How to prepare to go international with your online business
Switching to English in your online business is usually a no brainer. You can dramatically increase your audience and your sales. You meet people from all over the world. And you can reduce your risks, by not being solely dependent on one market.
But this switch isn’t for everybody and it makes sense to do it right.
Be prepared for the downside too
There are risks involved with working in different countries. If you have only worked in your own country, make sure you know about these before you start.
Going international means that you are becoming a small fish in an even bigger pond. So, you’ll need to stand out and get noticed in a way that appeals in different countries.
So, what do YOU need to know before you switch to English?
Start with doing research and taking some decisions. Here are some things you should definitely take into account. If you’ve gone through these 10 preparation steps, you’ll be ready to get going.
Step 1: Which kind of English do you need?
English is a big language with lots of variations. If you are doing business in the US, you should be using US English. In the UK, UK English. So far so good. The difficulty comes when you want to serve a non-native speaker market or a larger market, with both US and UK speakers. Then you need to sit down and decide a strategy. Don’t forget to take into account which English you speak yourself. Find out more here.
Step 2: How will you communicate in the new situation?
How will you communicate on social media? There are several ways to approach this:
- All in English.
- In your own language and in English
Advantages and disadvantages
The advantage of communicating in English is that it’s less work in total, but your English does need to be good enough. Notice, I didn’t say good, I said good enough. See Step 5 for more about this.
The advantage of using both languages is that you can communicate with your current audience in the way they are used to, as well as attracting new clients. But it is a lot more work. Unless you are excellent in writing in both languages, I definitely wouldn’t advise keeping both languages. You also need to decide if using two languages would be confusing for your audience.
Bear in mind there is no one size fits all solution to this. You will need to work out your own strategy.
Step 3: How will you manage your website switch?
You probably have a website in your own language at the moment. If you’re going international, then you’ll need a website in English too. Basically, you can solve this in a few ways:
- Big bang. You switch from your language to English overnight
- You keep two websites, one for your own language and another for English. A visitor finds the right one or is directed to it.
- You have two languages on one website. This can be per page or a visitor chooses when they enter the site.
- You run two websites for a limited period, while you are setting up the English language one. When the English language website is working, you retire your old site.
Again, you need to work out how to do this. Get some technical advice about the options available to you and then decide on your approach.
Step 4: How will you manage payments?
Make sure that in the new situation you can manage payments in a way that people expect and which is safe for you. You need to be able to get to your money. Some countries have everything arranged and sorted, others are more complicated. So my tip is: Think about this before you start.
Step 5: Work out how tax will work
This isn’t the the sexiest step, but please think about this before you find out you did it all wrong. If you are offering services to other countries, different tax situations apply. Make sure you know what you are doing, before the taxman comes calling.
Step 6: How good is your English?
Now, we can’t avoid this question. This determines what you can do yourself and what you have to find support for. It doesn’t make any sense to launch internationally and then fail because your English isn’t good enough. Read more about this here.
Luckily, there are solutions and workarounds for this. First you need to find out how good your English is. Ask a native speaker who knows about using languages commercially, if you want to get good advice. This is not the time to ask your Aunty Stella or a tourist on the train.
Step 7: Find out what your new clients want
It’s important to know what new English-speaking clients want. Find some potential clients and interview them in English. Apart from being a good opportunity to talk about you, your business and your plans, make sure you ask them these questions:
- How important is correct English for you?
- How important is correct English to you when you read something?
- What’s the most important thing about communicating in English?
- What do you notice about people communicating in English?
- How do you feel about your own English?
By the time, you’ve spoken to a number of people, you’ll have a good idea about how they feel about English, as well as other aspects of your business.
Step 8: Decide what you want
The reason I suggested you speak to clients first, was to get feedback. Clients might tell you that your English is good enough for sales conversations and webinars, but you might need some support with text writing. Or you might find out that your spoken English needs to improve. And you might find out it’s good enough as it is. Which would be cool!
Step 9: Decide what you need
Now you know what you want to do and the situation you want to arrive at. This means you can decide how you will make that work. Here’s how to make this decision.
Write down the answers to these questions:
- How much time do you have for communications activities?
- Which activities need to be in English?
- Which activities can you do yourself in English based on your English ability now?
- How much money are you prepared to invest in copy for your site, if you don’t want to do this yourself?
- How much time are you prepared to spend on copy for your site, if you want to write it yourself?
- What’s your budget for regular support?
- What do you want to invest in your business? Find out more here
From here, you can decide on the best mix for you.
Step 10: Make your action list
Now you’re ready to start work and you know how to approach it. The next step is working out exactly what needs to de done. Use the information you’ve gathered and make your action list.
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