- Most moving businesses must register with their state, county, and the IRS to operate legally
- Establishing an online presence will help you garner clients and generate interest as you launch
- Budgeting for common startup expenses will help you set the right prices for your moving services
With the housing market booming in the United States, now is prime time for aspiring business owners to launch a moving business. You don’t need to come up with an entirely new business model; start a moving company by learning the business strategy of a classic moving service. Here are six steps to get started.
1. Choose a business name
Your business name should stand out and give customers a sense of what services you provide. Choose a creative and clear business name with a matching web address to make it easy for ideal clients to find you and inspire them to learn more. Ideally, your business name should include “moving” or “movers,” but avoid generic names like “The Moving Company.”
Coming up with a unique name is good for both branding and legal purposes. Before settling on a business name, though, confirm that the name is available through these sources:
- Your state agency should provide a name search tool on its website. If a company with similar services is already registered with your desired name, you can’t use it.
- The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has a database where you can search for trademarks. If a business name is trademarked by a company with similar services, you can’t use it.
- A domain name registrar: Confirm that your desired web address is available by searching for domains on a site like Name.com or GoDaddy. A simple “.com” URL is ideal. For example, if you’re launching a Brooklyn-based company called “Best Movers Brooklyn,” you might want to consider “bestmovers.com,” bestmoversbrooklyn.com,” or “bestmoversnyc.com.”
- Social media: Find out if other moving businesses are already using your desired username on social media, even if they aren’t registered with the proper legal entities. You’ll want to leverage social media to build your business, and duplicate names can be confusing.
2. Register your business
The next step is registering your business to legally claim your business name and form your new moving company.
Before beginning registration, it is important to identify:
- Your business structure: Do some research to see what type of business structure is best for you, based on the costs, tax benefits, and risks of each. For example, an LLC, sole proprietorship, or S corporation are some common options.
- Your business location: Determine the legal address of your future business. You’ll use this address to receive mail and most official documents as well as to apply for loans and business bank accounts. It’ll also be visible on public records.
- Your agency of record: Business formation usually occurs through your Secretary of State office, though it sometimes goes through a Department of Revenue, Department of Commerce, and the like.
Once you have this information, gather the required paperwork, and head to your state agency’s office or start the registration process online.
Beyond your main business registration, you’ll likely need to obtain:
- An employer identification number (EIN): Most moving businesses hold valid EINs, which is required for any business that has employees or is structured as a corporation or partnership. Find out if you need one, then complete the application on the IRS website.
- A USDOT number: A U.S. Department of Transportation number from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is required for movers in most states, as well as for movers crossing state lines.
- Local licensing: Many states, counties, and cities have local licensing requirements for movers. The state agency you’re registering through can provide more guidance.
3. Set up your online profiles
Once you’re officially approved for business, you can start thinking about building your online presence. Every day, consumers use search engines, social media platforms, and Yelp to find trustworthy movers. If you want to ensure that your small business is front-and-center, you need to be where potential customers are looking.
Along with creating a professional website, set up business profiles on platforms such as Yelp, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
When you claim your Yelp Business Page, you’ll appear in searches for local users who are ready to book services that you provide. In fact, one study shows that 97% of people make a purchase after visiting Yelp.
Claiming and customizing your page— uploading pictures of your logo, moving truck, and packing materials—is the first step to building trust on the platform.
Similarly, creating social media pages for your business on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn can help you increase your visibility. You can use these platforms to engage with potential customers, announce your launch, and continue building relationships over time.
4. Develop your financial plan
Crafting a financial plan is a critical step in launching a successful moving company. Your startup costs can be high—moving trucks aren’t cheap—and your expenses can easily tumble out of control if you don’t have a realistic budget prepared. Successful moving companies understand what they need to spend and then create a strategic plan for funding and cost recovery.
Plan out your expenses
When creating an expense plan, start by listing out your expected costs. For moving companies, these may include:
- Employee salaries, wages, and benefits
- Contractor payments
- Moving trucks
- Packing materials (boxes, bubble wrap, furniture pads, tarps, etc.)
- Commercial insurance coverage (auto insurance, cargo insurance, liability insurance, etc.)
Consider purchasing pre-owned items, such as a used truck, from existing moving companies or online to help lower your costs. Do some research to ensure that your numbers are as accurate as possible and leave no room for surprises.
Create a pricing strategy
With your expenses in mind, it’s time to figure out how you’ll price your moving services. There are standard methods that movers use to calculate price estimates—usually by the hour for local moves and by weight and distance for long-distance moves—but you’ll need to decide the exact rates that work for your own moving business.
Think about factors like gas prices in your service area, how quickly your team can complete different types of moving jobs, and how much effort it takes to move certain items (for example, standard boxes versus couches or pianos). You can also call around to local moving companies to get a sense of their types of pricing strategies. It’s also a good idea to reach out to your state’s Department of Transportation (DOT) to find out if there are any pricing regulations for moving businesses.
Also figure out if you’ll offer launch promotions. For example, you may provide discounts on your service or special moving bundles to land your first clients.
Identify your funding sources
You don’t need thousands of dollars saved in your bank account to start a successful moving business, but you do need a plan for how you’ll acquire funding if you don’t have cash flow at the outset.
Funding can come from a variety of sources, including:
- Bank loans
- Crowdfunding sites
- Friends and family
- Lines of credit
- Credit cards
Consider whether you want to take on debt via sourcing like loans or lines of credit, as well as how much you can realistically take on in monthly payments.
5. Build your marketing strategy
Launching your own moving company includes leveraging marketing even if you already have a strong network. You need solid strategies to reach your target audience since the people in your personal or professional network may not need moving services anytime soon.
A few ways you can do so include:
- Networking at local events, bringing business cards and flyers
- Posting to social media on both your business page and personal profile
- Creating a referral program in which you offer rewards for those who bring you business
Paid advertising—including social media ads, Yelp Ads, and search engine ads—is particularly useful for promoting the launch of your moving company. These cost-effective methods—in addition to opting into free online advertising for small businesses—let you closely target your ideal customers and generate quality interest, rather than spending a lot of money to reach a massive audience with a small percentage of potential clients.
6. Master client management
Mastering client management is a huge part of starting a successful moving company that has a solid reputation, receives 5-star reviews, and is known for quality moving services and customer support.
To make the customer experience as smooth as possible, take these steps:
- Narrow down your customer service channels. Will you take phone calls, emails, and direct messages? On what dates and times can you guarantee availability?
- Train your customer support team. How should they respond to different types of inquiries? And especially if customers have issues?
- Prepare a process for providing quotes. How can customers request an estimate? What do you need to do to get back to them quickly?
- Create contracts and documents. Have moving contracts and other necessary documents prepared and ready to send to seamlessly take on new business and add additional team members, if the need arises. Working with a lawyer to draft these documents may cost a sizeable sum, but the added protection will pay off in the long run, especially in the event of conflict with clients or employees.
Put your knowledge of how to start a moving company into action
Helping people move can be a profitable gig. To make your moving company successful, it’s important to build your business strategically.
Start with registering your business, then create your online profiles and develop solid financial and marketing plans. Once your business is ready to operate, prepare for your first clients with the right documents and support channels.
Get more help with your business development process by learning how to write a business plan and why you need one.