Taking the step from driving for someone else to being your own boss is a big one. You’re probably a lot excited and a little nervous. You’ll do just fine — as long as you keep these things in mind.
You’re Running a Business
Becoming an owner-operator comes with a great deal of freedom, but also a lot of responsibility. You’re a business owner now, so it’s time to act like it. You need to be seen as professional and dependable to earn more business. You’ve got to learn how to manage your finances and how to deal with people, even those you don’t like very much. You’ve got to pay your taxes and for business insurance. Most important, remember that you will have the liability for anything that goes wrong on your watch.
You Need to Hire Professional Help
As an owner-operator, you work for yourself — the ultimate freedom. But that doesn’t mean you won’t need professional help to keep your business on track. You might want to hire an attorney to help you parse through any legal speak in contracts or to answer questions about your legal responsibilities. You should definitely hire an accountant to help you set up your business, do your taxes, and help you have a good handle on your finances, both income and expenses. Trying to do it yourself is time you’re not spending growing your business or on the road.
Watch Your Finances
Even with an accountant’s help, you need to know where your money is being spent and how much you earn. What are you spending to maintain, service, and repair your truck? How much does fuel cost you over a trip, a month, a quarter, and the year? How much do you pay for insurance, and do you have the right kind of insurance coverage? Where can you cut costs to save money? An accountant can help you answer these questions, but you’re responsible for knowing this so you can make good business decisions.
It’s important to have a budget and stick with it as much as possible. You’ll also want to tuck money aside to pay for unplanned expenses and to plan for future big expenses.
Take Care of Your Truck
As an owner-operator, you can’t afford a lot of down time for unexpected and expensive repairs. Make a maintenance plan and schedule service for your truck on a regular basis. Yes, you’ll pay for service more often, but over time, you’ll pay less than you do when your truck is stuck in the shop when you should be out on the road. The real cost of truck repairs isn’t just the parts and labor, it’s the time you’re not driving and, if you have a truck payment, the time you pay for a truck not earning its keep. Take care of your truck and you’ll save money over the long term. More importantly, you’ll get more miles out of your truck before you need to replace it.
Become a Better Driver
By “better,” we mean “safer” and more thoughtful. When you drove for someone else, you probably didn’t think much about fuel or repair costs, other than the hassle of dealing with downtime. As a business owner, you’ve got to think about things differently. The way you drive impacts your truck and the money you have to spend. Become a safer driver, and you’ll save money.
- Slow down to save on fuel costs. The difference between driving 65 mph and 55 mph over 100,000 miles can be as much as $2,000 on fuel.
- Hard braking and speeding put extra wear on your truck leading to more repairs and parts replacement.
- Get into an accident as an owner-operator, and it’s your insurance premiums that will be affected. Consider a dash cam system to back you up that you were driving safely. It may also help if you ever get robbed, too.
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