Exporting Internationally: A Beginners Guide

The following post is made possible by support from UPS.

A reader wrote:

Dear Dane, We make widgets in our garage in Reno, Nevada. We have a website and want to start accepting orders worldwide, but is there anything we need to know or do to export internationally?

Uh oh, before I say anything, this sounds like a time that some kind of disclaimer would be good. What I’m about to say isn’t professional or legal advice. If you want some of that, please hire one who isn’t a blogger in their pajamas and rubber boots (like me!) to give you some. That being said, here’s what I know:

The internet has made the world a smaller place.

For most products, no special licensing is required to sell and ship them outside of the country. Unless you’re selling something classified as a weapon, either conventional or digital, you should have any trouble, but again, check with the professionals.

When selling internationally, there are two aspects of the process that are very important and a bit more difficult than selling domestically: getting paid, and shipping.

Though they are both a little bit more difficult than doing business in the United States, they aren’t that hard. You just need to think through the process before you begin.

Suprisingly enough, getting paid from someone in some parts of the world is more difficult than actually shipping something to the same place. The easiest thing to do, if you’re selling directly to consumers, is to use Paypal. Although Paypal can be more expensive than most credit card processing systems, it’s ease of use is unsurpassed. Benefit: You won’t have to think about much. For you, it will work 100% identically to how it works with domestic buyers. Cons: Unfortunately Paypal isn’t available in every country. Check out this list for countries that it does work in.

Shipping is pretty easy, and I’m not just saying that because UPS is underwriting this article. Shipping something from your garage in Nevada to pretty much anywhere on the planet is actually pretty easy. If the order is small, or you’re selling to consumers, FedEx, UPS or the US Postal Service can all get your package anywhere it needs to be. UPS and FedEx will handle the delivery all the way to the door in the foreign country, while the USPS will typically hand it off to the local postal agency in that country.

If you’re shipping a large order, to a distributor, for instance, UPS and FedEx can still help you. They both have people on staff that can walk you through the process. If you’d rather just pay someone else to worry about your big orders, you might want to hire a freight forwarder or broker to handle shipping for you.

Here are some other websites you should read on the subject:

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