As long as there have been vans, there have been men to drive them. It’s a viable career option available to any man, or woman, with a driver’s licence. It’s a flexible business that’s easy to start at little cost. 

There are a lot of ways to make some money with a van. The most common ones are house clearances, deliveries, and removals.

Although, as a van service, you should be as flexible as possible with the kind of jobs you take. So, along with the 3 we’ve mentioned, make yourself available for odd-jobs too – that’s the beauty of the man with a van business model. 

In this guide we’ll cover all the things you need to start a “man with a van” business, including:

  • Equipment
  • Insurance
  • How to register your business
  • How to market your business
  • How much you’ll make
  • How much it costs to set up
  • Managing your finances with accounting software

Equipment

To get started, you really only need a van and a phone. That said, there are some bits and pieces that you will find useful for most jobs. 

  • heavy duty gloves to protect your hands
  • boxes and crates for storage
  • ropes and ties to keep things secure
  • blankets and covering sheets to protect valuables
  • a good set of tools

Insurance

The right insurance is a good idea for any business. The benefit of being a man with a van is that you won’t need too many policies, but you’ll probably need:

  • Van insurance – aside from being legally required, it’ll protect your biggest investment
  • Goods in transit insurance – this covers things while they’re in your van, in case they are damaged. 
  • Public liability insurance – this covers you if anything, or anyone, is damaged because of your business
  • Employer’s liability insurance – this is normally legally required if you hire staff. It protects you if your employees take legal action against you. 

How to register your business

If you’re self-employed, you’ll need to register with HMRC so you can complete a self-assessment tax return. 

You can also register as a sole trader or a limited company. Both of these are quite different from being self-employed. So check out our guide on sole traders and limited companies before you take that step. 

How to market your business

Marketing your van service is an essential part of your business plan, and there are loads of ways you can spread the word. 

Online marketing

Having an online presence is a must. 

Building a website is a good starting point. At the very least, it should include information about your business, contact information, and your prices. You can also set up a payment portal so that people can pay through your website, but it will cost you extra when you’re setting up your site. 

For more information about building a website, including the best website builders to use, check out our article ‘What is the best website builder for a small business?

A good website will make sure you appear when people search for van services on search engines like Google. You can improve your search engines rankings by:

  • Paying for Google ads
  • Making your site SEO (search engine optimisation) friendly
  • Getting your customers to leave a Google review

Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are also a great place to advertise your service. You can join dedicated groups and connect with millions of people. Posting regularly is the best way to gain some traction, and there’s nothing wrong with getting friends and family to share your posts to get the ball rolling. 

Advertising on forums and online directories is also a great way to get your business seen.

Sites like these are a good place to start:

  • Zoominfo
  • Bing places
  • Yell
  • Which

Traditional marketing

Alongside digital marketing, some more traditional forms of marketing can also be effective. You should consider:

  • making business cards to hand out
  • printing fliers and posting them locally
  • teaming up with other local businesses to refer each other’s businesses
  • encouraging customers to spread the word 
  • encouraging friends and family to recommend your business

Branding

Finally, you’ll want to think about the name of your business and if you want to brand your van with a particular design or logo. 

Both will need to be unique to help you stand out from the competition. You’ll need to register your logo as a trademark with HMRC to prevent others from using it, and to make sure you’re not using one that already exists. 

You don’t have to register your name unless you’re a limited company, but it’s a good idea to check it’s not already being used to prevent confusion. 

Trademarking can be an expensive process, and involves a few steps, so read our guide for more information. 

How much you’ll make

Charging the right amount can be tricky. Most van services charge based on:

  • Distance travelled
  • Items being moved
  • Number of people needed for the job
  • The size of your van
  • The area you work in

If you’re just starting with one van, it’s probably easier to charge by the hour and charge more or less depending on how many people are needed for the job. 

Start by checking out how much your competitors charge for similar services. You can use sites like Compare the man & van, to get quotes on specific jobs. 

How much it costs to set up

Your biggest expense will be the van itself. It could cost anywhere between £15,000 and £30,000 for a new one. A second hand van will obviously be cheaper, and hiring a van will cost between £150 and £250 per month. 

Other than the van itself, you’ll have to pay for:

  • Marketing
  • Insurance
  • Employees wages
  • Income taxes
  • Registration costs for HMRC

It might be worth hiring an accountant to give you a clear picture of your expenses and how best to navigate tax bands. 

Managing your finances with accounting software

Financial management can be stressful and time-consuming when you’re self-employed. That’s why thousands of business owners use the Countingup app to make their financial admin easier. 

Countingup is the business current account with built-in accounting software that allows you to manage all your financial data in one place. With features like automatic expense categorisation, invoicing on the go, receipt capture tools, tax estimates, and cash flow insights, you can confidently keep on top of your business finances wherever you are. 

You can also share your bookkeeping with your accountant instantly without worrying about duplication errors, data lags or inaccuracies. Seamless, simple, and straightforward! 

Find out more here.