Since most mail and packages are processed electronically, it makes sense to use shipping labels that are also created electronically rather than addressed by hand. You can use a shipping-label generator for free from various online sources. You can also create a shipping-label template with computer software you probably already own.
Printing a Shipping Label From a Sellers' Website
Web-based and app-based platforms such as Amazon, eBay, PayPal and Shopify allow you to sell merchandise and collect payments from customers. They partner with one or more carriers, including the United States Postal Service, United Parcel Service and Federal Express, and allow you to create postage-paid shipping labels, often at discounted prices.
Directions for printing shipping labels vary from site to site, but most sellers find each of them easy to use. Typically, you'll log in to your seller account, click on the item sold and follow the prompts to create a shipping label. Shipping costs are debited from your seller account.
USPS, FedEx and UPS Shipping Labels
USPS, FedEx and UPS are three of the world's largest shippers. You can use a shipping-label generator for free on the websites of any of these services. As with the online seller sites, the processes are user-friendly and intuitive.
Create a free account with the service(s) of your choice and follow the prompts to create labels at your home or office. For extra convenience, you can arrange for package pickup.
Shipping-label printers are small desktop or hand-held printers that allow you to create labels on adhesive-backed paper. The printers save you time because you don't have to print labels on standard-sized copier paper, trim them to fit and attach them with tape. Depending on the device, you can connect wirelessly to your Mac or PC, access addresses stored on USB, customize the size of the labels, print at high speed and create bar codes.
Shipping-label printers can be purchased online and through office-supply stores, including big-box chains. Prices are generally $175 and up depending on the features for which you're looking.
Print a Shipping Label Without Postage
Sometimes, you might want to print shipping labels without postage. You may have packages of various sizes to send and not have the capability to weigh them accurately to determine shipping costs. It might make sense to print labels at home or at the office and then take the packages to the carrier of your choice for processing.
USPS, eBay and PayPal all allow you to use a shipping-label generator for free without paying for postage. You can also use one of the following methods.
Shipping-Label Template Using Microsoft Word
You have several options for creating shipping labels with Microsoft Word. If you want to create your own shipping-label template, go to the "Mailings" tab on the menu bar, click "Labels" and select "Options". From there, choose "New Label" and follow the prompts to name and set up dimensions for your label.
Alternatively, select "Options" and then "Label Information". You'll be able to select from a library of label templates that are compatible with most major label brands. The most common is Avery. You can buy blank label sheets anywhere you purchase copier paper.
When you purchase blank labels, you'll find directions included in the packaging for formatting and entering address information. Label sheets allow you to print a number of labels at one time (depending on size) with your desktop printer.
Shipping-Label Template for Mac Users
Mac users have capabilities similar to Microsoft Word by using the "Contacts" app. Users can format labels to correspond with Avery labels, or they can create custom sizes as desired.
- Use plain paper and clear tape if you don't have adhesive labels on hand. Cut out the label part and use clear tape to cover all four edges of the label completely. Make sure no tape is covering the barcode. Make sure that the address information and the barcode do not wrap around any edges of your package.
- Free USPS packages are for Priority and Express Mail only. Do not abuse USPS supplies.
Denise Dayton, M.S., M.Ed. is a freelance writer specializing in careers, education and technology. In addition to writing for corporate clients, she has published articles in Library Journal and The Searcher.