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A guide to overseas shipping for SMEs

If you're a small or medium-sized business with a successful UK track record you might be thinking about expanding into the global marketplace. Before you begin, there are a few things you need to consider.

Alongside the right locations for your product and local markets, you also need to think about how you'll ship your goods.

Check import restriction for the country you're sending to

Some countries, such as China and Indonesia, have very specific import restrictions which don't allow products like media and some photography to be imported.

You can get a list of import restrictions for each country from the Universal Postal Union.

Search for the best prices

Use a parcel broker website to make sure that you can send your parcels in the most cost-effective and safest way.

A website like this will offer you different couriers, shipping times and options like express delivery and secure tracking.

You can save significant costs by making sure you've got the best deal on your shipping, so do your homework before you start sending.

Make sure you complete customs requirements

Each country you send to will likely have their own customs requirements, as well as the export requirements you have to satisfy here for HMRC.

Most international shipping brokers will help provide you with the correct customs information that you'll need and you can find more information about shipping outside the EU on HMRC's website.

Check if you need a licence

For some items like machinery, electronics, telecoms and computers you'll need a licence. HMRC produce a guide to help you understand your responsibilities.

Check product compliance

Before you export products, you'll need to check regulations and specifications in the country you're sending goods to.

Each country has its own standards and specifications for product quality, safety and compliance, so check this before you decide to ship there.

Make sure you've got ALL your paperwork in order

As well as shipping invoices and customs labels, each country has their own requirements about what documentation you need to ship there.

This can include insurance paperwork, a supplier contract and all relevant customs documentation. You can get more guidance on paperwork from Gov.UK.