Mobile businesses are becoming more diverse, with many people choosing to ditch the huge property overheads and embrace the freedom that comes with taking their business wherever the work is. Companies like Coffee Latino and Salon on Wheels have shown that there is demand for mobile businesses among both consumers and entrepreneurs.

Why choose to go mobile?

There are many reasons why you might consider becoming a mobile business owner. You may have the desire to be your own boss, or you could be newly qualified in a trade but unable to find a suitable job. Perhaps you need work that is flexible - mobile businesses offer you the unique opportunity of working the hours that best suit your lifestyle, and that can fit in around other commitments such as having young children.

Many small businesses or start-up companies struggle with hefty overheads and exorbitant rentals, often feeling restricted by long-term lease contracts. With a mobile business, none of these issues arise. The flexibility extends to being able to travel to where the work is; for example, an ice-cream man can wait outside a school at the end of the day, or a mobile catering business can attend fairs, markets and other events. The convenience aspect is also appreciated by the clients. Perhaps they don't want to drag themselves out for an appointment at a salon on a Saturday morning or after a busy day at work; instead preferring their hairdresser or beautician to come to them. And this is not the only benefit for customers. Due to reduced overheads, mobile businesses are often able to extend lower prices to their customers, too.

Getting your figures straight

One important thing to consider before launching a mobile business is whether there is a market for your services. For slightly more unusual mobile business concepts, you will need to carry out substantial research to ascertain whether it is feasible, and if so, who your target audience will be.  Adequate research is also necessary for well-established trades too, confirming how many people are offering a similar service to yours. If the area is already saturated, it might be hard to break into. You will also need to calculate start-up costs. Although nowhere near as expensive as hefty property rents and overheads, there will be other regular costs such as petrol, insurance, vehicle loan repayment (or lease costs). You will also need to consider what equipment (if any) you will need to get started.

Working out your wheels

One important thing to consider is the transportation you need, and this will be largely dependent on what kind of business you are setting up. If it is just for you and a minimal amount of equipment, you may be able to use your own car. This is a great option for a new business, as no specialist vehicle is required (keeping costs down), and you can also claim back expenses for petrol.

If you intend to transport larger, heavier equipment, then you may require a van or even a lorry. Some businesses will actually carry out their work inside the vehicle, such as mobile caterers, so it would need to be specifically modified. If a work vehicle is necessary, you may need to decide between leasing or buying. Leasing is often the best alternative, especially for a fledgling company, as it requires minimal cash outlay. Any expensive repairs or costs would be handled by the lease company, rather than being incurred by you; and you will not be stuck with a vehicle that rapidly depreciates in value. Instead you can upgrade to a newer model regularly.

Taking payments on the road

If you're likely to be accepting cash payments most of the time, it's important that you have a secure way to transport your income without risk. For example, you should keep it in a vehicle safe while you're on the road, and ideally make a daily trip to the bank so you never have more than a day's taking in the vehicle.

You may also need to take card payments - it will be the most convenient payment method for most customers, ensures you never miss a sale because you can't accept cards and people will expect to be able to pay in this way. It's also easier to keep track of sales when you take card payments. You may be surprised to know that it's perfectly possible to take card payments when you run a mobile business. Portable PDQ machines such as those available through Barclaycard's business arm are perfect for mobile business owners.

Get the right insurance

Anyone driving a vehicle for work purposes needs specialist insurance. How the insurance is determined depends on what your specific business is, and what you are using the vehicle for. For example, there is a difference between whether you are merely using your vehicle to transport equipment, or actually working inside it. Some mobile businesses require specific insurance, for example, catering vans which need cover against the risk of accidents such as fires started during the preparation of hot food.

Another insurance that many mobile businesses require is liability cover. This protects the business owner against accidental harm to either the client (in the case of a hairdresser, for example), or damage to property.

So, if you have a profession that doesn't require a static work-place, have a novel idea for something you can take to your customers, or don't want the expense of huge overheads, then a mobile business may just be for you.