Sheila Frazier offers her customers postage as a perk.
The owner of Eaglesnest Secretarial Services, a two-person business in Marysville, Wash., about 35 miles north of Seattle, Frazier offers letter mailing as an add-on to her basic line, which includes resume writing, notary public services and transcription.
“Money, gas, time – I try to save my clients all of those,” she says. And, if they choose, a trip to the post office.
Instead of the long-traditional postage meter, Frazier handles mailing needs online through Stamps.com, an e-commerce site that charges customers a monthly fee for the convenience of buying postage online.
“I’ve had no trouble with them,” says Frazier, who has used Stamps.com since she launched her business in 2005. “For postage purposes, they’ve been perfect.”
Businesses large and small have long operated their own mailrooms to process high letter and package volumes. But with the convenience and cost benefits offered by services such as Stamps.com and the U.S. Postal Service’s own, limited pay-for-postage-online options, setting up your own post office has become a viable option for even the smallest business.
First, a Monthly Subscription
To get started you need a computer, Internet connection and printer – and a monthly subscription to the service.
In addition to Stamps.com, the USPS has authorized two other companies to offer online postage services: longtime metered-mail giant Pitney Bowes, and desktop-mail-software leader Endicia Internet Postage.
Stamps.com is used twice as much as the other two services put together, says George Sutton, an analyst who follows the company for banking firm Craig-Hallum Capital Group, of Minneapolis.
Where Pitney Bowes and Endicia offer customers a wide variety of postal and shipping options to fit specific needs, Stamps.com keeps it simple. Customers set up a pre-paid account online and download the necessary software, and a digital scale is included in the $15.99 monthly fee.
Besides stamps, customers can print their own domestic and international shipping labels, and use Priority, Express, Certified and other specialized shipping services. The charges are deducted from your account.
Priority: Make the Software Easier to Use
So you’ve saved yourself a trip to the post office and avoided the long lines, cranky postal workers and customers that often come with it. Great. But being your own postmaster can be frustrating.
Daniel Driscoll, an art director at a Manhattan advertising firm, used PhotoStamps, a Stamps.com customized stamp feature, to put an actor friend’s headshot on a stamp. The service starts at $21.99 for a sheet of 20, 39-cent stamps.
“I very much liked the idea,” he says. “It’s a bit voyeuristic, but it seemed like a great idea and a funny gift.”
At almost triple the cost of a regular stamp, Driscoll thinks the gimmick was a bit pricey, but liked the final product. Still, he won’t do it again because the software interface was too much trouble to use.
“It’s just really difficult,” Driscoll says. Apparently he’s not alone.
Stamps.com executives say their 2007 priority is to make the service more user-friendly, and roll out new options for multiple users.