Paper Squares

Image by rageforst via Flickr

If you’ve heard me on eBay Radio or if you’ve just been reading this blog for a while, then you’ve heard me talk about my package inserts. I have many of them and which ones go out in which package depend on what I’m shipping (more on this in a future post). But while we’ll talk content another day, I wanted to quickly overview my strategies for getting eye catching but still cheap package inserts that I use both in my outgoing packages and for in person events like conventions.

My inserts are all “postcards.” Why the quotes? Well, because they aren’t really postcards. At first glance, they look like postcards but they’re actually a little smaller then a traditional postcard and they probably wouldn’t hold up if mailed by themselves. Real postcards can be expensive, especially if you get color. But my faux postcards are very inexpensive which is what makes it cost effective for me to not only have several varieties on hand at all time but also to order small quantities in case eBay changes something on me without warning so I’m not stuck with hundreds of extras.

Here’s how I make them:

  • I design the postcard to be 4.25 in by 5.5 in with a hefty margin around the edges to allow for cutting issues. You can get fancy and use Photoshop but something like Publisher or a general Word Processor works fine too. I always make them double sided, usually a different message on each side.
  • In print settings, I specify Letter sized paper  (8.5 by 11 inches) and tell it to print multiple copies per sheet. The size we picked is exactly 1/4 of a normal sheet of paper so four copies will fit on every Letter sized page.
  • I convert it to PDF, making sure everything is properly embedded so it doesn’t require my system fonts.
  • I upload my PDF of the inserts to the copy and print website of my choice. I personally prefer the Staples Copy and Print Center but FedEx Office and several other stores offer the same online printing service. (Staples doesn’t make you pay for the order until you pick it up while FedEx makes you pay upfront. If I’m shipping postcards to someone else where I don’t want them to have to pay, I usually use FedEx even though I think Staples quality is higher because of this.) If you have a good printer that can handle cardstock, you can even do this yourself if you prefer.*
  • When it comes to selecting the print settings, I choose letter sized cardstock paper. There is usually a wide variety of colors and I try to coordinate so that each of my inserts is a different color both for less packing confusion for me and to make them stand out more.
  • The only other print options I need to select are to make sure the printing is double sided and indicate that I want the sheet cut into quarters. This means they’ll cut the paper in half both horizontally and vertically resulting in the four versions of our card we printed on each page of our PDF. I choose black and white printing ink. No need for color when your message is already on neon orange cardstock! (I love neon.)
  • Then I select my quantity, keeping in mind that I’ll actually be getting four times the number I specify. If I order 100, that means I’ll get 400 of these faux postcards. For 100 postcards, you only need to order 25. The more you order, the cheaper the cost per card so play with numbers to fit your needs.  You can get a lot of these for much less then traditional postcards.
  • Depending on the store, you’ll either get an email or phone call when your print order is ready. Some offer free delivery or you can just pick it up in person (which I prefer so I can double check it before I pay.)
  • Now that you have the basics down, you can get fancy. If you don’t care that they are the same color, do four different postcards all on the same sheet so you’ll get the quantity discount even though (shhhh) it’s not the same content. Design smaller and ask them to cut the paper in 8ths instead of 4ths and save even more. (1/16 size is business card like if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative there.)
That’s my little secret for how I keep a variety of package inserts in stock without breaking the bank. Any questions?
How do you make your package inserts? Any tips you’d like to share?
*=When I priced it out, it was cheaper to go with Staples or FedEx rather than to buy the cardstock, print and cut the postcards myself. Of course, you may come to a different conclusion.