How to Start a Courier Business in California

by Carolyn Kay Neeley; Updated September 26, 2017

Couriers deliver everything from legal documents and office supplies to fast food orders and groceries. The many large cities in California offer a solid customer base for a courier business, although smaller towns can benefit from these services, as well. Additionally, because there is no inventory required and a courier business can be run from your home office in California, starting this type of business requires relatively little money. Note that there is no state business license in California, but there may be local restrictions on what you can deliver or what types of permits are required, so check with your county and city governments before beginning.

Step 1

Write a business plan. Decide what type of items you will deliver and where your office will be located. Outline the geographical area where you will pick up and deliver items, develop a fee structure for deliveries and determine what method you will use to transport items, as well as how you will obtain the needed equipment.

Step 2

File a fictitious business name or "Doing Business As" form with your local county clerk recorder's office. If your business is anything other than a sole proprietorship, you must also register with the California secretary of state.

Step 3

Apply for a business license with county where your courier's office is located. If you have a home office, you might be subject to zoning restrictions and need a special permit. Additionally, if your service delivers food, alcohol, live animals, hazardous materials or similarly regulated items, you will need additional permits allowing you to transport these types of things. The clerk's office can advise you of which permits you need when applying for your business license.

Step 4

Register your business with the California Franchise Tax Board, as well as your local county and city governments' tax departments. If you will be hiring employees, you must also obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service.

Step 5

Obtain a Motor Carrier Permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles for your courier business vehicles. Anyone who is paid to transport items in his vehicle is required to hold this permit, regardless of the size or weight of what he is transporting. You may or may not need to obtain a carrier identification number from the California Highway Patrol to receive the Motor Carrier Permit, so contact the CHP prior to applying to find out.

Step 6

Purchase insurance and bonding for your courier business and for any vehicles used to operate your business. This protects you in case of injury, if you are unable to complete a delivery or customer property is damaged during a delivery.

Step 7

Begin operating and advertising your business, once all of the appropriate licenses and permits have been received. Create a website where clients can contact you or schedule deliveries, post flyers and drop off business cards, and take out ads in local newspapers to promote your courier business and gain clients.