With an entrepreneurial mindset, it’s easy to spot potential business opportunities that stem from practical needs. Providing physical moving services is one way to generate new business from a tangible need that many people have. This guide highlights how to start a moving business from scratch.
There are many things to consider as a business owner, including financial, legal, and administrative details. The time you invest to establish everything properly at the start can generate a significant return on investment.
How can you start your moving business today with less stress, more creativity, and a simple path forward? Consider this your roadmap for launching a new and exciting career.
Here’s What We’ll Cover:
What Does a Moving Company Do?
A moving business or company is a service that helps other businesses, individuals, or families transport physical goods from an existing location to a new one. A successful moving business can cater to commercial services or personal use, but the idea of offering safe and easy transport is the same.
While some moving companies specialize in local or short-range deliveries, others provide assistance for longer cross-country or transcontinental moves. These companies are usually more experienced in handling different types of freight, cargo, and international shipping regulations.
Types of Moving Businesses
If you’ve ever thought about how to start a moving business, you may have begun brainstorming what type of moving company to create. The options are as diverse as your personal interests, so there’s plenty of room for creativity.
Some of the most common or widely recognized types of moving businesses include:
- Local services: These businesses serve customers within one region or state, often within a set radius of 100 miles or less. Movers in this category serve residential properties with families or individuals who have basic needs. This is the standard option for transporting furniture, boxes, fragile items, and storage materials.
- Long-distance services: Long-distance services can include moves within the same country or international shipping. In this business, you must be familiar with federal transportation requirements, shipping dimensions, and overseas freight policies for this type of moving company. There are more complicated logistic and legal regulations involved.
- Commercial moving companies: Commercial movers help other businesses pack up and change locations. This involves substantially more staff and material than residential or small-scale moves. Complexities in this kind of moving company can involve the weight of materials, navigating professional office spaces, and working with other business owners.
- Automotive transportation companies: Some moving companies specialize in the transport of cars and other vehicles, often across long distances. Automotive moves can be priced according to specialty, but this kind of moving company must have fleets and trained staff members to handle the job.
Complementary Services You Can Offer
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to capitalize on your interests, skills, and income goals within the moving industry. There are also plenty of ways that you can specialize by starting a moving company that offers niche services and support to new and existing customers.
Some of the ways that you can expand your moving company to offer a broader range of services include:
- Having goods and packing materials available for purchase
- Offering packing and unboxing services before and after a move
- Specializing in large, fragile, or antique objects
- Having a temporary storage option available for customers in the transition
- Providing a self-service option that includes trucks, materials, and equipment
Why Should You Start a Moving Business?
Starting a moving business is a safe way to enter the world of having your own company. Many business owners enjoy the relatively low barrier to entry that moving businesses provide. This simply means that a moving company is an option with low overhead and minimal requirements to get started.
Additionally, these types of services are always in demand. As long as people are buying and selling houses, moving into commercial spaces, and shipping their materials from one place to the next, there will be a need for reputable moving companies. Since this demand is fairly constant throughout different times of the year, well-established companies can avoid the “feast or famine” cycle typical in other industries.
Finally, a moving business can be as small or as expansive as you wish to make it. If you only have time to offer weekend services, you can do so and start to build a reputation. There is plenty of room to scale your business based on available time, resources, and desire.
10 Steps to Starting a Moving Company
Now that you’ve learned about the potential opportunities you can create with different services, it’s time to consider the logistics. What do you really need to do to start your new moving company? Consider the ten steps below for how to start a moving company.
1. Pick Your Speciality or Niche
You can take your moving company in one of many directions. Trying to offer a multitude of services when you start, however, could prove to be too difficult to navigate. Instead of tackling several specialties at once, pick one and make sure you learn everything you can about it.
Your business specialty dictates how much money you invest, what types of equipment you need, and which legal aspects apply to you. It’s therefore important that you start here in order to follow through with big decisions down the line.
When you choose a niche, your future customers are also able to find out about your company more easily. Having a targeted focus makes your business more searchable and relevant.
2. Define Specific Business Goals
What do you want to accomplish with your new moving company? Is it a current side hustle that you plan to take full-time once the business is profitable? Are you hoping to sell it to a potential investor or to a more established company after a certain number of years?
Considering these questions can assist you as you set personal and professional goals, and as you establish key performance indicators (KPIs) for your successful moving company.
In fact, the more specific you are with things like customer acquisition, revenue goals, and a number of business contracts, the more flexibility you’ll be able to create for yourself.
Setting specific goals in your moving business can also help you avoid:
- Getting sidetracked on additional products or services that aren’t your primary focus
- Losing sight of your company’s mission or its original value proposition
- Spending too much money on an unnecessary expense or investment
- Feeling burned-out and overwhelmed by the pressure to succeed in business
3. Plan Your Business Structure
There are plenty of tangible steps you’ll need to complete in order to actually operate as a successful moving business that makes money. One of the first items on your preparation checklist involves setting up the formal structure of your business.
There are four widely recognized business models that you can choose from. These include:
- Sole proprietorship: Provides the most flexibility to owners, but also includes the greatest amount of liability and personal responsibility
- Partnership: Includes two distinct options for a general and limited partnership, in which certain factors dictate who is responsible for business debts
- Corporation: Separates one’s personal financial obligations from the business itself, and protects owners from business losses should they occur
- Limited liability company (LLC): Establishes corporate liability protection but may also come with higher legal, filing, and startup fees than other structures
When you start out, you may not be ready to consider your business as a corporate entity, but taking the appropriate steps can offer significant financial protection. Make sure to consult with a financial or business advisor for questions unique to your personal situation.
4. Complete Legal and Tax Documents
When you start a new business, make sure to check with your locality or state to determine the necessary filing and paperwork requirements. Many local jurisdictions have specific licenses that you must obtain before you can legally operate. To avoid fees, always file this documentation before working with customers.
In addition to obtaining a local or state business license, you should also make sure to establish your federal tax status. This includes securing an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. An EIN is what uniquely identifies your moving company and allows you to open business-related accounts, file taxes, and receive appropriate recognition.
If you plan to offer long-distance services, you’ll also need to ensure compliance with the U.S. Department of Transportation. Registration paperwork is required for hauling companies that cross state lines, and failure to report your services can result in hefty fines. Make sure to cover all of your bases in terms of licensing to avoid any interruptions or suspensions.
5. Scope Out the Competition
Based on the amount of demand for moving services around the world, it should come as no surprise that there are plenty of businesses offering similar services. While you don’t need to be concerned with every competitor when you’re starting out, you should possess awareness about direct competitors.
Most of the time, this involves looking at the top local providers in your area. What services do they offer, and why do customers choose them for moving? Are there any ways that your business could offer something unique or exceptional?
Investing in a bit of market research into the moving industry provides insight into how you advertise services to local clients. This research may also influence how you price your own services to stay competitive. While you should never copy another company’s messaging directly, you can learn more about what specific things convince people to become loyal customers.
6. Secure the Proper Insurance
Many moving companies encourage customers to secure their own forms of insurance to protect personal and valuable items during a move. As an established company, you can also get different types of insurance to protect yourself from risks on the job.
Some of the insurance policies you might want to get when you start a moving company is:
- Personal liability insurance: These policies protect you against customers who are unsatisfied with the moving experience, and provide coverage for standard accidents, breakages, or lost items
- Automotive insurance: Whether you use a moving truck or van, or even larger commercial fleet vehicles, your transportation options must carry the proper policies
- Commercial property insurance: If you own any other property or assets aside from your vehicles, get commercial insurance to protect your equipment or office spaces
- Workers’ compensation: Since moving is a physical and labor-intensive occupation, it’s wise to have insurance in place to protect workers in the event of injury
Remember, while no one wants to have to use liability insurance, going without it could present a larger risk both personally and financially.
7. Make Business-related Purchases
When you start a moving company, you will need to make some initial investments. Fortunately, if your moving business starts out as a small operation, there aren’t too many overhead costs to take on.
Some of the business-related purchases that you’ll want to make for your new moving company at the start include:
- Vehicle and gas
- Basic moving equipment, such as hand trucks, gloves, and trolleys
- Personal safety equipment
- Uniforms (optional)
- Insurance coverage
- Renting a moving truck
- Moving and packing materials available for customers
- Payment processing or accounting software
- Miscellaneous services like a business phone line or Wi-Fi
If you can’t or don’t want to fund these expenses personally, consider your financing options. Start speaking with local financial institutions at the start of the process to avoid delays.
8. Define a Target Market for Your Services
This step should be part of your initial market research process at the start. Defining a target audience helps you answer the question, “Who are my ideal customers?” Remember to focus on your niche or specialty when defining this audience.
Once you have your target market, you can create a customer persona. This provides a way for you to visualize what your perfect customer needs, struggles with, and wants to accomplish.
The sooner you discover these details, the more potential your small business has from day one. It also helps you to target your advertising, fine-tune your marketing, and improve your standards for customer service.
It also helps to write a business plan that clearly outlines your unique selling proposition (USP) and details your company structure. This business plan may even help you attract investors if you need capital in order to get started.
9. Advertise Your Services
Once you’re ready to officially launch, you should begin marketing your new moving services. You can certainly get creative with this process and leverage a variety of tools and tactics.
Some of the ways that you’ll want to market your small business include:
- Running paid ads on Google or social media
- Driving organic traffic with search engine optimization (SEO)
- Marketing your small business on social media channels
- Running local print ads
- Leveraging word-of-mouth and personal referrals
No matter how you choose to start talking about your business, always be proactive. Customers may not know that your services exist, but they may fit perfectly within your ideal customer profile.
Depending on your budget and momentum, you may want to also hire an internal staff member or an outside consultant to handle some of the marketing needs on your behalf.
10. Onboard New Clients
Have you ever signed up for a new service, only to be left frustrated by an ambiguous process for receiving what was promised? A common pain point in the moving industry is helping your new clients and customers understand exactly what to expect on the day of their big move.
To truly provide exceptional service, develop a detailed onboarding process that makes the work of moving easier for both you and your clients. Remind them of important times, extra fees, requirements, and expectations. By being transparent and paying careful attention to the details, you can help everyone involved in the process avoid unexpected surprises and hassle.
Client onboarding can also contribute directly to satisfaction rates. When customers feel valued even before the actual moving starts, they’ll likely be more relaxed about a process that can otherwise seem complicated and difficult. This is one extra step you can take to ensure customer satisfaction.
Making a Profit in Your Moving Business
Profitability in any type of business is never a given. In fact, it often requires hard work, dedication, and troubleshooting to get there.
When you want to generate a profit in your moving business, adhere to the following practical tips:
- Reduce costs and overhead: As a successful moving business owner, you must learn how to calculate overhead in your moving business. Overhead expenses are those associated with running your normal operations in the background. When you trim recurring costs and cut monthly expenses, you can increase your bottom line to generate higher profits.
- Develop strong lead generation tactics: Acquiring new leads is the process by which your company will generate a steady stream of new clients. While this is an essential step for staying profitable, it rarely happens on autopilot. To make a decent profit, you’ll want to think critically about your customer funnel and marketing methods.
- Knowing your value and primary selling point: When you first begin, you may want to lower your rates to get more clients. Undercutting the value of your services for an extended period of time, however, can be detrimental to profit margins. When you offer exceptional, high-quality value to your clients, you can feel confident in your pricing structure and in the value of what you offer.
Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a Moving Company
Moving businesses can occasionally get a poor or negative reputation based on the experience of a few select customers. Although accidents and poor judgment calls will happen, there are ways to mitigate risk and provide a better experience to paying customers.
Here are a few common mistakes to avoid when starting your new moving company:
- Spreading your resources too thin: As an owner, you should always have a good pulse on the resources that are available to you. This includes time, staffing, materials, and transportation. Never commit to jobs or customers if you aren’t able to cover the responsibilities with what you have on hand.
- Providing inadequate training: Moving may sound fairly straightforward, but there are plenty of relevant job skills that your employees should know. These include handling procedures, safety skills, and customer service. Failing to train staff in these areas could lead to poor experiences and costly mistakes.
- Lacking good policies and procedures: How will your company handle accidents, lost items, and other service interruptions? Avoid potentially awkward and harmful situations by thinking ahead on your policies. Customers may even request these details before signing a new business contract.
Accounting Considerations for Your Moving Business
One of the most crucial areas to navigate in your new business is your accounting structure. How will you set up your most basic financial processes to ensure visibility into your revenue and expenses? Having a reliable and flexible accounting system like FreshBooks can take your business operations to a new level.
Whether you decide to manage your accounting procedures in-house or hire an outside consultant to do the work for you, consider how to keep track of the essential financial activities in your business. This includes establishing a reliable invoicing process, writing accurate estimates for services, and maintaining the proper documentation.
Good accounting not only helps your business in the day-to-day operations, but it also makes a significant difference over many months and years. The sooner you establish your accounting procedures, the more effective you can be when it comes to things like money management, payroll and benefits, tax liabilities, and more.
Start Your Moving Business Today
Are you ready to forge a path to success in your moving business? Now that you have the foundational knowledge and practical tips, you’ll be more equipped to handle every detail along the way.
Although you’ll likely encounter some hurdles in your moving business journey, remember that every company grows through a trial and error process. By committing to the proper startup measures and making the right investments, you can craft the company and get the success you’ve always dreamed about.
By following the ten practical steps above, we hope that you feel ready to kickstart a new and successful moving company in your local community or abroad.