The how-to of going it alone for HGV drivers
Making the decision to become a freelance HGV driver can be quite easy. For some drivers, it seems like a no-brainer. After years of working for a company or an agency, never knowing exactly how much work you’ll get, and therefore never knowing how much you’ll take home, you want some security. Perhaps you felt like you always drew the short straw when it came to the jobs you were given. Maybe you’ve had to miss special occasions thanks to work – birthdays, anniversaries and so on. Or did you miss out on that dream holiday, simply because you couldn’t go when the tickets were on special offer?
All of these factors can persuade drivers that going freelance is the right thing to do. However, once you’ve made that decision, things get a whole lot more complicated before they settle down to normal. After all, you’re not just an employee now. You’re not just a driver anymore. Now you’re the boss. You still have to do the driving, but you also have to run a business, make sure the accounts get done, draw up contracts, negotiate rates and so on. There are a lot more boxes that you need to tick.
However, it isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Pretty soon you’ll have things under control. Like a good boss, you’ll delegate the work that you can’t do and you’ll set up systems to manage the simple stuff that you don’t want to fill your time with. This means things like accounts can be handled by your accountant. Invoicing can usually be done at home – just download a template from the internet and edit it for each invoice you need to send out. These days, with smart phones and hands-free technology, you can keep up with your emails, business calls and so on while you’re on the go. You can download a digital personal assistant to remind you what your upcoming schedule is or read your emails to you.
If you’re a limited company – perhaps there are a few of you working together, you could hire somebody to work as your secretary or personal assistant, managing all of the office work for you. This is almost never done, however. Even larger firms are doing away with their office staff. The cost of employing someone, along with the social security, insurance, office rent and utilities, is no longer justified. You can hire someone online to do the work for you. Pay them what you would have paid your assistant in the UK, but save the money on rent, utilities and contributions. If you can offer them regular work and decent pay (they may well be operating out of a country with lower living costs than the UK), you may enjoy sole-client or preferred-client status.
Another big hurdle for the new freelancer to overcome, is deciding what kind of professional insurance you need. It may be a surprise to learn that you are actually under no legal obligation to obtain such insurance. There is no law stating that you must have either public liability insurance or professional indemnity insurance. The other party to the contract – the haulage firm, however, must have vehicle insurance and hire you as a self-employed contractor.
This doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t get it. If you’ve already spent a decent amount of time driving, you’ll be fully aware of all the unexpected things that can go wrong. Mistakes on your part can lead to you being sued. This is where your freelancer insurance comes in. Who knows what kind of costs can be incurred by simply delivering a cargo late, or to the wrong address? If Elton John can’t put on a show at Wembley because you didn’t deliver his stage kit, you’d better pray you’ve got insurance.
It’s not usually expensive at all to get insured anyway. Of course, costs depend on which policy you opt for and your particular circumstances, but to give you a ball park figure, a cheaper, basic policy might set you back about £40 per year. For the peace of mind it gives you, it’s definitely worth it. Have a look around for more info on hgv insurance policies before you choose the right one for you.