If you’re thinking of becoming an owner-operator, it’s extremely important to know what you’re getting into and make sure you start off in the right direction. Over the years, we’ve seen too many good people sign bad contracts, make uninformed decisions, or lose money because they didn’t know how to run a small business. We talk all the time with our clients about the importance of having a vision. There is so much to be aware of upfront before you jump, headfirst, into being an owner-operator.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you going to be local?
- Are you going to be over the road?
- What type of equipment that you want to drive — a tractor, straight truck, cargo van?
- What type of freight are you going to haul?
Unfortunately, too many people come into these positions as owner-operators just kind of “off the cuff”, not thinking about the fact that they’re owning a small business and there’s a lot that goes along with being a small-business owner.
Today, we’re going to talk about the type of research you should do and introduce the topics that need to be a part of your “master plan.”
Having a plan means more than knowing how to drive.
Owner-operators need to know going into this what their goals are, how much money do they want, or need to make? What is their family situation? Can they be gone for weeks and months at a time? Or, do they need to be home every single night? All those kinds of factors weigh into and will help determine, the answers to decisions that they need to make out of the gate.
Company Driver or Greenhorn: You Still Need a Plan
It’s great to have experience under your belt of being a company driver.
That time on the road will provide you with the knowledge and the wherewithal in terms of operating that truck. And perhaps you even spent some time managing your fuel expense, and you’ve got some level of understanding of just how that truck works.
But, there’s a big jump from being a company driver to going into the owner-operator seat. As an owner-operator, all of a sudden, you are responsible for sourcing your freight and managing all of your expenses. Many things that were happening behind the scenes become your responsibility once you’re an owner-operator.
Over the last 15 years, the biggest, most frequent mistake we see are individuals who fail to acknowledge there is a difference in mindset between being a company driver and being an owner-operator. It’s no longer just a job. You need to switch your mindset from that of being an employee to that of being a business owner.
The differences are dramatic.
By not acknowledging the differences you are consigning yourself to failure.
For example, you need to understand the tax implications of that change from being a company driver to an owner-operator. We can help you make a plan and fill in the gaps before you make any life-altering decisions.
What if you don’t have any experience yet?
Let’s talk about the person who has no experience in the trucking industry. They’ve looked at it, they’ve studied it, and they’re thinking, “Hey, that looks like something that I might want to do.”
We see men and women from all different backgrounds decide to make the shift to the trucking industry.
Maybe you’re in a white-collar job and burned out and looking for a change. Maybe you’re in a blue-collar job but want to be your own boss and start your own small business. Regardless of your background or reason for wanting to get into the trucking industry, you still need a plan.
You’ll bring your own set of knowledge and experiences with you and those are valuable–but the trucking industry is so nuanced and can be so complicated, that you really shouldn’t jump into anything.
We’ve seen people new to the trucking industry make a lot of mistakes because they don’t have a plan and can’t answer some very important questions. Some common mistakes we’ve seen and can help you avoid are:
- Choosing the wrong business entity
- Purchasing the wrong piece of equipment
- Failing to pay estimated taxes
- Failing to keep good records of income and expense
- And many, many more…
Individual elements of your master plan
To help you get started, we’ve put together this list of topics that merit your research and attention. Becoming a successful owner-operator doesn’t just happen, but requires intentional planning, and having a long-term vision upfront will make the rest of the journey that much smoother.
- Getting Your CDL
- Buying Your First Truck
- Sourcing Your Freight
- Using an Electronic Logging Device
- Choosing the Right Business Entity
- Tracking Expenses
We have a podcast that goes over each item in detail, to check it out simply click here.
The old saying may be cliche, but it holds true especially in the trucking industry–you simply don’t know what you don’t know. You may not know what questions to ask or what problems to avoid.
Whether you are just starting out or have experience as a company driver, the experience of a trusted partner is invaluable on your journey towards being an owner-operator. At Equinox, we have over 15 years of experience in this industry and we’ve seen it all. We are here to help answer your questions and give you the support you need to plan out your new career. If you have questions or would like to know if we are a good match, click here to schedule your free consultation.