A Guide to Creating Your First Shipping Label

Barcode shipping label on a corrugated

If you are someone who is just starting the journey of building an e-commerce business, you are probably worried about making your first sale.

However, once you get that first order, you will then have a new challenge to overcome:  shipping your first order!  A crucial part of that challenge is making your first shipping label. 

Although they may not seem like a big deal, labels are a significant factor in how your product gets from you to its final destination. Therefore it is essential you have the right tools to print them.

Not sure what questions you should be asking?

No worries – we have the answers!

Check out our article below to see how to create a shipping label.

What is a Shipping Label?

Let’s start by answering the most important question: what is a shipping label?

A shipping label discloses the fundamental information for the transportation of a package from one destination to another.

The information on a shipping label is unique to each individual label and makes it possible for an order to ship to the customer as quickly as possible.

All shipping labels will have this information no matter if it’s a USPS shipping label, a UPS shipping label, or a FedEx shipping label.

1.The sender’s name & shipping address

2.The receiver’s name & shipping address

3.The package destination

4.Shipping class (priority, air, next day, etc.)

5.Barcode for tracking and routing information

What Does Your Shipping Plan Look Like?

A USPS shipping label on a package

Before we get into the details about equipment, there are several factors you’ll want to consider to best decide the necessary tools you’ll need to move forward when printing your first shipping label.

How Many Orders?

First and foremost, it’s important to assess your business size and needs. Are you:

  • Someone who is completely new to e-commerce?
  • Only sending a few orders a month? 
  • A small business that’s steadily growing? 
  • Sending a large number of orders & in need of a new shipping solution?

The reason to answer this question is because you need to consider the amount of labels you are going to be printing at a given time.

This number can range from a few per month to a hundred per week, depending on your business.

Choosing a Shipping Platform

So, why should you use a shipping platform for your business?

While it is possible to ship orders without the accompaniment of a platform, it can create quite the hassle.

This would mean you are responsible for configuring all of the specifics that your shipping label and package would need, such as:

  • Package weight
  • Package dimensions
  • The shipping rate
  • Overall cost
  • Shipping multiple packages

By syncing your e-commerce store with a platform such as Shipstation, ShippingEasy, or Stamps.com, all of this information will be arranged for you, saving time that can be spent focusing on your business.

Shipping Platforms 

The logo for ShippingEasy, a shipping platform for ecommerce.
A logo for Shipstation, a shipping platform.
A logo for Stamps.com, a shipping platform for ecommerce.

Think of shipping platforms as a bridge between the product you are selling and the carrier you will ship with. 

Shipping platforms provide an easy way to manage the overall scale of your business through one, simple program.

They pull the information as it appears in your online marketplace seller account and organize it, along with features like inventory management, product lists, sales analytics, customer history, etc. 

Shipping platforms also make it easy to print shipping labels for your orders.

These programs generate labels online for free through services like UPS, USPS, and FedEx, and allow you to print them from the comfort of your home.

However, you will have to pay for the postage. This is determined through choosing:

  • The carrier
  • The service (e.g. First-Class, Priority, Ground, etc.)
  • Packaging Dimensions & Weight

Most shipping platforms offer potential users a free trial period before a subscription must be purchased. Some shipping platforms even offer special deals or rates for signing up. 

For example, if users sign up with Stamps.com through Shipstation, their monthly subscription fee will be waived and they are only charged for postage, which can be purchased as needed during the shipping process.

What Shipping Label Equipment Should You Look For?

There are several components to consider when looking into what kind of equipment and labels you will require for printing.

All of them should be weighed equally as they are all key factors in the execution of your e-commerce business.

Desktop Printers

A Zebra ZD620 printer can print both direct thermal and thermal transfer labels.

Choosing the right printer for your business is a key element to shipping e-commerce orders.

Different brands and models offer features that can be necessary to making sure the product you are sending has the proper identification. 

It’s a fair assumption that most people already have a printer in their home or office area.

They usually operate using ordinary paper, and require toner and ink cartridges, which can become expensive to replace once the ink runs out. This paper must then be cut and taped onto the package, which creates quite a hassle overall. 

However, if the printer in question is a laser printer, they are able to print labels on laser sheet paper.

Laser sheet labels are made with an adhesive, so they are able to be peeled and placed directly onto the package you are sending.

However, when printing larger volumes of labels we recommend purchasing a thermal label printer.

These printers require no ink and are able to print the necessary amount of labels needed per order, which can be immediately applied with no additional cutting or taping.

Thermal labels also withstand better when exposed to outdoor elements, like rain and sunlight, unlike paper labels printed off of common inkjet or laser printers.

They also print at a faster speed and with a higher resolution, making them a more efficient option to choose from.

Direct Thermal Printers

Most thermal printers are direct thermal (DT).

This means heat is applied directly to the label, which is already embedded with ink, producing the text or image.

One example is the Rollo printer.

This is an affordable choice with a high print speed best suited for small to moderate-sized businesses. It is able to print using both roll and fanfold labels.

Another example of a DT printer would be the DYMO 4XL Label Printer.

These are a popular choice for shipping label printers with a high resolution and easy set up for users. However, DYMO printers do require specific labels with a small index hole in-between each label. This allows the printer to sense where one label ends and the next begins to print properly.

Desktop Printer Specifications

Rollo  DYMO LabelWriter 4XL Zebra ZD620
Printer Price $170 $279 $365
Print Technology Direct Thermal Direct Thermal Direct Thermal
Core Size 1″ Core or Fanfold 1″ Core or Fanfold 1″ Core or Fanfold
Printing Speed 150 mm/s 127 mm/s 150 mm/s
Max. Media Width  4.16 4.16″ 4.25″
Resolution 203 dpi 300 dpi 300 dpi
Media Holder  Not Included Included Included
Shop Compatible Labels Compatible Labels  Compatible Labels
Other Reviews  Rollo Review DYMO Review  Zebra Review 

Thermal Transfer Printers

Some thermal printers support thermal transfer (TT) labels.

This means a ribbon is required to print as the heat from the printer will embed the ink from the ribbon onto the blank label.

One example of this is the Zebra ZD620 printer.

This desktop printer produces labels in greater capacity while allowing for more customization than other printers.

It is able to print using both roll and fanfold labels.

If you are interested in learning more about this printer, you can check out our Zebra ZD620 Printer Review!

Industrial Printers

An industrial Zebra printer with a label.

If your business is expanding and you are amassing more than 1000 labels a day, you should consider investing in an industrial printer.

These printers are able to print at a much larger volume than their desktop counterparts.

One quick note – it is not recommended to hand write your shipping labels, as they will still require a barcode for the carrier to scan.

Labels

The size of your label matters when shipping. It needs to be large enough to include all of the proper information needed for the carrier to send, including the barcode, which must be scannable. 

The industry standard size for a shipping label is 4×6.

This means the label is 4 inches wide and 6 inches long.

These shipping labels are supported by all major carriers, so we recommend using them for your business. 

Depending on the printer, you can purchase either roll labels or fanfold labels.

Both are available in the standard 4×6 industry size.

If you choose roll labels, you will want to use those with a 1” core to fit properly into your desktop thermal printer.

Fanfold labels are also a great choice as they stack easily behind the printer and fold after they print, creating an easier cleanup.