Becoming an Expat Entrepreneur

Starting a business can be a daunting task, many people will never have the courage to commit the actions that are required. Opening a business in your home country can be risky enough but when you are thinking about opening a business in a foreign country the stakes get much higher.

You may be thinking that the reward is worth the risk after taking a holiday in paradise where the “grass is much greener”. For everyone that has a dream of opening a new business abroad or expanding your current business to other countries here are some tips to help you along your laborious adventure.

Expat working at the beach

Research is Key

The best part about doing the research for your business abroad is that it usually starts with a holiday. Many expats have a one week vacation and this is enough evidence that they need to make the big move. But if you planning on investing money in to a business or you have a developed life to loose back home then one week is not sufficient time to make what could be the biggest decision of your life. It is recommended that you take at least 3 months’ vacation to the country that you plan to move to.

If you already have a job but have saved up money to start the business or have assets like a home that you can sell it would be wise to take a leave of absence, fly to the country with your family if you have one and enjoy your time but don’t forget to investigate in to what running a business in this country is going to be like. The vacation life is contrasting and sometimes blinding to what life as a business owner in a foreign country is really like.

Figure out when the low seasons and high seasons are if your business depends on tourism. In many cases business can slow to a halt during the rainy or low season. This can be a good thing to plan a vacation of your own but you need to know when to foresee less income coming in and be able to cover expenses.

Make Some Friends

Be sure to ask a lot of questions to current expats business owners. It is important to connect with people that have a firsthand experience coming from a similar background, get close enough to them that you feel comfortable asking them personal question. The questions you should be asking are;

  • What’s the hardest part about owning a business here?
  • What is the best part?
  • How reliable are your employees?
  • How much do you pay the employees and how many hours a week they work?
  • What other benefits do you have to pay for the employees?
  • What is the permitting process and price?
  • Why did you decide to open the business?
  • Do you have any regrets?
  • What’s your best advice for me?

Other questions will come naturally.

Know the Law

One thing to scrutinize is if you can actually work legally for your own business. Some countries have laws that say foreigners cannot take away work from a local citizen and you can’t even work for your own business unless you have citizenship. Most countries will allow you to at least manage your own company.

Although getting advice from friends is a great start you need to do your own research with the government about all the labour laws and the permitting process. The procedure of getting your residency is a very important factor in the whole process and it is advised that you should talk with a lawyer about your options.

Know the tax law in the country you plan on moving to and also your home country. Chances are if you are still a citizen of your home country they expect you to pay taxes on money earned in outside countries. In this case it may be worth it to renounce your residency which can be tough for many people. Your best to spend a few years in your new country before you make any drastic changes.

Business traveller on the road

Know your Options

Although it is easy to fall in love with a certain location it is important to keep your options open. If you are not 100% sure about this country but you are certain you want to make a change in your life to a different country. Why not spend some time visiting other countries and doing some more research online given the knowledge you now have?

Health Care

Your health and your families health is obviously the most important thing in life. Be sure to check to see what the health care policy for foreigners is in each country. You may need to purchase private insurance because your home country may not cover you due to being out of the country for too long and your new country may not cover you unless you are a resident or citizen paying in to the system. Spend some time figuring out where the nearest hospitals are and what type of treatment you will receive there.

What to Expect

Chances are you are thinking to become an expat to enjoy a better more free life. Don’t expect that everything will be perfect on your journey, running a business is difficult, especially in another country with a different work ethic you are accustomed to. If you are moving to a country that speaks a different language expect to make an effort to learn the language, you will be a moving target if you don’t understand what is going on around you.

Many expats decide to partner with a local which can be wise having an insider’s view, just remember that this is not your country and don’t expect them to do things the way you are habituated to. Embrace the new culture and your wellbeing, sanity and business will be much better off.