More and more people, in the courier business and elsewhere, are becoming their own boss. Think you have what it takes to be an owner driver? Read on to find out. |
Why Become an Owner Driver?
There are many reasons an individual might choose to strike out on their own. Some are dissatisfied with their workplace, colleagues or boss, while others are responding to an unexpected redundancy. One thing they all have in common is a desire to make some money on their own terms. While you shouldn’t expect to come away filthy rich, working for yourself in the transport industry can net you more than enough to live comfortably.
The bigger benefit, though, is the level of control self-employment gives you. Independent drivers set their own hours, enabling them to adjust to their circumstances as and when they need. Running an independent courier business is no walk in the park, but at its best it allows you to fine tune your work-life balance.
What Does an Owner Driver Look Like?
Before we get into some tips to help you succeed, it’s worth noting some basic attributes of an independent driver. To get ahead in this business, you need to have three qualities: discipline, proactiveness and awareness.
While it’s great to set your own hours, it also means you can’t rely on anyone else to force you into work. To succeed in self-employment, you must be willing and able to push yourself to take on jobs.
Similarly, owner drivers must always seek out new opportunities. While exchange platforms help a lot, it’s up to you to look for and take on jobs.
Finally, a self-employed courier must keep a close eye on both their own situation and the entire industry in which they work. The courier business is fast moving, with things like road tax and fuel duty constantly changing. Staying on top of any shifts can make the difference between a booming and failing business.
If you’re considering setting up your own business, here’s a list of tips to help you do it.
First, you need to get a vehicle. Obviously – you can’t work a courier job without one. While it’s normal to take out loans to get yourself started, you should be wary of getting into too much debt. If you’re paying more than half the vehicle on credit, you risk pumping everything you earn straight back into the car.
Redundancy can actually be a plus here, as those made redundant can often access generous financing deals. If you’re just dipping your toe into the world of self-employment, you could also consider hiring, as many renters offer commercial vehicles at affordable rates.
Once you’ve got your vehicle sorted, it’s time to start promoting your courier business. The best way to do this is to take jobs in your local area. Building up experience and a reputation is crucial to getting work.
Online exchange platforms are a great way to find driving jobs. Once you’ve identified potential work, though, it’s absolutely essential that you reach out, promote yourself and meet the client’s needs. Take the initiative: ring up, text and email. Be polite but persistent, and make sure your client remembers you.
Once you have the job, be flexible, available and reliable. Accommodate your client’s needs on timing and other issues. And if you say you’re going to get the job done, get it done.
Making It Work for You
It’s crucial you learn how much your jobs will cost you and price your services accordingly. Many new to the courier business forget to include things like wait time, travel time and additional fuel costs when setting their rates. Make sure you do this. If you don’t you could very easily lose money.
This extends to your tax situation, too. As someone who is self-employed, you’re responsible for your own taxes and National Insurance contributions. HMRC has a lot of information online explaining how to go about this, and the process is relatively simple. Nonetheless, it’s important, and you risk serious costs if you don’t go through it.
There we have it: a ‘cheat sheet’ for anyone considering starting off on their own in the industry. If you’ve read this and now think becoming a self-employed owner driver works for you, consider setting up your very own courier business now.
Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Courier Exchange, the world's largest neutral trading hub for same day jobs for those with a courier business and self-employed drivers in the express freight exchange industry. Over 5,400 member companies are networked together through the Exchange to fill empty capacity, get new clients and form long-lasting business relationships.
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