Who is it suited to?
Most people who start up in the courier business have a good knowledge of the industry, having learnt the industry first by riding or driving for other people. That's not to say you couldn't make it without this, but you will be up against people with more experience.
You need to have an understanding of the market and to know your own finances. It’s important to establish a relationship with your competitors because you may need to work with them to survive. You should never refuse work but if it's to somewhere you can't reach in time another firm can take it on for a percentage and you can return the favour at a future date. Networking will make this easier.
If you are starting out on a budget, you should be able to find ways of working with other kinds of partners which be mutually beneficial. For example, Cass Stainton of StreetBike.net found a number of innovative ways to fund her cycle courier business.
"For our waterproof clothing we went to GORE-TEX. We were provided with bright branded jackets at trade prices in exchange for advertising GORE-TEX on the jackets as the cyclists rode around."
It’s a good idea to be very sure of where you’ll get your customers from and have a plan of how you’re going to maintain and nurture that customer base. You need to be able to provide good customer service and relate well with both clients and riders on a day-today basis. Business and riders are not so plentiful that you can afford to be careless with relationships.
Word of mouth recommendation is very important in acquiring new clients and you need loyalty from your riders - they are the face of your business. Tact and being a good judge of character are therefore two very valuable qualities.