Tips for successfully operating as a small or independent freight broker

Published: Oct 21, 2013
The freight broker industry has been under the spotlight after the $75K freight broker bond increase. Some small, mid-sized and independent freight brokers became apprehensive about their ability to stay in business. The hike in licensing costs, however, can be offset by adopting various winning strategies to minimize other costs and reap a higher net profit.

Most freight brokers enjoy the freedom of choosing their workload and associates. They also use their expertise to get the most out of each working day. Here’s a brief overview.


born1945 / Foter / CC BY

Attend a freight broker school

Although you don’t need a certificate from a training program to become a freight broker, attending a freight broker school can provide valuable skills. Some offer comprehensive 5-day classes that not only run through the basics of becoming a freight broker, but teach you how to be better at sales and marketing. Others will even continue to work with you in the initial stages of your operation to ensure you ease into the profession and do not make certain mistakes. Finally, if you don’t have the time or a budget for a freight broker training program, many of the schools offer educational DVDs that will still cover enough of the strategies you need to become successful.

Meet people

As a freight broker, you can enjoy the liberty of working at home. That’s great as it can leave you enough time to run other chores parallel to your work. Yet staying home all day (or even in an office for that matter) can isolate you from your peers as well as your potential partners and clients. So you need to use every possible opportunity to network with people in your industry. Join a professional association and try to attend conferences and other related events. Of course, you could use the Internet and the phone for networking purposes but sometimes nothing beats face-to-face contact.

When approaching people, though, bear in mind some basic rules of communication. You need to be good at discerning how different people will react to you as you don’t want to scare people away; neither should you be timid and mask your intentions.

Be fair

Due to the nature of your business, you interact with a lot of people daily – clients, freight forwarders, carriers and truckers. And they all talk to each other. One of the reasons for the $75K freight broker bond increase was that many truckers were complaining about not being treated fairly and having their payments delayed. The higher bond price was set in place to prevent such treatment, but it left a bitter taste in many people’s mouths. Even if you have never been involved in such conflicts, you still need to be careful because freight brokers’ reputations have been somewhat tarnished. It will also help you avoid a claim under your name as that brings a lot of negative consequences for your business.

Use technology

As the middle men between freight companies and the end client, freight brokers are usually piled up with paperwork, tasks and deadlines. If you are working alone, you might have to do that unaided and, as your business grows, it could become overwhelming. Now there are smartphone apps, designed especially for freight brokers. ITS broker is popular among both freight and truck brokers because it allows you to check truck availability and post loads directly from your phone. My Rig is a comprehensive Android app that will save you a lot of time on freight billing. Among its special features are the ability to rate bills automatically by a number of criteria (miles, weight, commodity, etc.), easy re-billing and convenient tracking across all bills and orders. If you are struggling with your schedule, get yourself a time management app, such as Evernote.

Patrick Haney / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Work on your online presence

My final advice is to put some extra effort to make yourself visible on the Internet. A quick online search is increasingly people’s favorite way of finding somebody to do a job for them. Thus, if you invest in a website, a blog and social media accounts, you might find more customers coming your way. Post engaging content, reach out to people from your industry, participate in forum discussions and you will soon see the benefits.

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Victor Lance is the founder and president of Lance Surety Bond Associates, Inc. He began his career as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving two combat tours. As president of Lance Surety, he now focuses on educating and assisting small businesses throughout the country with various license and bond requirements. Victor graduated from Villanova University with a degree in Business Administration and holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business.