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 succeed in the delivery business in the UK. Your options include being a self-employed owner-driver, working for one of the dominant carriers delivering 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), DPD and TNT.

However, there are also so-called consolidators such as Parcel2go that offer discounts on these companies' services. They take thousands of bookings per day and reduce prices from their buying power. As a result, their customers receive the savings they make.

Some of the more prominent players are now moving into the home delivery market. This sector has traditionally been challenging because consumers may not be at home when the delivery person calls the first time. However, more timed delivery options are being offered for evening deliveries when people are in their homes. Home delivery is now a huge 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 require the most investment.
  • PAYE courier employed by a company.
  • Owner-drivers working for one of the transportation companies is a hybrid of the above options.
  • Motorcycle messengers where you need a motorcycle license.
  • Peddle cycle couriers in cities and large towns is environmentally friendly. However, 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 most challenging part is getting your first customer. Although this type of business benefits those who have been couriers in the past, the marketing side is something to research thoroughly.

Almost all businesses use couriers to some extent. Therefore, your research must find companies with 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 shipment's progress. 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 is also critical to your business success. It can keep tabs on the bookings received, invoice your customers and keep your accounts and cash position up to date.

Word of mouth marketing is especially beneficial in this industry. 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 yourself started is your primary form of transportation and work clothes. If you're a van courier, you'll need a physical vehicle together with the appropriate business insurance. This cover is to not only insure 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 when 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 additional staff or subcontracted couriers. You'll not only build your business but also cover any sickness, holidays and peak seasonal variations.

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.