Five steps: finding help with import and export

The key to successsful import/export is not, as you may have guessed, just to go blundering blindly into countries you have no understanding of. Use these resources to help you research, trade with and positively flourish in international markets.

1. UK Trade & Investment (UKTI)

This government body is the daddy of all import/export resources in the UK. It tackles all the basics, and the bits you need after the basics, and, well, the bits after that too, through a combination of free online content, advisors and courses.

The website can be a little maze-like, but we suggest you pick your sector using the options at the top and go from there, which makes things clearer. Each sector section explains where the best countries to export to are for your industry, events that could be relevant to you and points you towards relevant guidance elsewhere on the site. Use the search button for more specific enquiries.

UKTI provides advisors too (real people ones), who can give you far more hands-on and tailored help. You can find your local one through the site or by calling 0207 215 8000.

It organises fantastically useful trade missions so you can go and meet potential buyers and suppliers in your destination of choice, and find out more about business there first-hand. They're usually fully or part-funded.

UKTI also does tailored reports on how to break into a specific country, though at £500 you may want to try pulling that info together from elsewhere first (try the British Library Business & IP Centre, for example). As a first exploration, check out the site's country profiles explaining the economy and where the main opportunities lie.

Find it: www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk/

2. Business Link

It's dry as dehydrated toast but Business Link does provide one of the most comprehensive guides to all the key regulations and processes you need to know about. It has also replaced the HMRC website as the place du jour to find government-voiced import/export info online (HMRC redirects you there at every turn as part of a more holistic attempt by the government to converge its various small business resources). Try to fight off the urge to take impromptu naps on your laptop while reading. Persevere.

Find it: www.businesslink.gov.uk

3. British Chambers of Commerce section on Global Trade

The BCC isn't a straight-up advice-provider like some of the other resources here, but its mix of free and paid-for content caters for preliminary forays into the import/export domain as well as for those in need of advanced guidance.

The big draws for the penniless many are the free market briefs on a pretty diverse selection of countries and events listings. You can find a healthy dose of these on the Link2 website as well, which offers a further sprinkling of info on different parts of the world and is worth a look too.

If you're happy to get your wallet out, you'll find training (typically around the £500 mark), and a review service of the market you want to enter and how to make your business suit it, similar to that of UKTI's (£500 again though can be subsidised to £150). The BCC will also handle of help with your documentation for a fee.

Find it: www.britishchambers.org.uk/zones/export

4. HMRC's import and export guide

Does exactly what it says on the tin, albeit in perhaps not the most tantalising fashion you may have hoped for. It is a government leaflet, after all. On the plus side, that means it really will go into those hard-to-reach corners of pedantic technicality you need, to make sure you don't do anything wrong. For best results, use in conjunction with plenty of face-to-face and online help elsewhere. Coffee will also help.

Find it: download it from this page

5. Uktradeinfo.com

Not your average resource. This cheeky little chappy is actually an HMRC site in possession of a whole lorryfull of import/export statistics. You can use it to do (pretty darn advanced) research, but also find things like the right commodity code for your goods or the right airport or seaport code.

It's also got a whole section dedicated to Intrastat, which you need to find out about if you trade goods within the EU of a total annual value of more than £270,000.

Find it: www.uktradeinfo.com/

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