of challenges that come along with being an international seller.
When I first opened my shop, I was intimidated by the idea of selling internationally. However, after reading post after post in the Etsy Forums from overseas buyers lamenting the fact that they couldn’t order a particular item from a shop, I decided to try it. I’ve never looked back.
My first international order (besides Canada) was from Germany and I still remember how excited I was at the thought of my products being used and enjoyed by someone halfway across the world. The first year I offered international shipping, nearly 20% of my sales came from overseas. I was already going to my local post office two or three times a week, so shipping international packages didn’t take any extra work except for filling out a customs form.
A lot of sellers don’t offer international shipping because they are afraid that no one will be willing to pay the cost. But if they really want what you are selling, they will be willing to pay.
If you are a new seller, offering international shipping is a great way to easily open yourself up to a huge client base. As most international buyers choose to look at only items that ship to them while searching on Etsy, you’ll allow them to find you by offering international shipping.
Since moving to the UK, shipping internationally has not only been a choice, it’s become a necessity for keeping my shop open while I am in school. The majority of buyers are in the US, so I need to make my shop accessible to the largest market and to most of my loyal customers. I’ve had to make some adjustments such as learning new shipping rates, adjusting my timelines for delivery, and finding new sources for supplies, but the experience has taught me a lot about how to appeal more to an international audience. I still get a thrill every time I see an order from a country I’ve never shipped to before and that alone makes international shipping worth it for me.
Tips for appealing to international buyers:
- Fill in your location on your profile. This helps people find you and gives the buyer an indication of how long their purchase will take to arrive at their doorstep.
- List sizes and weights in metric measurements as well as in American measurements.
- Have clear policies on international shipping in your Shop Policies. This helps gives the buyer confidence that their package will reach them.
- Don’t be afraid to ask! If you are unsure of anything, send the customer a convo. When I got my first order from Ireland, I spent a day agonizing over the lack of postcode and worrying if the package would ever get there. I finally decided to just ask the customer and she was very happy to explain that Ireland didn’t use postcodes. I felt more comfortable shipping the package and learned something new.
Calculating International Shipping
For me, learning how to calculate international shipping was a process of trial and error. I use the “Everywhere else” feature and it is impossible to get it exactly right every single time for every country. After greatly underestimating the shipping on far too many packages, I invested in a simple food scale to help. Having an exact weight for every item helps cut down on errors and I definitely recommend having one.
Now, when I make something new for my shop, I weigh it, then calculate what it would cost me to ship to my top international markets: UK (and now the US), Canada, Australia, and Germany. I take the average, add my cost for packaging, and use that number for my listing. It sometimes costs me a bit more, sometimes a bit less, but for the most part, it evens out in the end.
What are your experiences with international shipping?