Unsolicited Advice for Rewards and Fulfillment

Share this post

I spend a lot of time at the post office. In addition to my annual weekly planner project, which I pack and ship myself, I also operate a small online shop which has me dropping off mail several mornings per week. The Williamsburg, Brooklyn post office draws a unique crowd, ranging from parents with young children applying for passports, people moving to or from NYC with giant boxes of their possessions, the type of guy who obviously collects sneakers, and of course, young creative people (aka “people with visible tattoos”) who run online businesses.

In the years that I've been going to the post office I've struck up conversations with many people including small-scale publishers and other Kickstarter creators. While waiting in the lines, I’ve given directions, intervened in a screaming match and offered unsolicited advice to people I recognize as just starting out. My own experience has been a slow growth, handling larger volume while also getting slowly better at packaging and streamlined shipping. I’m just trying to spare others from making the mistakes I have.

Here's a (greatly expanded) version of some advice I recently offered to a young couple shipping out rewards on their first Kickstarter project.

1. Keep your rewards simple.

Besides the fact that tons of similar-but-different reward levels will confuse backers, it also means more work on your end as you prepare to ship. Focus on the product you want to create, whether it's a book, accessory, or anything else. Offer reward levels that build on each other in a way that makes sense, is clear, and drives backers to your product itself – not tangential stuff you'll have to spend extra money on.

Adam's rewards being organized for packaging
Adam's rewards being organized for packaging

 

2. There are a ton of variables when it comes to shipping and you’ll want to explore all of it while calculating your total project goal, as well as individual rewards.

Kickstarter allows you to add shipping cost by country and it's extremely important that you do this correctly. Use the postage calculator to make sure you get it right. Remember to weigh samples with the packaging it’ll go in, and round up. You are not able to make adjustments once your project is live and even one person has selected the reward, so get it right. Double check. I’m serious.

Media mail can be a tempting option, but it’s slower and somewhat limited. First Class Large Envelopes & Flats are cheaper than First Class Packages, but you’ll need to stay under 3/4 of an inch and technically these packages should not be lumpy (like pins or other small, but not flat, objects). This rate also does not include tracking. Some items are simply too heavy and must ship Priority Mail. Other times you know you’ll want the added speed and security of Priority Mail (which by default comes with $50 insurance).

International shipping brings its own challenges, and the USPS rates have increased every year for the last few years. This part is especially important to calculate properly in advance.

3. Don’t be cheap when it comes to secure, effective packaging.

There is nothing worse than having to send replacement rewards because something has gotten damaged in the mail. Don’t skimp when it comes to packaging – you should be thinking about this as you calculate your costs. How much extra per reward do you need to use appropriately padded envelopes, bubble wrap or boxes? Make sure delicate mail (records, books, ceramics, etc) are marked with DO NOT BEND or FRAGILE stickers.

4. Print postage online in advance so you can just drop off your mail.

If you show up to the post office with a ton of mail to be stamped, expect to be there forever. Spare yourself and the employees by taking care of postage at home, where you can listen to bad music and wear slippers if you want to.

USPS makes it (sort of) easy to pay for postage online with their Click-N-Ship service and you’ll also get the online postage discount, which does add up over time. Kickstarter allows you to export backer information in a number of spreadsheet formats which may help you work through all the labels you’ll need.

For larger projects or people who anticipate sending lots of mail, you can invest in a postage label printer. I highly recommend the DYMO 4XL Thermal Label Printer, which allows for printing a single label that serves as paid postage and an address label. When shipping internationally, the same size label also contains the customs information (no handwriting required for you and no re-entry for the postal employee). It uses thermal sticker labels, which means no actual ink.

There are other third-party shipping software companies that can help you import orders, send automatic shipment notice emails, purchase postage, and more. I personally use ShipStation which you can take a look at for larger-volume shipping.

Project creator or postage king? You decide.
Project creator or postage king? You decide.

5. If you’re printing postage and shipping in bulk, use the SCAN form.

If you’re dropping off bulk mail and it’s not being scanned in right away at the counter, print the SCAN form and have that scanned. It accounts for all of your mail for the day, and updates the tracking information from “Label Created” to “Accepted” right away. This also gives you some accountability if the postal service misplaces a package. Which they will.

6. Prepare for some annoying shit to happen because it’s gonna happen.

The postal service isn’t perfect. You aren’t perfect. The pile of mail at your recipient’s apartment building or doorstep or office isn’t perfect. Things break. Mail gets lost. Mail gets stolen. Keep in mind that you’ll need some extras, customers will have issues and you’ll be responsible even though you did everything write. Try to give yourself a buffer with your project so that these issues don’t completely derail things when they arise. 

7. Keep records and receipts.

Depending on how much you raise on Kickstarter, you’ll be issued a 1099 form for tax reporting on the income. Make sure you’ll keeping track of all your expenses – postage, packaging and everything else – because you’ll want to write it all off. I don’t really know much about taxes but I do have a great accountant who is now very familiar with Kickstarter.

8. Have fun!

Congratulations, you’re a business. Isn’t it like, sooooo fun????

Approaching the post office. Taken by Janea Kelly.
Approaching the post office. Taken by Janea Kelly.

 

If you'd like more unsolicited advice on running a project from Adam, check out his recommendations for what to do during your launch week. And if you have advice on shipping that you'd like to share, post it here.

Line icon alert icon Artboard Copy 8 arrow-down icon arrow-down arrow-left icon arrow-left arrow-point-left icon Fill 1 Copy 5 arrow-point-right icon Fill 1 arrow-right icon arrow-right arrow-up-right icon icon--arrow-up-right copy bar-chart icon Artboard Copy 6 bell icon Combined Shape Copy 5 book icon Artboard Copy 3 bookmark icon Fill 1 brand-assets icon Artboard Copy 13 cart icon Artboard Copy 4 chat icon chat check icon Fill 1 Copy 6 circle-back icon Fill 1 Copy 13 circle-forward icon Fill 1 Copy 16 circle-k icon circle-k circle-left icon circle-left circle-right icon circle-right clipboard icon Artboard Copy 12 clock icon Combined Shape close icon close closed-caption icon Fill 1 compass icon Combined Shape Copy 2 conversion icon conversion delta-down icon Fill 1 delta-left icon delta-right icon Fill 1 delta-up icon Fill 1 duplicate icon duplicate embed icon Combined Shape Copy 6 eye icon Combined Shape Copy 12 facebook-contained icon Facebook Contained facebook icon Facebook logo flag icon Fill 1 Copy 3 gear icon Fill 1 Copy 14 global-africa icon Fill 1 Copy 9 global-america icon Fill 1 Copy 10 global-asia icon Fill 1 Copy 17 graph-bar icon Combined Shape Copy 9 graph-line icon Combined Shape Copy 16 heart icon Fill 1 Copy 8 help icon human icon icon--human icon--alarm icon icon--alarm icon--alert icon icon--alert icon--arrow-down icon icon--arrow-down icon--arrow-left icon icon--arrow-left icon--arrow-right icon icon--arrow-right icon--arrow-up-right icon icon--arrow-up-right icon--arrow-up icon icon--arrow-up icon--backer-badge icon icon--backer-badge icon--bell icon icon--bell icon--bolt icon icon--bolt icon--bookmark-outline icon icon--bookmark-outline icon--bookmark icon icon--bookmark icon--calculator icon icon--calculator icon--calendar-check icon icon--calendar-check icon--calendar icon icon--calendar icon--campaign-outline icon icon--campaign-outline icon--check icon icon--check icon--chevron-down icon icon--chevron-down icon--chevron-left icon icon--chevron-left icon--chevron-right icon icon--chevron-right icon--chevron-up icon icon--chevron-up icon--circle-around icon icon--circle-around icon--circle-back icon icon--circle-back icon--circle-forward icon icon--circle-forward icon--circle-loader icon Page 1 icon--circle icon icon--clipboard icon icon--clipboard icon--clock icon icon--clock icon--closed-caption icon icon--closed-caption icon--code icon icon--code icon--collapse icon icon--collapse icon--commissions icon icon--commissions icon--compass icon icon--compass icon--confirmation icon icon--confirmation icon--conversion icon icon-conversion icon--cpu icon icon--curve-right icon icon--curve-right icon--cross icon icon--cross icon--delta-down icon icon--delta-down icon--delta-left icon icon--delta-left icon--delta-right icon icon--delta-right icon--delta-up icon icon--delta-up icon--download icon icon--download icon--ellipsis icon icon--expand icon icon--expand icon--external icon icon--external icon--eye icon icon--eye icon--facebook icon icon--facebook icon--filter icon icon--filter icon--flag icon icon--flag icon--frown-filled icon icon--frown icon icon--gear icon icon--gear icon--globe-africa icon icon--globe-africa icon--globe-america icon icon--globe-america icon--globe-asia icon icon--globe-asia icon--graph-bar icon icon--graph-bar icon--graph-line icon icon--graph-line icon--happy-filled icon icon--happy icon icon--heart-outline icon icon--heart outline icon--heart-thin-outline icon Fill 1 icon--heart icon icon--heart icon--home icon icon--home icon--home-with-door icon icon--human icon icon--human icon--humans icon icon--humans icon--image icon icon--image icon--inbox icon icon--inbox icon--info icon icon--info icon--instagram icon icon/instagram icon--lightbulb icon icon--lightbulb icon--link icon icon--link icon--lock-black-bg icon lock-icon icon--lock icon icon--lock icon--mail icon icon--mail icon--meh-filled icon icon--meh icon icon--menu icon icon--menu icon--message icon icon--message icon--mobile icon icon--mobile icon--overflow icon icon--overflow icon--pause icon icon--pause icon--pencil icon icon--pencil icon--pin icon icon--pin icon--pinterest icon icon--pinterest icon--play icon icon--play icon--plus-human icon icon--plus-human icon--plus icon icon--plus icon--prohibit icon icon--prohibit icon--project-budget icon icon--pull-quote icon icon--pull-quote icon--question-filled icon icon--question-filled icon--question icon icon--question icon--reorder icon icon-reorder icon--reply icon icon--reply icon--save icon icon--save icon--saved icon icon--saved icon--search icon icon--search icon--section-break icon icon--section-break icon--small-k icon icon--sound-hi icon icon--sound-hi icon--sound-lo icon icon--sound-lo icon--sound-mute icon icon--sound-mute icon--star-outline icon Star Outline icon--star icon icon--star icon--subtitles-captions icon icon--subtitles-captions icon--text-bold icon icon--text-bold icon--text-bullet icon icon--text-bullet icon--text-italic icon icon--text-italic icon--textalign-centered icon icon--textalign-centered icon--textalign-right icon icon--textalign-right icon--thumbs-down icon icon--thumbs-down icon--thumbs-up icon icon--thumbs-up icon--thumbsdown-outline icon icon--thumbsdown-outline icon--thumbsup-outline icon icon--thumbsup-outline icon--trash icon icon--trash icon--tumblr icon icon--tumblr icon--twitter icon icon--twitter icon--unlink icon Artboard icon--unlock icon icon--unlock icon--update-freeform-round icon icon--update-freeform-round icon--update-freeform icon icon--update-freeform icon--update-pinned icon Artboard icon--update-qa-round icon icon--update-qa-round icon--update-qa icon icon--update-qa icon--upload icon icon--upload icon--video icon icon--video icon--youtube icon icon--youtube icon-imagealign-center icon icon-imagealign-center icon-imagealign-left icon icon-imagealign-left icon-imagealign-right icon icon-imagealign-right info icon Combined Shape Copy instagram icon instagram copy kickstarter icon Artboard Copy 5 leaf icon leaf lightbulb icon icon--lightbulb link icon Combined Shape Copy 8 loading-spin icon lock icon Combined Shape Copy 4 mail icon Combined Shape map-pin icon Fill 1 menu icon Group message icon Fill 1 Copy 12 mobile icon Page 1 Copy 2 pause icon pause copy pencil icon Combined Shape Copy 3 pin icon Combined Shape Copy 11 pinterest icon pinterest play icon play copy plus-human icon icon--plus-human plus icon Fill 1 Copy 7 question icon Combined Shape Copy 14 search icon Fill 1 Copy 11 shapeshift icon share icon Fill 1 Copy slash icon solid-arrow icon solid-arrow sound-hi icon Combined Shape sound-lo icon Combined Shape sound-mute icon Combined Shape star icon Fill 1 Copy 2 stopwatch icon Group 2 thumbs-up icon Shape tools icon Shape trash icon Combined Shape tumblr icon tumblr copy twitter icon twitter copy user icon Artboard Copy 10 volume-up icon Artboard Copy 9 warning icon Combined Shape Copy 10 write icon Artboard Copy 11 x icon Fill 1 Copy 4 youtube icon Combined Shape