Tips and Tools Your Startup Can Use to Maximize Your International Business Traditionally, cost, risk and logistical challenges have discouraged online businesses from selling to or working with customers from anywhere but their home turf. Not anymore.

By Thomas Smale

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


The world of digital business is increasingly a world without borders. Any barriers, for example, preventing an ecommerce store in Chicago selling to a customer in Bangalore, or a marketing agency in London hiring a freelancer in Vietnam, are likely to be merely logistical or administrative in nature.

Related: The Right Way to Grow Your Business Internationally

That's a good thing, because if you restrict your business to the country where you're physically located, you could be leaving a considerable amount of money on the table. According to the Small Business Administration, 96 percent of the world's consumers now live outside the United States, and two-thirds of the world's purchasing power is based in foreign countries. No matter where your company is based, the benefits of international expansion are difficult to deny.

Traditionally, cost, risk and logistical challenges have discouraged online businesses from selling to or working with customers from anywhere but their home turf or in selected territories their nations control. But now you can open your business's doors to global commerce. Here are the tools for doing that:

Translation and localization

When it comes to website content, English remains the primary language of the internet. W3Techs reports that over 50 percent of web content is written in English. But, according to Internet World Stats, only a quarter of internet users are English speakers. If you're looking to truly expand the global reach of your online business, speaking the language of your next target market could be a good place to start. Typically, this is done through translation and localization.

Though sometimes used interchangeably, translation and localization, also known as L10n, are actually two markedly different processes. When applied to a website, translation involves converting written content from one language to another. While translation is an essential facet of localization, "localization" specifically typically tailors many more aspects of a website to its target market.

This can involve everything from the currency of choice and date and time-formatting, to more complex customization addressing everything from local UX preferences to cultural affinities and aversions.

Related: 5 Ways to Get Your Small Business Booming in New International Markets

While translating or localizing your website into multiple languages may seem like a monumental task, there are many online services that can help you achieve this at scale. Gengo specializes in website localization and has over 21,000 human translators worldwide working through its sophisticated cloud platform. Day Translations is another well-respected full-service translation and localization service that counts Amazon and Facebook among its clients. Unbabel specializes in facilitating sales and customer services in the your customers' native language by combining artificial intelligence and human translation. Unbabel also offers extensive integrations with Salesforce and Zendesk.

No matter what service you decide to use, language no longer has to be an insurmountable barrier preventing you from reaching customers around the world.

Global payments

One of the most significant hurdles a digital business wishing to expand outside its home country must clear is also one of the most fundamental -- how to accept customer payments.

This can be particularly challenging if, for example, you're based outside the United States, while the majority of your customers reside there. On the flip side, big payment processors like PayPal have blacklisted certain countries where they won't facilitate transactions for U.S. merchants, and that can limit your customer pool.

One of the best services for working around this is Payoneer, which helps remove the friction from cross-border payments in a number of ways. If you have customers in the United States, U.K., E.U., or Japan, Payoneer can provide you with a virtual bank account in each of those countries, allowing your customers to pay you via domestic wire transfer. Once you receive a payment, you can withdraw the funds in your home currency, or then transfer them to your local bank account.

You can also use Payoneer to invoice customers who can then pay you directly through Payoneer, or through their bank. This is of particular use to freelancers and service providers who have clients based around the world. Not only does it facilitate the payment process for your customers, but Payoneer will also often save you significant money on currency conversions and transfer fees.

Additionally, Payoneer has partnered with many industry giants like Amazon, for affiliate program and marketplace payouts, and Upwork for freelancers and consultants.

These integrations can help businesses save money on fees and get paid within minutes instead of days or weeks. It also greatly simplifies payment tracking by keeping all your accounts receivable on one platform. A pro tip for SaaS businesses: Payoneer recently launched an Integrated Payments API that greatly facilitates cross-border payment processing, no matter where your client is based.

Global outsourcing

For many growing and established businesses, attracting and retaining talented team members is one of the most significant challenges. In the past, many companies restricted themselves to hiring employees or freelancers only in their local market. But the rise of the gig economy, and outsourcing platforms like Upwork and Toptal, have a put a global pool of talent at these businesses' disposal. Communications tools like Slack and Zoom, meanwhile, make it easy to keep in touch through messaging and audio or video conferencing.

Time-tracking and project-management tools like Toggl and Asana, help keep everyone on the same page regardless of their physical location. Ready access to a competitive global marketplace of skilled workers makes digital businesses more scalable and able to cope with the challenges of expanding into new markets.

Related: The Best Countries to Start a Business Are . . .

Final thoughts

No matter where a business is physically located, expanding sales and operations to international markets is often one of the best engines for driving growth. Website translation and localization, global payment processing and outsourcing are three of the best methods to help a digital business grow beyond its own borders and to embrace the global marketplace.

Wavy Line
Thomas Smale

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Founder of FE International

Thomas Smale co-founded FE International in 2010. He has been interviewed on podcasts, blogs and also spoken at a number of industry events on online businesses, exit strategy and selling businesses.

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