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10 Steps to Improve Your Freelance Business

10 Steps to Improve Your Freelance Business

Freelancing is a wild ride – in this line of work, you have to wear a LOT of hats.

But at the end of the day, you chose to work this way for a reason. You want it ALL. The freedom, the flexibility, the income, the growth potential. You may have made your peace (to a certain extent) with the perpetual chaos that seems to be a part of the lifestyle.

But for freelancing to be sustainable, it has to be manageable.

If you’re feeling any of the classics – analysis paralysis, overwhelm, or imposter syndrome – it can help to revisit some of the basics of being damned good at what you do (and loving every minute of it).

Here are 10 ways to improve your freelance business, keep your clients happy, and make time for the things you love to do the most. Besides work, of course.

#1 – Manage Your Time and Stay FOCUSED

If you find at the end of every day you still have a long list of things you didn’t get to, you have one of two problems: a time management problem, or an outsourcing problem.

Things come up, and stuff happens, but there’s a saying you can never remember too often: If you don’t manage your time, someone else is going to do it for you.

Stay on top of projects by being a monotasker when you need to be, putting your phone on Do Not Disturb mode when you’re in the zone, and keeping your mind focused on the task at hand so you can continue to deliver killer work for your clients.

If you’re finding that all of the block scheduling and focusing in the world is still leaving you overwhelmed at the end of each day, it might be time to start looking at making your first hire.

#2 – Create Replicable Processes (And Document Them)

One thing you can do to position yourself for the holy grail of freelancing, outsourcing, is to create processes and workflows for your business and document them.

This helps to create consistency in your business and when it finally comes time to hire somebody, you’ll be armed with documentation you can use to train your new hire.

The next time you start a new project, begin a document with a simple numbered list on it, and open it every time you work on the project to add steps that you take. You’ll begin to identify areas for optimization, and can ultimately fine tune this as you bring your first team member on board.

#3 – Always Keep Your Finger On the Pulse of Your Audience

Marketing and product development require one of the same core fundamentals: a thorough understanding of your intended audience.

Subscribe to magazines and newsletters that your clients probably read too. Join their Facebook and LinkedIn groups. Listen to the same podcasts that they do.

Not only will it improve your sales to be tuned in to what your audience is talking about, but it’ll give you clues into what their needs are, and how your service offerings can rise to fill the gaps in the market.

Being immersed in your ideal client’s universe is how you become the first one to put your flag in a new solution. Go ahead and lurk – it’s worth it, I swear.

#4 – Be Responsive AF

One of the worst things about hiring a freelancer – as any disgruntled client will tell you – is that they’re often really, really busy. And that’s a problem, because when you’re paying somebody, you expect them to respond to your emails.

Be responsive. Don’t be that guy that waits until three days before the project’s deadline to open an email and start asking questions. Get on top of it early, answer emails within 48 hours, and make sure your client feels seen, heard, and taken care of.

#5 – Enforce Your Own Boundaries

That being said, don’t feel like you have to pick up the phone at midnight either. Hire an assistant if you need to, but ultimately, make sure that your boundaries are clearly communicated and written down somewhere for you and your client to refer back to.

Don’t be afraid to ignore emails until the next morning, or to decline phone calls outside of normal business hours. If it’s not inside of your scope of work, say something. Most people genuinely don’t realize when they’re stepping on somebody else’s toes.

Enforcing boundaries won’t make you a jerk, but what it WILL do is preserve the relationship with your client, allowing you to generate lots of potential revenue with them in the future (without silently resenting them and developing an ulcer).

#6 – Get Payment Up Front

These days it’s pretty commonplace for most freelancers to require at least a 50% deposit up front to begin work. If that deposit is not in place, you DO not begin work.

What this does is ensure that your client not only has the means to pay you, but the motivation to be proactive in working with you to complete the project on time (and within scope).

Send a written agreement along with the first installment of your client’s project fee, or talk payment terms at the threshold of your own comfort. Remember, it’s perfectly fine to say, “No, that’s not how we do business,” and walk away from something that seems sketchy. In my experience, plenty of clients always follow in their wake.

#7 – Learn From People Who Are Where You Want to Be

The internet is rife with advice and self-described gurus touting business models with alluring outcomes and gut-wrenching price tags.

And here’s the thing: you need to ignore about 90% of them. There’s such a thing as information overwhelm, and after a certain point, you need to filter what’s coming in so you can start taking ACTION.

The one thing you need to see when you qualify somebody to teach you is this: Have they done something that you want to do, successfully?

If the answer’s yes, then you have something to learn from them. If the answer’s no, the answer is arguably, why couldn’t you just learn this on your own?

There’s something about your brain seeing something is possible as you try to attempt it yourself. Like the story of the four minute mile, things can happen a lot faster for you if there’s irrefutable proof that what you’re trying to do isn’t crazy or impossible.

#8 – Use Two to Three Methods to Get Clients

Getting a ton of referrals is great, but at the end of the day, you need to have at least TWO tried and true methods of getting clients. That way when one well dries up, another one is still gushing with leads.

Try to find two to three ways you really LIKE getting clients that work well for you. Sometimes a freelancer can’t lurk in Facebook groups AND cold email AND push themselves on Twitter and Instagram all at once. In that case, it makes sense to choose a method that’s maybe more passive, like paid ads or referrals, in tandem with a method that’s more hands on, like cold emailing.

#9 – Take GREAT Care of Yourself

Freelancing is hardcore, and it can take a TON of your time and energy – just don’t forget to spend some on yourself.

Literally pencil it into that $50 planner if you have to, but MAKE time to take care of yourself. Sleep debt is cumulative, meaning every night that you don’t get enough, you feel even MORE tired as the week drags on. Get at least seven hours, try to find time to exercise between conference calls, and always, ALWAYS make time to do something that lights you up outside of your work.

#10 – Go Above And Beyond For Your Clients

We didn’t get here at Hostdedi by focusing on sales, we got here by focusing on our SERVICE. It sounds cliche, but it’s true: when you treat people well, they stick around.

Your business is going to flourish, your clients are going to sing your praises to their friends, and all of that is going to circle back around to help you grow your income.

But it only happens if you take care of them.

Send them Christmas cards. Help them find a new hire. Ask them how their cat’s doing.

Be that person they don’t just work with because they’re good at what they do, but because they’re a good human being, and they’ll do business with you for a really long time.

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Ecommerce Trends for 2020: A Season Like We’ve Never Seen Before

Ecommerce Trends for 2020: A Season Like We’ve Never Seen Before

2020 has been a whirlwind year for ecommerce. Ahead of the holiday shopping season, we’re already looking at an 18% spike in revenue for the industry this year, and ecommerce is expected to reach $4.13 trillion in 2020.

The stampede of brick and mortar businesses into ecommerce has been astounding. Early predictions show that retail’s expected decline will be around 10.5% by the end of the year, more than QUADRUPLE earlier predictions.

While the economic fallout from COVID-19 has been catastrophic, one thing’s for certain: ecommerce. Is. BOOMING. Online orders are up 80% since January, and even in a pandemic, the predictions look promising.

Ahead of that growth are trends that are setting the stage for an online shopping experience that’s more immersive and personalized than ever before. 

Let’s talking about the top 8 emerging trends.

1. Chatbots Are the New Virtual Shopping Concierges

The rise of the chatbot is reaching its apex in 2020, with 80% of ecommerce businesses predicted to integrate some form of the tool by the end of the year – and they’ve come a long way. With the integration of AI and machine learning, chatbots are getting better at understanding language and providing helpful responses.

With more than half of customers expecting 24/7 support, chatbots help make sales while support teams sleep, reducing costs by as much as 30% for ecommerce companies.

2. AI-Driven Product Recommendations Are Driving CRAZY Spikes In Revenue

In addition to innovations with chatbots, artificial intelligence is being used to enhance product recommendations for retail marketplaces such as Amazon. On Amazon’s platform alone, product upselling through these recommendations accounts for an ASTOUNDING 35% of overall revenues.

Early data shows that these types of recommendation enhancements can increase conversion rates for ecommerce sites by as much as 915%.

3. Buy Online Pick Up In Store Is Where It’s At 

For order delivery time, the bar has never been higher. Ninety-percent of shoppers say that a delivery date of more than two days has deterred them from purchasing a product before (thanks, Amazon).

BOPIS (Buy Online Pick Up In Store) is a type of shopping that allows a shopper to purchase something online, and then pick it up locally. Forty-eight percent of shoppers reportedly use BOPIS to counter expensive shipping costs, and over 40% use it to get items in time for the holidays.

With such strong numbers, ecommerce companies are scrambling to adopt the practice. According to BigCommerce, 61% of retailers mark BOPIS as at the top of their list for investments in the next year.

4. Direct to Consumer Numbers Have Never Been Stronger

When Amazon shuttered purchasing of nonessential goods in early 2020, consumer goods wholesalers were left in a panic as huge portions of their revenue disappeared overnight.

Now to avoid the uncertainty of ebbing and flowing consumer demand, many B2B wholesalers are pivoting towards a direct to consumer, or DTC model. The industry’s growth initially had flatlined as investment capital began to dry up, but is now seeing a surge again, and is projected to hit $18 billion in 2020.

Learn More About DTC Ecommerce

5. Livestream Ecommerce Is Making Its Debut in the US

There are quiet stirrings of an ecommerce trend that’s done exceedingly well in China finally setting up shop in the United States. Called the QVC of Gen Z, live commerce platforms enable video viewers to watch product demonstrations in real-time and make purchases within the app, typically with no interruption in the video feed.

The shopping and streaming experience is simultaneous, and is attracting the attention of American venture capitalists – and it’s no wonder. In 2019, live commerce hit a whopping $63 billion in China.

6. Smartphone Shopping Numbers Are Surging

The move to mobile has seen a slower transition in ecommerce than it has for content consumption, but we’re finally reaching the tipping point. At this point, 51% of purchases are now happening on smartphones, leading developers to focus on progressive web apps for ecommerce customers.

PWAs keep the UX consistent from desktop to mobile, reducing customer dropoff and keeping the UI consistent and easy to use. Statistics show that the use of PWAs in ecommerce has a dramatic impact on conversion and bounce rates, with some companies seeing an increase in the former of 30%.

Learn More About PWAs

7. Incredible Front End Customization for Personalized Experiences

Personalized ecommerce is at the forefront of innovation for 2020. A new trend known as “headless ecommerce” allows developers to fully offload the front end of their website from their platform to allow for fully custom coded personalization.

This practice allows for unparalleled personalization not previously allowed within the constraints of most ecommerce applications, paving the way for a personalized shopping experience set to rival segmentation.

Studies show that personalization has a unique impact on a shopper’s likelihood of purchasing a product, with more than 80% being more likely to purchase from personalized ecommerce sites.

8. Virtual Showrooms Are Digitizing Retail Stores

If virtual reality was on the rise before, COVID-19 has pushed it full force into deployment as a virtual shopping experience for ecommerce brands and retailers.

In 2020, the rise in experiential ecommerce and the requirement for connection with a brand was the driving force behind such innovations as virtual showrooms and in-store experiences. With the capability to digitize their brick and mortar locations, high-end retailers are able to allow their customers to literally shop the store online through virtual reality.

According to Obsess, a VR and AR firm specializing in digitized retail, 78% of millennial shoppers are in favor of a virtual reality experience in their shopping apps.

“While the foot traffic is low to the stores, Obsess is enabling retailers to quickly make their retail stores shoppable ‘remotely’,” says Amrita Maria, champion of business development at Obsess. “With Obsess, our clients are showcasing their collections to their buyers globally, who are not travelling to fashion capitals this season by creating 3D 360 photorealistic virtual showrooms in which buyers can experience the collection and get the full brand experience.”

With numbers this strong, ecommerce companies have never been more interested in investing in their websites. Find out how Hostdedi can help you support ecommerce innovations like PWA with powerful hosting solutions.

Explore everything Hostdedi has to offer with our Managed WordPress or Managed WooCommerce 14 Day Free Trial.

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Scheduling Sales & Marketing For Black Friday

Scheduling Sales & Marketing For Black Friday

5 things you need to start thinking about now, so you can implement before holiday shopping starts this fall.

In February of 2019 I launched my first ever crowdfunding campaign where I was able to raise enough capital to manufacture goods in China and ship them to the US to start my board game company.

While this took a lot of planning to pull off – it actually made the launch of my first game incredibly easy. So easy, I thought I was forgetting something the entire time but it turned out I could actually just relax and let my marketing automations do the work for me.

Today I want to share how you can use the same strategies to automate your sales and marketing for the Black Friday/Holiday shopping weekend and make money without stressing yourself out.

Design Landing Pages

First things first: design any landing pages. Landing pages are a way to highlight products & content specific to a campaign, sale, or interest. Not all stores need landing pages but if you have certain products heavily discounted it’s worth putting them all on one page so visitors can view the best deals, get interested in your store, and then start adding things to their cart.

Unless you only have one or two key products, landing pages are one of the best places to send your fans. And if you plan on doing any advertising or newsletter blasts (hint – you should be thinking about both of these) then a landing page is one of the best places to send them. And it’s why you should start with this a month or so before the sale.

Create Tracking Links

I’m a big fan of tracking & measuring everything possible so that I can figure out what worked and in future years double down on the strategies that made me money and ignore the ones that didn’t work. And since each industry is so different in ecommerce what makes perfect sense for one industry may not work at all in another so you will have to try various strategies and learn and improve each year.

One of the ways to monitor this is with UTM parameters. You can create UTM parameters using a generator for any campaign you’re running and in tracking software like Google Analytics you can see where people are coming from.

As an example I created custom links for all of the influencers who made videos about my products. And while many of them sent over dozens of people who ended up purchasing the product one of the influencers only had one confirmed sale.

In future years I wouldn’t use this influencer again. Since my product is only $15 getting one sale isn’t worth all the admin time spent emailing back and forth and sending them a demo product.

Here’s a few custom links you could create for your site:

  • Links from Twitter
  • Links from Facebook
  • Links from your newsletter
  • Links from influencers
  • Links from forums / discussion groups
  • Links from your email signature
  • Etc.

Schedule Sale Prices

Once you have all of your landing pages & links set up it is time to schedule the sale prices. Whether you use WooCommerce, Magento, BigCommerce, or another online store just about all of them let you schedule both the start & end of sale prices.

Here’s what it looks like in WooCommerce.

If you’re doing a storewide discount, discount an entire category, or other more complicated setups, this isn’t typically included in the core software but there’s almost always apps, extensions, and modules that let you do this.

Plan Your Ad Strategy

Every retailer knows that Black Friday is one of the biggest sales opportunities of the year and many retailers go all out with advertising right before Black Friday. That means ad prices soar right before Black Friday so you’ll quickly find your self spending more than you make if you don’t plan in advance.

Image from AdEspresso

One of my favorite strategies is to come up with new ad concepts in spring, A/B test them throughout the summer, and wind them down in the fall. When Black Friday comes around you can retarget your existing audience which is far cheaper than targeting new people who are probably overwhelmed by the amount of ads and will be unlikely to trust a new company.

If you haven’t started ads and you’re reading this today, there’s still plenty of time. Get some ads out there next week and start building your audience so you can retarget them down the line.

Schedule Email Blasts

You have landing pages, tracking links, and all of your products are discounted. Now comes arguably the most important piece. Letting people know!

And yes, you can and should announce things on social media & on your website but today we’re going to talk about your #1 asset and that’s your email list.

These are easy to schedule in any email marketing tool. And what you want to do is setup a bunch of emails and you can send them to segments of your email list based on how active & how much they spend on your store.

  • Here’s what’s coming on Black Friday (7 days ahead)
  • Here’s what’s coming tomorrow (1 day ahead) – For people who regularly open your emails
  • Black Friday is here (Black Friday)
  • Don’t Forget Black Friday (Saturday) – For people who didn’t open yesterdays email
  • Don’t Miss the Best Sale of the Year – For people who have made multiple purchases

And you can create even more than this and if you have a large list with even more data you can continue segmenting your list and writing emails for those segments. 

Preparation is Key

At the end of the day it’s all about coming up with a plan. Almost all of the tools out there have scheduling functionality so once you make a plan, write a few emails or lines of ad copy go ahead and get it scheduled.

I planned my crowdfunding campaign for 6 months and raised $10,000 off a non-existent product. With a few months to go you have plenty of time to build your audience, come up with attractive deals, and let your audience know about those deals.

Good luck!

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Why DTC Ecommerce Matters More Than Ever Today

Why DTC Ecommerce Matters More Than Ever Today

In 2020, DTC ecommerce has proven to be another sensible way to reach your customers, and many brands are looking at starting from B2B and transitioning to direct to consumer.

Those of us working in ecommerce have been seeing the shift for a while now. As more and more stores transitioned their inventory online, the ecommerce boom wasn’t just happening – it was inevitable.

Fast forward to spring of 2020 though, and NOBODY could have predicted what happened next. 

Massive store closures triggered the single largest exodus from brick and mortar the world has ever seen, with more than 100,000 small businesses in the US alone closing for good as a result of the COVID-19 shutdowns.

But small businesses weren’t the only ones to take a hit. Larger retailers like Neiman Marcus have filed for bankruptcy in the last few months, and that list continues to grow.

All things considered though, the pandemic has thrown into sharper relief the need for a stronger ecommerce presence for many of these retailers. Record-breaking numbers are rolling in for ecommerce for 2020, including a growth spurt that put the industry four to six years ahead of schedule.

The Problem With Wholesaling During COVID-19

Even in spite of many shoppers setting their sights online, manufacturers saw major hits to their B2B sales as brick and mortar stores shut down. Those relying on wholesale relationships to float their revenue took devastating hits in the midst of the shutdowns.

As consumers turned to ecommerce sites like Amazon though, the fallout continued. In mid-March, Amazon restricted their B2B purchasing of nonessential goods in the wake of unprecedented demand for household staples.

As Amazon made room in their warehouses for hand sanitizer and toilet paper, purchase orders for nonessential goods rolled to a trickle or stopped completely, and manufacturers saw B2B sales plummet.

In the scramble to recover these revenue losses and brace for a potential second wave of retail shutdowns, many manufacturers are turning to DTC ecommerce models.

What Is DTC and a DNVB?

DTC stands for direct-to-consumer. It’s an ecommerce model wherein the brand sells directly to consumers, rather than through retailers, essentially cutting out the middleman. Some DTC evangelists will tell you the goal is to handle production, sales, distribution, and marketing under one roof and never go wholesale, but in 2020, it’s proven to just be another sensible way to reach your customers, and many brands are looking at starting from B2B and transitioning to DTC.

A DNVB is a digitally native vertical brand that starts this way. Best typified by brands like Avocado Green Mattress and Allbirds, DNVBs typically start with a simple product line (typically one or two options), clear, crisp branding, and a strong mission-driven component.

With brick and mortar sales remaining unstable and manufacturers now dealing with the fallout from their Amazon backlogs, DTC ecommerce is looking more attractive all the time – and consumers are taking notice, too.

Mission-Driven Shoppers Are Fueling the Fire

Interestingly, DTC brands are creating evangelical customers and devoted fan bases centered around two things:

  1. Amazing products
  2. A unifying brand mission

Consumer data shows that millennials now make up the majority of buying power in the US, and are 63% more likely to purchase from a brand because of their mission and values. 

This data, coupled with the boom the DTC sector has seen from innovative consumer goods startups has created a replicable business model that’s looking all the more attractive to manufacturers who entered the industry through wholesaling.

Four Components of a Successful DTC Ecommerce Site

Over and over again, we see brands killing the game in DTC ecommerce, and the best of them have a few things in common:

  1. Clean branding. Visually-driven shoppers respond to powerful messaging and clean logos. Brands like Tushy and Anese are leading the pack with memorable branding that leaves a mark in a saturated market.
  1. Smooth UX. At Hostdedi, we know that an ecommerce site’s performance is directly linked to its ability to generate revenue. The best DTC ecommerce sites have an intuitive layout, load fast, and have a smooth interaction with their shoppers.
  1. Simple product lines. They say simplicity sells, and that’s certainly the name of the game in DTC ecommerce. Strong DTC brands typically have one or two flagship products they make their mark with and expand on.
  1. Strong missions. The data supports that today’s consumers are more conscious of their purchasing decisions than ever. Making your mission clear and building your brand around it (instead of as an afterthought) will literally win you more sales, and good karma.

Is It Time for You to Go DTC?

If COVID-19 has taught us anything in ecommerce, it’s that you can’t have enough backup plans. Diversifying how and where you sell your products makes all the sense in the world. Those high-volume retail POs may seem nice for a while – until they vanish, and your revenue vanishes with it.

Build resiliency, connect with your customer base, and get in on the thrill that is DTC ecommerce. Talk to one of our experts today about what it would take to get your brand online and selling DTC.

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The eCommerce Guide to International Shipping Costs

The eCommerce Guide to International Shipping Costs

If a product in your ecommerce store has global appeal, start thinking about a plan for shipping internationally. Shipping overseas isn’t the same as shipping within the country. 

Here’s a primer on the customs issues, international shipping costs, and other logistics you’ll manage as you begin shipping around the globe. Keep in mind that there’s rarely universal truth in international shipping. Get individualized quotes for your own products so you know how much it’ll really cost. 

What is international freight and what is the cheapest international shipping? 

Since shipping overseas is usually more complicated than domestic shipping, international freight logistics can present some unique challenges for eCommerce businesses. Some companies specialize in international freight and handle the logistical challenges for you. 

For small orders sent to your customers, you probably won’t have to think too much about customs issues. Even if you do outsource this process entirely, however, it’s worthwhile to learn more about how international shipping works for your products. You’ll be more adept at troubleshooting and improving your shipping processes. 

Shipping domestically can be very straightforward. You pay a single amount and your package gets delivered. But costs associated with international shipping may include the following: 

  • Customs charges 
  • Customs brokerage costs
  • Ground transportation
  • Maritime transportation
  • Air transportation 

When you ship, you’ll need to choose a carrier to transport your package for you. There are three different types of carriers, and they all work a bit differently. They also frequently work together. Even if you choose one of these, it’s possible that your carrier will contract out part or all of the shipping to another one on this list. 

International Carrier 

If you choose an international shipping carrier such as FedEx or DHL for the entire route, some or all of your shipping costs may be rolled into your postage. International carriers are responsible end-to-end for shipments and generally permit more visibility across the entire process than a national carrier working with a shipping partner would. 

This option may be more expensive than the other two and doesn’t necessarily allow you as much flexibility, but it’s likely a simpler and less time-consuming choice. 

National Carrier

A national carrier handles your packages within a specific country. They may not provide service outside that nation’s borders, or they may contract with local carriers to transport packages through other countries. You can work directly with a national carrier, but you’ll need to ensure that someone is still transporting the packages once they leave national borders. 

One example of a national carrier is the United States Postal Service (USPS). USPS has international reach by working with local partners to transport your packages. When a partner is delivering a package, USPS may not allow as much visibility into the shipping process which means you may not have access to much information when you ship internationally. 

For a small package that only weighs a few pounds, choosing a national carrier might be cheaper than your other options. Larger or heavier packages may be better off with an international carrier or freight forwarder. 

International Freight Forwarder

A third party can organize the handoff between USPS and the final carrier while also handling any customs issues. This is what an international freight forwarder does. They have permission from you to take on freight and have their own agents handle the customs and shipping logistics along the way. 

You could use multiple carriers and arrange the logistics yourself but in practice, this may be too complicated and time-consuming. That’s where outsourcing can make sense. For example, you may decide to ship a package from within the U.S. to the Canadian border through USPS, then have another carrier take it from there. 

Cheapest Way to Ship Internationally

Shipping to other countries is not just one process. There’s so much that depends on the country. To send your products overseas, consider the end country destination and plan accordingly. 

Consider these country-specific sections for more information. This is just a starting point, so be sure to do your own research just to be safe. 

Cheapest Way to Ship to Canada

Shipping to Canadian consumers can be complex. Although you generally shouldn’t have a problem shipping to most Canadians, Canada is a diverse country with a variety of different shipping arrangements and options. Some Canadians live in very isolated, rural areas that may make shipping a more expensive process while others are in urban areas with an abundance of affordable shipping options. 

Retailers must be prepared to work hard in order to win Canadian customers. Having convenient shipping is a good start. Whatever you can do to make purchasing from you easier is probably worthwhile. 

Online purchases made by Canadians do incur customs duties and other taxes, and paying these is the responsibility of the buyer. Although these costs are not coming out of your own pocket, you should know that these expenses do directly impact how much your shoppers can spend with your business. By keeping costs for your customers low, you could even offset some of these expenses and make it more likely that you’ll win their business. 

Besides import costs, Canadians also pay sales taxes for their province and a Goods and Services Tax (GST) to their federal government. GST represents 5%  of the total. Local sales taxes bring this amount higher. 

If your products are relatively cheap, you probably won’t lose business because of import duties. Recent updates to customs processes and costs mean that Canadian customers ordering from American businesses are exempt from paying customs costs on purchases up to $150 CAD, with some exceptions. This is up from the previous $20 CAD limit set in 1985. The old $20 rules still apply with items shipped through Canada Post, so keep in mind the larger limit only applies to private carriers such as FedEx. 

When you ship to Canadians, you have a lot of options. 

Shipping Options for Sending Items to Canadian Buyers

Canada Post, the national postal service, is one great option for retailers. You can also use FedEx, UPS, DHL or Purolator. Here’s where you may also want to consider Canadian geography when you’re shipping. Some of your customers may live in isolated communities and you may need to account for longer shipping times. As a result, some carriers such as FedEx, have different policies within Canada. FedEx Ground ships in four days or less within the US, but in Canada, takes up to seven days for shipments. 

You can use an individual carrier or use a multi-carrier shipping option that hands off packages to a new carrier at the border. Although the usual U.S. carriers you’re probably familiar with are available, the additional choices you gain within the Canadian border may be worth it. Purolator, for example, is known for reliable next-day shipping by 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. to Canadian addresses. When shipping packages, having this option available to customers may be a helpful selling point. 

Cheapest Way to Ship to the U.K.

In the U.K., eCommerce businesses have several options for shipping within the country such as the Royal Mail and DHL. You also have UPS international, FedEx, and even USPS international shipping. Shipping to the U.K. can be an expensive venture with a USPS Small Priority Mail Flat Rate box costing $36 and a Large Flat Rate box costing $94. Your costs will certainly be higher than shipping domestically, but that doesn’t mean shipping to the U.K. is completely cost-prohibitive for retailers. 

Imported goods need to follow the U.K. guidelines. Some of this may involve more work and recordkeeping on your part unless you outsource part or all of this process. 

You should find out if you’ll owe Value Added Tax (VAT) and have to collect it for your customers. Many eCommerce sellers are required to create their own VAT registration and request information from customers to help with location verification and tax reporting — even if you’re not based in the U.K. 

These rules may change. At time of writing, the U.K. was planning to leave the European Union which could result in different policies. 

Cheapest Way to Ship to Australia

When you’re shipping to Australia, you have several options. You can use an international carrier such as UPS, FedEx, or DHL. You could also use USPS. With Flat Rate International options available, you can reduce your costs for shipping a package to Australia. 

Customs costs may not be as much of an issue for you if your products are valued at less than $700 — which is about the minimum taxable amount for Australians who are buying products online and having their purchases shipped. GST imposed by the Australian government applies for more expensive purchases. 

If you use a freight forwarder or shipper, they’ll provide a Self-Assessed Clearance (SAC) Declaration for the Australian government when your package arrives at the border. Otherwise, you’ll be responsible for providing the SAC. 

Cheapest Options for International Shipping

You can streamline your international shipping and save money by creating a process. If you want a game plan for how you’ll ship internationally when orders arrive, take the time to decide in advance which countries you’ll be selling to, and create a system for taking care of shipping. As your business operations grow, you may need a more formal internal process for packaging and shipping including designated job descriptions for team members you have in charge of the process. For automated or outsourced shipping, plan how you’ll transport packages to the carrier, or sign up for a pick-up service. 

Your cheapest overall option may be outsourcing your shipping to a service such as Parcel Monkey or Easyship. These services can take advantage of volume discounts on international shipping and pass the savings along to you. In some instances, this can cut half of your shipping costs. 

Before you make any shipping decisions, carefully consider your options and find out what every shipping service has to offer for your business and your customers. 

Choosing the Best International Shipping Service

Business owners should shop around and consider several important factors when looking for the right shipping service. Start with an example order and calculate the cost and options offered by several different carriers. 

Before you make a list of carriers to compare, you may want to consider what you’ll need in a package shipping service. Specifically: 

  • Product categories you ship
  • Countries you ship to 
  • Countries you plan to ship to later as your business grows 
  • How much of the regulations and customs process you need to outsource 

See how every option stacks up against the others and note any questions or concerns you have for further research. Of course, you’ll also want to compare: 

  • Price
  • Arrival time 
  • Convenience for your customers
  • Shipping experience for you 

Every time you ship internationally, you have the option of using one single carrier or using a multi-carrier shipping option. 

Automating Your Shipping with the WooCommerce Shipping Plugin 

If you’re using WooCommerce, a shipping plugin can help you ship more efficiently. Balance multiple carriers along with a busy array of incoming orders and have costs calculated for you. A variety of different plugins are available with various features designed to make shipping calculations easier and enable quick comparisons among carriers. 

With a plugin, your site can calculate shipping rates accurately and provide customers with multiple choices. This feature allows you to provide different price points and shipping times so buyers can make their own decisions. 

Once you’ve automated your shipping, your online store can run with less guesswork and greater simplicity for both you and your customers. 

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