One of the biggest challenge a modern artist faces is shipping. It can become quite expensive and a huge risk depending on which carrier you use.

In today’s modern art era, artists are more involved with the process of selling and delivering their works directly to collectors along with having the task of shipping their paintings to the galleries that represent them. The Daily Painting movement started by Duane Keiser a few years ago, has pushed artists to be more aggressive in terms of selling their works to the masses increasing exponentially the shipment of small pieces of art globally.

Shipping these small pieces globally might not be as easy as it looks and could be quite risky depending on the carrier you choose. Over the years I’ve worked with basically all of the commercial carriers to ship my paintings all over the world, and I’ve learned quite a few things about each one of them. Lets start with the fact each and everyone of them will treat any package like their worse enemy, so when packing a small or a large painting make sure you put enough cushioning inside or use a very sturdy box.

The most common and affordable carriers in the US are UPS and FedEx, among others like DHL, etc., but for whatever reason many disregard the possibility of using our own postal carrier USPS, to ship art. I’ve found USPS to be even more reliable than UPS and FedEx not mentioning even easier to use and more affordable than those two and here is why:

FedEx
Although a great carrier for almost everything you can think of, shipping with FedEx can get quite expensive and risky when it comes to shipping fine art. In one of their policies (this is a pdf file so look for the word “fine art” ) they clearly state they don’t insure artwork or anything for that matter, and are not responsible for whatever happens to the package while in transit, quite scary in my opinion! Nonetheless, they will ask you to declare the value of the package for which they charge you and have no remorse in doing so, but surprisingly this charge is not for insurance purposes (still don’t understand? me neither!) So if something happens to the artwork no matter for how much you’ve insured your package for, oops! I’m sorry, how much you’ve declared the value of the package for, they will only pay you up to $100. The reason for this? well, on this same policy on page 106 they clearly state and I quote:
“A. The declared value of any package represents our maximum liability in connection with a shipment of that package, including, but not limited to, any loss, damage,
delay, misdelivery, nondelivery, misinformation, any failure to provide information, or misdelivery of information relating to the shipment. It is the shipper’s responsibility
to prove actual damages. Exposure to and risk of any loss in excess of the declared value is assumed by the shipper. You may transfer this risk to an insurance carrier of your choice through the purchase of an insurance policy. Contact an insurance agent or broker if you desire insurance coverage. WE DO NOT PROVIDE INSURANCE COVERAGE OF ANY KIND.”

One of the negative things I’ve found with FedEx aside from the insurance thing is that when you prepare the label using their online system you are still overcharged in 50% of the cases. The reason they always give is either you got the wrong weight or got the wrong measurements of the box, which I would understand when we are talking about 1/2 lb or even 1 lb but can’t explain when they claim your package weights 5-10lbs more or when the box all of the sudden grew from 48″ all the way to 54″, and this is one of the cases I’ve had with them which have never happened with any other carrier.

So if you are looking for FedEx to ship your artwork make sure you either don’t add the declared value of your package (at least you would be saving some money there) and get an insurance company that would be willing to insure art, they exist just do a search online, but pay attention to the costs for shipping this way, because between the FedEx charges and the insurance charges your shipping costs might be too high. As for the overcharge they so much like to stick on your bill I guess there is nothing you can do, but not use them to ship anything in a box.

UPS
Surprisingly UPS works  in the same way as FedEx in which they only provide you with a $100 limit on damage during transit, they don’t insure and require you have a third party insurance company if you want insurance coverage on your package, they as well call it “declared value” for which I still don’t understand why this is even charged is they will not refund the client more than $100 in case of damage, but there is a difference, they don’t transport art and if you notify the clerk your package contains fine art, they will probably deny you the shipment of such through them, if you find a clerk that knows what the company does that is!

Their online system is similar to FedEx, and they will overcharge you if whoever is in control of the machine that reweights and remeasures the package had a few too many pills. Again if you plan to ship something with this company don’t even bother in declaring the value of the package, because if something happens you will receive a $100 in the mail regardless of how much you have declared the value of your package is, and don’t forget to get that extra third party insurance, you’ll need it if something happens. Also UPS rates are much higher than FedEx, so check the costs before you commit to work with them, although I truly don’t recommend anyone to ship art with UPS.

USPS (United States Postal Service)
As I said above, many artists don’t even consider shipping their paintings with USPS, but let me tell you among these three, this is the best one and here is why:

  1. Of the three USPS does offer insurance coverage of up to $5000 and it’s being my experience their insurance coverage does work and you will get yours or your clients money back. Now the process to file a claim is a little complicated, but nonetheless worth it. Once you file your first complaint you get a hang on it (I’ve filed 2 in 10 years of shipping with USPS)
  2. USPS offers your business free boxes in 4 different sizes which they will deliver to your door free of charge, which are wonderful and a money saving if you ship small paintings that can fit inside their boxes.
  3. As with UPS and FedEx you can open an account online and use their online labeling system for free and print all the labels you want from your own printer. Now, if you are using the paid service provided by Stamps.com start kicking yourself, because USPS.com allows you to print the same labels for free, so close your account at Stamps.com, save a trip to the post office and print your labels online directly from the USPS.com website. This will not only save you and your clients money, but will also make you a greener company as you don’t need to visit the post office ever again, unless you have a PO box like I do that is.
  4. While UPS and FedEx charge you for picking up the package at your door, USPS doesn’t (who knew!). They stop by your home or office everyday anyways so give it to the postman! you can also schedule a carrier pick-up (free as well) directly from their website, so you don’t have to wait for your postman to give him the packages, simply leave them outside the door and he will pick them up when is time to deliver your mail. The online system for this is also very simple and convenient to use. This will also save you the trip to the post office giving you more time to take care of your business.
  5. The only downside is they don’t offer First Class labeling online, but PayPal does, so go to the PayPal site to print your First Class labelz and save the trip to the post office.
  6. One thing though, for Carrier Pick Up you’ll need to have at least 1 Priority Mail package for the system to accept your request. If you use their Priority Mail boxes then you won’t have any problem at all. If you compare what the costs are if you buy your own boxes and print the first class labels, compared to using their priority packaging and printing priority labels, you will notice there is not much difference considering the shipping time is much short using priority.

Simplifying your shipping system while saving money is what will make you not only more productive but will save you tons of money, savings that you can pass on to your clients (and trust me they will love that!).

Ship smart!

“WE DO NOT PROVIDE INSURANCE COVERAGE OF ANY KIND”, (like I said before, FedEx doesn’t provide insurance coverage, they charge you a declare value I don’t know for what) not only that, they clearly say and I quote: