Are you thankful you can get out and about? A lot of people can’t. Did you know that in the United States there
are over 50 million people who are 65 years old or older? The baby boomers have been reaching retirement age at an
amazing rate for several years. Our older population is swelling by 10,000 seniors a day. Many of these older people have difficulty taking care of tasks we consider routine—paying bills, grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions. Others just don’t enjoy running errands any more. This makes the idea of an errand service a wonderful opportunity to earn a little extra-money. It’s a win/win situation: You earn extra-money, provide a needed service, and the errands get done.
Starting an errand service doesn’t require a large capital investment. Most of what you need are things you probably already have—a vehicle, a cell phone, internet access (a computer, or possibly your phone), and personal motivation. In addition, you’ll need the ability to take debit/credit cards.
Let’s get started
A recent survey stated many people (60% of those surveyed) claim grocery shopping to be the most undesired errand. That said, let’s assume the majority of your business will be grocery shopping. Here is a basic list of what you need to start your own errand service.
What you need:
Vehicle: a car or truck that large enough to haul and protect groceries.
Cell phone: no matter what business you are in, you and your clients need the ability to communicate.
Personal computer (or possibly, your cell phone): For checking your email, receiving orders over the internet, and to contact your clients.
Credit card machine: You need to be able to except credit and debit cards. There is a credit card reader that plugs into an Ipad, a cell phone, or tablet. The old credit card machines are a thing of the past. With current technology and an internet connection (WiFi works or your phone may have internet capability.) you can take debit/credit payments anywhere.
Because we are going to assume that the majority of your business will be grocery shopping, you may wish to create a sheet breaking down the store(s) you shop into areas like produce, bakery, and aisle 1- however many there are. After you receive a customer’s shopping list, you can mark where in the store each item is located. (Maybe put the corresponding isle number next to each item.) This will allow you easily locate the items on the list. Rather than repeat cycles, you’ll be able to make 1 pass through the store and pick up everything ordered.
You will need to have a (preferably, signed) agreement with your customer stating your fee. Also, when and how you will be paid, charges for multiple stops, and extra services. Other issues to cover are: can you substitute items or name brands: what to do with the groceries after you are done shopping.
You will need to get duplicate receipts when you check out: one for your customer and one for your records.
You should have a dedicated credit or debit card that you use solely for this business. This practice will make it easy to keep records and file your taxes.
Here are a few suggestions for starting your own grocery shopping service:
- Use a simple grocery shopping agreement to describe the details, such as the cost of each trip, how to order, reimbursement, where to put groceries if client is not home, etc. Your customers also need to know if you have a schedule for receiving orders and shopping or if you are always on call.
- Make an appointment with each new client before you shop for them the first time to discuss the above. Also discuss personal preferences, such as brands, sizes, other details. Take notes, and keep this information handy when you’re shopping.
- Put together a supply of re-useable shopping bags in different colors: When you are shopping for several clients at one time, each client’s groceries are color-coded to prevent mix-ups.
- Pay for each client’s groceries separately, and get a duplicate receipt for each order—one for the client and one for your records.
- So you can call a client if an item on their list is not available, not the right size or brand, or not within their budget, carry your cell phone on every trip. After awhile, you’ll develop a working rapport with many of your clients and will need to check less often.
- Be firm about extra charges. Your time generates your income; you don’t have to waste it running from store to store to please a picky customer. If they are insistent, and you can’t get an item at your regular store, charge for the extra time to stop elsewhere.
- Have a printed brochure explaining the process for the customer: $ “Your per-customer rate”, plus 15% of total cost of their order is typical of charges for this service. When you figure your per-customer rate you need to remember this is where the most of your money will come from.
- Carry a large cooler so cold or frozen foods can stay that way until you reach the client’s home.
- Confirm that someone will be there to put the groceries away. Have a clause in your agreement that delineates what you should do with the groceries if no one is there. If you need to put things away there should be a service charge—cover this in your initial discussion and contract.
You can earn extra-money running errands for seniors (and anyone else). As with initiating any business venture, you need to plan your strategy and anticipate solutions to potential problems. The above list is a good place to start if you want to consider developing an errand service. One closing piece of advice: Your errand service is a business. It’s work. It’s a job. So, balance your need to prosper with your customers’ need for service. Your errand service can net a good amount of extra-money.