Starting a Courier Business

If you're 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. Your options include either as a self-employed owner driver or working for one of the dominant 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 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 the discounts on to customers.

Some of the larger players are now moving into the home delivery market. This sector has traditionally been a tough area because consumers may not be at home when the delivery person calls the first time. More timed delivery options are being offered for evening deliveries when people are in their homes, and this is 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 cannot 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.

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

The main forms of transport are:

  • Self-employed couriers with vans (which require the most investment).
  • Owner-drivers working for one of the transportation companies.
  • PAYE courier employed by a company.
  • Motorcycle messengers (where you need a motorcycle license).
  • Cycle couriers (in cities and large towns is environmentally friendly, but the scope of work is limited to perhaps a few miles within the zone itself).

How to Get Started as a Courier

Courier business packageThe pitfalls are, many, and as mentioned above, perhaps the hardest part is trying to get your first customer. This type of business benefits 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 your research is finding those companies 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 per day and how you're going to keep your customer informed of the progress of the shipment. Once the job completes, you'll need to invoice the customer and collect payment, so excellent customer service is essential. 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 idea 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're a van courier, you'll need a van together with the appropriate business insurance to insure not only your van but the contents you're carrying as well as yourself.

You may find there are other startup costs to account for in your business plan.

As you'll likely be self-employed, you'll need some insurance to cover you if you're ill and can't make collections and deliveries yourself. You should have an excellent breakdown cover policy and also build into your business plan maintenance costs and loan vehicles as appropriate.

If you're 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. 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'll be stretched. Usually, the weekends are the quietest periods, with probably Thursdays the busiest at the end of the week where companies need to meet deadlines. The end of the month is also like this.

Summer times can be quiet as well as school holidays when people are not working, with the run up the Christmas is probably the busiest time of the year.

You'll need to take some time off yourself to keep you in peak condition. Therefore, once your business has developed, it may be wise to take on staff and subcontracted couriers to build your business and cover any sickness, holidays and peak seasons.

What Next? Start up a Courier Business

So what's next to start up your own self-employed courier business? Use the following sites to plan and develop your business.