As a freelance courier you will essentially undertake one of two varieties of work:
- Distance Work.
Here, we will examine the 1st in a bit more detail and provide guidance on how to boost your income:
Distance work refers to the type of job where you collect goods from one location and then drive to another location to deliver them and generally the distance between the two is significant, hence ‘distance’ work. One point to note is that you will only get paid for the mileage between your collection point and your delivery point. Any miles accrued from your home, or current location, to the collection point are classed as ‘dead miles’. Similarly, you don’t get paid for your return journey. Don’t despair though; see the section on proactivity below.
Courier companies will pay you an agreed rate. Exactly how you are paid will often vary from company-to-company and often from job-to-job. Your job rate is also likely to depend upon the type of vehicle that you drive.
The mileage rate for a small van will be lower than that for a transit-sized van, which in turn will be lower than that of a long-wheel-base (lwb) van. These differences in pay rate are just designed to reflect the increased running costs of driving a larger vehicle. For this reason, many companies will try to marry the type of job with an appropriate size of vehicle. There is no point sending a letter in a transit van. Similarly, a dozen builders plasterboards and some lengths of timber will require nothing less than a lwb van. Having said this, you will come across occasions where you are delivering a letter in a transit van, simply because either there is no other work currently available for you, so some money is better than none. Or, it might be the case that the courier company currently have no other smaller vehicles available to them. If this is the case, you are well within your rights to negotiate being paid the correct rate of pay for your vehicle size because, as you are effectively doing them a favour, you shouldn’t be left out of pocket as a result.
How Distance Work is Usually Paid
With distance work, you will generally get paid by the mile and the rate of pay is usually worked out so that all your costs are covered and you will make enough profit to make it worth you while. So for example, you may do a job where you collect from point ‘A’ and deliver to point ‘B’, which is 200 miles away. Your mileage rate is 90p per mile, which means that you will get paid £180.00 (200 x 0.90). Ultimately you will have actually travelled 400 miles, when you factor in your return journey. At the end of the job, your total costs maybe somewhere in the region of £120.00, which means that as things stand, your profit on this one job is £60.00 (180 – 120).
In summary: Total mileage = 400
Total Profit = £60.00
Therefore – Profit/mile. = 15p (60/400)
Proactivity Pays Dividends
Let’s assume that you are not content with just making £60.00 for a job that could fill your entire working day.
If you want to reap the full benefits of being a freelance courier, this is where a positive mindset and some proactivity will really help you.
When undertaking distance work, don’t just accept that what you are offered by your courier company is all you can do. Plan ahead and seek additional work.
When you get the initial job offered to you, you will be told where to collect from, where to deliver to and be given an idea of what you are going to transport. This means that you will immediately have a good idea of how much space in you vehicle is going to be taken up by the delivery. Your challenge here is to minimise dead space.
Minimising ‘Dead Space’ and ‘Dead Miles’
Look at the route between your collection point ‘A’ and your delivery point ‘B’. Speak to you courier company again and ask them if there is any other work heading in roughly the same direction. This alone will show the company that you are keen, which will make it more likely that they will push more suitable work in your direction as it comes in to them, either today, or in the future. If they don’t have anything at this moment in time, speak to other companies in the area and ask the same question. This is where building a rapport with several local courier companies will benefit you over the long term.
Additionally, you could already have signed up to a courier platform, like Anyvan, or Courier Exchange, which will provide you with the opportunity to tender for work, via their platform, heading in roughly the same direction.
Even once you have delivered to point ‘B’ you need to be continuously on the hunt for more work, by speaking to courier companies in the area, or reviewing any courier platforms that you have signed up to. Getting ‘return loads’ is one of the best ways of maximising your income.
Taking our earlier example of a 200 mile journey, paying you £180.00, where your profit would have been just £60.00. If you did nothing else, but just got an equivalent return load, paying the same, you have now still only done a 400 mile round trip, but now you will have been paid £360.00 and have a profit of £240.00 (= 60p per mile profit), which is a much healthier state of affairs.
Now consider that it is possible that you could have added a few extra outward-bound jobs and done the same on the return leg, your mileage (and therefore your costs) for the day may not have increased dramatically, but your income will have compounded massively, which will definitely put a smile on your face!
If you enjoy driving, with plenty of time to yourself, then you will definitely enjoy distance work and as we have seen above it can be very lucrative. However, there are some downsides to it, as follows:
- Work is not guaranteed – it’s up to you to make yourself available for work and communicate this to your local courier companies and/or actively seek work using online courier platforms.
- No routine – work/jobs come in on an ad-hoc basis and you can choose whether to accept them, or not.
- Unsocial or long hours – as this type of work comes in on an ad-hoc basis, you could end up starting either very early in the morning, or later in the day. Also, as you could be travelling significant distances, you cannot be sure exactly what time you will get home in the evening.
Don’t let these ‘con’s’ put you off. Remember, as a freelance courier you are your own boss, so you can set your own schedule and decide when you want to start work each day and roughly when to finish. You can also pick and choose the jobs that you do.