What caused you to start your home business? Maybe it was a desire to share beautiful products with the world, or to make a little extra cash in a way that’s more exciting than your day job. Perhaps you’ve always had big plans for your home business, and now the door is finally open for you to begin international shipping.
Receiving international orders for the first time is absolutely thrilling…until you realize you have no idea how to follow all of the postal laws for each country. Soon, you find yourself scrambling to ship out orders on time, wondering why you started your business in the first place.
International shipping can get complicated. Use these tips to streamline your home business for international shipping so you can still have time for the fun parts of owning a business, like not filling out tons of customs paperwork.
1. Do the research on every country you ship to
Each country has different postal laws. If you’re not careful, a random order from Albania could force you to spend a day looking into shipping codes, postal regulations, and collecting knowledge you might never use again. Save yourself the hassle (and time) by researching the customs regulations for each country you ship to before the orders start coming in.
Depending on your product, you might want to limit the number of countries you are willing to ship to. This is a good idea if your product is inexpensive or heavy. You can make this clear by having a list of countries you ship to on your website. If you’re an Etsy seller, check out this guide to international shipping on Etsy.
2. Use Deliver Duty Paid (DDP) whenever possible
As a business owner entering the world of international shipping, it’s important to be aware of certain incoterms. The ones that are likely most pertinent to your home business are Deliver Duty Paid (DDP) and Deliver Duty Unpaid (DDU). DDP means the sender is responsible for paying all import duties and taxes, while DDU means the receiver needs to pay them.
For customer service purposes, DDP tends to be the best option. This is because many customers are not aware of import duties and will likely become frustrated when they have to pay an extra charge to receive their package. DDP helps you avoid this unwanted situation by ensuring all of the taxes and duties are paid upfront–no surprises. You can usually choose DDP with your shipping courier.
3. Buy or make products in bulk
Opening up your online store to customers from different countries will mean an uptick in orders. That’s why running out of inventory is a common problem for home businesses that get into international shipping. To avoid this problem, try to buy in bulk or make your products in high quantities.
This strategy usually cuts costs as well as making things more convenient for you. As your business grows, you’ll be able to track ordering trends and predict exactly how much inventory you’ll need at any given time. Until then, do your best to estimate how much inventory to keep on hand.
4. Preassemble your packages
This is one of the keys to making your home business more efficient. Rather than waiting until you receive orders before packaging your products, take note of the most popular orders and assemble the packages ahead of time. For example, if you sell homemade earrings, preassemble a few packages that contain your most popular pair.
Not only does this speed up the order fulfillment process; it also allows you to work when you have time. Perhaps you tend to get the majority of your orders on Fridays and Saturdays, but you’re super busy on the weekends. You can pre-package some of your products during the week so they’re ready to easily ship when the orders come in.
5. Arrange insurance beforehand
Insurance is an essential part of international shipping. The most difficult part is determining which packages need insurance. Make some rules that designate when to use insurance, including having a minimum package value and a list of countries that require insurance. That way, you won’t need to waste time trying to decide when to get insurance.
In addition to international insurance, it’s important to consider which shipping companies offer tracking for the countries you ship to. Tracking is essential for international shipping because it reduces the risk of your packages getting lost and your customers getting really angry.
6. Remove barriers for international buyers
If you’re truly going to commit to the international market, you need to go all the way. Make things as easy as possible for your international customers by having translation options on your website as well as prices in multiple currencies. Customers don’t want to go through the extra step of changing prices to their currency. They’ll probably go elsewhere to find the product instead.
The best way to make it convenient for your international customers to purchase on your website is to use a shopping cart that shows prices and shipping fees in local currencies. Make sure you also allow payment in multiple currencies.
7. Choose certain days or times for shipping
Shipping individual orders as they come in is a recipe for tedium and frustration. Instead, earmark a few days for shipping and designate the other days for marketing, expansion, and whatever else you need to do to take care of your business. For example, you can limit your shipping to Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and use Tuesdays and Thursdays for marketing.
Another option is to have a cutoff time for each day so you can spend the last few hours of the day assembling orders and shipping them. Specify on your website that all orders must be placed before 3 pm for same-day shipping. Whether you choose to ship on certain days or have a cutoff time each day, the key is to ship orders in batches so you can save time.
8. Take advantage of software
Gone are the days of doing everything manually. There are numerous software options to make international shipping easier. Consider investing in order management software, insurance software, and shipping automation software. Not only do these save time, but they also reduce the likelihood of human error.
Companies that provide international shipping software work with shipping carriers to make international shipping as easy as domestic shipping. This involves an extra cost, but it saves you time and might even save you from paying unexpected fees.
9. Update your return policy
While it may seem like making your products difficult to return would benefit your company financially, the opposite is actually true. Customers want to be able to return things easily if there is a problem. The easier it is for them to return something, the more likely they will order from you again in the future.
Make sure your return policy is clear and easy to follow. You might even think about including a prepaid return label with each package to show customers that their satisfaction is your priority.
10. Partner with someone who can make it easier for you
Don’t forget, you don’t have to do this alone. You may have personally built your home business from the ground up, but you can invite others to join you now that your business is expanding. Consider hiring a customs broker or fulfillment center to assist you with the more complex parts of international shipping.
A customs broker knows all of the relevant rules and regulations, helps you fill out paperwork and pay taxes, makes sure you avoid accidentally committing customs fraud, gets your goods through customs faster, and finds the most affordable rates for your shipments. At BorderBuddy, we are ideally suited to help you streamline your home business for international shipping. We’ll take care of the customs details so you can focus on growing your business. Give us a call today.