My Advice on How to Start a Man and Van Delivery Business

Discussion in 'First Steps To Starting A Business' started by 1manandvan, Aug 7, 2014.

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  1. 1manandvan

    1manandvan UKBF Contributor

    23 22
    The reason I want to talk about man and van start ups is to provide those thinking of getting a van to do deliveries with a balanced view of pros and cons.

    I'm NOT here to sell the idea that it's easy and that there's lots of money to be made. I'm not rich.

    The aim of my advice is to advise people who have been actively searching for answers and would like some first hand advice from someone who's done it themselves.

    Are there any guarantees of success? NO!

    Although I earned a good living from about my second year in business, and then probably an above average income for the next 4 years before retirement, many don’t have the success I enjoyed because they fail to see the bigger picture beyond just doing the usual man and van work or small removals and that type of thing. It was not by chance that I became one of the busiest guys in my area! But like with any successful small business, it takes effort to get there. I did indeed find running my man and van business from home to be very rewarding and satisfying.

    It's true to say that many new delivery business startups get it wrong, ending up having to compete with the thousands of other small one man and van businesses out there just to earn a minimum income. Many more fail miserably and have to give up because they don't know how to even get their business off the ground. The truth is, it requires little to no skill and very little capital, which is why it's such a popular business to start.

    So, rather than jump in to it like so many other do, here are some reasons why you should reconsider. I will then talk you through my own experiences.

    Reasons NOT to start man and van business:
    • You need to tolerate driving long distances, better still, enjoy driving long distances if you plan on taking on national deliveries.
    • There is no guaranteed fixed income. In fact there is a brilliant chance you'll earn ZERO unless you are really prepared to work hard.
    • It's a physical job. It's NOT for the work shy. You need to be able and willing to help your clients carry and load their stuff.
    • Dealing with the public can be challenging to say the least. It helps to be friendly at all times.
    I would encourage anybody that's already made up their mind to start a man and van business to think seriously about the bigger picture from the very start. There are many wonderful opportunities for van owners to start a small business by exploring niche sectors within the small independent one-man businesses relating to the transport industry. These opportunities will earn you much more than your average man with a van business ever will.

    What Type of Work Can You Expect To Do?
    When starting out you can expect most of your initial inquiries to come from people wanting to save some money on a self-move, or someone seeking help to collect and deliver a single item that's been purchased on ebay etc.
    Of course there are many different types of deliveries that you'll be able to quote on.
    I can say from my own experience that no two days were ever the same.

    My Own Experience
    I started out part time on weekends to earn a bit of extra money doing small local deliveries so that I could get out of debt. By the time I retired in August 2012, I had completed over 2,400 eBay deliveries, small home removals, motorcycle deliveries, office moves, piano moves and student moves.

    Other opportunities
    Some of my biggest earning jobs had nothing to do with man and van work at all. They came from recommendations and word-of-mouth from past clients who recognised my work ethic, reliability and desire to please. In one case, Medway council employed me to help them erect a marquee at a jobs fair in Rochester. The going rate was £1,800 for what was essentially 2 hours’ work a week spread over 4 weekends.
    I was also paid £800 for 3 days’ work on stage at the Marlow Theatre in Canterbury by helping set up props for The King's School. This came about as a result of me delivering their props, a job I was originally employed to do as part of my man and van business.

    There are PLENTY of opportunities out there for those start-ups that keep their eyes open. Starting a man and van business could be just the beginning for you, a stepping stone. You could use it to earn money in the short term while keeping your options of expansion open. I taught myself to move upright pianos by buying a cheap second hand piano on eBay for £20 and then practiced moving it on and off a piano dolly. I also advertised motorcycle transporting and ended up helping people with over 160 motorcycle deliveries to track days, ebay purchases where the buyer would prefer to ride along to pay in cash, non starters etc to be taken to workshops etc, etc...

    In my opinion starting a service providing company such as man and van or specialist delivery business is preferable to potentially wasting money starting a business that requires a large capital outlay for stock and premises rentals.

    There are plenty of ways to get business provided you are motivated. Luckily this business does not rely on your ability to sell anything – otherwise, I would have failed! But what you DO need to get right is:
    • Putting your business in front of willing clients who NEED a reliable man and van, and
    • Be different from the rest of the chaps doing the same thing and give people a reason to choose YOU instead of your competition. This is best done by NOT focussing on typical man and van work such as moving people, etc. Although admittedly this is where you'll have to start in order to build credibility and reputation.
    Your First Month in Business
    Use your first month start-up period in business to familiarise yourself with various ways of finding clients. Get the basics right such as printing up some flyers and distributing them through letter boxes – especially where you see estate agent boards outside houses and apartments! These people will need a man and van soon! Many storage depots take temporary furniture deliveries for people who are renovating their homes. There are eBayers who buy and sell job lots of CDs and don’t have the time to hire a van themselves. Fragile items are being delivered all the time, and courier companies won’t transport certain items such as sofas, glass, antiques, etc. How do you think the thousands of bulkier eBay items get delivered after hours when people are home to accept delivery? That’s right – man and van businesses do it! Also, think about all the office moves, student moves, not to mention the vast opportunity already mentioned in niche transportation services such as fragile loads, time sensitive deliveries, and more. You will be exposed to many new and exciting ideas that will help you make money with your van. Just keep your eyes open.

    Your First 6 Months to 1 Year
    My advice is to start with the smaller loads such as eBay deliveries, small office moves, student moving, etc. This way you gain valuable on-the-job training while perfecting your manual handling techniques. This approach will fill you with confidence moving forward, enabling you to take on more challenging moves or to start to specialise in transporting fragile, heavy, or high value items where there is so much more money to be earned.

    To Start, You Need To Do the Following:
    If you haven't got a van already then I recommend getting something like a large Ford Transit with a high roof and long wheel base, or a Luton van if you plan on doing bigger removals. Have a look at the eBay commercial van section for some bargains, but also do some research into leasing. I started a company 1manandvan in Sevenoaks with a secondhand Transit that cost me £190 a month on H.P. (that's less than a days profit on a good day)
    My van had over 100,000 miles on the clock when I got it and it lasted all 5 years. Your van needn't be new, just keep it clean, taxed, MOT'd and insured.
    Make sure your van insurance covers you for Hire and Reward. Don't take chances with insurance, it's not worth it.
    Remember that your van insurance is different to your Goods-in-Transit insurance. G-I-T will cover any damages to your clients goods. Many policies can also be purchased with Public Liability insurance, which in my opinion is worth the small extra cost just so that you can advertise the fact that you are correctly and fully insured. The fact that I was fully insured earned my more in business that the cost of my insurance, and it gives you peace of mind.
    When you start a man and van company you will NOT need to register for VAT or to go through a difficult company registration process. The only time you need to worry about charging VAT is when you reach the vat threshold which is currently (£81,000 as of today, 7th August 2014) This represents the amount of sales you as a sole trader can make within one year before you are required to register to charge VAT. You are NOT going to earn that. If you do, then please come back and re-write this guide for me.

    Start advertising your services in the right places such as on notice boards in local supermarkets, ebay, houses and flats with estate agents boards outside...there are so many opportunities to get the correct exposure for your business. You'll need to be proactive and get out there.
    Hopefully my tips will have answered many of the questions you may have BEFORE you commit to the idea of setting up as a man and van.

    Use the many talents on this site to ask as many questions as you can BEFORE starting. These people have all run businesses before and will think of things that I've not. I just know what worked for me.
    Thanks and good luck.
    Craig Bruun
    Posted: Aug 7, 2014 By: 1manandvan Member since: Jul 3, 2014
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  2. cautiouscapy

    cautiouscapy UKBF Newcomer

    67 9
    1manandvan, that is a brilliant post full of helpful experience and insight.

    I sincerely hope that people intending to set up a man-and-van business find this post.
    Posted: Aug 7, 2014 By: cautiouscapy Member since: Mar 17, 2010
  3. spare.a.dime

    spare.a.dime UKBF Newcomer

    10 1
    1manandvan, firstly congratulations on your retirement and secondly for this wildly encouraging post.
    I want to do exactly as you speak of here, I have very little capital, so my start-up must be well planned, heavily marketed in the right places and I need to get my pricing right.
    When I've finished with my "Business Plan" would you take a look at it for me?
    Great post, I was getting disheartened looking at endless spreadsheets.
    Posted: Sep 14, 2014 By: spare.a.dime Member since: Mar 15, 2011
  4. hcscheshire

    hcscheshire UKBF Newcomer

    58 3
    There are so many honest people on this site and I find sometimes people just cant take the truth. This post gives you all you need to know about starting the Man and Van business up. I always find when people start the business up they always say they don't want to be known as the business who helps you move house. I get their point but the way I think of it is if people are thinking of you then you are already doing well. The important thing is expansion keeping your fingers in different pies. Before I started my cleaning business I always wanted to test out the man and van idea because really think its a business that can earn people fantastic money as long as they put the work in.

    What so often happens is you see an advertisement that a local man and van has at such a cheap rate and then people compete against their prices.

    Always remember the business is your own and you run it your way. Always seek advice from people like this guy because he's brutally honest and I find in business honesty is the best policy.

    its still an avenue I would love to pursue and this guys advice has helped with my though process ;) good luck to anyone starting out and I really hope it goes well.
    Posted: Sep 14, 2014 By: hcscheshire Member since: Sep 10, 2014
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  5. Senington

    Senington UKBF Newcomer

    45 5
    Wow, this post is really well thought out. Here's my two pence: I've worked in furniture sales before. If you are a man and a van, contact all your local furniture retail outlets. Whenever there is a clearance, bigger items wont fit in customer cars.

    Customers will need a man and a van to collect and deliver for them, as furniture retailers do not always provide the service.

    We always had the one guy whose number we always gave out to customers who needed the service.
    Posted: Sep 15, 2014 By: Senington Member since: Feb 26, 2011
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  6. spare.a.dime

    spare.a.dime UKBF Newcomer

    10 1
    This is great! Thank you for that, between you and Craig I'm inspired to be cracking into the Web-Site which is not a Van Driver and Piano luggers strong card.
    That's a very good idea!
    Posted: Sep 15, 2014 By: spare.a.dime Member since: Mar 15, 2011
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  7. Paul Brooke

    Paul Brooke Contributor

    157 27
    Excellent post 1manandvan... you get a thumbs up from me
    Posted: Sep 15, 2014 By: Paul Brooke Member since: Mar 8, 2011
  8. 1manandvan

    1manandvan UKBF Contributor

    23 22
    Great, I'm glad my post helped.

    I've had a couple of people contact me on Twitter and also a member sent me a direct message with questions relating to:
    1. Ways of marketing their man and van business,
    2. Insurance requirements, How to quote on jobs
    3. Site building with a contact or a quote form etc.

    I will try put something together this week and reply in this thread so that other readers can benefit as well.
    Posted: Sep 20, 2014 By: 1manandvan Member since: Jul 3, 2014
  9. MorrisChesterfield

    MorrisChesterfield Contributor

    823 77
    Ive been in house removal game for a few years and after reading this thread, it gave me a few ideas for a fresh approach.

    Thank you and enjoy your retirement!!
    Posted: Sep 22, 2014 By: MorrisChesterfield Member since: Oct 26, 2008
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  10. 1manandvan

    1manandvan UKBF Contributor

    23 22
    Right...I'm back with some tips that helped me in my own man and van business in Sevenoaks before I retired. Also, I'll address some questions sent to me after my original post but I may need to split the posts as there seems to be a limit to the maximum allowed wordcount in each post.

    Marketing Your Man and Van Business:
    I used a number of ways to expose my business to the correct people looking for a reliable, and more professional man and van service. This way I could charge more by offering Value for Money rather than being cheap!

    Anybody who knows Kent in the South East of England will know that Maidstone, which is where I lived, is a bit of a run down area. There are not many affluent suburbs in the Medway towns and surrounding areas. So, even though I lived in Maidstone, I decided to market my man and van business in Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge. These towns were only a couple of miles away and had residents with bigger, fancier houses who could afford to pay £45 per hour. In fact they prefered to use a man and van company that offered better value for money over one charging say £15 or £20 per hour...and they were happy to pay it!
    Yes, even though I charged 2 and sometimes 3 times more than my cheapest rivals, I offered better value for money. That sound a bit big headed but let me explain...
    There are plenty of man and van businesses in the area who simply did not look like they would offer a professional, reliable service. Their vans were dirty and rusty and I would often see some of my competition working without shirts on with a fag hanging out the mouth. Take it from me, if you DO decide to start a man and van business and cannot see anything wrong with the picture I've just painted, then you are destined to be one of the low earners competing to earn a measly £15 per hour...that's if you can even find the business. I don't think there is anything wrong with people on a budget trying to move their stuff as cheaply as possible. There IS definitely a market for this type of man and van business, but you'll just end up cutting each other's throats to get any business at all.

    So, what if you don't live near or in an affluent area that has more disposable money to spend on a man and van service? Use the following tactics to persuades the public that you are worth the extra money. You should in fact aim at doing ALL of these, no matter where it is you start your man and van business:
    • offering an after hours service when you start out will put you ahead of most of the existing competition and will allow you to rapidly gain reviews and recommendations that you can put on your website. If you can build trust, then you are worth more. Even if you are forced to do jobs cheaply for a month or two after starting out just to get some jobs under your belt and to get feedback.
    • building a solid reputation for reliability and a friendly attitude that is reflected in written recommendations will encourage people to use you.
    • advertise your diary on your website and on Twitter so that you can earn money on back loads while making it much more affordable to your clients. You can offer huge discounts this way without being out of pocket. It was the ONLY time I offered discounts and it won me plenty of business.
    • advertise that you are fully Insured. My insurance earned me much, much more than it cost me!
    • Offer written, fixed-price quotes via an online quote form. Build one yourself when you build your website. It's very easy to do. This way you can respond speedily and accurately so that both you and your client know exactly how much the job will be worth. People prefer fixed prices and are more willing to pay a higher fixed price rather than an "estimated" £15 per hour.
    • Show very specific pictures of the type of stuff you will specialise in...You can earn more if you specialise. I used to show a picture of a fragile rocking horse on my homepage. I also mentioned that I specialised in fragile items. Use your phone camera to take pics of every job you do.
    • Shoot a simple video advertising your in business. This is my old one below...You will see that I ask for the business by explaining how easy it was to get a quote. This simple tactic encouraged people to use my online form.

    Use eBay, Gumtree and Online Directories
    Use eBay to advertise your collection and delivery service for specific items. An example would be a title like this..."Man and Van Sevenoaks. I Specialise in Delivering Chesterfield Leather Sofas. Buy Now price is for coupon to help you carry, load and deliver for 1 hour. See my listing for more details"

    The above eBay marketing tactic will help you in the following ways:
    • Your listing will be seen buy pre-qualified buyers actively searching eBay for leather chesterfield sofas in your area.
    • Your listing will drive traffic to your website. (include a picture of your van with your website address or company name signwritten or photoshopped on the side of it). Be sure to follow ebay's advertising guidelines on their website though. You need to sell a tangible item if you're listing a "buy now" price. The coupon makes it a tangible item. You cannot just advertise your man and van business for 99p! Otherwise you'll get somebody buying your service for 99p and expect you to deliver their sofa from London to Edinburgh for 99p!
    I've used my maximum word count on this post. I'll be back with more.
    Posted: Oct 5, 2014 By: 1manandvan Member since: Jul 3, 2014
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  11. MBE1

    MBE1 Contributor

    647 214
    I used to run this line of business until I decided my health was more important due to arthritus.

    I will add a couple of points,

    1 - ensure your insurance covers you for giving a lift to the client, they will often ask to accompany their goods, and obviously charge them accordingly. It also ensure unloading help is available.

    2 - Put a lot of effort into free web advertising, I managed a good living on free adverts, there are hundreds of sites.

    3 - Reliability is the key to success, if you take a job, do it on time and correctly, do not take a higher paying job and forget to call the original client. Instead sub contract the other job and still make money.

    4 - Have a simple website, carry a pad of paper and ask for a testimonial after every job, once you have a hundred or so people stop ringing asking how much you charge, they start asking if you are available.

    5 - IF someone asks to start at 5am on a sunday morning don't say no, treble your price and say yes, there is no money in undercutting competitors, but loads can be made by being the best. Forget what the client says about how cheap other people are, decide your rate and work for it.

    6 - Personally I only worked on an hourly rate, some people are organised and you can load the vehicle and be driving in half an hour to an hour of arriving, others who normally ask for a fixed rate haven't packed a single item when you arrived, making a three hour job into a fifteen hour type job, but your business you decide.

    When I stopped seven years ago the average man in a van was asking £15 hour in my area, I never worked for less than £60 hour and often got £100 plus per hour, had a load of repeat clients who wanted total reliability. Don't forget most of the £15 per hour guys are uninsured and unreliable.
    Posted: Oct 6, 2014 By: MBE1 Member since: Jun 1, 2012
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  12. blueant27

    blueant27 UKBF Newcomer

    1 0
    RE: insurance

    As a man & van business, once insured on the van do I need all the below ?

    Goods in Transit
    Hire & Reward
    Public Liability

    And is there anything else needed ?

    Cheers in advance
    Posted: Mar 6, 2015 By: blueant27 Member since: Mar 6, 2015
  13. neils3

    neils3 Contributor

    147 26
    Great post, very informative and actually the ethics can be applied to other businesses.
    Posted: Mar 7, 2015 By: neils3 Member since: Apr 17, 2014
  14. Lotech

    Lotech UKBF Newcomer

    2 1
    Ref the above posts,I'm heading in this direction,with a van ,after driving trucks for over 20years.I will hobby drive trucks a few times a month.
    I've made contact with my mates mate,he delivers car parts,days only,on a regular gig.this pays a decent profit/wage,for 6-10 hrs a day.this will be my bill payer,and then I will push for same day work.
    Posted: Jan 16, 2016 By: Lotech Member since: Jan 16, 2016
  15. Lotech

    Lotech UKBF Newcomer

    2 1
    Just wanted to point out the transport option,as I write this the industry is contracting against high agency Fee's
    (I'm Ltd co,agency driver)rates are heading for tenna hr(awful amount)try and ignore parcel firms,more contract work through major firms.AND have a dash cam,it's not unreasonable to sell witness footage,I know £150 is acceptable to insurers.should keep you're premium down as well.
    Posted: Jan 16, 2016 By: Lotech Member since: Jan 16, 2016
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  16. Yarwood

    Yarwood UKBF Newcomer

    3 0
    Excellent advice above

    What are the legal/logistical issues with delivering to France?


    Posted: Jan 26, 2016 By: Yarwood Member since: Jan 24, 2016
  17. Pawel1988

    Pawel1988 UKBF Newcomer

    3 0
    Hi I would like to also start Man and Van business and i really dont know which insurance i need it.
    Goods in transit, Hire an reward or Haulage?
    Please advise.

    Many Thanks
    Posted: Feb 3, 2016 By: Pawel1988 Member since: Feb 3, 2016
  18. MBE1

    MBE1 Contributor

    647 214
    You need vehicle insurance, goods in transit, public liability and possibly employee liability and maybe light haulier cover.

    Do not skimp on insurance, if this is your business you do not want to be arguing after something has happened, so ensure you know what you are covered for, and as importantly what you are not.

    Many policies will not cover giving a lift to a client, many moving house will want to go with the goods, and you can charge them for the privilige. A client mentioned a train ticket would cost them £150 or so and asked for a lift, I mentioned I could but my policy dictated a £75 additional charge, which they happily paid for.

    Most importantly ensure you have things such as replacement vehicle sameday provided, glass cover etc.

    Ask around and get all in quotes and then seperate quotes, it can work out cheaper buying seperate policies, GIT min £1,000,000 is required many companies want £2,000,000 these days.
    Posted: Feb 3, 2016 By: MBE1 Member since: Jun 1, 2012
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  19. Pawel1988

    Pawel1988 UKBF Newcomer

    3 0
    All done, quite expensive but I was prepare for that.
    Many thanks.
    Posted: Feb 9, 2016 By: Pawel1988 Member since: Feb 3, 2016
  20. MBE1

    MBE1 Contributor

    647 214
    No problem, expensive but essential also. Make sure your clients understand you have correct insurances, and charge extra accordingly, no point trying to match a guy using a works van for free in the evening for beer money, that leads to only one outcome.
    Posted: Feb 9, 2016 By: MBE1 Member since: Jun 1, 2012
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