Starting a Business While Living Abroad

Posted on 02/20/2014 ~ Categorized as Work
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dhalbert@escapeartist.com

As the lead inbound marketing consultant and web designer, Don Halbert practices what he preaches and enjoys living, working, playing and investing abroad in Costa Rica.

Being your own boss is a dream shared by many people around the world.  When living overseas, entrepreneurialism can be very rewarding and lucrative with the right considerations.  People have been overcoming unimaginable obstacles for centuries to establish themselves in new and exciting markets.  However, as with any location, you need to play by the rules of your country of choice while setting yourself apart from your competition.

Before entering any market with a new business, you need to have a firm understanding of the industry and your likelihood of success.  Depending on your level of knowledge, you might want to consider bringing in a local partner who can help you get established.  This is especially true if you don’t speak the language or if you haven’t been in the country for very long.  In some countries, it may also be mandatory that you work with a national.

If you don’t want to work with a partner (if you get the choice) then another viable option for being able to communicate effectively is to hire someone who can act as a translator while performing other needed functions for your business; a glorified personal assistant of sorts.  An actual translator is another route you can take, but this can be more costly with less benefit.  It may be best to only bring in a translator for important documentation.

Regardless if you’re flying solo or will have others to help, understanding a country’s economic situation is essential.  Some reassuring things to look for are locations with strong consumer spending, low or declining unemployment, or low debt-to-GDP ratios.  Also, a rising middle class, low inflation, and income increases are all good signs.

Keep in mind that property rights are different with every country, so as a foreigner you’ll want to establish yourself in a place where you won’t have to worry about your business being confiscated or where you’ll have to deal with corrupt business practices.   An international property rights index is a good place to look to get an idea of what countries you’ll want to steer clear from.

No matter where you plan on setting up a business abroad or what industry you’ll be in, be prepared for unexpected bureaucracy and different regulations from what you’re used to.  This can range from taxes to licensing to simple signage.  Doing lots of research ahead of time and talking with other business owners before you rush ahead will save you a huge headache down the road.


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