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How to Start an Import-Export Business in Australia

During the last two decades, international trade has become one of the hottest industries to work in. While the concept of trade is hardly new, it has been around as long as we have. Prehistoric men used to trade salt and sea shell with remote tribes and our ancestors created some of the first trade route networks in order to connect the East with the West, aptly named the Silk Road. Put simply, trade was born out of the simple need to supply a specific demand and as our world progressed and became more technologically advanced, the international trade came to be significantly more rewarding, especially in the terms of financial and personal satisfaction.

These days, however, international trade is an enormous business that has generated around $1.2 trillion US dollars in various goods and more than $770 billion in exported merchandise in a single fiscal year, with goods being exported to no less than 150 counties from around the world. Australia is far from lagging behind, with its two-way goods and services trade generating more than $735 Australian dollars from 2016 to 2017 alone.  

You would think that international trade is reserved only for the big guys and conglomerate corporate traders, but you would be wrong. In fact, they only comprise around 4% of exporters and the other 96% are mostly smaller, individually owned outfits. With so much potential revenue at stake, it’s only natural to wonder, how can one establish their own import/export business in the land down under?

Types of trade businesses

Although there are numerous variations in regards to individual importers and exporters, the three main types of trade businesses are EMCs or export management companies, ETCs or export trading companies, and free agents or import/export merchants. Export management companies handle the exporting operations for domestic companies who don’t have the means of selling their products overseas. They hire dealers, send invoices to distributors, customers, and representatives, handle advertising, promotions, packaging and shipping overseas.

EMCs have their own merchandise and rely on their own means and resources in order to seek out potential buyers, but ETCs are doing it the other way around by trying to figure out the needs and wants of their foreign buyers first and then spend their resources looking for domestic sources who are willing to export. Lastly, import/export merchants are free agents who don’t have a specific customer base, nor do they specialize in single industries or product lines. Unlike EMCs, import/export merchants assume almost all of the risk, as they purchase their goods straight from domestic and foreign manufacturers and package, ship and resell merchandise all on their own.

The average startup costs

One of the most appealing aspects of starting your own import/export business is the relatively low startup costs. Being home-based means that you won’t have to lease expensive office space and unless you plan on getting into the business as a distributor, you most likely won’t have to deal with purchasing inventory. Some of the largest expenses you will face include getting the necessary office equipment, performing an adequate market research and sourcing a supplier for the goods you plan on transporting. Considering that most import/export business is started from scratch, it’s not that uncommon to see nothing more than a simple laptop for handling all the data and a couple of cardboard boxes for stashing files.

Transports and logistic  

Once you’ve figured out who your customers are, and established the terms of sale and means of getting paid, it’s time to focus on transporting your products. Freight forwarders are ideal transport vehicles for moving cargo between factories and warehouses. For a small fee, they will handle all the shipping arrangements and the necessary documents, insurances, etc. On the other hand, you can always rely on a customs brokerage to alleviate the stress associated with handing customs officials and going through the countless shipping regulations. If you need any help with rules and regulations, or you want to streamline the shipping process, look for a customs agent in Sydney to help you manage your business effectively.

Whether you’re importing or exporting, it’s important to present your marketing plan to prospective clients. When dealing with local manufacturers, presenting them in person is always a good idea, but it also may be a smart business move to do the same with overseas clients and manufacturers. Once you have your marketing plan figured out and set into motion, all that is left do is start shipping your products and show gratitude to your customers by providing them with the best possible user experience.

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