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How To Start A Highly Profitable
Mailing Service

As the number of people working out of their homes increases, the need for services usually associated with a permanent office goes up as well. When a salesman has to drive across town daily to the home office to collect his mail, have important packages shipped out, copies made and faxes sent, he wishes he could find an easier way to take care of those details without venturing far from home. Or, consider the average consumer who would like to do one of these things, but doesn't work at an office with a fax machine or which uses the major shipping services to send packages. How can he send his package? You can begin a neighborhood mailing service to meet the needs of business people and the general public in your area. The cost of beginning a mail service is relatively low, but the profit potential is fantastic!

Mailing services are best located in the suburban area of a middle to upper income neighborhood. The need for this business is greatest among the self-employed person or out-of-office salesman who doesn't want to go a great distance to the home office to take care of routine matters. Your service can function as a combination mail room/secretary for the harried business professional. By offering all the services he could possibly need an address for the delivery of his mail, packaging, overnight shipping, local delivery, public notary, photocopying, fax transmission at a fee that will bring you substantial profit, you can make your operation a valuable asset to the business community.

Your primary service will be that of providing an address at which clients can have their mail delivered. The reasons your services are needed vary. As mentioned above, some business people don't want to fight the traffic or take the time to drive to the office just to collect a few pieces of mail each day. Some home businesses prefer not to combine their business mail and personal mail, making sorting more difficult or risking having business letters left somewhere in the house and forgotten by other family members receiving the mail. Some folks don't want anyone to know that they operate out of their homes, and prefer to have a separate business address listed. The reasons go on and on. Whatever their situation, you can provide your customers with a central location from which they can handle all their office needs.

Find a suitable location for your business, ideally a neighborhood strip mall along a busy thoroughfare. You will not need a spacious shop, but you'll need enough room for a series of post office boxes, a table for packaging and shipping, a desk for your fax machine, telephone, and computer, and a counter at which to serve customers when they enter the store. Also, set up a small counter to the side where customers can fill out forms, sort through papers, open their mail, etc. without interfering with any other customers who enter the shop. A location 25' x 20' should be enough to lay out a comfortable and pleasant shop where customers don't feel too cramped or uncomfortable working.

You will want to decide if your shop will provide 24 hour access to mail boxes, or will open in the morning and close in the early evening. You'll help your clients out if you provide round the clock box availability, but you have to consider setting your shop up with two separate sections; one that locks to protect your valuable equipment at night and another that is always open. Two floor plans are provided at the end of this report to give you an idea of how this can be arranged. Whatever your plan, consult with the building owners to remodel the store to your satisfaction.

You'll need to purchase several rows of post office boxes from a manufacturer in your area. Check the yellow pages for office equipment manufacturers in your area. Or, consider buying postal boxes surplus at a government auction. Theses can be bought quite inexpensively at auctions, and will be built to last. Your postal boxes need be nothing fancy. They can have a window through which the customer can see if he has mail, or they can be closed front. It doesn't matter whether they open with a key or by a combination lock, as long as you can change the key or number when the box changes hands. If possible, provide both large and small sized boxes. While not many customers will receive large quantities of mail at your location, some may need room for medium sized packages or large shipping envelopes. Rent your boxes by the month, half year, or year. Prices should be about $5 per month, $20 for six months, or $40 per year for the smallest size box.

Clients want the people who send them letters to think that they are arriving at a office complex. Thus, they'll use your street address followed by a suite number as their mailing address. The suite number will be the same as their box number. You simply take your mail as it is delivered daily, sort it by suite numbers, and place it in the appropriate boxes. Clients will retrieve it at their convenience. If any packages are delivered that are too big to fit in a box, simply leave a note in the box informing the customer that he has had a package delivered and can pick it up during regular business hours.

Along with providing a mailing address for clients, you will also offer a central location from which they can ship all their documents and packages via the large, national overnight and hand delivered shipping services. By stopping at your store instead of two or three individual companies, the client can conveniently send everything at once. You will make a profit by charging him a small fee in addition to the actual shipping cost.

You'll need to offer the services of the major delivery firms such as United Parcel Service (UPS), Federal Express, Airborne Express, and the Postal Service's Express Mail. Contact representatives of each of these firms to establish an account with them, determine your costs, arrange a pick-up schedule, etc. The companies will visit with you to explain their services and charges. Each company will provide you with all the forms and shipping containers you'll need for overnight packaging. They will also send price charts and guidelines to aid you in the preparation of packages for shipping. They can also supply window signs designating your business as an authorized shipping outlet for their firm. Check with their representatives for more details.

When your customer comes into the shop, often he will already know with which company he wants to send his package. If he is cost conscious, help him to compare carrier costs for the national or international destination of the package. Explain how it is insured and what you will charge. It is better to include your profit in the cost you quote the customer rather than informing him that the charge is $3 plus a $1 handling fee. Just let him know that it will cost $4 to send his package. This will keep him from feeling as though he is paying too high a price or could do better elsewhere.

Once the customer has decided how to ship the package, make sure his packaging meets the guidelines of the company. Are the ends securely fastened? Is there enough padding for fragile materials? Does the size of the package meet the guidelines not too large, not too small? If need be, inform him of your packaging service and offer to repack the material for a small charge. If the customer merely needs an envelope that is provided free of charge by the shipping company, by all means give it to him free as well.

Because you offer a full range of shipping options for your customers, you will also want to provide them the option of having the entire contents of the shipment securely packaged for shipment right in your store. A substantial profit can be made by doing the actual packaging and shipping of various materials for your clients. The general public will also use this service, especially around Christmas. This alleviates their having to buy shipping materials and package the items at home or in the office. You must assure them that you can securely package the items in the proper size and strength containers to guarantee safe delivery. Charge your customers the price of the
materials plus $3 for each shipment packaged. If the package is substantially larger or smaller, you may want to vary your charge.

Packaging materials of all shapes and sizes will not be difficult. Most items will easily fit in one of three standard sized shipping boxes: 12" x 9" x 6", 14" x 10" x 10", or 24" x 18" x 18". Also, have a supply of padded envelopes for shipping smaller materials: #4, #5, and #6 sizes. Make sure you have material to cushion loose shipments and to prevent damage from shock while in transit. Use either the foam peanut loosefill or bubblewrap sheets to protect these items. Also make sure you use a strong, wide shipping tape to seal each box or bag. We recommend a 3" tape for use on all containers. Check your yellow pages for a box and container supply house in your area. Their salesmen should be happy to visit your shop with samples of any of the items listed above.

The advent of the facsimile (fax) machine has changed the way the world does business. In years before, letters were written and mailed, then the sender waited for a week or more to receive a reply. However, with a fax machine one can now send a letter in a matter of seconds via the telephone lines and expect a reply that same day. By offering a fax service to your customers, you can help them do business faster while you reap a substantial financial benefit.

The fax machine is much like a photocopier, but instead of producing a paper copy, it relays a picture of the original document over the phone lines to another fax machine. The second machine then reproduces a copy of the original on thermographic or plain paper. Fax machines differ in price, depending on the number of advanced options. Visit several office equipment suppliers and major appliance stores to look over the selection of fax machines. Have the salesman go over the different features with you, explaining how each functions and how it's used. When you have decided what features you want, shop around for the best price. If your shop has a personal computer and you probably will consider adding a fax modem and software to your existing system. These are about one half the cost of an entire fax machine, plus they can produce the copy via your computer printer on plain paper or save the document to diskette for later referral.

Your fax machine will need a telephone line dedicated exclusively to it. You will not want to share a number with your voice line. Incoming faxes will receive a busy signal if you are on the line, and it will be a constant struggle to toggle back and forth between the fax machine and the handset if you need to make a call. It is much simpler and more reliable to have a separate fax line and number. Customers may then use your fax number on their business cards and letterheads. When a fax is received for your customer, simply call and notify them that they have a fax to be picked up.

You will want to charge you customer a different fee for sending and receiving faxes. Receiving is much less costly; there are no telephone costs involved, only the use of the machine and the paper on which the document is printed. This cost should be minimal 25 to $1 per page. You can charge your client who sends faxes by one of two methods: a flat per page fee plus any toll charges, or a flat fee per page with the toll charges built into the price. Of the two methods, charging an all inclusive flat rate is best. Because transmission is so fast, the long-distance time will usually be no more than one minute. Most operations charge between $1.75 and $3 per page for send faxes. It is customary to send a cover page with each fax transmission, noting the name of the sender, the recipient, and how many pages in the transmission. This information can be
filled in by hand on a standard half-page form. Offer to send cover pages free of charge. The cost is just a few cents, and it can be built into the per page charge you collect from the sender.

Providing photocopying along with your other services will make you a one-stop mailing service. You need have only one copier, but able to handle letter, legal, and ledger size paper. Also, make sure your copier has an adjustable magnification setting to enlarge or decrease odd-sized documents to fit on the page. You'll want to try out several different copiers before you decide on one. Check with some of the quick print shops in the area and get their recommendations on good quality copiers. Have several salesmen call and demonstrate their machines. Then, shop around for the best possible price. You can charge your customers according to the going rate for copies in your area probably 3 to 10 per letter-sized copy. Charge slightly more for legal and ledger-sized copies.

Another service that you can provide customers is that of local delivery of letters and packages. One driver with a beeper/pager or a cellular phone can take instructions from you and make the pick-ups and deliveries within your metropolitan area. Your prices can be based on the priority of the delivery: pick-up and delivery by 5pm $15. Delivery within three hours $25. Delivery within one hour (within your city) $45. Clients can notify you by phone that they need materials picked up or delivered. You in turn call or page your driver, and he stops off to take the package and then deliver it within the selected time-frame. Simply bill your customers by mail or accept payment by credit card. Paying a driver who uses his own car $8-$10 per hour would still net you a substantial profit as your delivery number increases. Be sure to shop your competition to see what the average fees are in your city.

Your one-stop mailing service must provide potential clients with as many options and features as possible. If you are to capture his attention and business, make sure he realizes that there is no need for him to use several stores or services when you can do everything for him. Consider becoming a notary public so that you can witness signatures for legal documents, affidavits, etc. Your state attorney general's office can give you more details. Provide instant passport pictures. An inexpensive Polaroid camera system designed to take pictures of the proper dimensions can be purchased fairly inexpensively.

The current price for instant passport pictures is $10 for two pictures, and your actual expense is minimal. Consider offering to make copies of keys. An automatic key-making machine and a supply of blanks is all you need to get started. The instructions are simple, and you can gain a great deal of business by offering this service.

There is no end to the services that you can offer from your small location in a neighborhood strip mall. Your business will become an invaluable tool for salesmen and self-employed business people working out of their own homes. Your shipping services will allow folks in the neighborhood to send their packages across the nation easily without having to travel across town to the central office of the freight company. Use your imagination. You'll be able to develop a wide range of ideas that can make your mailing service a big success. What's stopping you from beginning a new, money-making career today? Make your dreams a reality. Go for it!

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