A Guide to Starting a Man with Van Business - By Craig Bruun

Thinking of starting a man with van business?

It's one of the easiest and cheapest startups,  and by following a simple business plan you'll give yourself the very best chance of success.

I've done it myself!  Now I write about everything I've learned on the job. My site is free to use and has all the information I wish someone had given me before I started. It reveals how I became one of the busiest “man with a van” in my area by including everything from the idea stage, to the business plan, to starting up...all the way to the daily running and marketing tactics that worked for me.

man and van jobsA few of the over 2,400 jobs I've done in my man and van business

My experience - Over 2,400 Deliveries Done!

In 2008 I began charging people in return for my van and my help collecting and delivering all kinds of stuff in my local area. 

I, like many others, had stumbled across a very profitable niche that slots perfectly between van hire, couriers and large home removals companies by offering people a very convenient and cost effective way to move stuff about. 

At first it was only going to be a part time job to earn a little extra money, but very soon I decided to go full time because of the amount of enquiries and bookings I was receiving.

Five years later I retired after having completed thousands of small moves and deliveries. These included countless what I call "specialist courier jobs" and time sensitive deliveries where hiring a normal courier service, or a large removals company was not an option for the people who used my business. 

A large percentage of the over 2,400 jobs I've successfully completed were collecting and delivering larger ebay, Craigslist and Gumtree purchases such as sofas, beds, and even pianos, large aquariums and over 160 motorcycles! Think of it as truck rental with a driver who is prepared to help his customer carry, load and unload at a prearranged time.

venn diagram for man and van business startups

Look out for the pictures and videos to make the practical aspects of the job easy to understand too! 

Oh, and don't worry, I promise to be totally honest by include the good and the bad aspects of the job. This way you'll quickly decide whether it's the right business for you BEFORE you waste money and time on the idea. 

At the very least, I hope to inspire you to take that first step to self employment, even if you eventually decide to start something other than a man with a van business.

My site includes topics such as:

  • How to register a small one man business
  • How to find customers
  • Building a simple 3 page website in a couple of hours without any skills or experience and how to get found on Google.
  • How to work out your prices and then quote your customers. 
  • What equipment you'll need. 
  • What it costs to start,
  • Insurances,
  • Which jobs pay the most, (and which ones to avoid)
  • How to progress and earn more by doing specialist deliveries,  
  • Plenty of practical tips and advice. 
  • How to shoot a small promotional video and how to embed it into your site like you'll see in the next paragraph.
  • Plus much much more...

Once you've read my guide you'll be armed with a comprehensive 7 day business plan that will give you the very best chance of success.

Why do I write about this?

I've retired. So why not put that vast amount of experience and knowledge that I've gained and "on the job" training to good use?

So, I thought before I go any further, I'll show you a short video that I used to have on my website. It will give you an idea of what it is I did.

Man and Van Businesses work in ANY country! People will ALWAYS be moving stuff from A to B . This video will show you what I did for a living for 5 years!

Okay, so towards the end of my video you would have seen me asking my customers to use my "Online Form"...Ignore that for a second because all you needed to see was what a man with a van does.

In anycase I'll teach you how to build an online enquiry form yourself for your own business so that you never miss an enquiry from a potential customer

How to use my site and how to get further help.

I'll assume you know NOTHING about setting up a business because I've tried to include everything I can think of to help you along the way. Below is a sitemap diagram showing 3 tiers of my site.

Please note that there are many, many more pages that delve deeper into the finer details of tweaking your new man and van business.

As mentioned before, there are plenty of videos and pictures that deal with the practical side of the daily running of your business...such as packing tips and manual handling techniques for moving heavy or fragile items as well as how to strap them in securely etc. 

If I miss out anything then please feel free to post questions in my forum or at the bottom of any of these pages. This way others can benefit from the answers too. 

Why my advice will work for ANY small service delivery business

If at the end of this guide you think it might not be for you, I want you to feel that you've learned a little bit more about what it really takes to open a small local business from scratch. One that provides a service rather than selling something. Service providing businesses tend to be cheaper to start and you don't need to invest in premises and buy large amounts of stock that might never sell. Service providing businesses such as man and van businesses, garden services, carpet cleanings, and painting and decorating business will all benefit from most of what I write about in this website because many of the tactics such as marketing, website building and service delivery tips used when you start a man + van business are common to any local service delivery business.

A word of warning before we start! 

Although Man and Van start-ups can be very profitable, even for first time novices, beware!...it's NOT a business for the work shy! And it's NOT a get-rich-quick scheme! That's actually good news for you because those things just don't work - If they did we would all be millionaires!

I am however proof that it IS a genuine business opportunity that can provide a very comfortable and satisfying lifestyle for those who don't mind working for a living. And it's one that you can easily and cheaply operate from the comfort of your own home, for very little risk. 

How I tested my idea BEFORE starting my Man with a Van Business

Butler and housekeeper before I started my Man + Van

I got the idea of becoming a man and van while working with my wife as a live-in butler and housekeeper. 

I had been asked by the owner of the property to arrange the collection of some antique furniture from an auction house. This got me thinking about working for myself in my own small collection and delivery business. It would be cheap to start and I wouldn't need any special skills. In anycase, If I had a van then all I would need are customers. If it failed then I wouldn't have lost much except for a bit of time invested in setting up my business because I would still have my van which had a monetary value. 

So, I decided to "test the waters" by handing out some flyers to see if I would get any calls from people in need of a man&van services in my area. I printed some A5 flyers on my pc and handed these out in my hometown, just to see what sort of response I would get. At first I didn't have much luck. But about two or three days later I got my first call. Thinking back, I recon I didn't hand out enough flyers in the right areas. I'll get onto that later...PLUS I'll show you many easier ways to find your customers!

Worried about too much competition?

If you do the same, don't worry about competition at this early stage. If there are other man with van businesses in your area, it could well mean that there is a good demand.

Likewise, don't be afraid to try if there are none either. This could mean that you're the first to tap into a very lucrative market. This is especially true in remote areas. And by the way, I see no reason why this tactic of testing your business idea would not work for ANY small business you eventually decide to start.

My First Man with Van Booking.

I clearly remember my the call. I answered the phone to a lady asking for a quote to collect a half a garage full of boxes and some chairs for delivery to a Doctor’s surgery in Portsmouth. Now remember that my only intention was to test the response to my adverts. I had no intention of actually quoting or taking on a delivery job. I was going to say I was fully booked and that she should try elsewhere.

I’m very glad I didn’t! Instead, I asked the lady if I could call her back once I had worked out an accurate quote for the distance needed to travel in order to do the delivery. In reality it was to phone van hire companies to see what they charged, because at this early stage I didn’t even have one of my own!

Anyway, I got that first job using a rented truck. My wife and I pitched up and it took me about an hour to load up. It was a very exciting time to have my first booking, I had started my very own man + van business and at the end of the day this job earned me what it took me 3 days to earn in my full time job.  profit. That was the day I decided that this business could work.

So, I did this type of work on and off when I wasn’t on duty at my full time job for a couple of months before purchasing a van online and going full time.

What size van or truck to get?

One of the reasons I decided to write about starting a man and van business is because there is plenty of bad advice out there. Many so called "experts" who have probably NEVER run a man with a van business themselves, offer terrible advice on online forums. Many of these guys say that  a box or luton type of removals truck is the way to go.

I disagree totally!

Unless of course you plan on starting a home removals business where your only loads will be household goods such as furniture etc. There are much better and easier ways to make money with a van than by starting a home removals business. That's hard work!

Sure, when starting out you'll get enquiries where self movers on a budget are looking for someone cheap to help them move, and in fact I would advise that you take these jobs when they crop, and as you'll read later on in my guide, I would encourage you to proactively seek out small furniture moving jobs, like student moves, 1 bedroom apartments, and people moving their stuff in and out of self storage depts etc because it's the best way to hone your packing skills. It's the fast track way to familiarize yourself with the practical aspects of the way you quote, take a booking, load and unload, and use your equipment such as a sack barrow and your strapping to protect furniture inside your van.

The point I'm making is that unless you decide to start a small moving company, it's pointless getting a van or truck that will only be half filled most of the time.

I opted for a Ford Transit high roof model with a Long wheelbase. I still regard this as the best size for the type of work I did. The Ford Transit, like the Mercedes Sprinter and Iveco Daily are almost as easy to drive as a car, and so common that parts and servicing are very cheap. I got mine second-hand with over 100,000 miles on the clock and it served me very well for 5 years. Then, I sold it for the same price I had paid for it.

Have a look at my van sizes and loading estimates of different sizes that are commonly available.

When starting a man and van company, it's a good idea to think about what type of delivery work you intend doing.

For small home removals, smaller office moves, or for jobs that may require a tail lift, a Luton or box truck is probably the best.

I myself preferred my Long Wheelbase Ford Transit cargo van that had a high roof. As I’ve already hinted at, I gradually stopped taking on work that required lots of packing, and instead opted to do smaller, more valuable loads and single items. I found that I earned much more this way and the jobs were much easier to do. I therefore didn't need anything larger than a Ford Transit.