I will start this off by saying that it is always important to save your money and do your research before starting any business venture. Education can also be a great tool and there are plenty of free intro to business, marketing, ect classes and tutorials online.
I personally only had enough money in my account to pay for only two months of rent when I started my moving company with my business partner. I need to say this, it is very important to work for a moving company prior to doing this on your own. The job sounds simple enough, "Me pick things up and put things down" caveman voice, but processes, customer service, and branding are things that you pick up working for a moving company. We had the privilege of working for the best company at the time in our area. This gave us in my opinion a great advantage. The obvious reason for working as mover first is that, this business is not for everyone physically and mentally.
Have a plan
It is imperative to know your area or the area that you will be servicing. You will need to gather as much information on your direct competitors. What are their rates? What services do they offer? Who and where are they targeting? What platforms and marketing strategies are they generating leads from? These are just a few very important details, because moving is a very saturated industry, and once you start making noise trust me, your competition will start to investigate you. Location is very important and you need to be very deliberate with your demographic targeting.
Create an avatar on paper or on your device of your ideal customer. Go into detail about where they live, where they want to be, how many people are in their household, how much they make, and what makes them tick. For example Jodi is a 25 year old college grad with a degree in marketing. She makes 50k per year and lives with 3 roommates. Jodi is single but wants her own space in a studio or one bedroom apartment. Her hobby's are going to the gym, going to bars and restaurants with friends, and traveling. Jodi purchases most things on amazon, posts on instagram daily, and has furniture from Ikea.
Knowing as much as you can about your avatar (Jodi), will make your marketing strategy that much more clear. You are going to also know what processes in your business will resinate best with Jodi. You know that you will need to be active on instagram, use photos and media that resinate with her age demographic, and maybe focus on apps instead of business listings. Check out the places around her desired location, to find out how many people match Jodi's demographic. Marketing is also very expensive, but you have now just narrowed down your target to young people moving to one bedroom apartments, which is cheaper than going after everybody just to get hired by nobody.
Very important to have your business plan written out. Include your budget, projected return on investment (ROI), and marketing in it. You will also need to come up with a catchy name, because i cannot tell you how many people just call moving companies "the movers". You need your name to be easy, so that you can get free referrals later. BUY your domain name and copy-write your business name before you show it to anyone. This can be a cut throat business and your competition will buy your name if it is available.
What kind of business will you have? An LLC, DBA, Sole Proprietorship, a Partner Ship, or a C-corp? Speak with a financial advisor to see what works best. After you do this, set up your bank account and an owners agreement. Create a website and make sure that it is mobile friendly, so many people spend all of this money on these beautiful desktop websites, only to have them look like trash on mobile.
Your website should be only about briefly and clearly introducing yourself and collecting data. Matter of fact, you are better off using a landing page with a form that goes directly to your email after it is completed. Oops I forgot, please develop a logo and make it available on all of your websites, marketing, and content.
Remember you do not have any money, so you are not going into full service moving. Licenses, insurance, and trucks are very expensive. If you have $40-$80 to spend try out cheap online insurances like NEXT (for your labor, not trucks). There are people who start out by renting U-haul trucks and do the full move, but the fines and risks are extremely high, proceed with caution. For legal purposes you are starting a moving labor company, which on loads and unloads house hold goods, without transportation. Set up a google my business profile and claim your business. Google is king, and most web searches happen on google. Your goal should be to become as close to number one on google searches. Starting a pay per click google ad campaign should also be a goal, along with becoming google guaranteed. Anything that puts your business at the top of web searches. Learn SEO or hire someone down the road to do it for you.
YOUR FIRST JOB
You have found it best to start off on craigslist ($5 per post), Thumbtack ($10 per lead), U-haul hire a helper (free), and you finessed a post in a social media group. You are very cheap and you should be because there is 0 social proof on your company. You are selling based on personality, first impression, and price. You also have your buddy Big Lou to help you . More than likely it will be the craigslist add that calls first, because well that is where the cheapskates congregate and there are no reviews. You know that the average company on there charges 80/hr with a three hour minimum. The job is moving a couch upstairs you charge a Flat rate of $100, the job takes you and Big Lou 15 minutes and you pay Big Lou $45 (so that he comes back to help next time). Your goal here is to make sure that this person becomes a fan of your business. Send them a review request on Thumbtack (you are allowed 10 reviews not from the app). Fast forward you have done about 10 of the cheapest jobs but you have 10 five star reviews
HOW TO GET 5 STAR REVIEWS
Any one who has ever driven or taken an Uber, you will notice the level of customer service needed to maintain a 5 star rating. You will bend over backwards and smile while doing it or else you will die in the waste lands of 1-3 star purgatory. If you are a new company you better have no lower than a 4.8 star rating, because you are not selling experience. Here is my list to receiving a five star review
Always be on time (5 minutes early) and be the one to wait on the customer if necessary.
***Wear uniforms*** or at least plain t-shirts matching the company colors.
Remember the Clients name, because this builds rapport.
Conduct a walkthrough and be attentive.
Bring supplies and pad furniture
Always smile and remain professional, be sober, no swearing, and use acceptable grammar.
Check in with the client and ask how are we doing.
Be as transparent about your services as possible
Quote accurately by giving an estimate by video or in person.
Follow state mandated health protocols
Have prompt reliable customer service, by answering the phones, returning calls in a timely manner, and answering all questions with confidence.
Do not break anything! If you break something pay for it immediately!
Make sure your job is at or under your estimate. If not be very sure to remind the client throughout the day where they stand payment wise. Surprise big bills are the number one complaint in the moving industry.
In matters of disputes, stay calm and make an ally out of an advisory.
Be the authority in all things moving.
FULL SERVICE MOVER CHECKLIST
I know some very profitable labor only moving companies, but in order for you to cash the big checks you need to also provide full service moving, which is x amount movers and a truck. I do not suggest this until you have at least you have a good amount of reviews on google and at least a 4.8 rating. if renting or leasing, set up an account with Penske, Enterprise, or another truck rental company. Money will be very tight if you are not careful, so know your numbers (ROI) well. If you are advertising and rolling around in a truck unlicensed and uninsured, the snitches will snitch (your competition), and you will get caught and fined. You can rent, lease, or own trucks, it really all depends on your business structure and budget. Here are some of things that you will need.
Movers and workmans comp insurance.
W2 or 1099 employees
Moving license (register through your states DPU website)
Cargo insurance and it is very hard to find companies that will insure new moving companies. Look for smaller companies and this will take a while. (You can call the other moving companies as a customer and ask for their insurance provider).
DOT number is to be registered through the department of transportation (free).
If you are going to cross state lines you will need an MC number which is to be filed along with your DOT number https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/ ($300)
HHG Movers Tariff.
Bill of lading for every job.
DOT medical card
45 moving blankets per truck
Commercial auto insurance (if you own)
Unemployment insurance for W2 employees
A CRM which organizes your moving operations
Presence on the first page of google or google ads.
Raise you prices to industry norms.
Types of Trucks and Trucking Companies
U-haul: U-haul is great for local moves under 20 miles. They also work well as one way long distance trucks if you plan to fly your guys back in order to get them back home faster.
Budget: Kind of the runt of the group but they do have discounts every day making them great for jobs going 50 to 100 miles away.
Penske/Enterprise: Very important to build a relationship with them when their rates are low. They provide commercial accounts which can be a steal once your operation is running steady.
HIRE THE BEST
I have to keep reiterating this, it pays to know movers in the beginning. Many moving owners get burnt out because they do not trust their slacky movers to do the job right. You should not get into business only to create a job for yourself, or to make a ton of money, it is the lifestyle that makes all of this worth it. Calling your own shots, spending time with family, and feeling proud of what you are growing is what it's all about. You mind as well just get a job with benefits, because if you plan to stay in the trucks, you will actually be worse off than being an employee. Find the right guys and pay them well, this moves you to a management role, in due time promote or find the right manager, and this moves you to the CEO role. The further away you get from doing the actual moving, the more room you give yourself to grow your business.