Self Employed Courier Work – The Truth.
Ever thought of becoming a self employed courier driver? If you are a driver, own a vehicle (this could be a motorbike, car, estate or van), a mobile phone, a GPS system and have some spare time, you may want to consider self employed courier job lots and taking up owner driver courier work. However, after this, you might not!
Basically, there are two ways of working as a self employed courier driver. An Owner Driver Courier or a Sub-Contracted Courier (or both!).
An owner driver is someone who owns their own vehicle and wants to put it to use by offering a courier service to other businesses or individuals. He or she is responsible for every aspect of the business such as marketing, insurance and order processing.
A sub-contracted courier is someone who joins an established courier company on a self employed basis. They will then be sent leads without having to advertise their services. The contracting courier company handles the orders, answers customer services calls, produces the invoices etc.
Both have disadvantages and advantages. To be honest, there are very few advantages of becoming a full time self employed courier driver. You would have to be very fortunate to purchase courier insurance for anything less than £1500 per year plus you would need to purchase Goods In Transit insurance (about £200 a year). Then there are the huge marketing campaigns you would need to spend money and time on (leaflet drops, Google adwords etc) and most advertising does not work. You would have to compete on price which, against companies like Fedex and DHL, which would be extremely difficult. You would certainly need a van (you could not be do this business with a regular car!) which are expensive, risky purchases.
The honest truth is that you will not earn the type of money from doing this that some others will claim. The claims of huge earnings tend to be from people selling information on how to become a self employed courier driver. The fact is, there are many unemployed people who would like to do this. More competition means lower rates of pay of course. Owner driver courier work can introduce financial burdens in the early days. They need to wait several months for the income (most of the industry works on a 30 day or 60 day invoice basis); spend a fortune on various insurances and high running costs. One way to ease the burden is apply for an advertiser to print a display on your van. For this you could try www.postersintransit.co.uk. However, you could not rely on this for income. Companies who offer advertising on vehicle services are very selective of who they chose.
Overall, owner driver couriers could have earned a decent weekly income several years ago. However, due to the cut throat competition, prices are low and costs are still rising. It is said that you could make around £200-£300 a week full time (hardly worth it!).
Most people would suggest you considered becoming a sub-contracted driver first to reduce the risk and provide you with some initial experience. Some companies (like City Sprint), require drivers to own their own white van. Other companies (like Hermes) will hire people with regular vehicles. You may have been delivered a parcel yourself from someone getting out of a Fiesta or Golf – these will be self employed couriers or sub-contracted couriers.
As a sub-contracted driver, the rate paid to you by your courier company could be low. As a subcontractor, you are likely to be paid a loaded mileage rate. A mileage rate is an amount per mile and is likely to be per loaded (whilst you have the goods) mile. Therefore, if you were delivering an item 100 miles away, you would not receive any ‘per mile fee’ for the 100 miles drive home! You can understand why it is not as lucrative as some can claim!
So, if this is still something you feel you could do to top up your income, where do you start? We will focus on becoming a self-employed sub-contracted courier. Well, you will need to register as self-employed for this work. Here is a simple article about how to register as self-employed. You will then be liable to account for your National Insurance and income tax. Of course, you will need a safe car that has passed all the relevant tests.
Next, you will need to contact as many local courier companies as you can and ask if they sub-contract jobs out to independent drivers. You will need to be willing to accept jobs at very short notice.
Hermes (previously Parcelnet) are often advertising for self employed couriers. Their website address is http://www.hermes-europe.co.uk/recruitment.html. The money is not very good however and you would need to own a highly fuel efficient vehicle. I have found a quote from a forum here that makes interesting reading!
Forum Quote – I have worked for Parcelnet/Hermes for nigh on 10 years now and, believe me, this job pays a pittance! When I started I was paid 45p a parcel (CA COMMENT – YOU READ THAT RIGHT - PER PARCEL!). Ten years on I am now getting …… 45p a parcel! I have to supply my own vehicle, pay for all fuel used, tax, insurance, MOT, repairs, business insurance, charging THEIR hand-held terminal every night ….. I get no paid holidays (I am expected to provide my own cover whenever I want time off) and no sick pay (CA COMMENT – this is understandable as all self-employed people do not receive holiday or sick pay).
This is obviously a very negative review but think about that for a second – you would need to deliver more than 40 parcels for £20!!
Another thing I recently discovered thanks to a great email from Nick Andrews from the Courier Owned Drivers Forum is that Hermes tell their drivers to not get courier insurance but get business insurance instead. This wouldn’t cover it all if it all went horribly wrong. As Nick points out, this is why Hermes can offer three day delivery for around £3!
Home Delivery Network. This is a bit different as Home Delivery Network recruits Catalogue Delivery Agents (CDAs) to delivery. Home Delivery Network is looking for more people who would like to work in their local postcode areas on a self employed, flexible basis, delivering our spring, summer, autumn and winter campaign catalogues to customers nationwide. You can work from one week up to four weeks for each campaign.
CitySprint – A well established company who take on self-employed van owners. If you do not own a van you can lease one from them. Their leaflet about becoming a self-employed CitySprint courier is worth a read too.
There are hundreds and hundreds of courier companies operating in the UK. The best place to search for their contact information is via www.yell.com.
When searching for information about becoming a self-employed courier, you will encounter many websites that will try and sell you information. You do not need to purchase any such information as their are a couple of forum websites that have all the information you need. A really useful place to start is the Courier Owned Drivers Forum. This forum is more for owner drivers (100% self employed courier drivers with their own vehicles and are not subcontracted by a courier company) but will welcome people who would like to know more about becoming a sub-contracted courier. It is possibly the best website out there for information.
Other really good websites are:
www.kdccouriers.com/newcourier.php – good information about getting started.
www.courierdelivery.co.uk – a small directory of UK courier companies.
www.fetchitnow.co.uk – a website that links couriers to posted jobs (£5 per month to register as a courier).
Splut’s Courier Directory – A large list of UK couriers.
City Sprint Employment Guide - Helpful guide about working for CitySprint as a sub-contracted courier.
Picture of van is courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net. Federico stevanin‘s portfolio can be found here - http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=149