How the Latest Postal-Rate Increase Can Boost Your Value as a Graphic Designer

With the continued increases in postal rates, marketers are tightening their belts to keep mailings profitable. This presents a perfect opportunity for you to position yourself as a “go-to” expert your clients will rely on over and over again.

How? By creating designs with postal costs in mind, and advising them on ways to cut those costs.

Here’s what you need to know about the new pricing system:

First-Class Mail

  • Postcards: Postcards must be no more than 6” long by 4” wide x .016” thick. Postage is now $0.26 each
  • Letter: Letters must be no more than 11½” long x 6½” wide x ¼” thick. Postage is $0.41 for the first ounce and $0.17 for each additional ounce up to 3½ ounces. Letters that exceed this size/ weight are considered to be “large envelopes.”
  • Large Envelopes: Large envelopes must be no more than 15” long x 12” wide x ¾” thick. Postage is $0.80 up to 13 ounces and $0.17 for each additional ounce. Envelopes that are larger or heavier are priced as “packages.”
  • Packages: The dimensions of a package are determined by adding its length plus its girth (measured around its thickest part), and cannot exceed 108 inches total. Postage is $1.13 for the first ounce and $0.17 for each additional ounce.
  • Nonmachinables: Any mail piece that doesn’t fit within the size and weight limits of the above four first-class categories incur additional fees, including large envelopes that are not rectangular or square, not flexible, or not of uniform thickness.

Bulk Mail

Your clients can save money by using bulk mail (also known as standard mail) instead of first-class.

Bulk mail is also more flexible than first-class.

For example, if your client has a bulk-mail permit – or does their mailings through a letter house that has a bulk-mail permit – they could mail a much bigger postcard via bulk mail than with first-class. (We frequently use oversized postcards in our photography business, and it costs no more to mail them as bulk mail than it would to mail a 6”x 4” postcard first-class.)

Another example: With bulk rate, any piece that measures no more than 11½” long x 6½” wide x ¼” thick, and weighs up to 3.3 ounces, is considered to be “letter size.”

One caveat, though: If the piece exceeds the size limit for a bulk-rate letter, it gets bumped up to “flat” rate, which skyrocketed under the new pricing structure to nearly double the bulk letter rate. And if it exceeds the 3.3-ounce limit, it goes to a “parcel” rate, which is even more expensive.

As you can see, it’s important to pay attention to the weight as well as the dimensions of any mail piece you design.

A handful of tricks to save on bulk-mail costs …

  • If at all possible, try to whittle flat-sized cards and envelopes down to letter size. That alone will cut postage costs in half.
  • A new mail classification called “Not Flat Mail” allows you to mail envelopes containing items (such as free gifts) that make the envelope uneven. This new category makes it cheaper to mail bulky envelopes, but the envelope still cannot be more than ¼” thick at its thickest point or it will be bumped to parcel rate.
  • Design the address label area of a magalog “upside down and backward” – with the bound edge of the mailer to the right of the address label, and the fold beneath it. (The open sides will have to be tabbed.) Doing this allows the piece to go through the USPS automated bulk-mail system, which saves your client considerable money.

This simple change saved one nonprofit $400 per mailing on each issue of its newsletter – a substantial amount of money for the organization.

  • Folding a magalog or “issuelog” into thirds (like a letter) instead of in half also saves money. These pieces can’t exceed the ¼” thickness or 3.3-ounce weight limit, though – a problem if you’re working on a meaty financial or health magalog. In a case like that, you may want to advise your client to let you condense the number of pages or turn the magalog into a digest.

When designing a digest/bookalog, place the bound edge underneath the address label area and tab the open sides. This keeps the piece within the bulk-letter dimensions of 11½” long x 6½” wide x ¼” thick and under 3.3 ounces.

These are just a few ways to help your clients save money on postage with bulk mail.

However, bulk mail isn’t always a suitable option. For some mailings, it will be too slow. It typically takes 7-10 business days for bulk mail to be delivered, but I’ve seen it take 2 and 3 weeks or longer.

Also, tests have shown that people are more likely to open an envelope with a live stamp than one with a bulk-mail indicia printed in the corner. The indicia “screams advertising.” I certainly wouldn’t recommend bulk mail if the piece is meant to look very personal or high-class. Still, it might be worth testing – something you should suggest to your clients.

There are a number of ways the USPS classifies mail within the first-class and bulk-mail categories that could save your clients even more money – or could cost them money if you’re not aware of them.

To make sure your design qualifies for the best possible rate, take a mockup of it (before it goes to print) to the post office and have their business-mail experts review it. They’ll be glad to give you pointers that can result in big postage savings – and a very impressed client.

This USPS review service is free, and well worth taking advantage of to make sure your designs mail as inexpensively as possible.

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The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: June 14, 2007

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