Three ideas: alternatives to Royal Mail

Royal Mail Special Delivery

If you're sending out letters or parcels weighing less than 350g (0.7lb), Royal Mail's Special Delivery service might be the best option: covering 99% of the UK, many businesses swear by it as one of the cheapest and most reliable options, and it has the added advantage of having so far been unaffected by strike action.

That said, Special Delivery may not always be the obvious choice: although depending on the option you choose, the service guarantees delivery before 9am or 1pm the next day and offers online tracking and up to £2,500 insurance - but with prices starting a £4.95 for an envelope, if you're looking to send out mail in bulk, don't expect it to be cheap.

Go online

If you're worried the strikes might lead to delayed payments - either from your customers or to suppliers - it may be time to consider going online instead of sending cheques. One of the quickest, easiest and most secure ways to take payments is to set up online banking and do it through there. They will send you a card reader  and instructions on how to use it - you should be able to set up online banking fairly quickly.

Another method is to set your business up with a merchant account, if you haven't already, and start taking credit card payments through your website, essentially turning it into an online shop. To find out how to take online payments, take a look at our guide.

If you can bear to encounter some delay and you're sending a letter, you could try a service such as Viapost, which emails your letter to a printer as near to its delivery point as possible, prints it out, sticks it in an envelope and gives it to Royal Mail for the last mile - drastically decreasing its carbon footprint. And at just 35p to send a letter, it's low on cost, too.

Courier

Be aware that for smaller items, many of Royal Mail's rivals rely on it to make the 'final mile' delivery, so companies such as TNT or ParcelForce may also be affected by strikes. Instead, if you have a large volume of mail to be delivered, or your packages are larger than 350g, courier services are generally speedier - but expect to pay for the privelege. If time isn't of the essence, try using a service such as http://www.shiply.com/royal-mail-alternatives.php Shiply - a sort of reverse eBay which allows hauliers and couriers to bid against one another for your shipment.

If you're more pressed for time, use  this directory to find a courier near you.

Image: Flickr

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