You can start a local, small business courier service with minimal equipment, beyond a basic office setup and reliable transportation. You can usually start out with your own car, van or SUV, then upgrade to more and larger vehicles as needed when your business grows. A better option is to start your own courier service outright, and hire other owner/operators on a revenue-sharing basis to make deliveries, while you concentrate on marketing, managing and building the business.
The first thing you need to do is create a business plan, you need to have a clear idea of how you will make money and what type of courier business you’re looking for. Once you understand this you should start planning your expenses, pricing and profit margins. How to write a business plan
Gather the necessary equipment.
You’ll need some basic, physical goods to start a courier business.
- Decide on vehicle types. You may hire employees who are willing to provide their own transportation as long as their cars are able to pass certain tests to assure they’re running properly. However, if you’re transporting bigger items you may need to use large, cargo trucks. You will have to provide these types of vehicles to your employees.
- Cell phones, clipboards, maps, and GPS systems are also important for a courier business. If you want your employees to wear uniforms, keep this in mind as well.
What are the ongoing overheads in a courier service business?
One of the most important things to do in order to run a successful courier company is to understand your costs. Don’t take short cuts and remember quality controls and stringent maintenance to vehicles is crucial.
Besides capital outlay for equipment and vehicles, other expenses have to be considered:
- Garage or other facilities for vehicles stored at business premises
- Additional security features, such as immobilisers and tracking equipment
- Routine servicing and maintenance of vehicles
- Repairs for scratches, wear and tear (tyres) or accident damage
- Fuel costs
- Parking costs incurred for business use
- Toll charges incurred for business use
- Traffic fines
- Marketing and advertising programmes
- Salaries and benefits for staff
- Roadworthiness – by law, any vehicle using South African public roads has to be roadworthy. The responsibility of scheduling and taking a vehicle in for roadworthy testing rests solely on each individual vehicle owner.
Marketing Your Courier Services
Create a website for your business courier service. Place your website on all business cards, fliers, brochures and advertising materials. Create a business page on the following social netwoks “facebook, twitter and linkedin “. Most courier businesses will need to market to other businesses who are looking for a courier. This can be done by making a list of businesses that may need a courier service and then cold calling and emailing prospects to let them know about your new service. Online marketing and advertising can also be a low cost and effective way to target business owners. Google Adwords and Facebook both have easy to use self serve platforms. You can target customers based on keywords they search for or their interests/demographics/location. Craigslist can be a great resource to post free ads to let people know about your local courier business.
Insure Your Business
Courier business owners should always consider the appropriate type of insurance to protect your business in case of an accident. In the courier business you will need insurance for your vehicle, cargo insurance and possibly liability insurance as well. Having an insurance policy is also essential for building trust with customers. Many businesses and individuals will avoid working with a courier service that is not properly insured. Contact a local commercial insurance broker to find out how much it will cost to insure your business. This cost may vary based on location, types of deliveries you make, and the perceived risk.
Call competitive delivery or courier services in your area. Obtain their rates for various package sizes, client types and mileage, if applicable. Price your services comparable to these other courier businesses.
Where to find training to help you start
The Road Traffic Management Corporation provides regulated, professional training courses such as a National Certificate in Freight Handling.
SME Starter Kit
The Road Freight Association of South Africa (RFA) offers an SMME Starter Kit specially designed for Start-up Business which includes hints and tips on how to get into the transport industry, how to source contracts, how to calculate financial projections and other important information. Find it here.
Register Your Business Name
Your business name plays a role in almost every aspect of your business, so you want it to be a good one. Once you have chosen a name for your business, you need to register it. Click here for a step by step guide on how to register your business
Financing your business?
You can finance your courier service business by any or all of the following ways:
- Fund your startup yourself.
- Pitch your needs to friends and family.
- Applying for a Business loan
- Finding your business through crowdfunding
- Apply to local angel investor
You can also consider buying a courier franchise
Why buy a franchise? A franchisor will train you up in executing a proven formula, provide ongoing support and run marketing campaigns, while you will benefit from a degree of brand recognition and trust.
Other potential benefits to joining a courier franchise – should you choose wisely – include:
- Low start-up costs – premises rarely needed
- Relatively simple business model
- Experience in courier sector rarely required
List of courier franchise opportunities
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