How to Become a Freight Broker in 9 Steps (Plus Duties)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 17 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Freight brokerage is an important and lucrative business in the transportation industry. Freight brokers are responsible for ensuring the delivery of goods arrives on time and in good condition, making this a critical role in the supply chain. Knowing how to become a freight broker can help you join this exciting career and succeed in the job. In this article, we outline the nine steps you can take, highlight the position's main responsibilities, discuss the average salary and answer some frequently asked questions.

What is a freight broker?

Freight brokers are professionals who act as middlemen between shippers and carriers. They're mainly responsible for arranging the transport of goods and cargo, whilst ensuring that all parties agree with the arrangements. This is why it's important that the freight broker has a good understanding of the shipping industry, including the laws and regulations that govern it. To fulfil their role, they can perform these key duties and responsibilities:

  • Negotiate shipping contracts: This includes negotiating rates, terms and conditions with carriers on behalf of their clients.

  • Arrange shipping logistics: It's important to ensure that you use the right carrier for the job and that you load and unload the cargo according to the schedule.

  • Resolve issues: Issues that can arise include delays, damaged goods or lost cargo.

  • Arrange transportation: This usually means booking space on carriers, such as trucks, planes and ships. It also involves arranging for the loading and unloading of cargo.

  • Handle paperwork: The paperwork generally consists of preparing and filing the necessary documentation, such as bills of lading and shipping manifests.

  • Maintain relationships: This involves maintaining relationships with clients, carriers and other industry professionals.

  • Handle customer enquiries: This duty usually consists of answering questions from clients about the status of their shipments and providing them with information about rates and shipping options.

  • Maintain financial records: This means keeping track of invoices and payments. It also includes preparing reports for clients.

  • Develop the business: This can involve marketing the freight broker's services to potential clients and expanding the business by developing new relationships with carriers and others in the industry.

Related: What Does a Ship Chandler Do and What Skills Do They Need?

How to become a freight broker

If you want to know how to become a freight broker, there are several steps you can consider. Becoming a freight broker can be a rewarding career choice because it can offer a high degree of flexibility and autonomy. It may be possible to work from home, set your own hours and build your own business. If you're considering a career in freight brokerage, here's a step-by-step guide to help you succeed:

1. Pursue training and education in freight brokerage

There are many ways to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to become a successful freight broker. You can take courses on offer by freight broker training schools or earn a degree in a field related to logistics or transportation management. Many freight brokers also have a combination of education and experience working in the shipping industry which can be helpful when making the transition into this career. Some freight brokers start their careers working in customer service or operations for a carrier company. Others may begin their careers working in sales or logistics for a shipper.

Related: What Is a Ship Broker? With Duties, Skills and Salary

2. Get a licence

Freight brokers usually have a licence and registration with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA). To obtain a licence, you can pass an examination administered by the MPA. It's necessary to register with Singapore Customs at least 14 days before brokering in strategic goods, including arms and explosives. Complete their application form and attach any necessary supporting documents. Depending on the goods you broker, they may also ask you to obtain a permit.

3. Join a freight broker association

You might consider joining a professional organisation such as the Singapore Logistics Association. This can provide you with networking opportunities and access to industry resources. It can also be helpful in keeping up with changes in the industry and staying abreast of new developments.

4. Develop your skills

There are many different skills that successful freight brokers possess. These include strong communication and negotiation skills, including the ability to use shipping software. If you're new to the industry, it's important to take the time to develop these skills. There are many resources available, such as online courses and books, that can help you learn the skills you want. Other important skills for freight brokers to have include:

  • customer service

  • organisation

  • logistics

  • knowledge of the shipping industry and regulations

  • marketing and business development

Related: A Detailed Guide to Careers in Logistics: 7 Types to Explore

5. Get certified

While certification is not strictly necessary to become a freight broker, it can be helpful in demonstrating your knowledge and skills to potential clients. The Federation of International Trade Associations offers a Certified International Trade Professional (CITP) designation. This certification is globally recognised and you can obtain it after passing an exam and meeting the other requirements. There are also many other certification programmes offered by private organisations.

6. Find a freight broker job

There are many different types of freight broker jobs available, from small businesses to large multinational corporations. You can search for job openings online or contact freight brokerages directly to enquire about opportunities. Make sure that your resume and cover letter are up-to-date and tailored to the specific job you're applying for.

If you're entrepreneurial, you may want to consider starting your own freight brokerage. This can be a rewarding endeavour, but it's important to do your research and understand the industry before taking this step. Starting one's own company usually brings additional licensing and registration requirements.

Related: Guide on How To Update a Resume in 3 Steps (With Tips)

7. Build relationships with carriers

Another important step in becoming a successful freight broker is to build positive relationships with carrier companies. These are the businesses that actually transport the goods and cargo for your clients. By establishing good relationships with carriers, you can get the best rates and services for your clients.

Related: How to Become a Ship Broker (With Career Tips and Salary)

8. Find a niche market

One way to help yourself succeed as a freight broker and also increase your earning potential is to find a niche market. This can be a particular type of cargo, such as dangerous goods or perishable items, or a specific region that you specialise in shipping to.

By focusing on a specific area, you can become an expert in that field and better meet the needs of your clients. This can also help you differentiate the company from its competitors. To find a niche, you can conduct research, attend industry events and network with other freight brokers.

9. Stay up to date on industry trends

The freight brokerage industry is constantly changing, so it's important to stay up to date on the latest trends. You can do this by reading industry publications, attending conferences and networking with other professionals in the industry. By staying informed, you can ensure that you're better able to meet the needs of your clients and grow your business.

Related: 12 High-Paying Commerce Jobs (With Duties and Salary)

Average salary of a freight broker

The national average salary of a freight broker is $120,000 per year. This figure can depend on various factors. For example, a freight broker's experience, the size of the company and the type of commodities they broker can all impact their salary.

FAQs about freight brokers

These are some frequently asked questions to offer you further information on this topic:

What's the difference between a freight broker and a freight forwarder?

A freight forwarder is a company that provides logistics services for the shipment of goods. They're responsible for arranging the transport of cargo and they frequently work with multiple carriers to find the best route and price for their clients. Meanwhile, a freight broker is usually an individual who acts as a middleman between shippers and carriers. They're responsible for negotiating rates and arranging the transport of goods.

How long does it take to become a freight broker?

There's no set amount of time it takes to become a freight broker. Many brokers typically have several years of experience working in the shipping industry before they start their own business. Obtaining a licence can also lengthen the process of becoming a broker. Similarly, pursuing higher education or certification can also increase the time it takes.

What's the difference between a freight broker and a freight broker agent?

A freight broker agent is an individual who works for a freight broker and they're responsible for performing many of the same duties as the broker. The difference is that they don't have the same level of authority. They also can't make decisions on behalf of the broker.

Who pays the freight broker?

The shipper typically pays the freight broker and the amount is dependent on the services provided. For example, if the broker arranges for the transport of goods, they may charge a percentage of the total shipping cost. If the broker also provides other services, such as tracking shipments and filing paperwork, they may charge an additional fee.

Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Explore more articles