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6 ways to grow your expat business

Whether you emigrated to retire or to chase career opportunities, the chances are that you’ve considered setting up your own business. Not only does it allow you to take control of your own destiny and improve your work/life balance, but you can work from home, earn more than you would by working for someone else, meet new people, and, perhaps most importantly, you can build a business that can travel with you, whatever the future brings.

Below, we’ve put together some simple strategies to help you grow an expat business…


Focus on marketing

Perhaps one of the most important things you can do, whether you’re starting a business from scratch as an expat or moving your business from one country to another, is to invest in marketing. Both online and bricks and mortar businesses can benefit from a strong digital marketing push, helping you to outperform your competitors on social media and search engines and become the number one choice for consumers or businesses. Running an e-commerce business as an expat means that you can work anywhere in the world, whereas if you run a small restaurant, you’ll need a physical presence - both will benefit from digital marketing strategies such as search engine optimisation, content writing, and pay-per-click.

Remember that your target audience in your new country of residence will be very different from that in your native country. You might need to translate your marketing materials or speak to a local marketing agency who can ensure you’re conveying the right messages. It’s important to note a cut-and-paste won’t work; you must fully understand your local audience.


Hire an accountant

As an expat, getting to grips with local business laws and taxation can be a challenge, so it’s recommended that you hire an accountant who can manage your books and help maximise your potential. They’ll be able to advise on the right company structure, set up payroll and pension contributions, and ensure you’re paying the right amount of tax on any revenue you generate. They can also keep you up to date on potential challenges for your business, such as the disruption caused by the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. If you’re from the United States, for example, you might need to worry about a new expat tax that is levied on earnings you make overseas; an accountant will advise on the best strategy. 

See also: How to earn a passive income as an expatriate

On the subject of professional advice, it could also be worth finding a financial adviser who can review your current situation and offer recommendations to grow your business. Finding a mentor or advisor could prevent endless headaches and research. Someone who’s “been there and done that” can offer words of wisdom and ensure you don’t make their mistakes.


Introduce a referral scheme 

Whether you bake cupcakes in your kitchen or run a construction consulting firm, you’ll struggle to go wrong by introducing a referral scheme to win over new clients. Word of mouth marketing remains one of the most effective ways to build a business, helping you create a powerful network that can open doors and new opportunities. It could be something as simple as giving customers a loyalty card and stamping it every time they spend $10, or you could launch an official affiliate program and give clients a discount when they refer you to their contacts. The added benefit is that you can spend less on marketing as your scheme scales - warm leads will come to you naturally, ready to invest in your products or services.


Build your personal brand

As an entrepreneur, it’s important to remember that people are buying from you, not your business, and so you should focus on building your personal brand. Set up a LinkedIn profile, have a professional headshot taken, and start networking with potential clients or business contacts. Networking is a great way to open doors and gain traction for your firm, and though it requires some time and commitment, it’ll soon become an everyday habit.

See also: Self-employed: How to run a business as an expat

As well as creating content that positions you as an authority in your niche, you should join networking groups, post on social media, and attend in-person industry networking events, lunches, and exhibitions. Not only do they give you a chance to meet other professionals in the flesh, but they can help you form business relationships (and make new friends, too!).


Target fellow expats

You can differentiate yourself from other businesses and entrepreneurs by promoting the fact you’re an expat. Positioning yourself as a “trusted British advisor,” for example, gives you a competitive advantage over local startups, and can help you carve out a name for yourself in your new home. Stress that you’re trusted, established and experienced, and promote your services in expat magazines, social media, forums, and via leafleting, and you’ll quickly build a name for yourself, score new clients, and outmanoeuvre local and regional competitors. 

See also: What to ask before setting up a business in the UAE as an expat

And you don’t just have to target expats from your own country. Adapt your messaging and remember that emotional approaches generate a stronger response. For instance, if you’re selling something mundane like life insurance, you can centre your marketing around the image of an expat family, struggling after the loss of a father. The reader will feel secure knowing that they’re buying from a company that specialises in expat insurance. The best part is that you can target multiple segments of the same expat market with different brand messaging and approaches - some can be issued online, others in local expat newspapers.


… but don’t forget about the locals

It can certainly be tempting to target expats and holidaymakers when you’re setting up a new business in a foreign country. After all, you speak their language, share their sense of humour and understand the challenges they’re facing, whether it’s finding somewhere for a Full English or helping them install CCTV cameras. However, it’s vital not to underestimate the value of the local market - you’ll seriously handicap your potential sales and growth if you do. Though you’ll likely be out of your comfort zone dealing with foreign clients who speak a different language and have a whole host of local competitors to choose from, it’s one of the best ways to grow your business and fully integrate when you move to another country.

Looking for a way to combat cultural and language barriers? Hire a local apprentice who can serve as a sounding board, helping you identify gaps in the market and properly pitch your products and services to a local demographic. They’ll understand the nuances in the local audience that might take you decades to cotton onto, so hiring is definitely worthwhile!


There you have it - some of the best ways to grow your business as an expat. Check back to the Money Saving Expat blog soon for more advice, and join in the conversation in our community.


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