How to Start a Courier Business From generating customers to recruiting drivers, we’ve created an extensive step-by-step guide to help you deliver the goods in the courier business. Written by Ross Darragh Updated on 16 September 2022 About us Startups was founded over 20 years ago by a serial entrepreneur. Today, our expert team of writers, researchers, and editors work to provide our 4 million readers with useful tips and information, as well as running award-winning campaigns. Our site is governed by the Startups editorial manifesto. Written and reviewed by: Ross Darragh Writer Starting a courier company is a fairly simple and accessible business venture, but there are important factors you must consider before heading out on the road.For starters, you need to consider how the soaring price of fuel may affect the costs of your new venture. As a result of inflation, fuel costs have risen hugely in the last few months, and to run a successful courier business, you need transportation.Secondly, you need to be accustomed to the competitiveness of the industry – according to stats from Ibisworld, you’ll be joining around 31,315 postal and courier businesses currently operating in the UK, which employ nearly 300,000 individuals.You should also be aware of the big players dominating the courier and delivery market, as competing with the likes of Royal Mail – who employ over 162,000 people, and generated revenue of £10.4 billion in 2019 – is incredibly difficult.Instead of attempting to immediately challenge the established companies like DPD, UPS, and Hermes, you should be realistic about your expectations, think smaller, and capitalise on offering niche courier services, which we will cover in this guide.So, if a courier business sounds like the opportunity for you, read on for information on costs, vehicles, and finding customers. Startups.co.uk can help your business succeed At Startups.co.uk, we're here to help small UK businesses to get started, grow and succeed. We have helpful resources for helping new businesses get off the ground – you can use the tool below to get started today. What Does Your Business Need Help With? Vehicle Tracking Running your Accounts Getting a Business Loan Choosing a Fuel Card Get Started This step-by-step guide will help you answer all those questions and more. However, if you are already confident of your courier business plans and they happen to involve vehicle tracking, we’ve put together an extensive breakdown of vehicle tracking costs. This ultimate step-by-step guide to starting a courier business will cover: Step 1: Research Step 2: Plan Step 3: Vehicle Step 4: Business Costs Step 5: Customers Step 6: Acquire Conclusion: Key Points Should you start a courier service post-Covid?Since Covid-19, the demand for courier services has shot up as more and more people demand speedy, instant delivery to their homes and offices.That means there is currently a lot of potential for starting a courier business, as you can take full advantage of the key external drivers contributing to the industry's growth.These include a huge rise in online spending, fuelled by the pandemic. It’s also predicted that over the next few years, the market for courier and express delivery will continue to grow, rising by 54% between 2019 and 2023.There’s no better time to get your courier business started, but first, you need to decide: what kind of service you will provide? How will you stand out from other competitors? And what expenses do you need to factor into your business plan? 10 essential guides for starting a business 1 How to start a business: an 11 step guide to success 2 Free Simple Business Plan Template 3 How to register a company name in the UK 4 How to register a trademark in the UK: step-by-step guide 5 Top 7 free project plan templates for small businesses 6 101+ small business ideas to start now 7 How to register for VAT: complete guide 8 How to become a sole trader: the complete guide 9 Grants for small businesses in 2024 – and how to apply 10 How to create a business website See more We spoke to Seb Robert, CEO and founder of same-day delivery service Gophr, who first pitched the business during a workshop at his previous role within an advertising agency.“I thought of Gophr because I knew how hard it could be to find good reliable couriers. I pitched the idea, it got a good response and it just went from there. I spent the next 18 months researching the space on the courier and customer side and what I found convinced me that we could build something special that could meet everyone’s needs. Step 1: Research – Types of Courier BusinessStarting a business in such a huge and varied industry as couriering can be challenging. You need to understand how the different types of courier services work, to help you determine which service you want to provide to your clients.Or, you can just buy yourself any old van, start delivering garden gnomes to your neighbours, and find yourself out of business within the first week – it’s your call. Seb Robert, CEO and founder of Gophr, says the biggest challenge for succeeding in the courier industry is the complexity of what service to offer.“Different industry sectors have different requirements, and couriers have different types of work they like to do, different vehicles and different skill sets. From a technical perspective it is incredibly challenging.” Seb Robert, CEO and founder of GophrNext-day courier serviceIf you want to challenge any courier business, big or small, you will be aiming to deliver goods by the next day. This service is incredibly popular with consumers and offered by the majority of courier services, including the big players.It’s ideal for short-notice delivery requests and the first choice for the younger demographic of online shoppers. Think Amazon, champions of the next day delivery.The value of online retail sales in May 2021 was 58.8% higher than in February 2020, meaning the demand for next day delivery services has increased massively over the past year.Verdict: Lots of established, reputable delivery companies already control the market, so you’ll have your work cut out. But there is high demand and a huge customer pool, so lots of potential to capitalise if offering this service.Same-day Courier ServiceA lot of couriers have challenged and succeeded in the market by offering this service, which is in response to consumer demand for receiving goods on the day that they’ve ordered them.Lots of businesses have thrived on offering this service, including delivery companies like Beelivery, which offers rapid delivery 24/7 and aims to arrive at customers’ doors with goods in as little as 15 minutes.According to an in-depth report by efulfillmentservice, consumer demand for same-day delivery stands at over 75%, but e-commerce businesses are falling short of offering this service, with just over 50% of companies offering same-day shipping. Angus Elphinstone, CEO and Founder of AnyVan courier service, turned over £70m in the past year. He believes offering same-day courier service is a key element in running a successful courier business, stating:“If you’re going to offer same-day delivery, don’t just bolt it on to what you already do. You will need to build it from the ground up. Technology is a vital part of getting the customer request to the right driver quickly.“Without this, the speed of the operation falls down, and you have to be confident that you can deliver the same day in a time-efficient manner at a high standard. If you can’t do that, don’t launch the offer until you can.” Verdict: E-commerce sales are increasing every year, but many companies aren’t offering same-day delivery, and those that do haven’t always been getting it right.There is a definite market opportunity here to work alongside online retailers and provide same-day delivery services for their customers.You need to be aware of the pressures that come with this service, however, and ensure you establish clear same-day delivery cut off times and have adequately trained staff.Onboard Courier ServiceThis type of couriering is niche in that it involves the transportation of important packages, confidential documentation, or high-value items. The goods are closely watched by the courier at all times during the delivery process, to ensure the highest level of care and security.Larger courier services don’t typically offer this service, and it usually requires experienced couriers to do the job.Examples of goods transported via this service include urgent and confidential documentation, critical parts (in manufacturing or engineering), prototypes, and samples. All of these goods need constant surveillance.Verdict: This service is bespoke and so competition with other courier companies is smaller, meaning an increased opportunity to profit from offering this unique service.However, unlike next-day and same-day delivery services, the demand for onboard couriering is limited to certain goods, which could harm the growth of your business if another competitor dominates the market.Specialist Courier ServiceThe COVID pandemic has massively increased the demand for specialist couriers, especially in the transportation of medical/healthcare goods.Offering a specialist service is an effective way to infiltrate an over-saturated next-day/same-day delivery market, without performing miracles to gain customers.Many industries have particular needs and demands, including the transportation of certain items in a controlled setting. As a specialist courier service, you could offer the conditions required to transport the goods, which is a great way to attract new clients for your business. Examples of specialist services include: Medical/healthcare courier – you need to meet the unique logistical requirements when working with the healthcare sector, delivering sensitive and precious cargo safely and promptly.Hazardous materials – from bio-hazardous to radioactive materials, providing this service requires purchasing specialist safety equipment and materials, and hiring thoroughly trained couriers.Temperature controlled – this could include chilled or frozen food, or liquid nitrogen temperature-controlled medical or pharmaceutical goods. COVID vaccines are a prime example of temperature-controlled goods.Fragile goods – from priceless antiques to glass sculptures, transportation is an innately vulnerable time for fragile goods. Offering a specialist service equipped to avoid any damage is a viable business opportunity. Verdict: If you can offer the conditions required for the industries that need specialist courier services, then you are certainly at an advantage compared to your competitors, and will be able to drum up way more business by attracting specific clients.However, expenditure could increase as you’ll have particular operating expenses, including specialist training and equipment – for example, purchasing a refrigerated van for temperature-controlled deliveries.Environmentally friendly/Eco Courier ServicesThe courier and delivery industry is a primary emitter of greenhouse gases, and in recent years, courier companies have been under increased scrutiny to reduce their carbon emissions and offer an alternative, greener courier service to reduce ecological footprints.Businesses like CitySprint and Green Courier have capitalised on consumer demand for environmentally friendly courier methods, promoting sustainable solutions to their customer base and attracting positive media attention in the process.This type of courier service typically operates a zero-emission fleet of pushbikes, cargo bikes, and electric vans. CitySprint is even in the process of trialling the first Hydrogen van to operate in the UK, which only emits water and can travel distances of 200+ miles per day.Verdict: Sustainable and environmentally conscious couriers are more favourable to consumers and other businesses, which gives you a major advantage when competing with other courier companies. ‘Going green’ is an important goal for many SMEs, so providing a zero/low emission service will be an attractive selling point to work with your business.Being accredited by an organisation like the ISO, or working alongside a conservation organisation like the World Land Trust, is important to build trust as a green courier – and be sure to record all carbon emissions you are responsible for. You’ll also need zero or low emission vehicles, which we will discuss in this guide. Check out our feature on starting a sustainable transport business for further insight and useful tips. Jack Underwood, CEO and co-founder of courier software app Circuit, saw a huge rise in demand for his company's services as retailers took their business online to survive.“Choose a business area where the delivery service is poor, but people are still buying the product or experience and using it anyway. [This is] what led me to launch Circuit – I saw that delivery drivers were heavily dependent on technology, but were having to rely on products that were either not properly built for them, or did a poor job.” Step 2: PlanA business plan isn’t just the blueprint for your business – it’s the document that’s going to help you secure investment, and act as a guide through those rocky early months and years.You don’t have to be a slave to the business plan – circumstances change, after all – but you can hit the ground running with much more confidence if you know where you’re going. Your business plan should include: The business owner – what’s your previous employment history? Any other business endeavours? What skills do you have that will lend themselves to managing a courier operation?The business – what differentiates your courier company from direct competitors in the courier industry?The service – details of how your courier service will operate, backed by its pricing strategy. How will it be scaled up?The market – what is the demand for a courier service in your area, and how many customers could your business potentially reach? Who is the typical customer of your business?Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats – what makes your courier business better than other services? What makes it weaker? What are the main threats to your courier business, and where do the opportunities lie?The competition – thoroughly research the other directly competing courier businesses in your area to see how you compare, and how you could improve on their offering.Startup costs and sales forecast – provide details of all the costs of setting up your courier business, including equipment and premises, bills, and staff wages.Why not check out Startups.co.uk’s free template to help you create the perfect business plan? Step 3: VehicleAfter thoroughly researching the industry and developing a sound business plan, the next step is to choose the modes of transportation your company will be using. Vehicle choices will be influenced by the service you’ll be providing – for example, as a green courier, you won’t be purchasing high carbon-emitting vans or motorbikes.There are plenty of options available, and to help, we’ve highlighted the best vehicles at your disposal.Bicycles/Electric Bikes:A 2019 report by the UK Bicycle Association states that bicycles are most suited to dense urban areas with relatively high concentrations of suitable delivery work, or where individual trips are relatively short. Consider this when assessing your vehicle options.If your courier business will be operating across large cities, bicycles are one of the fastest and most efficient ways to get around. They can follow routes that vans and motorbikes can’t, and will help decrease delivery times, especially during peak travel hours.They are also the cheapest transport method to run, as they rely on human movement rather than petrol. Other costs, including insurance, vehicle tax, and general maintenance, are also incredibly low or non-existent compared to other modes of transport. Not to mention they are a zero-emission delivery method, perfect for green couriering. Regulations: The bike must have working lights, reflectors, and brakesQualifications: NoneBest for: Operating in busy, built-up urban areasWorst for: Long-distance deliveriesWe recommend: RadRunner 1 – Electric Utility Bike – £1,111Big Competitor: GOPHRPrices correct as of July 26th 2021 MotorcyclesWhile the motorbike can’t beat the bicycle for urban access, it’ll easily beat it for speed on a straight.If your courier business is located in a bustling city and needs to cover distances fast, a motorbike is the most viable option. They are less affected than larger vehicles by traffic, including traffic jams and queues caused by traffic lights.They also have the advantage of being able to carry larger packages than most bicycles, and can be parked pretty much anywhere (within reason).In terms of cost, it’s usually cheaper to run a motorbike than a car or van, with average petrol costs of £494.15 per year for the typical rider, compared to £1,042 spent per year to fuel a petrol car. Regulations: Helmet must be worn and in compliance with government standardsQualifications: Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) and possession of a provisional category A licence – aka a full car licence or provisional driving licence with motorcycle entitlementBest for: Minimising traffic issues and speedy inner-city deliveriesWorst for: Carrying multiple packages and fragile goodsWe recommend: Honda CB125FBig Competitor: CitySprint Electric Mopeds:Electric mopeds have gained popularity in recent years, largely due to their cheap running costs and environmental credentials.They are a cost-effective, eco-conscious alternative to petrol engine mopeds and motorcycles, running off a removable battery that can be charged from any standard socket.Electric mopeds would be ideal for a green courier business, as they produce no noise or air pollution. Another benefit is minimal maintenance costs, as, unlike motorcycles, e-mopeds require no oil, clutch cables, filters, or fluids to check.Keep in mind that the batteries require charging every 100 miles or so, so long-distance deliveries won’t be possible. Regulations: Helmet must be worn and comply with government standardsQualifications: Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) and provisional category A licence or full motorcycle licence depending on power outputBest for: Environmentally friendly, quiet courieringWorst for: Long distance jobsWe recommend: Silence S02 DeliveryBig Competitor: Pedal and Post DronesDrone delivery services are already operating in certain locations around the United States, but are yet to commence in the UK due to current aviation regulations banning drones from flying out of sight of their pilots.Delivery trials, however, have been taking place at drone company Sees.ai over the last few months, meaning the courier industry is one step closer to drone delivery – and a complete transformation of the logistics sector.Being at the forefront of this advanced technology would certainly propel your courier company into the big leagues, so why not get ahead of the game and start investing in prototyping your drone delivery service? Regulations: You must register before flying drones in the UK. You will need an Operator ID and Flyer IDQualifications: Must pass a Theory Test to receive a Flyer ID (the person who flies the drone), and must pay £9 per year for an Operator IDBest for: Avoiding traffic and pedestrians, and travelling directlyWorst for: Heavily regulated and not yet fully legalised for commercial use in the UKBig competitor: Amazon Prime Air VansThe vehicle you’ve all been waiting for…Vans are the most popular and widely used transportation method in the courier industry. Out of the 31,315 courier businesses operating in the UK, you can guarantee the majority of them use vans to move goods from A to B.They are incredibly effective courier vehicles for several reasons. Firstly, the large size means there is plenty of space to store parcels, big or small. Instead of drivers making multiple trips, courier services can reduce delivery times by delegating multiple jobs in the same area to one vehicle.Vans are also versatile in that they can be transformed into specialist delivery vehicles, for example by installing refrigeration units for temperature control. They can travel long distances, and the engines are powerful and specifically designed for carrying heavy loads.For green couriers, electric and hydrogen vans are a great way to deliver on a larger scale without harming the environment. Regulations: Don’t overload the van over its maximum permitted weight. Secure your goods. Tax, MOT, and insuranceQualifications: Standard driving licence for vans up to 3,500 kg. Anything bigger (up to 7,500 kg) requires additional tests to have higher categories added to your licence. This includes towing a trailer with your vanBest for: Efficiency – multiple deliveries in one tripWorst for: Densely populated urban areas – vans are pretty big, if you haven’t noticed… Although vans are an efficient vehicle option, they are expensive to run and maintain. You need to be aware of the costs involved before buying one, which we’ve summarised below:Average Price of a Used Van = £7,348 (Figures from Aston Barclay)Commercial Van Insurance = £1,080 (Per Year)Average MOT cost = £35 (Per Year) Van Vehicle Tax = Ranging from £140 to £270 (Per Year) depending on specsPricing correct as of 26th July 2021Best vans for courier workPurchasing a van can be quite confusing, especially as there are so many options available. To ensure you make an informed decision, we’ve included a list of factors to consider whilst shopping around, and recommended a few vans ourselves. Top Tips: Consider the capacity of the van – you don’t need to fork out an extra few grand for a large van if your business will be transporting small goods.Doors – you want a wide side loading door, and the rear doors should have heavy-duty restraints.Engine – consider the running costs of a diesel vs an electric van.Additional features – has the van got an integrated sat nav? What about high spec comfortable seating and air conditioning? Our Top Picks: Best Small Van – Ford Transit Connect Top three features:✔ Load through bulkhead ✔ Anti-tamper door locks ✔ 1.5L EcoBlue Diesel engine & Ford EcoBoostFord Transits are tough, durable, and highly functional, with features including an ingenious load-through bulkhead (which enables you to safely carry pipes and ladders inside the van) and flexible front passenger seating. This popular van comes with short and long wheelbase options, providing load volumes up to 3.6m³.Buy New – £21,456 (Including VAT)Buy Used via AutoTrader – £8,000 to £16,000Pricing correct as of 26th July 2021 Best Big Van – Mercedes SprinterTop three features:✔ Load area of 9.2 m2 in load compartment ✔ Attention assist to detect drowsiness ✔ Pallet supportLaunched in 1995, the Mercedes Sprinter is one of the most well-known large commercial vans. Now on its third generation, the van has topped the Fleet News’ FN50 reliability survey for five years running. The newest Sprinter can operate in front-wheel, rear-wheel, or all-wheel drive, and is available in two engine variants: 163hp, and 190hp.Buy New – £415 per month financeBuy Used via AutoTrader – £10,000 to £27,000Pricing correct as of 26th July 2021 Best Electric Van – Nissan e-NV200Top three features:✔ Loadspace up to 4,300 litres ✔ Range 124-187 miles ✔ Rapid charge portThe Nissan e-NV200 is ideal for green courier drivers navigating busy urban environments. The newest model received a larger, more powerful battery in 2018, which boosted the official range from 106 miles to 174 miles.Buy New – £24,495 (excluding VAT) Buy Used via AutoTrader – £13,000 to £20,000Pricing correct as of 26th July 2021Think carefully about a vehicle’s compatibility with the service you want to provide. You could have a fleet of different vehicles to suit the needs of your business, though this will result in significantly higher startup and ongoing costs.Determining your target market when researching your business plan will help you establish what kind of need there is in your area and what kind of vehicle you need, which is why you should always do the research and produce a business plan before purchasing any vehicles. So you’ve done your research, completed your business plan, decided on the service your company will provide, and purchased a vehicle. What’s next? Step 4: Business Costs (Equipment)You need to be fully prepared before heading out on the road, and having a shiny new van and a business plan under your belt isn’t quite enough to succeed in the courier industry.The next step is to purchase all the necessary equipment and services required to ensure your business operates efficiently, and remember: factor these outgoings into your budget.We’ve listed a few important items below, but there are plenty of additional purchases to consider.Cycle Courier EquipmentA courier operation can be a very accessible and relatively lean startup model. A self-employed cycle courier, for example, just needs a bike and a few other items, such as a decent phone (you might want to consider business phone contract options) to get going. Once you’ve purchased your bike, suit up with these gadgets to maximise delivery efficiency: Handlebar phone mount – a waterproof handlebar phone mount will enable you to view your phone maps or GPS whilst cycling. Average Cost – £20Reflective, Hi-Vis clothing – essential to keep you and your employees safe, especially when delivering goods at night or in low visibility conditions. Average Cost – £25Waterproof messenger bag – a robust and waterproof messenger bag is a must-have to safely transport packages and documents without fear of them getting ruined by the rain (this is the UK after all). Check out Review 10 Best’s list of the best messenger bags of 2021 to help you decidePanniers rack and waterproof panniers – another must-have piece of equipment that adds extra storage to the back of your bike, ideal if delivering larger items or multiple packagesA helmet – it only takes a moment to end your courier career…A bike lock – this is a necessity because if your bike gets stolen, you can’t make deliveries. Be sure to purchase an approved ‘sold secure’ lock with at least a bronze rating, and if you are operating in high crime areas, you should be investing in a gold-rated lock.For the majority of insurance companies, you’ll need at least a silver rating – however, if your bike is worth more than £1,000, you’ll need to invest in a gold lock or risk having any claim rejected. We Recommend: Abus Granit X Plus Courier UniformWhether you’re a self-employed courier or you operate a fleet, having a uniform shows professionalism, and creates a recognisable brand that could help you find more business. This could be as simple as a printed t-shirt, or a full, branded uniform.Specialist handling and storage equipmentIf you are going to be offering specialist courier services, then you, your vehicles, and your couriers need to be fully equipped with the correct tools for the job. Examples include safety gloves for handling hazardous materials and refrigerated vans for temperature-controlled deliveries. Refrigerated vans via Vantastec typically cost between £18,000 to £35,000 Heavy lifting equipmentIf your business will be transporting heavy goods, it’s important to provide lifting trolleys and ramps.Business InsuranceAlthough costly, business insurance is fundamental in ensuring you are covered for any unexpected eventualities. These can include accidental vehicle damage, theft of company property, and workplace injuries, all of which occur across the courier industry.Goods-in-transit insurance is a must if you want to protect any goods from damage or theft whilst on the move.Courier van insurance is a specialist type of cover that protects your van for business use, and it’s also a legal requirement. Be aware that you will need to purchase hauliers’ insurance if driving large goods vehicles (such as lorries) over long journeys.If you want to learn more about what type of insurance your business needs, we’ve got you covered.Hiring CouriersAs your business becomes more successful, your workforce will expand.You need to be aware of the costs involved in hiring drivers. Typically, a lot of couriers are self-employed, and will work for multiple courier companies at the same time.You want to attract experienced, professional, and hard-working couriers to work for you, as this is a key element of building a positive company reputation and providing a high level of customer service. To do this, you need to offer a competitive salary, and certain benefits not offered by your competitors.A competitive salary in the courier industry varies, but most self-employed couriers would aim to be earning roughly £300 a day, or between £15,000 to £40,000 a year depending on experience. If you can offer this, plus employer’s liability insurance, you will certainly attract the highest calibre of drivers. As Seb Robert, CEO of Gophr tells us, you don't necessarily need to hire locally as a courier business. “[The pandemic] has given me space to think about how we can set up the platform in a way that it can run itself, so that customers and couriers can login and make the changes they need to themselves.“Other members of staff are now following that lead and taking the time to explore other countries. I think this shift and the communication and organisational infrastructure we’ve built and are continuing to improve will be hugely beneficial to us as we continue to expand.” Employer’s liability insurance ranges depending on the riskiness of the work involved and the industry. But for courier drivers, the average cost is around £213 per year.You and your drivers should have a full and clean UK driving licence, and additional qualifications depending on the type of vehicles in use.Couriers should have the following skills:Excellent driving or cycling abilityRoad safety awareness and cautionTime-keepingRoute planning skillsCustomer service skillsVehicle TrackingQuality vehicle tracking software is the foundation of a slick and customer-centric courier business.Vehicle tracking software allows you to track your fleet so you can monitor everything from routes, to speed and arrival times, and even make sure drivers are taking adequate breaks.Using vehicle tracking software will have many benefits for your courier business. It can:Improve costs – monitoring routes and fuel usage is valuable data that can help you to create efficiencies in how your fleet is used, making savings in the process.Improve customer satisfaction – knowing where your drivers are will enable you to give customers up-to-date information on expected delivery times, so they can arrange their day around it.Save on insurance – having business vehicle tracking software in place makes you eligible for insurance discounts.Improve safety – monitoring drivers allows you to monitor unsafe behaviour and stamp out bad habits or practices. How much does a vehicle tracker cost? Buying software can be tricky as a small business owner. Some business tools can be expensive, and you want to make sure you're getting the best deal available. We’ve put together an extensive breakdown of vehicle tracking costs, to help you out. We’ve also produced a comparison table of the top vehicle tracking software providers below:ProviderFeaturesCostQuartixReal-time vehicle trackingVehicle tracking and driving style reportsRoute displayMobile vehicle tracking appFleet managementInfoPoint package: Tracking system £13.90 per monthInfoplus package: Tracking system £15.90 per monthInfo Fleet package: Tracking system Price available on requestVerizon Connect UK Complete inventory managementDrag and drop systemLive calendarCan be integrated with Fleetmatics RevealMobile appStaff vehicle trackingAvailable on requestUK TelematicsMonitoring driver behaviour for training purposesProviding accurate mileage reports for tax and expenses purposesSupporting customer service by monitoring delivery vehicle progressMonitoring vehicle healthTelematics Pro 1-20: £14.99 per vehicleTelematics Pro 21 – 50: £13.69 per vehicleTelematics Pro 51 – 100: £12.88 per vehicle Step 5: CustomersSo, you are now fully equipped and prepared to begin offering the best possible courier services to your customers. But first, you need to find them…Identify your target market. The service you are providing could determine your target market. For example, if you are offering medical courier services to deliver prescription medications, your clients will be independent pharmacies and care homes, so you’ll be marketing to those types of businesses.Focus on the quality of your customers. You want reliable customers who will regularly repeat deliveries. Onboarding SMEs who have an immediate and ongoing need for your service is the best way to ensure a sustainable income, as well as maintaining a high level of service and keeping your customers satisfied.Underwood, of Circuit, says: “Make sure you focus on unit economics; you need to know how you can make a profit on just a single customer before you start scaling.” Seb Robert, CEO of Gophr, recommends targeting a mix of customer to ensure that you are protected if some go out of business. “We originally grew the business by serving the SME market, but overnight that sector pretty much dried up, apart from ferrying monitors and office chairs to people’s homes so they could work there.“But at the same time demand increased from larger enterprise clients. That helped us not just fill the gap left by SMEs but significantly increase our volumes, and it drove our expansion across the UK.” Target small, local businesses. Local businesses are a great place to start, especially ones that rely on a high volume of orders to be delivered regularly. If they already have a courier delivery partner, make them a better (and more affordable) offer.Charge reasonably for your service. Check the local market rates for courier services in your area, and consider offering better value than your competitors to attract clients. You can start lower than the going rate, then once you’ve built up a loyal customer base, increase your prices. Not hugely though, or you’ll risk a backlash.Join Shiply. You can compete with other couriers for contracts, and thousands of delivery jobs are posted on the website daily for you to choose from.Invest in outreach media and marketing. Same-day delivery service Beelivery, which delivers its customers groceries in as little as fifteen minutes, has been focusing heavily on outreach marketing to promote the service. Seb Robert, CEO of Gophr, says one thing to make sure is that your customers think of you as a partner than a service provider. “Just because we can send a courier to pick something up at a specific time doesn’t automatically lead to success – it needs to be ready when the courier gets there and there needs to be clear guidelines on what to do when things don’t go to plan. The better thought through the process can be up front, the more success we can all have in the long run for couriers and customers.” Step 6: AcquireIf you don’t want to do the legwork of setting up a courier company and have the capital, you could just buy an existing one. This gives you an established customer base and brand image which you can build on.BusinessesForSale.com lists many courier and despatch businesses for sale across the UK. They range from around £30,000 to more than £350,000 depending on their facilities and turnover.Make sure to do your due diligence on any business you’re interested in buying to see if the figures add up. Establish clear reasons for why they are selling the business before making any commitments.Also, do your research – a Google search can bring up a wealth of valuable information about a business you are looking to purchase, including any good or bad publicity.Make sure to find out:TurnoverNet profitFacilitiesEmployees Alternatively, you could think about joining a courier franchise.Read more: How to start a parcel courier franchiseConclusion: Key PointsSo, there you have it – all the steps you need to take to start your own courier business.Remember that the courier industry is tough to break into: competition is high, and certain services (such as next-day delivery) are over-saturated.Try and find a niche, like offering temperature-controlled services in environmentally-friendly electric and hydrogen vans.Make use of experienced, professional courier drivers, and consider your customer target market carefully.If there is anything else you think should be added to this guide, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Share this post facebook twitter linkedin Written by: Ross Darragh Writer Ross has been writing for Startups since 2021, specialising in telephone systems, digital marketing, payroll, and sustainable business. He also runs the successful entrepreneur section of the website. Having graduated with a Masters in Journalism, Ross went on to write for Condé Nast Traveller and the NME, before moving in to the world of business journalism. Ross has been involved in startups from a young age, and has a keen eye for exciting, innovative new businesses. Follow him on his Twitter - @startupsross for helpful business tips.