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Couriers are responsible for ensuring items are delivered on time, securely and remain in perfect condition.

Qualifications/ skills

There are no formal qualifications required to become a courier as training is done on the job. However, couriers do a lot more than just transport items from A to B and so there are certain skills that will be required of you:

  • A good sense of direction – you may have to direct yourself to some remote locations and a navigation system cannot always guarantee you will find your way. If you are serious about becoming a courier you can’t be scared to get the map out and direct yourself to where you need to be.
  • Organisation – one of the main reasons that people choose to use a courier service is the speed of delivery. In order to ensure that you keep the service reliable, swift and efficient you need good organisation and time management skills to guarantee that you are punctual and dependable.
  • A good driver – it goes without saying that couriers spend the large majority of their time on the road and so being a good driver and having a full clean UK driver’s license is essential.
  • Be fit and healthy – couriers must ensure that they have the strength and ability to not only transport items on the road, but also to transport the items inside the building or wherever they are required. It is important to remember that you may be required to carry some heavy, large or outsized items and so it could be well worth enrolling on a short manual handling course to ensure you are lifting objects correctly. Back injuries caused by a poor handling technique are painful and can affect your ability to earn money for months, so it is important to ensure you are handling the items correctly.
  • Customer Service Skills – couriers interact with customers when picking up and delivering packages. It is important to act in a friendly, business-like manner when dealing with customers and handle any queries or complaints efficiently. Part of having good customer service skills is having a smart appearance. Many of your clients will be businesses and being well presented will go a long way in ensuring that your clients view you as a professional, which could help you secure some extra work.

Going Freelance

Couriers generally start by carrying out ‘stubby’ work, which is when a courier company offers you work on a freelance basis as and when it becomes available. The courier company will have many stubby workers and their own customer base, work is not guaranteed and the mileage rate is generally lower than if you work for your own clientele.

Most couriers carry out a combination of stubby work and work for their own customers, both of these are carried out on a self-employed or freelance basis, which is commonly done through their own limited company.

Setting up your business can seem intimidating, but the process is probably far simpler than you would expect. There are many advantages to working on a self-employed basis, which include:

  • Flexible working hours decided by you.
  • The ability to choose which clients you would like to work for.
  • Being in control of company decisions.
  • Self-employed couriers enjoy higher rates of pay compared to employed couriers. This is due to the fact that being self-employed allows you to benefit from all profits made not only the salary that employees earn.

To find out the amount of tax that you would have to pay as a self-employed courier take advantage of our freelancer take home pay calculator.

Rates Of Pay

The rates of pay for freelance contractors can vary considerably. Couriers can be paid per parcel, per mile or per day. Parcel rates will vary depending on the size and weight of the packages you are transporting, but an average rate will be around £2 per parcel delivered. If you are embarking on a long journey you should be paid approximately £0.55 – £0.65 per mile, which can add up pretty quickly if you find yourself going up and down the country on a regular basis.

Day rates can be anything from £150 up to £350 per day. Top day rates are usually reserved for experienced couriers who have worked with a courier company for a substantial period of time and proved that they are reliable, trustworthy and get the job done.

Starting out as a courier will incur some substantial start-up costs. Courier vehicles will need to be insured with a specialist courier insurance, this alone will cost approximately triple the amount of regular insurance. It is also essential to get goods in transit insurance, which will cover the loss or damage of the goods while you are transporting them from one location to another. You should also factor in the high service and repair costs that you may incur due to your vehicle’s high mileage.

Finding Work as a Freelance Courier

If you decide to go it alone and work as a freelance courier a great place to start is to contact courier companies that are local to you. These companies may be able to offer you work on a freelance basis, which is a great way to gain experience and some much needed cash while you are establishing your own customer base. Once you have worked with the company a few times and they are confident that you are dependable and honest they will be more likely to offer you work in the future.

When contacting these companies it is a good idea contact them by telephone and then send a follow up letter or email including your contact details, service, working hours and anything else that you think is relevant. Being organised and planning effectively is one of the keys to success as a freelancer. For example if you have a job that takes you from London to Newcastle plan ahead and contact courier companies in Newcastle to secure a job for the return journey. If you are really organised you can make more money through contacting courier companies at points throughout your journey and hopefully picking up several jobs throughout the travel home.

In order to establish your own client base you will need to learn how to market yourself effectively. The first customers to target are local businesses; businesses will always need a good, reliable courier service that they can trust to transport anything from packages to important business or finance documents. The best way to begin is through sending out leaflets that detail your services (one hour delivery, same day delivery etc.) contact details and working hours.

Remember that everyone needs to transport items from A to B and through working as a freelance courier there is nothing stopping you from targeting residential areas as well as businesses. Residential delivery rates will generally be lower than those of businesses, but residential deliveries can be a good way of topping up your salary in between other jobs.

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