Everyone can use an extra pair of hands now and then. Whether it's a busy executive who doesn't have time for holiday shopping, a new mom juggling the overwhelming responsibilities of motherhood or an elderly neighbor who'd rather not walk in the rain with his bags of groceries, there's no shortage of opportunities to start up an errand service and make it a success. Here's what you need to do to spread the word.
Identify what kind of errands you want to run and how best to maximize your time. For instance, if you love grocery shopping, you can shop for multiple clients in a single trip just once or twice a week. If you're going to be running a wide variety of errands for a company, however (i.e., delivering packages, picking up supplies, etc.), you may be expected to be on call five days a week.
Acquire a business license and establish a checking account. Since you'll be paying taxes on your income, it's critical to keep accurate records that include a breakdown of your operating expenses.
Establish your core business identity. This will include the name of your errand service, a logo, and perhaps a catchy slogan. These items will be used consistently in all of your marketing materials (business cards, post cards, brochures and website).
Visit the Small Business Administration website which will walk you through the steps pertinent to the type of business you want to operate. For instance, will you be doing all of the work yourself, or do you plan to hire employees to assist you? The site also addresses issues such as creating a business plan, determining a reasonable budget and acquiring a vendor ID number (see Resources below).
Determine what fees to charge your clients. This information should be available on your website so that clients can see at a glance whether you charge by the hour or by the type of errands you're performing.
Have business cards, postcards and brochures printed up. This can either be done at a neighborhood print shop or through online printing services such as Vista Print that allow you to upload your own artwork or work from a wide range of templates and graphics (see Resources below).
Take out classified ads in suburban newspapers.
Mail out postcards and brochures to neighborhood businesses. If your budget allows for it, purchase consumer mailing lists so that you can send promotional materials throughout your immediate neighborhood and surrounding communities.
Introduce yourself to local business owners and ask them to disseminate your information to their employees. Ask if you can leave brochures on their break room tables.
Introduce yourself to the managers of retirement residences. While many of these have group van services to take their residents on shopping trips and to doctor appointments, they may be receptive to an errand-runner who is available on evenings and weekends.
Ask if you can leave your postcards and brochures at beauty and nail salons, barber shops, hospital waiting rooms, dry cleaners, coffee shops and daycare centers.
Watch the newspapers for birth announcements and send the new parents your contact information.
Post flyers on supermarket, cafe, college and drugstore bulletin boards.
Carry your business cards with you always. If, for instance, you strike up a casual conversation with a new grandmother who's trying to decide what kind of gift to give, an introduction to your errand services might be just the ticket.
Offer gift certificates as well as discounts for customers who refer their friends and co-workers.
Make yourself especially visible during the holidays, since this is the one time of year when no one seems to have enough hours in the day to get everything done, shop for presents and plan meals for large gatherings.
In setting up your business, you will need to check with your Secretary of State's office to ensure that the name you want to officially use is available. Don't forget to factor in the cost of gasoline if you are going to be running lots of errands around town. Many of the online print companies can also do direct household and business mailings for you for an additional charge. Add testimonials to your website so that prospective customers can see what your current clientele has to say about your quality of service. As a courtesy, always confirm your appointments by phone the day before.
It's illegal to place promotional flyers or business cards in people's mailboxes. Before posting flyers on apartment complex or office bulletin boards, be sure to get permission first from the management. Don't bite off more than you can chew, especially if you're doing all the legwork yourself. Before you get too aggressive in marketing your services, test the waters with a handful of clients first and determine how much you can reasonably handle.
- Photo by Christina Hamlett