A delivery service is one of the few businesses that can be started with virtually no money. If you already have a bicycle or a car, you can start a delivery service with a minimal outlay of cash for equipment.
Also, make sure you are temperamentally suited to a delivery business. If you are impatient, chronically tardy, or prone to fits of road rage, you should try another line of work.
Before you start
The most important decision you will make in starting your delivery service is to determine who your customers will be and what you will deliver for them. Based on this decision, you will research what kinds of regulations govern your delivery service and what kind of vehicle you will need.
Every delivery service needs some form of business insurance. Meet with an insurance agent to discuss the kinds of risks associated with a delivery service, and purchase business insurance to protect your customers and yourself from those risks.
Once you have decided what you will deliver and how you will deliver it, once you have researched the regulations that govern your deliveries and created a plan for complying with the regulations, and once you have assessed and managed your risks, congratulate yourself. You are now ready to implement your plan and start your delivery service.
How will find customers for your delivery service? Perhaps the best way to get started in a delivery service business is to contact an existing delivery service and ask if you can work as a subcontractor, taking their overflow business and making the deliveries they do not have the resources or personnel to make.
To go into more detail, the best way to describe implementation of a new delivery service is to use two hypothetical examples of two very different delivery services: a document delivery service and a baked goods delivery service.
Document delivery service
A document delivery service carries important documents between businesses. You can start a document delivery service with a bicycle and a messenger bag. Your customers will be law firms, banks, real estate offices, and other businesses that need deliveries of documents that can't be sent by email.
When you go about marketing and promoting your document delivery service, get to know the administrative assistants and office receptionists in the area where you want to work. Introduce yourself, leave a business card or price list, and offer a free delivery to establish your reliability.
Many document delivery services find a niche need and fill it: one delivery service picks up bags of metered mail from tenants in office buildings and delivers the bags to the post office; another document delivery service picks up checks and deposit slips from law firms, doctor's offices, and other service who receive check payments by mail, and delivers the deposits to the customer's bank.
Notary Public service
In combination with a document delivery service, becoming a notary public can be an excellent way to add value to your business. A notary public authenticates signatures on documents. Most of the documents being delivered need to be signed - and often notarized - and returned to the sender. If you are a notary public in addition to being a delivery courier, you can earn a fee for delivering the documents, a fee for notarizing them, and a return fee for the round trip delivery.
Becoming a notary public is not difficult. The procedure varies from state to state, so consult the secretary of state where you live.
Baked good delivery services
Every morning, scones, muffins, and donuts magically appear in coffee shops and cafes, thanks to baked goods delivery services. Some food delivery services require refrigerated vans, but if you focus on early morning baked goods deliveries, your daily deliveries can usually be completed before the weather heats up, even in the summertime.
Perhaps the best way to get customers for a baked goods delivery service is to find a store or coffee that does not offer fresh baked goods, and offer to deliver baked goods daily to the store. Once you have an order for baked goods, find a small, independent bakery to fill the order. Generally speaking, a smaller business is likely to have more flexibility than a big chain or franchise.
Many independent bakeries already have a customer list and a delivery service, but if you make them aware of your reliability and your availability, they will be willing to give you a chance when their regular delivery person goes on vacation or quits.
Pizza delivery service
Delivering pizza by bicycle is one of the most lucrative delivery services one can perform. With a bicycle and a handlebar rack that holds insulated pizza boxes, you have everything you need to start your business. Hungry people are glad to get hot pizza delivered to their door, and they tip generously.
Again, look for local businesses that serve a specific neighborhood, preferably one where few people own their own cars, or where urban traffic congestion makes driving by car unpleasant. Ask the proprietor to add a set delivery charge to the price list, and collect that sum daily from the proprietor. That way you can easily collect payments made by credit card and cash in addition to tips from customers.
Deliveries in rural areas
If you don't live in a city that supports delivery services for business documents or baked goods, use word-of-mouth advertising to let everyone in town know that you are available for all kinds of deliveries: delivering pets to grooming appointments, delivering packages to the post office, delivering prescriptions to home-bound patients, picking up magazines in the city and delivering them to local customers or news stands, and so forth.
Dependable delivery services are hard to come by. You will find that customers value your entrepreneurial spirit and reliability. With a little planning and a very small cash outlay, you can have a successful delivery service of your own.