Lesley Batchelor OBE is an expert on international trade and a passionate champion of UK exporters. She is also the Director General of the Institute of Export, the professional membership body representing and supporting the interests of everyone involved in importing, exporting and international trade. In this article she tells you the first steps you need to take upon receiving an international order towards becoming an expert exporter yourself.
So you’ve got your first international order – congratulations! Many first time exporters find it daunting but it’s just a matter of being aware of what you need to do at each stage, what should be in your contracts and what paperwork you need for customs, transport and delivery, and payment. In essence, how to export your products.
In this article, we cover the first things you need to think about when an international customer comes calling, helping you to start exporting your business overseas.
If you sell a physical product, you can also read our article about shipping your first international order.
If you sell a non-physical product, our article on what to do with the first order for your services or software will be useful – you will see that the requirements do differ slightly between the two.
On what terms you have offered your goods?
Is it an enquiry through from your web site where you have a standard price that normally includes shipping costs? If so, have you any provision that will cover the costs of shipping to an overseas market?
A handy checklist for your first overseas order: if you sell a physical product
1. Check the terms on which you have offered the goods
i. On your web site (terms and conditions)
ii. Word of mouth
iii. Email exchange
2. Do you know how big the finished order will be?
i. Calculate the cube or weight of the packet
ii. Establish what packaging will you need to make it safe and to be sure that the goods are not damaged
iii. Look for a courier service or freight forwarder to help with this calculation
3. Do you need insurance?
i. To cover the goods in transit
ii. To cover the product liability
(This article on what insurance options are available to you might be useful)
4. Can you make it on time?
i. Do you need to add overtime to the production to fulfil the order? Can you still make a profit if you do?
ii. What sort of timescale could you work to which ensures the goods arrive on time?
5. What sort of payment terms have you offered?
i. Is there a cost attached to the payment method?
ii. Have you charged enough to make a profit on the sale?
(I have also written on what you need to know to get paid if you need more information)
6. Documents you need
i. A commercial invoice
ii. A packing list (if more than one parcel)
iii. A shipping note or transport document
iv. Certificate of shipment/Air waybill/Bill of lading
v. Any certificates of origin EU or Arab British Chamber
vi. Any food/drink, dual use/antiquities works of art licenses
7. Payment and shipping
i. Make sure that you have evidence that the goods have left the country for VAT purposes
ii. Make sure you have a certificate of shipment that will satisfy the customer if any issues should arise
iii. Apply for payment using the invoice and any additional papers requested by the customer.
Check our article on shipping your first international order for more details on this step.