1. Just what does a local courier do?
A local courier service business helps local businesses get documents, items and materials from one part of town to another. Some couriers specialize in a niche, such as legal documents or medical specimens, for example. Because a courier business can spread the delivery costs among several customers, they can make a tidy profit by saving money for their customers.
2 How much does it cost to start a courier service?
Most of us already have the two essential tools to start a courier business – a reliable vehicle and a cell phone. A computer with an internet connection is also helpful, but many couriers are now using just an iPad or smart phone to stay connected to their customers. You should be able to buy any other equipment you need for just a few hundred dollars.
3. When starting a courier service, how will I figure out what to charge?
The best way is to do a phone survey of other courier service businesses in your area to find out what they are charging. This will help insure your rates are competitive. Don’t make the beginner’s mistake of thinking you have to charge less to succeed – this will only cut into your profits. Also – each customer is different, so don’t try to use a “one-size-fits-all” pricing plan. Be sure to factor in both your time and mileage cost when pricing a job.
4. What is the earnings potential for a courier service business?
If you plan on starting a courier service as a “solo” operator, your income will depend on where you live and how many hours you work. The national average is $36 an hour. If you are located in a big city, rates are higher, while small town rates are lower.
5. What kind of vehicle do I need to start a courier business?
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a huge cargo van for a local courier service. Most couriers do just fine with a much smaller vehicle, which may not even be a van! Although the new Ford Transit Connect van is popular with many couriers, a surprising number do well with fuel-efficient cars as well. For example, Green Express Couriers in Atlanta and Go Green Couriers in Dallas use the Toyota Prius hybrid as a primary delivery vehicle. Their customers love the “green” connection, and the 46 mpg sure does help when filling the fuel tank.
6. Will I need any special training?
No, starting a courier service does not require any special skills. It does help if you are well-organized and enjoy meeting people. Quite a few courier service business owners have gotten on the job training by working for another courier business for a few months before starting their own business.
7. How do I find new customers when I’m just starting a courier service?
Go where your customers are. Pass out printed notepads with your contact information ( you can buy them online for as low as 20 cents each) to everyone who might be a prospect. Each time they make a note, they are reminded of your courier service. You can also post a free ad on craigslist.org, or set up a free web site for your new courier service business at wordpress.com or blogspot.com. When choosing a name for your web site, pick one that will help customers find you. For example, if your business is in Missoula, title your site “courierservicemissoula” so the search engines will pick your site when a potential customer is searching the web for a courier service in Missoula.
8. Is there a lot of work for local couriers?
Because the large national companies like FEDEX and UPS focus on national and regional business, it has created a niche for local courier services, who pick up and deliver the documents and items the large carriers can’t do as efficiently. For example, same-day delivery of legal documents from an lawyer’s office to the courthouse, medical specimens from a medical clinic to a local lab, or “just-in-time” parts and materials from local suppliers to a construction job site.
9. How does the recession affect a local courier service business?
Because a local courier service can spread delivery costs among several customers, it can do the job for less than a company employee in most cases. In addition, during tough economic times, more companies tend to lay off workers and outsource services like deliveries.
10. Won’t the high price of fuel hurt a courier service business?
Because local courier service businesses can pick up and deliver packages for several customers in the same area, it can offer cost savings to businesses that help offset higher fuel costs. Also, many courier services are “going green” with hybrid-electric vehicles like the Toyota Prius, which uses less than half the fuel of a regular delivery vehicle.