How to Take Your US Business Abroad and Thrive
Right now there’s a new mindset in American business. We now realize that international markets aren’t just risky — they’re exciting and filled with potential.
Not to mention, going overseas is just plain fun. It’s like uncharted territory for an online business owner. Who’s out there? What’s the market look like? Maybe I’ll hop on a plane and scope it out…for vacation, too.
That’s the American mindset, right? All business all the time. So pragmatic and willing to (literally) go the extra mile to get something done efficiently and successfully. Like, say, turning your vacation spot into a new business locale.
So how can you take your digital services business abroad and access the global market? That’s what we’re covering for you today. International expansion is a go!
Yes, you can take your business abroad.
Yes, it’s a challenge.
Yes, it’s absolutely worth it…when you get it done right.
Pick Your Location
If you’re an entrepreneur with international ambitions, there’s no better time for you to grow your startup globally than today. Internet connectivity, video conferencing, and cloud-based applications have made it easier than ever to reach new markets. Global expansion is entirely possible for any business owner. Success depends on market opportunities and how you handle them.
You may have a good idea which country or countries you want to target, but take the time to validate your assumptions by conducting foreign market research.
But that’s also dependent on your product. If you’re offering some sort of digital freelance service, like graphic design or copywriting, then you don’t really need to do a whole lot of market research because your skill is valued everywhere.
BUT you need to understand what it is you’re doing with that skill in this new location. Are you simply working remotely? Are you trying to get your footing as a business in the new location?
You should either aim to speak the language, get a really good local partner/translator, or sell your stuff in the English-speaking niche in that country. Your target market is different, and making a strong (yet minor) partnership might be a good business strategy.
Get to Know the Locals
Culture is everything. And we know you—we know how you roll. You can’t pop in and Americanize it. It just won’t work. There are major cultural differences that act as roadblocks to that strategy.
Your incredible product or service might be getting you the $10k/month base income you need, but don’t expect that to carry over. Expectations, needs, and people are different. You need to mold your service to them, not the other way around.
Getting to know the locals doesn’t only apply to local culture, it also means local rules and regulations.
Investigate the Legal Landscape
Learn about the language, customs, and laws of each country you’re interested in doing business with. Things like PSD2, KYC, and AML laws are things you should become familiar with.
You’ll also need to understand their payment methods. In some countries, credit cards are not as common as in the U.S., so having alternate payment methods can be an important factor for expansion into those markets.
You may have to have different prices for different regions. Exchange rates and taxes can affect pricing depending on where your customers are located.
One way around this is to use dynamic currency conversion (DCC), which automatically converts prices based on a customer’s location. DCC helps avoid confusion and increases trust among international customers by providing them with accurate information regarding their purchases during checkout.
Check Your Business Model
Subscriptions are the future in the US, but that might not be true for other countries.
The first step is to make sure your product or service has a market in the country you’re thinking of expanding into. You don’t want to spend a lot of time and money developing a business plan for a product that won’t sell. You should have a good sense of how much demand there is for the product and what the competition looks like.
And then you need to gauge how people react to your product/sales model and tweak it. Maybe they’re sold on the security of it your product rather than the futurism. Look at what the respond it, adjust your business model, tweak your product, and then you’ll nail it.
Set Up a Virtual Address
Here’s the boring stuff that we know you don’t want to do (but it still has to get done).
You need to have an address in the new country because to start doing business there, you need to incorporate. To incorporate, you need an address.
Luckily for you, you can just get a virtual address and call it a day. It’s a physical address that can receive mail and all that stuff for your “new” business AND you can use it as your actual address for business registration.
A virtual address is pretty cool, too, because a lot of the services that offer them will scan all your mail and documents so you can view them digitally.
Now, you’re probably asking why you should get a virtual address instead of a physical one. Especially since you’re probably living in that country.
There are two reasons:
- You’ll want to move around. Let’s face it, if you’re taking your small business abroad, then you’re probably not going to stop and settle in just one place. And as an American, you are definitely hopping around. Paris for 6 months, Berlin for 7, Lisbon for 14. You’ve got plans.
- It’s easier to incorporate in certain EU countries. Even though they feel very connected, different countries in the EU have their own method of business registration. Some are simply easier than others. That’s the name of the game, and you’ll really want to choose one of the easier ones for simplicity and taxes.
Get a Bank Account
You’ll need access to funds in whatever currency is used in the new country and setting up an overseas bank account can take time.
Your best bet is probably a local bank (or branch of an international bank) that specializes in working with foreign companies.
This will help ensure that you can receive payments quickly and easily in your new market, and it will also give you access to local resources such as account managers who can provide advice and support for your expansion efforts.
You need a bank account, plain and simple, but you also want one that can help guide you when you need it.
Open Up an Offshore Merchant Account
The global marketplace has never been more accessible than it is now. With the internet, you can reach customers around the world. Hell, you can expand your customer base globally. Why stop at the US when there are hundreds of foreign countries you can hop into with international business expansion plans.
However, one of the major hurdles you must overcome to take your business abroad is getting paid by these customers. There are several factors that can hinder international sales, but the biggest issue is that many payment processors do not allow international transactions.
Opening an offshore merchant account allows you to accept payments from foreign customers in their native currency.
The fact that you’ve got to deal with foreign governments, local languages, and cultures adds both complexity and risk. But it also means that the barriers to entry are higher, which can be good news: If you’ve got a great business model in your home country, you can “own” a market in another country for years before you have to worry about local market competition.
Offshore accounts have fewer restrictions and are easier to open as a high risk business, if you have bad credit, or if you want to open overseas without becoming a full-on citizen.
An offshore provider will also assist with fraud prevention and chargebacks so that you can avoid international fraud and focus on growing your business abroad.
Ready to Take Your Business Abroad?
If you’re a U.S. business owner, you may think your domestic market is the only one that matters to you. But with the Internet making it easier than ever to reach a wider audience, there’s no reason to limit yourself to just one country.
We’re ready to help you take your business to the next level, wherever that may be. Get in touch and we’ll help you through the offshore merchant process so you can live your best life as an international business owner.