How to Purchase and Print Your Own Shipping Labels on eBay

Never spend another minute standing in line to ship your parcels.

Man handing off packages to courier
 Sofie Delauw/Getty Images

Most sellers today that aren't using drop-shipping or fulfillment partners, likely pay for and print shipping labels for their products directly from their eBay account.

In contrast, there are still some sellers who believe that this process is very cumbersome, due to hurdles such as expensive equipment and specialized knowledge needed to work the software —while in fact, purchasing and printing your labels can significantly enhance the production level of your business.

Myths (and Truths) About Printing Your Labels

There have been many changes over the years to both the shipping and e-commerce industries. Unfortunately, along the way, there have been some myths that have stopped some sellers from taking advantage of all the positive changes. Therefore, these are the most common myths and truths you need to be aware of:

  • You need a special account or membership. No, there is no special account needed.
  • You need an expensive shipper's scale. E-commerce sites like eBay or Amazon can supply the required sort of scale for between $20 and $30. Just search either site for "postal scale" and sort by price. Given the time savings, a scale is a worthwhile investment.
  • You need specialized knowledge or skills. No, in most cases, you will fill out a simple one-page web form, providing a destination name and address, package weight, and package dimension. This is all the information that you will typically have on hand.
  • You need special labels and printers. You can print postage labels using basic copy paper and a standard inkjet or laser printer. In contrast, if you do a large volume of shipping, it may be more convenient to buy pre-sized peel-and-stick labels and/or an appropriate printer, but it's certainly not required.
  • It's embarrassing or complicated to ship prepaid packages. Most postal service locations are already accustomed to accepting a large volume of prepaid label packages. Don't forget that you get to avoid the postal lines by merely dropping your package and leaving.
  • There are no benefits apart from saving time when shipping. This is not true; by using and printing web-based forms, you can easily compare shipping prices for different dimensions, types of packaging, and service levels to find what works best for you. And if you ship your packages using the links on eBay for your sales, eBay will automatically mark your packages as shipped. Also, they will notify your buyers of when packages are being shipped, and provide them with a tracking number; which is a considerable saving in both time and convenience.

So, given all of these facts and advantages, it is puzzling conundrum on why some sellers would instead use the postal counter, rather than printing your shipping labels.

Paying for and Printing Your Shipping Labels

Should you decided that printing your labels is better for you, we would like for this transition to be as seamless as possible. We have outlined a detailed workflow that will ensure your first few shipments get you that five-star rating.

  1. List your items with free shipping. Don't worry about the cost; either list your items using the auction format, where free shipping items earn a bidding premium or price your fixed-price listing accordingly to accommodate the difference. Listing with free shipping using the "Expedited shipping" method on eBay's selling form gives you maximum flexibility when it comes time to package and print.
  2. Get ahold of a stack of appropriate boxes. The easiest possible way to do this is to go to your local USPS location and get free Priority Mail boxes in the size and quantity that you need. Yes, Priority Mail is slightly more expensive than Parcel Post via USPS, but for most types and sizes of items the free boxes make up for much of the difference in cost. Also, a big part of eBay's seller performance rating s based in part on delivery speed.
  3. Pack the item and weigh if necessary. Once the item has sold, package it with one of the free boxes you obtained. Note that you can often save a little bit on shipping fees by using a non-"flat rate" box (though for heavy items, you can also save a great deal of money on shipping costs by using a "flat rate" box). If you are not using a "flat rate" box, weigh it on your postal scale. After a few shipments, it should become much easier for you to decide which box is better for your business.
  4. Visit the USPS shipping form. Log into your eBay account, visit your list of recent sales in My eBay, and choose "Print shipping label" from the action drop-down list for the item you're shipping. (In most cases, this will be the pre-selected link.)
  5. Fill out the form completely. Happily, there's not much to do here. eBay automatically fills in your address and the buyer's destination address. This is primarily where you list the kind of packaging you're using, the package weight (if you're not using a "flat rate box"), and the package dimensions (if you're not using standard Priority Mail packaging). As you can see, there are advantages with using a flat rate Priority mailbox; you just choose "small," "medium," or "large" flat rate box and you're done, without having to weigh or measure anything.
  6. Submit payment and print. When you finish the form, buy the postage. The value will automatically be deducted from your PayPal balance (using the funds you received from the sale of the item), and you'll be given a chance to print your label.
  7. Affix the label to your package. Attach the printed label to the package in a safe way. If you've printed on peel-and-stick paper or labels, peel and stick to the package. On standard paper, use clear tape to attach to the box and simply apply enough tape to cover the entire label with at least one layer of tape. This is best practice so that the paper and ink don't suffer if the package gets rained on. Alternatively, your local office supply store will have a stock of inexpensive clear peel-and-stick pouches that can also be used to affix labels to packages. Be sure that the entire label is visible and lays flat (so that its bar and QR-style codes can easily be scanned).
  8. Deliver or schedule a pickup. Take the package with the affixed label to your local USPS office and simply leave it at the counter (making sure that someone has seen you do this and acknowledged your drop-off). If you have a few parcels, visit the carrier website and schedule a pickup. A driver will come by to collect them, and off they go. Remember, your postage is pre-paid, so you don't need to wait in line or do any paperwork.
  9. Enjoy the automation benefits. Once everything is complete, your package will have been automatically marked as shipped, so that your buyer can see that it's on its way. Also, the buyer will receive an email message confirming shipment and will be provided a tracking number to track their package easily.

It looks like a long list, but as you read through it (and carry it out), you'll find out just how easy paying for and printing your shipping can be. With the enhancement of technology and new competition within the shipping/e-commerce industry, one can give themselves an upper hand by purchasing and printing their labels.