Business Opportunities for Freelance Same Day Courier Owner Drivers

Sorry about the misleading title – there are NO ‘courier business opportunities’ on this page, just a few words of warning for anyone thinking about becoming a ‘freelance same day courier’ or a ‘courier owner driver’.

As the recession, or ‘downturn’ to put an optimistic slant on it, starts to bite, particularly in the building trade, we’re starting to see more and more new entrants to the same day courier industry. It seems an inevitable feature of every economic slowdown that the industry is swamped with out of work tradesman and redundant factory-workers, keen to put their unused van (or their redundancy payment) to use starting a new business for themselves.

It’s an easy enough business to get into, just a van and a mobile phone required. Nowadays it’s apparently not even necessary to have a collection of maps, or even any map-reading skills; just spend £75 on a satnav and you’re ready for work. That’s the theory at least.

There will no doubt be no shortage of local and national same day courier companies waiting to take advantage of these naïve new starters – high fuel prices, low rates and a general downturn in business has pushed many of their existing subcontractors out of the business and they will no doubt be wishing to put a few more vehicles on the road in the run up to Christmas.

There’s often an (incorrect) assumption that the rates offered by the well-known national courier companies will be the ‘going rate’ and that it must be possible to make a reasonable living at those rates. The reality is that some of the larger and better known courier companies pay their subcontractors mileage rates that haven’t changed for many years. I’ve read recently of one national company paying their subcontractors as little as 44p per loaded mile. That’s £88 for a delivery from Manchester to London, with fuel for the journey costing over £40.

As well as the courier companies wanting to cash in on this new source of fresh meat there’s the internet based scammers circling, all waiting to make a few pounds selling manuals on how to be a freelance courier or charging hundreds of pounds to be a member of their non-existent network.

A quick search on Google brings up a multitude of such dubious offers: ‘How To Become A Courier’, ‘Earn £250+ per day as a freelance courier’, “Make £1,500 a week as a courier’, ‘Join our courier network for just £150’, ‘Become a Freelance Courier’, ‘Want to be a courier? Buy our manual for £50’. It’s all a load of bollocks. Nobody makes £1,500 per week profit driving for a living, even after they’ve been in the industry for 10 years. Most experienced owner-drivers of small vans in the same day courier industry have a TURNOVER of less than £800 per week, often much less than that, for long hours and with high expenses to come out of that figure.

I’d recommend that anyone wishing to become a freelance same day courier should first visit the free forums at (that’s Courier Owner Driver forum, nothing to do with fish!), whatever your question it’s probably been asked and answered on the forums before. There’s also a lot of useful advice on avoiding the scammers.

I might be giving the impression that it’s not possible to make a decent living as a self-employed courier, but that’s not the case at all. It certainly is possible to earn a living but it’s not as simple as buying a manual or paying £120 to join a network or a web-site. Neither is it as simple as writing a few letters to your local courier companies. It will never be an industry where it’s possible to make untold riches with little effort – you’re driving a van around after all, nothing else, and if it was cheaper for these courier companies to employ drivers rather than using subcontractors then they’d do it. Hard work and dedication can build up a reasonable business, but as a get-rich-quick scheme or as a two month stop-gap venture it’s unlikely to give you the financial returns you’re looking for.

So to recap: DON’T pay for advice that you can get for free, DON’T pay registration or enrollment fees in the hope of receiving work and ALWAYS ask for advice on a forum like Codforum before parting with any money, signing on the dotted line or committing yourself to any new business venture. Oh, and don’t call me looking for work – it’s advertised on our website when we have any.

Posted under Courier and Freight Exchanges, Courier Basics, Courier Business, Courier Scams

Posted by Alec at 4:02 pm, October 5, 2008

26 Comments so far

  1. Interesting comments – especially seeing as the banners on this site are full of the same ‘get rich quick make 250 quid a day adverts’ you choose to berate…..

  2. Alec added on  November 7th, 2008 at 08:20

    Yes, they’re deliberately left there for the ironic effect. They’re contributing financially towards the running of a site which is used to criticise their business methods. Every little helps.

  3. Like you style m8!!

  4. david added on  January 23rd, 2009 at 17:15

    is a v.w caddy a car derived van?year 2001 thanks for help

  5. Gary Johnson added on  May 4th, 2009 at 14:41

    Like your honesty! I was made redundant in April 2009, and would love to become a courier, but reading your comments and those on the COD Forum has given me second thoughts. I probably will go out there and do my best, but won’t expect the earth. I’m just a hard working dedicated bloke who wants to work for a living, believe me, trying to work for myself and just scraping by is a whole lot better than being a ‘jobseeker’ and being turned down for jobs that offer the minimum wage. At least trying to become self employed rekindles my pride. Thanks for confirming my thoughts that couriering is not something to be taken for granted, I just hope my determination can see me through.

  6. I do agree with this comment. Yes, there will be a lot of people looking for work within this insudtry in the next 2-3 years, until other jobs start picking up.

  7. Thanks for the advice

  8. Milner added on  February 19th, 2010 at 10:32

    Alex’s comment about a certain national courier paying their owner drivers 44p P.L.M. is spot on. He has not mentioned who they are probably for profesional reasons whereas I have no qualms when it comes to naming……….Step up to the stingy podium……RICO LOGISTICS,…Tarrra !
    Yes my friends, since 2003 when I started with them diesel costs were aroun 72p litre.and their rate was then 44p.
    Now 7 years later and diesel at around £1.13 their rate is…..44p
    Add to this you have to plot on at one of their depots and wait your turn for a job (you could wait all day and not move until you decide to go home at 5 o’clock)You may get lucky, or you could get a local drop for (You wont believe this) 3 quid !!
    So if your thinking of signing up with Rico (”Earn £600 per week” )Logistics think long and hard my freinds, As for me, once bitten…….

  9. i have been made redundant and was very glad i stumbeled over your site a lot of these sites say you can start up with a car or a van do you think it possible to start using a car as i wanted to see if it’s ok befor i lash out and sort a van out

  10. It depends on who your customers are likely to be. If you’re looking at subcontracting then probably not – most companies won’t use cars.

    Ask the question in the forums at – in fact you don’t need to ask it, it’s been answered a few times I think.

  11. THOMSON LOGISTICS added on  November 1st, 2010 at 23:06

    I’ve read all the comments regarding your ‘editorial’, i have been involved in this industry for just over a month, call me nieve but have earned between £600 and £8oo per week for between 10 and 12 hours daily work. My last job in the ‘security industry’ on paye was for over six years working at least the same or in many cases more hours for on average £350 a week! yes you have to show commitment and willing and perseverance but what position dosen’t!

  12. Nick preece added on  February 23rd, 2011 at 17:56

    Hi folks read the comments.. interesting!!
    like most people saw the money that you could of so called earned, being money orientated my eyes saw ££££££ signs.but I remembered that old saying.. You Don’t get nothing in life for FREE!!

  13. mitaspeed added on  February 28th, 2011 at 11:21

    Having looked for a job for 18 months now, and having just been made redundant, I have read this article with great interest, and done some further research. Yes, you can earn money, but not from the initial job, especially these days, as if you drive to london from Leeds, you only get paid to go there. coming back is the trick. seems you need to be a member or a freight exchange/courier exchange/shed to get returm jobs (or have a great contact list!!) But why do they all charge so much money!!

  14. Cannot same added on  March 13th, 2011 at 14:20

    TNT are the same 50p per mile promise you the earth lucky if you make £150 after fuel taken out.Thats working 12 to 14 hour days

  15. gary bollington added on  April 11th, 2011 at 18:00

    i agree with everything you have said its good information i too have been made redundant and was considering returning to this job the rates are much the same theese days when i was working for pony express in the late 80s early 90s back in them days it did pay as fuel was about half as much as it is now the estimate for london to manchester is probably nearer £60 than £40 though making it impossible to make any money at all

  16. 🙂 I smile as I look at all the posting remembering when I started back in 2001 and the rates where 44p per mile fuel was in pennies not pounds and the miles where there for the taking its another very quiet monday with little work but we still have to pay for the merc on the drive the insurance GIT public and other various training to keep upto date with DFT & other bodies my advise to you is dont do it once the van fuel insurance & holiday money is put away your wages are low 🙂 hope this helps ohh yeah and people never pay there invoice on time

  17. benjamin button added on  June 3rd, 2011 at 17:13

    Just a word of sympathy for the owners of (same day) courier businesses.

    Lets not forget a courier company often:
    -Has to wait 45 days + for payment
    -Gets all the hassle and lose business if a driver screws up.
    -Take the hit if a customer goes bust, the driver gets paid regardles.
    -Has to accept drivers take their frustrations out on the companies vehicles, often at great expense to the courier company. Ins goes up, damage needs to be sorted etc etc and any profit soon goes down the drain.

    On top of this a driver gets paid every week/month, the courier company often has to wait 45 days + to get paid, that is IF they get paid.

    The bottom line is that no one is forced to drive for x pence per mile! So if you don’t agree with what you get paid per mile, stop whinging and go try and earn the money else where.
    Alternatively set up your own courier biz and tell your potential customers you will charge them £2.00 per mile to keep your (self employed) drivers happy………..
    Sorry but never that easy and straight forward in any Biz………..

  18. Pete added on  July 28th, 2011 at 00:13

    Wow. Now I am depressed lol. Thanks to your site, I am now looking much deeper into this prior to taking the plunge. Thank you so much.

  19. Paul added on  August 3rd, 2011 at 22:14

    I have been mulling this idea of self employed courier over and over. Searching the sites and have come across many offering high earning potential. Fee’s attached. It all rang a little false because normally anything sounding too good to be true usually is, -in all areas of life I have found… so I am always the skeptic. Thanks for the advice. I am very grateful for it! It seems to ring out more honest that all the 600 quid this and that…. I guess the reality of it is: If you are a bloke with 20 vans and you get 20 muppets to drive ’em then you could probably rake it in…but if you wantit to last you need the best from your muppets so you’ll have to be really good to them by being pleasant and not give them the impression you think they are muppets. -Maybe even buy them chips sometimes! All business is based on exploitation. Social intelligence merely requires agreement or compromise. God saved the queen but screwed you and me…..their swindle continues!

  20. Simon Dal added on  August 6th, 2011 at 19:49

    Some good comments and mostly correct.
    If you subcontract for TNT you have to have a van less than 4 years old ,PAY for your van to be vinyl’d up in TNT logos at around £450+ . Buy their corporate uniform £115.
    And their rate is still £0.25p round trip mileage.
    DHL you have to rent a pda they supply and pay £200 deposit. still £0.26 per mile.

    Rico well You can make more delivering pizzas for dominos.
    I know i have been in this industry since 1994.

  21. Nigel added on  November 22nd, 2011 at 14:54

    I have been in the industry for 8 years and worked for many companies owning and using 3.5 ton vans tipical day is leeds to Aberdeen collection then Glasgow collection then Newcastle 3 collection and back to leeds to unload by the time I have paid for everything I am left with minimum earnings. As a pensioner of nearly 2 years I can’t afford to retire and am unemployable in any other job.

  22. michael spallin added on  January 10th, 2012 at 17:53

    think i will pass on it

  23. thankyou for your honesty i will be using the forum for any questions we are family business we are just getting by with certain contracts we do have you have opened our eyes even more thankyou everymuch dave and jess

  24. Alec I dont know why you spend your time worrying about ownerdrivers .Its up to them if they are incapable of managing their own affairs

  25. Liam added on  May 4th, 2012 at 18:27

    Liam you may not care about owner drivers but if all newcomers to this courier business knew of certain courier firms making money on the back of unsuspecting newcomers. Then they wouldn’t be able to keep on paying crap mileage rates. Its firms like ricoh/tnt/dhl and certain city sprint bases (not in london) paying 50p or below that make it so hard for any decent firm to keep hold of there accounts and pay there drivers decent milage rates.
    I worked for 18 yrs as a motorcycle courier in london and now i have moved from london i am a van driver and only get 63p a mile but i often get a double or treble up which is where i make money. if i am struggling on 63p a mile then these rip off merchant firms need burning to the ground

  26. Dean added on  June 28th, 2012 at 04:05

    Very interesting site. I do the same kind of work here in the USA, and we face many of the same issues as independent contractors, low rates, high fuel costs, etc. It’s quite interesting to read about the problems and challenges of drivers in the UK.

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