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7 Small Business Mistakes to Avoid When Living Abroad

Running a business overseas can be an incredibly rewarding endeavor, particularly since you get to be your own boss while living abroad.  With your business, you’ll be able to assimilate into the community faster while being in charge of your own destiny.  However, with this power comes great responsibility and if things go badly, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.  By keeping these tips in mind, you can hopefully avoid disaster when running your business abroad.

  1. The devil’s in the details.  It seems obvious, but paying attention to the small stuff and not assuming anything, especially in a foreign country, will help you from making costly mistakes.  For instance, never assume you get a refund if you’re not happy with a supplier’s product or that something is included in the price without seeing it in writing first.
  2. Have a plan.  Believe it or not, sometimes it’s easy to “fall” into a business.  For example, a hobby can suddenly become lucrative.  If you find yourself in this position, start by making a clear plan for where you want the business to go.  Having an end in mind is better than just floating along and scraping by.
  3. Be a business from the beginning.  Whether you planned on having a business or not, treat it like a serious business from the beginning.  Establish it legally from the start, either in your home country or current country as necessary and keep your personal finances separate from your business expenses.
  4. Taxes, taxes, taxes.  As one of the few certainties in life besides death, you’ll have to take your tax situation into consideration.  And depending on where and how you have your business set up, it could be tricky to navigate.  Although there are lots of resources online, when in doubt, bring in an international tax professional to help.
  5. Overseas Internet differences.  If your business is primarily online or even if you only use a few programs to assist with your business, be warned that some online programs will operate differently or not at all depending on where you’re located, especially if bank accounts are involved.
  6. American responsiveness: Mission Impossible.   If you’re coming from the States, you will drive yourself crazy if you expect others to have the same response time as you.  Learn to slow down and accept the natural pace of doing business wherever you are abroad; it’ll save you lots of gray hair.
  7. Always have a back up plan.  This is especially true for your suppliers.  Never put all your eggs in one basket.  This also applies in making sure your business will continue running without you in case of health problems.  Don’t make yourself the big bottleneck in your company.
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