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Want to start trading internationally? Taking on foreign clients can be a great way to boost business but you do need to be aware of some of the differences from standard trade. Here are just five things to take into account when conducting business abroad.  

Consider the time difference

Foreign countries are likely to be in a different time zone. Bear this in mind when organizing meetings or emailing clients – they could be fast asleep during your normal work hours. Working around this time difference may require being a bit more flexible and not sticking to the 9 til 5 routine. Alternatively, you may be able to hire employees or outsource points of contact to handle matters during these hours.

Speak the same language

It’s going to be very difficult to conduct business if you both don’t understand each other’s language. English may be the de facto language of international business, but you are still likely to encounter certain people in certain industries who aren’t fluent. When dealing with clients that don’t speak much English, consider hiring professional translation services.  Emails and websites can usually be easily translated using online tools, although there may be times when you want a professional translator to write something up to prevent embarrassing translation errors (we’ve all experienced them!).

Start accepting foreign currency

You’ll also need to start accepting foreign currencies if you want to do business with clients abroad. Look for payment services that will allow you to trade in these currencies. When setting prices, consider fluctuating currency values – you may not want to keep charging the same amount if a currency value drops.  

Hire a competent accountant

Once you start dealing in foreign currencies, you may need to upgrade your accountant as not every accountant works with international trade. Tax laws can vary from country to country, which is something a qualified accountant will be able to help you with. It’s generally not worth the headache of doing this yourself.  

Understand the cultural differences

It’s important to also understand how the difference in cultural attitudes could affect your business. Different countries will have varying levels of formality – knowing whether to address somewhere as Mr/Mrs or by their first name could be important if you don’t want to offend that person (it’s generally safer to go with the former if you’re unsure). Different countries also have a different approach to punctuality, which can be important when organising meetings or calls for a specific time – many Asian countries like to stick rigidly to times whilst European and Latin American countries may have a more relaxed attitude to what constitutes ‘on time’. Cultural differences will also make a big impact when marketing your product – certain methods in other countries may seem tacky or overly conservative compared to methods we’re used to. Quite often it’s best off to hire a foreign marketing company who know how to promote a product in that country.

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