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by Sally Sparrow

If you have ever considered starting up on your own with a Van and trying to make a living then we have some useful ideas and comments for you.

A summary of our findings, things to Consider:

  1. 1. Man and van businesses are always in demand. While there will be no shortage of competitors, a savvy operator should be able to find work.
  2. 2. Working as a man and van operator has many advantages, including the ability to be your own boss.
  3. 3. The work is also physically demanding and can bring you into contact with new people all the time.
  4. 4. Compared to other types of businesses, setting up a man and van operation is relatively simple. Think about what you need.
  5. 5. As well as a van, you will need the appropriate insurance and to register as a sole trader.
  6. 6. You may also want to invest in a Waste Carriers License so as to increase the scope of jobs you can take on.
  7. 7. Once you are set up, its up to you to promote your business; online business directories, your own website and adverts in local newspapers can be great ways of doing this.
  8. 8. Remember customer service is king; word of mouth recommendations are where you can differentiate yourself from the White Van Man crowd.

Why Set up a Man and Van Business?

A simple online search of browse of a local newspaper will show that there are no shortage of man and van businesses in most towns and cities. However, people always need to move home and business will always need help moving things around, so there may still be an opening in your area.

There are a number of reasons why you may want to set up your own man and van business. These may include:

  • The chance to be your own boss: The vast majority of man and van operators are sole-traders, choosing their own jobs and hours. If youve always wanted to be your own boss and enjoy the flexibility that comes with this, such a line of work could be for you.
  • Getting out from behind a desk: Operating a man and van business is as far removed from an office job as possible. Each day youll be meeting new people, pushing yourself physically and possibly even traveling to new parts of the country.
  • The prospect of a steady stream of work: Again, men and their vans are always in demand. While it may be tough to stand out from the competition and win new business, the jobs are out there, particularly now that many people are struggling to get onto the property ladder and so going from one short-term rental property to the next.
  • Setting up a small business with relative ease: Unlike many small businesses, setting up a man and van operator is relatively straightforward, requiring no major financial commitments or specialist training. Indeed, its one of the few types of small businesses you can quite easily do in your spare time around a full-time job.

What You’ll Need

1) A Van

A van is, for a man and van business, obviously essential. However, despite the fact that you won’t be able to start earning money until you get a van, it’s wise not to rush into buying one. Rather, do your research and shop around for the best vehicle at the best price.

For starters, a standard Transit van or similar could help you find smaller jobs, though most businesses in this field make use of Luton-style box vans, complete with tail lifts to make the work easier if you’re on your own.

Remember that, even if you’re on a tight budget, it pays to invest in a reliable vehicle; breaking down can cost you dearly, both in terms of lost work and a damaged reputation.

As such, it may be worth considering taking out a small business loan in order to get you off to a good start. It may also be a good idea to invest in a reliable Sat-Nav system.

Normally we would recomand an online resourse like Autotrader or Exchange and Mart, but after consideration we think visiting a van dealer in your area and obtaining a personal relationship with them is important, after all if it breaks down or has performance issues its best to have somewhere to go and get it fixed asap and hopefully under warrenty.

2) Sole Trader Business Registration

Before you can get to work, you’ll need to register your man and van business. This will not only protect you from falling foul of the taxman, it will also make you look more reputable and so bring in more work. Assuming, like most enterprises of this nature, that you’ll be running the business on your own (that is, you look after the paperwork, take the profits and handle any losses) then you’ll need to register as a ‘Sole Trader’.

To do this, simply go to the HM Revenue and Customs website Set up as a sole trader you can then register. Once you’re registered, you’ll be legally required to send a Self Assessment tax return every year, outlining how much you earned, and you’ll also be required to pay Income Tax on the profits your business makes and National Insurance.

Additionally, if you expect your business takings will be more than £77,000 a year, you must also register to pay VAT.

3) Insurance

As well as registering your small business, you will also be legally required to get fully insured before you start operating. As well as commercial vehicle insurance, you will also be required to have a valid public liability insurance policy in place before you start working.

Again, take the time to shop around for the best deal, but be wary of cutting any corners and leaving yourself liable should your van, or your client’s property, be damaged or stolen.

One other thing you may want to consider looking into is obtaining a Waster Carriers’ License.

Most local authorities in the UK do not allow commercial vehicle to make use of public tips without a license, so if you don’t have the relevant paperwork, you may not be able to offer a potential client a waste disposal service.

Building your Business

Once your man and van business has been registered, and once you’ve got a fully-insured van, then it’s time to get to work. As a sole trader, it will be up to you to find new jobs and to ensure that quiet periods are kept to a minimum. Fortunately, there are a number of simple but effective steps you can take to drum up new business and stay ahead of your rivals.

  • Marketing

Again, it’s up to you to get your name and the service you offer known, and this is where marketing comes in. For starters, get your business name and contact details up on the side of your van where they can be seen.

Then invest in business cards and flyers to put up in supermarkets and DIY shops and even to pop through letterboxes. To really stand out from your rivals, you may also want to consider starting a website, getting active on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter and signing up to online small business directories that can drive web users to you.

  • Reliability and Professionalism

For businesses of all sizes, earning a good reputation is the key to success. As a new man and van business, then, you’ll need to start making yourself know by word of mouth and the best way to do this is to offer a reliable, professional and friendly service. When you’re starting out, don’t take on more than you can handle, but instead, focus on easily-manageable jobs you’re sure to well.

  • Value for Money

Since you’re just starting out, you may be tempted to try and undercut your local rivals and offer the cheapest service possible. However, such a tactic may not always be the best idea.

Remember that you need to cover all your business costs, including petrol, insurance, parking and the maintenance of your van, plus you have no employer paying you a pension or health benefits.

As such, while charging £10 an hour for your services may seem like a good idea, you could end up earning less than the minimum wage. Furthermore, prospective clients may be put off by super-cheap rates.

They may, for instance, worry that you can only charge so little as your van is so old and worn-out or because you aren’t insured. So, by all means compare your rates to those of your rivals, but be wary of selling yourself as ‘the cheapest’.

Please Remember

That starting your business will be hard work and that nothing ever goes according to plan, however if you are prepared to work hard and understand that building a business takes time then it can be very rewarding, just tell yourself that Eddie Stobart started with one van.

It maybe worth us saying that The Job Centre can help you with any enquires you may have regarding start up financial help or advice, UK Jobs Guide have all the job centre online for you to find your local one.

You will also need to make National Insurance contributions, please see our Guide to National Insurance.

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