02 Apr 4 Tips for Solopreneurs to Start Selling Internationally
Many successful solopreneurs with the potential to sell internationally have yet to make the leap to the global stage. Why? When you run a business on your own, it turns out that your time, resources, and overall bandwidth are highly limited. Most solopreneurs are not only trying to start and grow a business, but they’re also operating, managing, marketing, and financing their enterprise. If they’re lucky, they carve out a little time for their company’s strategic vision.
In many cases, solopreneurs can barely keep up with the demand from their local customers, and when you’re barely meeting the needs of your immediate clientele, it’s daunting to think about taking on customers in other countries.
If you’ve been in business for awhile, it’s likely your entire sales and marketing platform is built around your domestic consumer. Changing gears to service and support buyers across borders takes precious time and know-how that the solopreneur rarely has time for.
So how can you possibly take on the complexity of your first global transaction? We believe it can be done if you keep in mind these 4 tips:
1. Pace yourself.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when there are so many new things to think about. Export paperwork, label requirements, shelf life considerations, customs duties, returns policy, customer support, language barriers, currency conversions, getting paid, and marketing regulations are just some of the topics to consider when going global.
That’s a lot to take on, so we recommend pacing yourself. Take on each step as you need to, and don’t try to do everything at once.
The reality is that you don’t have to know everything about exporting before you start. You just have to be willing to start, explore, adapt, and stick with it.
2. Focus on your best opportunity.
Your first international sales are likely going be in one country, and possibly even one city or region within that country. You’re not going to take on the entire world just out the gate.
When choosing your first international market, focus on the low hanging fruit. Pay attention to where your international requests are coming from. Start by exporting to the country where the most customers are contacting you from.
If you don’t have a history of international requests to base your decision on, consider expanding first to Canada. The Canadian consumer is similar to the U.S. buyer, there’s no language barrier (except for Canada’s French-speaking region), a trade agreement is in place that simplifies exporting, and it’s close by.
3. Leverage existing networks and platforms.
Many e-commerce platforms are designed to facilitate international selling. Sites like Shopify and Etsy offer resources to guide you carefully into international selling, and even offer tools to handle payments and shipping. (If you missed our newsletter last month, we talked about choosing your global e-commerce platform.) Smart solopreneurs leverage existing platforms to reach their global audience.
There are also existing networks that you can take advantage of. Freight forwarders, brokers, bankers, and other service providers specialize in many of the services required for selling internationally. These professionals are experienced in the nuances of global trade and can be excellent sources of information and advice.
4. Get support.
Whether it’s finding a mentor who has done it before, meeting with an advisor from your local Center for International Trade Development, or getting an intern, getting support will keep you going for the long haul. Inviting other people into your vision and success is a motivating factor that will boost you along your journey into the international arena.
For the overwhelmed solopreneur who finds it less stressful to respond to foreign inquiries with, “We don’t ship internationally,” we encourage you to consider the long-term opportunity you’re losing out on.
If there were a streamlined and supported way to add international sales to your business, would you do it? We believe there is, and we can help you get there.