Why you should consider setting up a business as an owner driver – and how to do it

Looking for part-time work that fits around your family? Find out why you should consider setting up a business as an owner driver – and how to do it.

For mothers looking to earn a little extra cash to help support the family or just get out of the house for a while, there are limited options for part time jobs that will fit in with a busy domestic schedule.

You need to have the flexibility to maintain your role as primary care giver to your children, but also ensure that you’re going to be fairly recompensed for the hours you put in. (One of the reasons why so many MLMs prey on mothers.)

It’s certainly not easy, but it’s also not insurmountable. And with a little bit of lateral thinking, it’s possible to earn some good money by doing something you’re already probably quite good at. 

From lateral thinking to literal action

When you think about returning to the workforce you’ll probably start pulling up your old resume, going over your list of skills and worrying that you’re entirely under (or perhaps over!) qualified for any job that might be remotely suitable for you.

But what if there was a job that you were perfectly qualified for just sitting there waiting to be noticed – requiring only the same skills you use every day?

This job may well exist in the form of an owner-driver delivery worker. And not only can you make your own opportunities in this industry, but it’s currently crying out for new talent. 

Driving is a skill most of us already have. In fact, if you’re like the majority of busy mums, you’ve clocked up hundreds, if not thousands, of hours behind the wheel, ferrying kids to medical appointments, nursery, school, sports events, playdates and the myriad other things that crop up daily.

And, just as importantly, let’s face it: as someone who’s given birth you’re the number one expert in delivering awkward packages. So there you have it – it’s a perfect fit! 

What does a career as an owner driver look like?

Setting yourself up as an owner-driver subcontractor in the delivery industry puts you, quite literally, in the driver’s seat of a potentially rewarding career in the logistics sector. And your earning capacity will only be limited by the amount of time and effort you can afford to put in. 

All over the country, fleet managers are looking for reliable owner-drivers to meet the demand for same day and next day deliveries, which the huge (and growing) popularity of online shopping has created.

The rise of the so-called ‘gig economy’ has seen an increase in the outsourcing of delivery work by large retailers. And because in many cases the working hours can be quite flexible, more and more people (many of them women) are seeing the benefits of using their own vehicle to earn extra money – and even make a career out of it. 

For a mum with school aged or even younger children, the convenience of being able to use your own vehicle to work your own hours and earn your own money can be the perfect answer.

But if you’ve never considered working in the sector before (which is quite likely), you might struggle to know where to start to set up as a sub-contractor or independent owner driver in the delivery industry.

The good news is that, while everyone’s situation will be different, there are some fairly simple steps you can follow in order to cross the t’s, dot the i’s and make sure you get off in the right gear. 

How to set up an owner driver business

The whole idea of setting up as an owner driver is to give you the freedom of being your own boss (to an extent) and working as much or as little as you like.

But that doesn’t mean you’re exempt from making a plan, taking some precautionary measures and ensuring you’re working within the letter of the law. 

Is your vehicle suitable?

This is the very first question you have to ask yourself. But don’t worry, because the answer is nearly always ‘yes’. Even a humble hatchback can be perfectly good enough to make small parcel/package deliveries in.

Of course you’ll have structure your business around the size and capacity of your car or van, but some mothers even take their kids on the jobs with them. If you’ve got some kind of a van, all the better, but whatever your vehicle, as long as you ensure it’s well-maintained and has a valid MOT, you’re good to go.

Get the appropriate insurances

Although, not quite. While you may already have vehicle insurance, you’ll have to check with your insurer and possibly invest in a different kind of policy if you’re going to use your car for delivery work.

For instance, you may have to purchase public liability insurance to protect yourself against damage or injury claims, and you’ll need to ensure any goods you’re carrying also come under your insurance policy.  

Make a business plan

This really isn’t as scary as it sounds, but it is important. You should consider a business plan as kind of blueprint to how your business will run.

It’s vital that you understand all your running costs and day-to-day expenses, as well as what you potentially expect to earn in order to get a true picture of how things are going. Some of the expenses you’ll need to consider are fuel, calculated all your expenses should you begin to price your services.

If things really take off you might be able to look at business expansion – upgrading to a van for instance will give you access to freight exchange platforms where you can source extra loads or expand your capacity without having to build up your own fleet.

Register for tax

Even a hard working mum just trying to earn a few extra pennies isn’t exempt from being required to pay the correct taxes. You’ll need to register with HMRC to ensure you pay the right amount and don’t get stuck with a hefty fine – because ignorance is not an excuse.

Depending on your situation, you’ll need to set up as either a limited company or a sole trader, which will affect how much tax you pay – but you should definitely get professional advice on which way to go. 

Consider some qualifications

This almost sounds counter-intuitive to creating a job for yourself with skills you already have. But while you don’t need any formal qualifications apart from a clean driving licence, if you want longevity and the opportunity to broaden your scope, investing in some training can be a good idea.

There are plenty of niche markets you can get into if you’re able to carry specialised loads like medical equipment, hazardous goods and even human organs and blood. It’s also a good idea to join a reputable professional body, which shows you’re serious about working the industry. 

Be vigilant with your accounts

When you’re only working part time and you’ve got other things on your mind (like raising a family, for instance) it’s easy to let your accounts slip for a couple of weeks. But a word to the wise: don’t.

Treat your part time delivery job like the business that it is and make sure that your financial records are kept up to date. This could mean snatching time to balance the books while the kids sleep or in between deliveries, but it’s imperative to keep your finger on the financials – and this includes your tax returns.

There is some great easy-to-use accounting software available, but if it really isn’t your thing, there’s nothing wrong with getting yourself an accountant.

Get ready for variety

One of the best things about taking on a part time career in the delivery industry is the sheer diversity of the job. As a distraction from the challenges of raising children and running a household, it couldn’t be more different – which is a big part of the appeal.

You can choose to subcontract for just one company or actively go out and pursue multiple streams of income, but the nature of the work means that in any one day (or few hours) on the job you could be delivering to an office block, a hospital, a private home, a television studio, a school, a restaurant…and the list goes on!

Is an owner-driver business right for you?

Of course this kind of job is not for everyone and you’ll really need to be sure you’re suited to it if you’re going to be happy.

You’ll need the ability to work autonomously, enjoy meeting and interacting with a variety of people, and you’ll definitely need to be able to think on your feet in order to deal with things like traffic delays, disgruntled customers and on-the-job emergencies.

But if, after weighing up the potential benefits of being able to work around your children’s school or nursery hours, you think that a life on the road is for you, the wonderful thing is that there’s really nothing stopping you from making your way in the logistics sector.

Jessica Vella-Bone is Digital Marketing Specialist at Courier Exchange, part of the Transport Exchange Group.

Photo by Jantine Doornbos