Trading online and crossing borders

As the European elections come to a close and World Trade Week begins, what better time than the present to look at the possibilities of selling products and services overseas. Emma Jones offers a route map.


In a recent report on the characteristics of home based businesses, it was revealed that the proportion of home businesses deriving more than half their sales from overseas customers is greater than for other SMEs. Businesses started and run from home trade local – but they also have a growing propensity to trade global.

This was confirmed in eBay’s quarterly Online Business Index that showed a 127% increase in cross border online trade in 2008 compared with 2007, with exports by online businesses to Eurozone countries surging by 136%.

As I quoted in our support statement for World Trade Week: ‘It is incredible that you can now start a business from the spare room in the morning and be selling to the world by midday.’

So, how to get started?

I suggest it’s about getting three fundamentals right.

The Platform – to sell to the world, requires being seen by the world. Achieve this by being active on one of a number of powerful platforms; global marketplaces such as eBay and and online trading spaces such as elance and [] are connecting buyers and sellers across the globe. As trade develops on these high profile platforms, consider creating your own site or blog. Companies like Venda offer an online trading store for £50 per month; allowing you to run your own store whilst maintaining trade through other platforms.

Payment – with tools such as PayPal and Worldpay you can easily accommodate e-commerce on your website and get paid without having to make up-front investment. PayPal is owned by eBay and has more than 100 million account holders. There is no up-front cost to installing PayPal – you pay transaction fees once the system is up and running. WorldPay has a dedicated site for small business and offers the opportunity to start trading and receiving payments online in one basic package. WorldPay customers are charged an up-front amount plus monthly and transaction charges. Google Checkout is a relative newcomer. It works pretty much like PayPal, with slightly lower fees, ranging from 1.4% to 3.4% plus 15p per transaction.

Post & Packaging – the FedEx Small Business Centre offers all the information you need on packing and posting goods  or visit your local Mail Boxes Etc and have them do the shipping for you. They have deals in place with most of the major postal companies; UPS, Parcelforce Worldwide and FedEx. And if you’re looking for somewhere to store all your stock before sending it across the world, take a look at Access Self Storage and move stock out of your garage/hallway/spare room and in to its own dedicated space!

Taking these steps will see you start your adventure of international trade with the rich rewards it is sure to bring.


About the Author: Emma Jones is Founder of Enterprise Nation and author of ‘Spare Room Start Up – how to start a business from home’

Enterprise Nation is racing to follow every home business on Twitter by Home Enterprise Day on Friday 20th November at

Emma Jones

Emma Jones is Founder and Editor of Enterprise Nation, the home business website. She has successfully started two businesses from home offices in London, Manchester and rural Shropshire. Following a career with an international accountancy firm, Emma started her first home based business at the age of 27 and successfully sold it just 15 months after launch. Redbrick Enterprises Ltd was founded in 2002 to advise the public sector on effective homeworking. Spotting a gap in the market to provide information and inspiration to homeworkers, Emma launched Enterprise Nation [], the home business website, in January 2006. The website is a free resource for people starting and growing a business at home and has a readership of more than 390,000 people. As well as site content, there is also a free fortnightly e-newsletter and podcast. Emma’s first book on how to start a business from home Spare Room Start Up: How to Start a Business from Home will be published by Harriman House in May 2008.

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