The internet opens up a world of possibilities if you’re running a business from home. It allows you to attract customers not only in your home town or state, but internationally as well.

But competing in foreign markets is a whole new ball game. To be successful, you’ll need to tailor your approach to suit customers in the foreign market. Here are some top tips to help you on your journey as a solo entrepreneur exporting overseas.

1. Take a multilingual approach

Translating your website into the language of your chosen foreign market should be a first step. Although English is the most widely spoken second language on the planet, people tend to search in their native language, even when looking internationally. Furthermore, people tend to place more trust in websites in their own language, especially when making purchases.

2. Pitfalls to avoid when localizing

There’s a lot more to localizing your website than simply translating the text. For a start, a language isn’t the same in every country it is spoken.

There are significant differences between the French spoken in Canada and France. Similarly, Spanish in Spain isn’t the same as it is in Argentina. For example, to Argentinians,  “bombacha” means a type of pants worn in the countryside, while in Spain it’s a kind of female underwear!  Without local knowledge, things can easily go wrong.

The most reliable translation will not be one that’s available online for free. Machine translation software will only give a basic direct translation, and the same applies to online dictionaries. It’s worth using a professional translator, who is a native speaker of your chosen country’s language, and preferably lives in that country.

3. Make use of SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) helps your website show up higher in the search results of potential customers. Selecting the best keywords is a starting point for successful SEO. These keywords are simply those words or phrases that are typed into the likes of Google to find a website. The keywords are used in turn by search engines to match a website’s content with the search.

In the US, Google Analytics and AdWords are helpful to see what competition you’ll have for your keywords. However, when testing foreign language keywords, you’ll have to remember that Google isn’t the most popular search engine everywhere in the world. For example, Naver is the market leader in South Korea, Seznam is the most popular in the Czech Republic, Baidu is the biggest in China and Yandex is the leader in Russia.

4. Use ready-made sales platforms

There are multinational online websites that already have an international customer base waiting for sellers like you. The best-known are Ebay and Amazon, which allow you to sell a wide range of products. Etsy is another such site and is useful for selling handmade goods. Similarly, Folksy is good for selling craftwork.

As well as already having an international customer base, these sites can provide assistance in different languages. The only downside is that they act as a middleman. Things like ‘listing fees’ on the sites can be expensive and cut into your profits.

5. Factors involved in exporting

When selling to foreign customers, you’re going to be sending your product across international borders. If you are exporting from the US, you’ll need to follow US laws and regulations as well as those of the country you are exporting to. Before you export, you’ll need to find out what the tariff rate is on your goods. This tariff is a tax levied by governments on the value of goods imported from a particular country into another. You’ll also need to determine any import fees for the country you are exporting to.

As an exporter, you should be aware of the documentation, insurance, packing and labelling requirements. There are a number of options available to export a product overseas, from using mail services or express delivery, to an international freight forwarder. You can even arrange your own shipping or use the Shippers’ Association service. Research the options and costs to decide which is best for your products.

Exporting internationally as a solo entrepreneur isn’t always an easy road. But with care and local knowledge, it can prove to be a lucrative one.

About the author: Christian Arno is the founder of Lingo24, a provider of top translation services in the USA. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 now has over 150 employees spanning three continents and clients in over sixty countries. In the past twelve months, they have translated over forty million words for businesses in every industry sector, including the likes of MTV, Wsorld Bank and American Express. Follow Lingo24 on Twitter: @Lingo24.

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