Shipping solutions as a small business
Shipping strategy is a headache that almost every online business runs into. Unless your products are flat, light and small you'll likely have to come up with a plan for how to navigate the costs of shipping, and how to pass those costs on to your customers without discouraging them from making an order.
There is no straight solution for shipping, I'm sorry to say. Every business has different shipping needs due to their product size, shape, weight, variety, shipping zone and location etc.
Every business needs to make their own unique shipping strategy based on what is best for them at that time and for their online audience, and it's often a balance.
Flat rates are often the easiest way to get started with shipping, but it comes with some calculated guess work and the risk of over/ under charging. Flat rates are calculated by order price or order weight and each business owner much decide what makes sense for their products and shipping zones.
Using flat rates can be a bit of a give and take, some orders you make an extra dollar on the shipping and others end up costing five dollars more than the paid flat rate. While there is a risk of under/overcharging it provides a consistent rate for the customer and covers a solid portion of the shipping for the business owner.
Courier Calculated Rates
Using a courier, such as Canada Post, is a great option if your platform supports it (for example Shopify integrates with Canada Post.) This strategy only work if you have the weight for all of your products, the shipping will be calculated based on the weight, estimated size and destination of the order. This is an fairly accurate way to pass on the shipping to your customers.
Costs beyond shipping price
Beyond the actual stamp price there is also a cost associated with all of the packaging needed to ship products safely. Boxes, envelopes, padding, paper, cards bags and stickers. Consider the cost of these items when you are calculating your shipping strategy.
To Free Ship or Not to Free Ship?
First of all, free shipping doesn't exist. Someone has to pay for shipping but if it's not your customer then it's you, the business. Free Shipping is very attractive for a customer and a great promotional tool to have up your sleeve, but it really all comes down to your product and what the cost is to you.
If your shipping is only $2-4 for every order of handmade cards than maybe you can afford to eat that cost. But if the shipping cost for your case of jam is $24 and the product is only $30 then offering free shipping doesn't make as much sense.
One way to offer free shipping is to integrate the shipping cost into the product itself so that the shipping cost is covered or partially covered.