Industry sector: Business services

Courier service: Owner-drivers and freelance courier work

Doing freelance courier work may be the easiest way to start out in the business for many. Freelance couriers use their own vehicle to undertake delivery work for local businesses or other courier firms on a subcontract basis. Many large courier firms regularly use van and motorcycle owner-drivers to make deliveries on their behalf. This arrangement works well for both the courier firm and the drivers. The courier firm gets access to a large and flexible network of drivers which it can call on as and when needed, while the drivers are able to source work from a range of firms with established customers.

Starting out as an owner-driver

As an owner-driver, you can work full or part-time, for example at evenings or weekends. You could use a car to begin with, but most drivers use a small van or motorcycle depending on the type of work they want to do.

You can start by contacting a range of local businesses to see if they have any delivery work, either on an occasional or regular basis. You could also contact local courier firms and offer to undertake delivery work for them when necessary. Larger national courier firms regularly use owner-drivers - ask them for details of how to be included on their register. There are also nationwide networks of smaller courier firms and you may be able to join as an owner-driver. Parcel delivery 'auction' websites such as Shiply and Anyvan can be a good source of work for owner-drivers too.

Riders and Drivers Associates is a branch of the Despatch Association which was set up for self employed courier drivers and riders. Members receive regular newsletters to help them to keep up to date with issues affecting the industry.

You can also find out more on websites such as Codforum, which is an independent forum for courier owner drivers.