How to Start an Import/Export Business From Home


Import/exporting businesses can be profitable, and not just for big businesses, but for the lone import/export merchants out there, too, who have a knack for sales and a love for adventure.

In 2018, total U.S. trade with foreign countries amounted to $5.6 trillion. Broken down, that was $2.5 trillion in exports and $3.1 trillion in imports of both services and goods.

If you’re interested in taking advantage of this booming industry by starting an at-home import/export business, the good news is that it doesn’t take much to get started. It requires little investment and minimal resources.

To get started with your next exciting business venture, follow the below step-by-step guide explaining the basics of how to establish an import/export business from home:

1. Select a Product To Import/Export

The first thing you’ll need to do is choose a product to import or export. The two main reasons to choose a product to import or export are, first, you know it will sell, or, second, you like it. If you can check off both those boxes, you’re in even better shape.

Once you’ve selected a product that you think will sell in a particular market, you’ll next need to determine whether you can trade that product or not. A bit of research is needed at this point. If the product can be traded, you’re ready to get started developing your new business.

2. Set Up a Website

Establishing an import/export business can’t be done without setting up a website that allows you to network with others. The goal should be to develop an online presence that gives you channels to communicate, sell products, and grow your customer base.

Popular web hosting companies you can use to set up your website include Network Solutions, GoDaddy and Verio. When developing your website, be sure to include your contact information and relevant information about your business.

3. Determine Whether You Need an Import/Export Business License

To have a functional import/export business, you may need to obtain an import/export business license. Look here for more information on whether the product you’re importing or exporting requires one.

Once you’ve researched whether you need an import/export business license, you can then look into whether any specific international regulations are associated with the product you plan to trade. You’ll want to make sure you stay informed on specific regulations every time you start trading with a new country.

Since you’re starting an at-home business, it’s likely just you doing all the work, so get in the habit of researching international regulations early on to avoid mistakes down the road.

4. Find a Supplier

Once you’ve selected your product, set up your website, performed product and market research, and finalized any necessary paperwork, you’ll next need to find a supplier. Popular business-to-business platforms such as Alibaba, Global Sources, and TradeKey are excellent sources for finding suppliers, manufacturers, exporters, importers, trade leads, wholesalers, and buyers.

5. Ship Your Products

When figuring out the logistics of moving your products, you can do the research yourself on how to get your product shipped out. Type, shipping car to Nigeria from USA, into your Google search bar for example and you’ll likely find information on how to transport vehicles to Africa.

If on the other hand, you don’t want to do your own research, you can instead hire a global freight forwarder to distribute your products for you. The advantage of doing this is that you save time and you don’t have to deal with transporting your products from the factory to a warehouse.

Continue To Provide Excellent Customer Service Even After the Sale is Made

After you finalize a deal with a global customer, be sure to continue to cultivate a good relationship with them. Extending a hand of gratitude for their business through phone, email, or in-person will not only be appreciated but may lead to repeat business dealings with them down the road.