If you want to start a side business but don’t want to quit your 9-to-5 just yet, a moving company just might be the way to go. The great thing about moving companies is that they can be as specialized as you want them to be. You can offer your services only on weekends to accommodate your regular schedule and focus on specific moving scenarios. If you want to get a side moving business off the ground, the following steps are advised.
Perform In-Depth Market Research
Jumping into any industry blind is never a good idea. Before you buy that first dolly, it’s important to get a feel for the local moving market and understand what nearby citizens need. A good way to gain intelligence on the ground is to look at Craigslist ads where potential clients are searching for non-professional moving help. This is the niche that you should probably move in on and dominate with your side moving company.
Draft a Comprehensive Business Plan
Once you’ve zeroed in on the right demographics to target, it’s time to crunch some numbers and determine the feasibility of your business model. Figure out what you can charge per hour, per day or per move and what your profit margins are likely to be when all is said and done. Factor in the kind of work you’re prepared or equipped to do before you settle on a particular approach to the moving game.
Incorporate to Protect Yourself
Even if your moving concern is small potatoes, you should really form an S corp or an LLC for the good of the business. Contact a corporate attorney to walk you through the process to save money in the long run and reduce the risk of major lawsuits should anything go wrong. While you’re at it, you should get in touch with a good local insurance company that can provide you with adequate coverage.
Get the Right Permits & Licenses
Unless you’re using a simple pickup to haul sofas, you’ll need some official permission from local authorities. Get in touch with your state’s Department of Transportation to find out what you’ll need to do to be legally compliant when hauling household goods. It goes without saying that you’ll need a business license to file the proper taxes. Check with chambers of commerce nearby to make sure that you’re not violating any municipal codes with your moving outfit.
Stock Up on the Necessary Hardware
A halfway decent moving truck is pretty much required if you want to make any real money in the moving business. You can probably get one for as little as $5,000 if you shop around. Get a loan from the Small Business Administration or your credit union if you’re short on funds. Hand trucks, winches, rope, bungee cords, moving pads and packing materials such as cardboard boxes, tape and foam are key.
Figure Out Personnel Issues Early
One person moving outfits are few and far between. You’ll need at least one extra person to help you tote the goods and handle issues like communicating with clients. Find someone in the same shoes as you that’s looking to bank extra money on the side with regular hours. Reliability is a must since you’ll be sunk if your hired hands call out sick on the few days per week that you’re operating.
Consider a Little Formal Education
While moving furniture and boxes might seem pretty simple, there’s more to it than meets the eye. You may want to take a course in moving best practices to ensure that there are no surprises once you get going. The American Moving and Storage Association is a great resource that can give you some recommendations. An online class in business management from a community college can help you to more effectively administer your finances.
Gain Experience with a Dry Run or Two
Performing a few freebie jobs for friends and family before you lock down paying clients is always wise. Doing so will help you to fine-tune your workflow and develop confidence in your ability to maneuver in tight spaces. Be sure to time yourself and document as many details as you can by dictating notes to your smartphone. You can analyze the information later to come up with intelligent approach to moves.
Lay Down the Promotional Groundwork
Prior to starting up for real, “priming the pump” is integral. You don’t need a full-blown marketing campaign worked out just yet to make a difference. They key is to make sure that you’re not wanting for clients during the first few weekends. Take out a few ads in local publications and use Facebook marketing to make locals aware of your new enterprise. Do this a month or more before you plan on going live.
Launch the Concern with Incentives
Nothing kick-starts a new business like hefty discounts on services. This generates short-term interest in your business and produces longer-term name recognition in the community. Try to put up a highly targeted offer on a site like Groupon or Woot to appeal to web-savvy consumers. You could also pass out flyers or directly mail coupons to potential customers around town. Even if you only break even in the first month, the sacrifice will be worth it.
Take Your Marketing to the Next Level
Once you’ve gotten some real-world experience under your belt, you need to kick up the outreach a notch. Put together a decent WordPress-based website and link it to Facebook, Twitter and Google+ profiles. Use content marketing in the form of blog posts and viral YouTube videos to make a name for yourself. LinkedIn can be a particularly productive platform for seeking out clients. A sustained word-of-mouth promotional approach never goes out of style.
Stay on Top of Trends for Longevity
While the moving industry isn’t an especially fast-changing business, it’s still easy to be left behind if you don’t adapt to new realities. Always be on the lookout for new niches and consumer demographics that can be exploited. Make use of feedback from your clients to constantly improve your service. Reputation is key in this type of business. Last but not least, keep an eye on the competition to make sure that another small-time moving concern doesn’t steal your thunder.