We’ve received a ton of listener questions asking us what it's like being a freight broker. How do your days start? What tasks are routine and which should be completed at certain times of the day? In this blog, we'll take you through a day in the life of a freight broker and what you can expect if you're thinking about making a career move into freight brokerage.
Getting an early start on your day is the best place to begin. You should be at your desk and ready to begin no later than 7:30 AM. This way I have plenty of time to get situated before my day is fully underway. You would be amazed at how much time people waste between arriving at work and actually beginning to work. Our advice, be aware of when you actually start working. It doesn't matter what time you sit down at your computer if you're going to spend the first hour of the day catching up on social media or reading the news.
The first thing on our agenda is to make sure nothing happened overnight we need to be aware of. So you'll be getting in the habit of checking all of your voicemails and emails that arrived since you wrapped up your day yesterday. Whether they're text messages from drivers or emails from customers, many things can and will go wrong in transportation, and the best way to deal with those issues is to be the first to know about them.
Now that we've confirmed there weren't any fires to put out from last night we can move to our next task, and that will be to call each of your customers to ask what they'll need for the day. There may be loads that were scheduled to pick up overnight that haven't. These can create opportunities for urgent or hot loads in the morning. Or, it could be just a good morning phone call to confirm the loads you have scheduled for today. Remember that the role of a freight broker is to be an extension of your customers. You are their access to the trucking market. So you should be updating them on relevant market information. Over time, these simple phone calls will go a long way in establishing trust and rapport. So make sure you're adding value every time you're calling.
In real life, it will take weeks or months of relationship building to establish a solid customer relationship with you running their problem loads here and there, until they've become comfortable enough to trust you with their consistent freight. This won't happen in 3 or 4 calls. It will take time and many of the loads will require tough negotiations. Stay focused and you'll be there before you know it.
Alright, now you have your load list from your customers for the day. What are we going to do with it? We'll need a place to put them, and that place is your TMS. So we'll need to get them built in the system and then post those loads on the loadboards, such as DAT. You'll want to make sure you get these loads posted as early as possible because the empty and available trucks won't be available all morning. They're just as anxious to get rolling and start earning money as you are. So get those loads posted and covered as soon as possible.
There's typically a morning rush where the majority of trucks that delivered overnight need to be booked as early as possible. So usually between 8 AM and 9 AM you'll be fielding calls from dispatchers pricing loads and trying to find the highest paying loads. Then they'll call back to book the one that is the best fit for their drivers. It's our job to really sell our loads and get the dispatchers to commit to our loads as early as possible. By 10 AM - 11 AM, most of the morning trucks will be booked up.
You'll be doing a mix of fielding incoming calls as well as making outbound calls to carriers. This is the second most important task for a broker. You can't earn money without a customer. But, you also can't move the customer's load without a carrier. Without hauling a load, you can't earn any money. So learning how to sell loads to carriers is every bit as important as it is to build relationships with shippers.
The amount of time you spend covering loads will fluctuate from day to day depending on the amount of customers you have, and the amount of loads that they are trusting you with. Some days, you may spend 2-3 hours or more just calling and selling loads to carriers. Some days it’s none at all.
Next, you'll begin prospecting. The time of day that you prospect should vary with the different types of businesses you'll be calling. Some prospects, like produce shippers, tend to be open very early. For some industries, you won't reach a decision maker until late afternoon. So try a lot of different times of day and days of the week. Make sure to take notes of what times work well for which regions and commodities.
You should have leads generated before you sit down to dial. If this is your first day on the job. You won't be prospecting. You'll be generating leads. We suggest you generate at least 200 before you ever pick up the phone. It will help with the scarcity mentality. That just refers to us worrying about calling through the list too quickly. Further, it will help you get better at the skill of generating leads. We can't stress this enough. Generating leads is a separate task that should be done on it's own. The same goes for the task of dialing. We should not be finding one single lead, then calling it, then searching for the next lead.
How many calls should you be making a day? If it's your first few weeks, start small and set a reasonable target somewhere between 30 & 40. Don't set an unattainable goal like calling 200 people in a day. There's no award for blowing through calls just to prove that you can dial the most. However, the quantity of calls you make per week will be the biggest determining factor in your success or failure. It always is. Activity drives everything, and if you’re not adding customers constantly and consistently, you won't make it.
A good benchmark for newer brokers is 4-5 days a week and at least 60-80 calls per day. The key is to remain consistent, and then to gradually increase your outbound numbers. You'll want to avoid burning out by calling 140 today but none for the next several days. Consistency is king. This should take you about 5-6 hours per day at this stage. As the number of customers you have grows, you'll need to spend more time covering loads and less finding new customers, so it will vary over your career.
Next, we'll make check calls to all of the trucks over the road. We suggest you do this at least twice a day. Once in the morning and again in the afternoon. This should be done as a service to your carriers and your customers. Simply letting your customers know that you're on top of where the loads are, is an important role of a freight broker. GPS does make this easier in a lot of cases, but it won't eliminate the need entirely as some truckers won't accept it, or will accept it but may turn it off. Make sure that you're setting expectations with your drivers when you're dispatching them. Explain how often this customer requires a location update and why it's important to them. This will help with drivers avoiding phone calls. Also, be aware of what time of day you're calling a driver. If you're on the east coast, pay attention to the time zone your driver's in. No-one wants to be woken up at 4 am.
Now we're going to spend at least an hour or two, or however long it takes to refill the lead list. That means replacing the numbers you contacted previously that were either disconnected or weren't qualified to work with.
Lastly, we should be contacting our customers again to update them on any trucks that have still not arrived, or just updating them that everything's been picked up and is on it's way as scheduled. Make sure to ask if they've had any new loads come across their desk since the last you'd spoken. That's it!
A Day in the Life of a Freight Broker
As we've said, the toughest aspect will be protecting your prospecting time while you're working on pricing or covering your loads. A word of caution before we leave you: there will always feel like you have a good reason or excuse to avoid prospecting. Whether it's an urgent customer issue or another request for a quote, the only people we've ever met that have been successful in this industry are those that always find a way to get their calling activity in, no matter what.