How to Start a Courier Business
The basic responsibility of a courier business involves transporting goods and documents from point A to B, but that’s the easy part. A successful work-from-home courier business opportunity depends on a lot more. Many entering this business take baby steps at first, acting as subcontractors for established carriers before heading out on their own.
E-mail and other digital means of transmitting documents kept this industry in a no-growth mode for a while, but a courier’s ability to handle a variety of delivery jobs and the flexibility to work at odd hours can buck this trend and determine success. You’ll have to deal with fluctuating gas prices, and it helps to work in a delivery-rich urban area with lots of commerce. Delivering hazardous and medical materials can increase profits, but this typically requires special licensing. Simple package conveyance is recommended at the start.
What You’ll Need
- A well-defined delivery territory, particularly if you live in a large metropolitan area
- Insurance for your vehicle and a valid driver's license – check with your department of motor vehicles to find out if a commercial license is also required
- A business license – check with your local chamber of commerce for requirements
- A website, vehicle signage, business cards, flyers and ads in print and online outlets to promote your business
- A courier service software package to help run the business side of your operation, often available for free online
- A GPS device to help locate your clients and chart the most efficient routes
- A dedicated mobile phone number for all business operations, including calls en route, as well as a reliable handset and earpiece
- Adequate auto insurance
Establish a competitive rate. Call around to find out what other couriers in your area are currently charging. Many charge a per-mile rate plus a fee for gasoline and vehicle wear, but others just charge a flat fee. A rush job typically costs more. The right formula based on traffic, distance, vehicle wear, and courier service competition will give you a leg up.
It is the business for you if you love to drive. Your startup costs should be minimal if you already have a reliable vehicle, but review your auto insurance policy to make sure you have adequate liability coverage and that it covers you in the course of doing business.
Picking up and delivering at any time – not just during regular business hours – gives you an advantage over franchises that have set schedules, but it can disrupt your personal and family life. Unpredictable gas prices and traffic issues may affect your profits. Stop-and-go city driving can age a vehicle fast, and you might find you need to replace your wheels long before you anticipated.
Former IBM salesman Rob Johnstone co-founded Priority Express Courier in 1994 to service New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Priority went on to be listed on Inc. Magazine's list of fast-growing companies and in its Inc. 500, according to an entry at the Messenger Courier Association of the Americas website.