Sunday, 8 May 2011

Starting a Courier Business

If you are thinking of starting your own self employed courier business then this article shows you what's required to start a courier business and be successful.

There are many opportunities to be successful in the delivery business in the UK as either a self employed owner driver or working for one of the major carriers delivery parcels as a same day courier or picking up packages from companies.

The Courier Industry Background
The courier industry is still thriving with most of the market being dominated by the big international companies such as DHL, Federal Express (Fedex), United Parcel Service (UPS) and TNT. There are also consolidators such as parcel2go and others that offer discounts on these companies services because they are taking thousands of bookings per day so can pass discounts onto customers.

Some of the larger players are now moving into the home delivery market. This has traditionally been a tough area because consumers are not at home when the delivery is made. More timed delivery options are being offered for evening deliveries when people are in their homes and this is seen as a growth market due to the boom in internet shopping.

The options for Start-ups

Most people start their business from home offering local services with a personalised approach that the larger companies sometimes can not provide. Most start up companies are employees of companies that look to go it alone because they already have the knowledge of the industry and how it works.

A van can be leased easily and customers quickly built up as they have been couriers themselves and they know what's required. Starting from scratch with no previous knowledge or how to market correctly can be a mountain to climb and as with most businesses not many survive after the first year.

The main forms of transport are couriers with vans (which require the most investment), motorcycle couriers (where of course you need a motorcycle license) or cycle couriers (where in cities and large towns is environmentally friendly but the scope of work is limited to perhaps a few miles within the city itself).
How to get started as a courier

courier businessThe pitfalls are many and as mentioned above perhaps the hardest part is trying to get your first customer. As it's probably suited to those who have been couriers in the past the marketing side is something to spend time researching.

Almost all businesses use couriers to some extent and it's searching for businesses that have urgent requirements to send small packages, parcels and documents a short distance or a same day service. When building your business plan think about how many jobs you can handle and how you are going to keep your customer informed of the progress of the job. Once the job is completed you'll need to invoice the customer and collect payment so excellent customer service is key as well as having some form of courier software that can not only keep tabs on the bookings received but also invoice and keep your accounts up to date.

Word of mouth marketing is especially beneficial in this industry so once you have your first few customers offer a "member get member" type of marketing promotion to win new business.
Start-up Costs and Requirements

The main expense to get started is your main form of transportation and work clothes. If you are a van courier you'll need a van together with the appropriate business insurance to insure not only your van but the contents you are carrying as well as yourself (as you'll likely be self employed you'll need some insurance to cover you if you are ill and can't make collections and deliveries yourself.) You should have excellent breakdown cover and also build into your business plan maintenance costs and loan vehicles as appropriate.

If you are a motorcycle courier or bike courier you'll need some protection from other road users and the weather - the cold and the rain.

For all businesses you should look at public liability insurance to guard against third party unforeseen events and if you should mislay a package or deliver it late. Additionally you'll need van insurance which can be expensive so we've provided a section so you can get courier van insurance quotes online from Direct Line who offer excellent discounts and incentives for you.
Seasonal Variations

Like most businesses you won't be busy all of the time but other times you will be stretched. Generally the weekends are quietest with probably Thursdays the busiest at the end of the week where business deadlines are being met. The end of the month is also like this. Summer times can be quiet as well as school holidays when people are not working and the run up the Christmas is probably the busiest time of the year.

You'll need to take some time off yourself so once your business has developed it may be the time to take on staff and sub contracted couriers to build your business and cover any sickness, holidays and peak seasons.

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