By Kirsty Lamont, Money Expert at Mozo
From handcrafting soy candles to designing clothing from scratch, starting a small business online has never been easier. But whether you’re just starting out or have got the local market cornered, any business owner should always be planning their next step.
With online shopping booming around the world, you might be thinking it’s time you took your side hustle global. But before you break down borders, there are a few things to get on top of to help prevent a financial disaster and make your online business a success.
So from the product to checkout, here are 9 questions to ask yourself before you taking your side hustle overseas.
Am I financially prepared to expand?
They say you need to spend money to make money and your online business is no different. So before you kickstart your expansion, it’s crucial to know if your business’s budget will be able to handle the added expenses.
Expansion costs could include tasks like redesigning your website, importing raw materials and expanding your team internationally. And depending on the size of the business, you might want to consider taking out a cash injection business loan if you do find that your budget is stretching a bit thin.
Do I have the right bank account set up?
Whether you’re paying invoices or are receiving cash from customers, every business needs its own bank account. But although this might seem like a no-brainer, the decision isn’t critical, it’s still worth taking the time to shop around on business bank accounts.
Monthly service and foreign exchange fees are two big features you’ll need to compare in a business bank account, as you don’t want a chunk of your profits going toward fees. The good news is, it’s possible to snag a business bank account with no monthly services fees from – providers like NAB, Greater Bank and People’s Choice Credit Union offer this.
Will I need to customise the product?
Before you start pushing your product into a new market, it’s important to know whether you’ll need to alter or customise items. For instance, if your business is sketching birthday cards by hand, you might need to learn how to write greetings in another language if you plan on expanding to a foreign country.
It might also be worth understanding the customs or religion in the country you’d like to expand to. This is to avoid offending potential customers who come across your business, like trying to sell crochet bikinis to someone living in Abu Dhabi!
What competition am I up against?
Forgetting to scope out the competition is an easy mistake any business owner can make and it may end up costing your business big time. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely you’re the first to come up with an idea for a product in any country, but it doesn’t mean it’s not worth pursuing. Analyse your competition and look for gaps in the market that your product or brand could fill. Then, to determine the demand for your product, you can also reach out and speak to potential customers through an online market survey.
You’ll need to know the basics, like their age, gender and annual income but it’s even more important to understand their shopping behaviours. For instance, what features they look for in a product and what you would need to offer in order to size up against the competition.
Do I need to ramp up production?
Once your business reaches international customers, you may notice a jump in the number of orders. While that’s great news, more orders also means buying in more raw materials so you can meet demand for your product.
As your business grows, you might tackle rising production costs by looking for cheaper overseas suppliers. If that’s the case, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got an international money transfer account set up to pay your suppliers. It’s also worth looking into the handy features on offer with these accounts, like being able to schedule recurring transfers, while offering a fixed fee no matter how much you send.
How will I pay overseas employees?
Similar to paying suppliers, if you’ve decided to employ staff overseas, regular international money transfers will likely become your new norm. While you can use your bank to make regular overseas transfers, you might not receive the best exchange rate and may have to fork out a bundle in transfer fees. And with regular payments, these can really add up over time.
By choosing an international money specialist, like OrbitRemit, you’ll receive a more competitive exchange rate and lower transfer fees, compared with standard banks, helping your business save big bucks.
Is my website globally friendly?
If you’re planning on expanding to a foreign country where English isn’t the native language, your website will need to be accessible in different languages. Otherwise, you run the risk of customers exiting your site because they can’t understand what it is you’re selling.
You’ll also need to have prices displayed in the local currency for customers in different countries. Figuring out exchange rates can be tricky, and allowing your customers to see and pay with their own currency could be enough incentive to turn them into repeat business.
Do I know the preferred payment methods of my customers?
From Paypal to credit card, everyone’s got a different way to pay. And it might surprise you to know that the preferred method of payment varies between countries. For example, the most popular way to pay online in Germany is by Paypal, in Finland, it’s online money transfers.
Some shoppers also try to avoid paying with credit cards because of high conversion fees, so offering up an alternative and having multiple payment options could be the right way to go.
What shipping method will I use?
No matter if you’re a retailer or customer, shipping fees are an online shopping buzzkill. And if you’re expecting an influx of deliveries once you go global, you’ll need to have an international postage plan ready to go.
External services, like MyPost Business allow you to print labels at home and have parcels collected from your doorstep, before they’re delivered to the closest Post Office to ship out. This will not only help you cut your time commitment in half, but if you’re sending multiple packages at a time, you could qualify for shipping discounts of up to 15%.
And if you’re in New Zealand, services like eShip simplifies the delivery and shipping process. It allows you to print packing slips, parcel slips and invoices as well as import customer orders from popular eCommerce and CMS systems. And what’s even better is that your customers will be sent accurate tracking notifications, so they’ll be able to see where exactly their order is at any given time.
About Kirsty Lamont
Kirsty Lamont is a Director and money expert at financial comparison site website mozo.com.au. She is passionate about sharing her insights with SMEs, so they can get a better money deal and make more informed financial decisions to suit the growing needs of their businesses.