Fancy driving for money?
Then being a courier might be just the thing for you!
It’s a job that will fit in with your current lifestyle and earn you the extra money you need to enjoy life. You don’t need to invest any money or quit your current job to become a courier, and the wages can be as much as £300 per day.
But does this sound too good to be true?
Read on to find out whether this is a good job prospect and what the size of your pay check will actually be.
- What’s involved?
- How to get started as a courier
- How much can I earn?
- Company controversy
- Courier careers
There are over 60 courier companies in London alone, and more than 4,438 across the whole of the UK. Most companies have offices from Manchester and Birmingham to Plymouth and Aberdeen.
Courier jobs involve carrying parcels in your vehicle to their destination; on time and with minimum hassle. Couriers are self-employed, but they contract out to various courier companies. All the jobs are recorded by you and the company, and you invoice the company at the end of the week.
Beginning as a freelancer means you can start in your spare time and work around your current job while you build your business network. If you don’t work, you don’t earn. But the further you go and the more you can carry, the more you’ll get paid.
Within London, the pay is usually worked out on a postcode-to-postcode basis. Outside of London a per-mile-per-load levy is applied, so you’re paid a certain amount for each mile you transport each item.
The work is not regular, so if you want to take on more, it’s a good idea to contract yourself to a few different companies. You don’t have to take every job that comes your way. You can pick and choose the ones that suit you.
To get the most out of the job, it’s worth having good navigation skills and general knowledge of both the area you live in and the whole country. It’s also useful to have general repair knowledge and equipment in case of a breakdown on the road.
Step 1: Tools of the trade
First of all, you need a vehicle. Obviously the bigger the vehicle, the more you can carry. But there’s no point having a ten-ton truck if you only had to drive a box of documents from London to Birmingham.
There’s enough work around if you just wanted to use a hatchback car, but for bigger loads you’ll need more space. If you are thinking of buying yourself a verhicle, CourierExpert.co.uk recommend a ‘Midi Van’ such as a Peugeot Expert or Citroen Dispatch because it can do both car or small van assignments and transit van ones also.
The most important thing with driving jobs is that the vehicle is reliable. You need enough road knowledge to change a tyre and ensure your vehicle can drive from Edinburgh to Portsmouth without breaking down. Visit Desperate Seller, which has hundreds of cars advertised across a wide price range.
Don’t forget about eBay Motors, of course – there are almost 200,000 vehicles advertised at any one time, so you’re certain to find something suitable.
But remember, if you buy your own van then you have to factor into your outgoings the cost of maintenance, servicing, road tax and everything else. Typically, a courier van will have to be serviced around every six to eight weeks because of the high mileage it is doing.
In larger cities it may be more worthwhile to courier using a bicycle or motorbike, which would mean less heavy items to carry, not travelling as far, and a certain fitness level required! If this sounds more enjoyable to you, we’ve got a whole article on being a two-wheel courier! In fact, there is a general shortage of motorcycle couriers, particularly in south-east England.
Alternatively, if you’d prefer to go a bit further afield, why not try being an air courier?
You’ll also need a mobile phone. Make sure you have one of the best mobile phone deals that offers a large amount of free calls per month. This will cover all your business call costs.
To help you work out tax claims, it can be easier to have a separate phone for business use. Try Carphone Warehouse for some great offers, including free games consoles, laptops and more with pay monthly deals.
A computer isn’t always necessary. It can, however, help with areas of your business such as account keeping, having a business website and generally keeping up to date with your daily records.
Step 2: Insurance
As with most self-employed jobs, insurance is important. You must have it to cover yourself, your vehicle and the goods you are carrying for others.
Vehicle insurance is a legal requirement on the road, but when you’re getting quotes you must tell the companies your insurance is needed for courier use (not business use). This way, your policy will cover both your vehicle and the goods that you’re carrying for others.
Don’t confuse courier insurance with haulage insurance. It is generally taken that haulers drive a long way to deliver a single load while couriers do multiple drop offs but different insurance companies have different definitions. Make sure, therefore, that you and your insurance company are on the same page when it comes to your job title. Even if you take out the wrong cover by accident, your policy could be invalidated.
Some companies may also place restrictions on where you can drive and may be reluctant to provide cover for drivers under 25 years of age so make sure you read the fine print.
Goods in transit (GIT) insurance is also a must have for driving jobs and protects you in case you damage your customers’ goods. Cover generally goes up to £10,000 as standard but can be arranged at a higher level if you find yourself carrying very valuable goods.
GIT insurance can come with exclusions however, preventing you from transporting:
- Hazardous goods
- Human remains (sounds weird, but even ashes)
- Goods being transported during a house-move such as a sofa
- ‘Theft attractive goods’ may only be half covered by your insurance such as computers, iPads and other electronic valuables.
However, t’s not wise to go for a lower premium when you’re getting this type of insurance. Check that your insurance company can cover you, otherwise there are specialist companies around you can use and you can even get one-off speciality insurance for unexpected valuables.
public liability insurance
Public liability insurance is optional but you may prefer to have it as it’ll cover you for things like dropping a heavy box on a client’s foot or other people-related accidents.
Step 3: Fuel
You can (and should) incorporate the price of fuel into your prices to ensure you’re not losing out. However, to keep your prices as low as possible, it’s a good idea to use a vehicle that runs on diesel if you can.
Diesel may be a few pence dearer per litre, but you can travel further on a litre of diesel than you can a litre of petrol. If you’re planning to become a courier long term, it may even be worth your while having your vehicle professionally converted to diesel as the costs are much lower.
You can also get up to 35% better fuel efficiency by just driving a bit slower and not accelerating so quickly. Get cheaper fuel by checking petrol prices before you go out and fill up.
Step 4: Notify Inland Revenue
You are effectively self-employed with your own business, so have a look at our article on freelance finances for help with your tax. You can either do your own accounts, or hire an accountant. It’s a good idea to speak to an accountant first, even just to question them on what exactly you can claim back on your tax return. These will be things like your mobile bill for business purposes, fuel and other costs.
Step 5: Pricing
Pricing is usually charged per mile one way and at a discounted rate if clients want the package returned. It’s a good idea to set one price for your individual customers and another, more competitive one for other courier companies.
Prices will vary depending on where you live and what vehicle you’re using – i.e. how much fuel you’re getting per mile. Be prepared to negotiate prices with other courier companies, or maybe even offer the first delivery at a discounted rate.
After being invoiced, customers will typically have up to 30 days to pay. This means that you must have enough additional income to see you over for that month.
Step 6: Getting your first job
You may be running your own business, but the best way to kick-start your revenue flow is to go to the companies that will sub-contract work out. They are not only your competition but your business partners – they rely on freelance couriers every day.
When other courier companies can’t handle all their jobs in one day they outsource the work. If they know you, and know you’re available, you’re more likely to get the call to come to the rescue for them.
This is where networking comes into use. There are over 1,000 courier companies out there that can provide work for you. See the links at the end of this article to start finding courier jobs.
Step 7: Advertising
Put an ad in the local paper. Get yourself in Yell.com, Thomson Local and online business directories. Post flyers with your prices and contact details to all local businesses. Talk to nearby industrial areas about their delivery needs, even just to help yourself with ideas of pricing.
Have a look at Vistaprint, who will print you business cards for free when you pay for the delivery costs – usually around £5 for 1,000 cards. You choose the design and fill in your information. You can also get letterheads and any other stationery with your business symbol on it for very low costs.
A website can be a great idea, but don’t spend a lot of money on it. Set up a simple site, or even just a page with your details, prices and a photo or two.
Step 8: Daily records
Keeping daily records is essential for a courier. You’ll need to have a schedule of pick-up points and delivery addresses, and a list of signatures to prove that you’ve dropped the packages off to your customers.
You may also want to keep a list of dropping-off points in the most convenient order and a plan of your route.
step 9: Qualifications
Courier jobs require no formal qualifications, apart from a driving licence of course, and most companies like you to be over the age of 25 for insurance purposes. You can take further development courses such as the:
- NVQ Level 2 Carry and Deliver Goods certificate, and the
- NVQ in Customer Service.
We’ve spoken to several courier companies and the average per day seems to be about £140 which is pretty good compared to some driving jobs. It sounds as though you can earn upwards of £300 a day, which could mean £1,500 a week and even £70k a year.
This is based on a figure of 60p per mile to your destination and 40p per mile for the return journey. Every company will have their own tariffs. Some couriers have been paid up to £2.47 a mile, but you need to scope your market.
Here’s a list of the top national courier companies to research:
It all depends on how much you put into starting up and running your business. And business may be slower when you begin, especially if you start part time while continuing with your previous job.
The average working day is between six and eight hours, but it depends on the work available and how much time you want to put in.
Being self-employed gives you the flexibility to choose when you want to work. However, don’t turn down jobs without good reason. Rejecting work from one company on a continuous basis may mean they may stop calling you altogether. You need to tread a fine line to keep everybody happy.
Although courier companies are reluctant to admit the downsides of working as a courier, Hermes and DPD have recently come under fire for delivering a raw deal for its workers.
The Guardian reports that the status of self-employed is offered to couriers as a way of maximising their flexibility, however this is done without provision of sick or holiday pay and with no company contributions to national insurance or pensions. This means that individuals are forced to take up the burden of downtime and unexpected problems, a strategy that is good for profits but leaves staff struggling to make ends meet.
The term self-employment is also used by courier companies such as Hermes to avoid paying the £7.20 an hour living wage. One self-employed courier provided evidence to The Guardian showing that she was only earning approximately £5.90 an hour over two weeks of recent work while another indicated that she earned no more than £6.70 per hour.
The Guardian highlighted the penalties some courier companies enforce to try and make a profit out of people’s vulnerable circumstances. In March 2017, they discovered that “Parcelforce couriers who deliver packages for Marks & Spencer, John Lewis and Hamleys can be charged up to £250 a day if they are off sick and cannot find someone to cover their shift.” This is on top of the fact that multiple days of training are also unpaid and that couriers must cover the costs of fuel and car maintenance from their own pocket.
Although these reports are not very encouraging, the exposure of such workplace practices has meant that the courier industry is coming under greater scrutiny. The Work and Pensions Select Committee and HM Revenues and Customs, for example, have launched investigations into the allegations made against Hermes and this has been taken by other courier companies as a warning against further malpractice.
Couriering is still a viable job prospect for people who want to earn a little more on the side or change careers altogether.
Despite the charges levelled at some of the top nationwide firms, it is important to remember that these are only one or two companies out of more than 4,000 that do business across the UK.
Before you make your decision, however, make sure that you research all of your options thoroughly and know your rights either as a self-employed courier or an employee.
Speak to people who already work for your local courier companies and paint yourself a broad picture of what you should expect.
Keep an eye on the progress of the official inquests and look forward to the greater openness and regulation that will hopefully be a result of them.