Import - Export E-mail
Professions - Professional Businesses

What will I be doing?

Importers and exporters have a vital job in our world's economy--they trade products and services internationally. They profitably move products from the maker to the user. Without them, we would not have many of the things we enjoy each day--from cars to calculators. And, best of all, because of modern communication technology, importers and exporters can work anywhere--including from home.

What will I need to start?

To join the more than 12,000 import agents and nearly 17,000 export agents in the U.S., you must know the import/export business, foreign markets, products and services, business and international trade and money. So, first learn as much as you can about international trade. Fortunately, there are many excellent books on the subject in most larger libraries and book stores. But you'll need more. You'll need contacts in the business community, permits, tariff books and many other resources.

Who will my customers be?

Your customers will be manufacturers and wholesalers in the U.S. and other countries. If you are importing products into the U.S., you will contact manufacturers in other countries, learn about their products, then find markets here for those products. If you export, you'll find U.S. manufacturers and wholesalers who want to expand their sales through international marketing.

The Small Business Administration office in your region (see area telephone books) can help you find out about international trading resources and opportunities. They can even help you with the international banking aspects of this business, as will the U.S. Department of Commerce.

How much should I charge?

There is no hourly rate for import or export services. These services typically use what is called "value-added" to profit. In other words, for locating international buyers and sellers, they are paid either a percentage or a profit from the sales. For example, an importer of computer components may only earn a fee of 1 percent, but that's 1 percent of a sum that could easily be in the millions of dollars. An exporter of heavy equipment, on the other hand, may make a fee of 5 to 10 percent, but on a sale that may be substantially lower in value than the computer components.

How much will I make?

As a successful import or export agent you can earn a net income of $35,000 to $60,000 or more. Much depends on what products or services you're trading, competition in the market, the value of your resources and contacts and some plain old-fashioned luck.

How can I get started?

If you're interested in import or export trade, start reading up now. Read books on the topic, newspapers (especially the international business stories) and magazine articles. At first, focus on any areas in which you have knowledge such as a specific type of product, a certain part of the world, a specific language or any other advantage you have.

The SIC code for importers is 5099-05; for exporters it's 5099-01.

How can I use computers to increase profits?

Import and export services require that you keep up on economic and political changes in the world. Fortunately, you can use a computer to help you. In addition to the many news sources online (CNN, Bloomberg, NY Times), there is a variety of resources specific to importing and exporting products. And, of course, you can keep in touch with suppliers in Indonesia and buyers in Wales using the power of your computer and the new Electronic Age.