How To Start A Shipping Business


Something would-be entrepreneurs have been asking is how to start a shipping business. Many people shy away from the shipping business because of the misperception that it’s very technical and capital intensive. If you think the shipping business is for you, we are here to guide you on getting started.  

Shipping is the physical transportation of commodities and merchandise goods. As a shipper, you will need a proper understanding of the overseas market. After that, decide on the type of products you want your business to ship and the legal requirements. Develop a business plan detailing concrete steps of how you’ll make your business idea a reality. Fundraise, choose a suitable location, hire staff, and get started.

With the growth of online businesses and international trade, the shipping business is an opportunity worth exploring. The business is technical, but you don’t need any qualifications to start it. Again, the risks involved are moderate to high, but you can make it with a good risk management strategy. 

Things to Have In Mind When Starting a Shipping Business 

Building a successful shipping business needs total commitment and patience. If you are not ready to put in the work, you might want to reconsider your options. 

Consider the legal requirements and see how they will affect your business. The shipping business has a lot of legal formalities and taxes. As a new shipper getting into the business, you need to properly understand the legal and regulatory environment.   

A shipping business is technical and unique. You need to have adequate information about the industry and how it works. Be sure to consult as many professionals as possible to be on the right side of the business.  

Identify the risks involved and assess your own risk-taking propensity. The shipping business can be very profitable, but if you don’t manage your risks, you might make huge losses. 

Come up with a business plan to provide a roadmap. It will also help you to communicate your business to key stakeholders. 

Steps in Starting a Shipping Business 

The following are the simple steps you can follow to start your own shipping business. 

Set Up the Business as Limited Company 

It is not mandatory to register a limited company but approaching it from a limited company perspective has many benefits. One such benefit is that it will operate as a separate legal entity. This means that the owners’ liability is limited to their stake in the company. You can seek the assistance of an expert to register your company for a small fee.  

Know and Document Your Risks

It is good to know your risks, but it is equally important to document them in a risk register. Risks should be updated regularly because things can change. If you fail to manage your risks well, you might plunge your business into chaos. You can hire a risk expert to help you manage your risks. That might be costly, but in the end, it proves worthwhile. 

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Get a Shipping Insurance  

As mentioned above, shipping comes with multiple risks. You need to get shipping insurance to cover all the relevant risks. Insurance needs for shipping companies might differ from state to state. Freight liability insurance and marine insurance are two covers that you might consider. Get in touch with an insurance agent to provide further guidance. 

Open a Business Bank Account 

A bank account might sound basic, but it’s an essential requirement. Open a bank account with a bank that understands the mechanics of the shipping company. Also, look for a bank that treats you like a partner and can come to your aid when you have emergencies. 

 Join a Shipping Association  

Joining a shipping association will enable you to get in touch with other shippers all over the world. Professional and business associations are a great asset to any business person. You get access to industry information, but it also adds a layer of credibility when you feature a professional association badge on your website.  

Create Partnerships 

For your business to thrive, you will need strong partnerships with other shippers, freight companies, clearing and forwarding firms, multinational corporations. You cannot go alone and make it in the shipping business. 

Build a Website 

Shipping is done in the international market. This means you will rely on your websites to attract and connect with customers.  

Having a website is excellent, but you need to ensure that it gets enough traffic. Keep it updated with fresh content and ensure that it is well optimized for Google. Also, consider exploring Google and Facebook ads.    

Managing Customer Relationship 

A business will do well if customer relations are well managed. To get repeat clients, relationship management is critical. Hire the right people and, if necessary, find a customer relationship management tool that works for you. 

Quoting and Invoicing Your Customer 

Quoting and invoicing are an integral part of the shipping business. You can choose cloud-based computing software to help you carry out such tasks. 

Challenges Facing the Shipping Industry 

The world’s shipping industry faces various challenges with which you need to be conversant as a new shipper. Learn quickly from these challenges and adapt. 

The following are some of the common challenges. 

Items can be damaged during shipping if not packaged properly. Even if the packaging is correctly done, conditions in the shipping environment are sometimes very unforgiving. Turbulent seas, poor roads, poor handling, etc., can cause damage. 


The industry is associated with loads of administrative paperwork, and many signatories are involved. Besides, a minor disruption may lead to a call-off or significant delay in product delivery. In some cases, it might occasion delivery to a wrong location or adjustment in delivery cost. 

The greatest of all hazards that face shipping is theft. This is not just from armed robbers but also from hackers. You, therefore, need to invest both in the physical and online security aspects of your business. 

The shipping community has a payment and transactions platform that can be very demanding for beginners. In some cases, tracing missing transactions can be a problem. If not adequately mitigated, this can dent your credibility with clients. 

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Other Challenges Associated with Shipping  

  • Difficulty in finding the best option in the shipping market. 
  • Finding the best rates
  • Shipping demands exceeding forecast
  • Preparation and documentation challenges

Common Mistakes People Commit in Shipping  

The first mistake that a shipper is likely to make is improper packaging. Faulty packaging could be the main reason your products get damaged. When goods are damaged, you will bear full responsibility. To do it right, get a professional to oversee the packaging process. 

Another likely mistake is using an incorrect shipping address. As the middleman between the supplier and your customer, you need to know the correct address. It should be noted that a slight change in the zip code may lead to a total dislocation of the product. 

Lastly, relying on one carrier can mess you up. Instead, work with multiple carriers to promote competition and greater efficiency.  

Other Common Mistakes 

  • Failing to keep the delivery receipt 
  • Estimating the weight of the product 
  • Inappropriate application of the visible return policy 


The shipping business is not as technical as it seems. The starting point is a good understanding of the industry regarding the technical aspects and the risks involved. After that, establish whether the legal and regulatory environment will allow your business to thrive.

Identifying and managing your risks is also essential because it can be the difference between thriving and going under. Have a risk register that is updated regularly. If possible, hire a risk management expert.

Like any other business start-up, you need to have a business plan. It is your roadmap and a communication tool. It will help you communicate your vision to various stakeholders, including prospective funders and investors. 

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