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So You Want to Be a Motorcycle Courier

I’d been thinking about becoming a motorcycle courier for a while and then at the end of 2009 along came the postal strikes, my opportunity. They say a recession is a good time to start a business and after all how hard can it be? I used to deliver pizzas around Exeter in the late 80s on Honda C90s and Melodys but a broken leg put an end to that quite quickly. To be honest, a broken leg was not a bad outcome considering how I used to ride those things! After 15 years off bikes while I wasted time with death defying car crashes and a death defying marriage I now had a Honda Pan European ST1100, ideal for long trips to those far flung corners of the UK from my base in rural Devon.

My main role in life is as a single parent carer for my disabled son but while he was at school I was left to fill the days, which I seemed to do by riding somewhere random and then riding back again before he got home. Wouldn’t it be great if I could ride to different places but get someone else to pay for the petrol, tyres and servicing? I live near Exeter and there aren’t a lot of motorcycle courier companies around me so I had a niche market. Then again, you need to ask yourself why there aren’t a lot of motorcycle couriers around. I wasn’t looking for a 24/7 job as I can only work during term time and not really at weekends so the lack of possible demand didn’t put me off.

In October last year I spent about three hours on the ‘phone getting the basic necessities, bike insurance which covered me for being a courier and Goods in Transit (GiT) insurance. Just the bike insurance was a headache, some companies quoted me over £1,500 per year TPF&T and some wouldn’t even consider offering me such insurance. Eventually I went with Swinton Bike who seemed to offer me a good deal and by now I was bored of talking to people in call centres. I Googled GiT insurance and found a very helpful company called Coversure Rubery in Birmingham. Their man Mark sorted me out with a policy which gave me up to £10,000 cover. Goods in Transit insurance covers whatever I, as a courier, am transporting. So if I was taking a £10,000 laptop to someone at Heathrow Airport and it fell out of my top box onto the M4 and was crushed, I would be covered.

So, with no real planning and my usual jump in with both feet and make it up as I go along attitude I was now a motorcycle courier, albeit one with zero experience, Devon Motorcycle Couriers was born. Good start but how do people find me? Where do people look for a courier? In this day and age everyone uses Google. If you want something in a hurry use Google. That is what I assumed and luckily I seemed to be right. First thing to do, find as many free online business directories as you can and get yourself registered with them. It is a slow and laborious process but you’ll be glad later. Don’t be surprised if you get lots of calls over the next few days from the directories asking if you would like to upgrade, for a price. You quickly learn how to say no and hang up. Then what? Sit back and wait? No, keep pushing it! There will always be somewhere you can list your business that you hadn’t thought of before.

Within three days of starting the business I had a job from a financial services company based hundreds of miles away who wanted me to print out some forms they emailed me, ride to Plymouth, get them signed and post them back. Yes, they called me a) because of the postal strikes and b) because they found my number in one of the free directories I’d put myself on the day before. By now I was finding it inconvenient to ride somewhere and check Google Maps on my ‘phone so I invested in a Viper helmet with an integrated Bluetooth headset and a second hand reconditioned Garmin Zumo GPS unit. Now I had my ‘phone, my GPS and my head all connected. I could take calls on the move and listen to directions from the GPS.

I found a free online business directory which didn’t charge me to list my company, they make their money out of adverts on their site. I registered the devonmotorcyclecouriers domain and had a redirect set up to my page on the freeindex site. Seeing their site made me look into GoogleAds where you pay only when someone clicks on your advert and comes to your site. Like cheesecake this appeared to be the future. GoogleAds is not for the faint hearted and you can easily haemorrhage a lot of money for no real return, so be warned.

For the next few months work trickled in but not regularly, at this stage I was lucky if I got one ‘phone call a week. I didn’t panic, I was just testing the water to see what it was all about. My children kept me busy and I didn’t have a mortgage so it wasn’t a make or break situation. I took some marketing advice and finally got around to making my own website. Luckily I was a web developer in a previous life so I built a simple one page website instead of directing people to the somewhat confusing arrangement I had before.

I had the steady trickle of jobs in the first few months of 2010 ranging from documents from a local accountants up to Companies House in Cardiff to a package from a local manor house up to the owner in London and other things in between. The last few weeks of March were good, as people wanted paperwork delivered to their head offices around the country before the end of the financial year. In April I wanted more than a few ‘phone calls a week so I fine tuned my advertising strategy on Google, upped my advertising budget and things really started to take off. Realising that there was demand for a motorcycle courier in Devon I also arranged some Public Liability insurance, again through Mark at Coversure Rubery. This covers me for example, if I put a package on the ground and someone trips over it, breaks their leg and then decides to sue me.

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