Import and export agents, also referred to as international trade agents, handle the importing of foreign goods and the exporting of domestic products. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, small businesses make up 95 percent of the $2.5 trillion in annual trading. This means an entrepreneur entering the international trade business can earn big money.
Find suitable business space. Your business space will have to accommodate a small office but the larger portion will be devoted to shipping and receiving. Visit an office supply store or shop online at an office supply company such as Office Depot or Staples and get a fax machine, multiple-line telephone, copier, and at least one desktop computer and one notebook computer. You will also need shipping supplies such as a scale for weighing packages, a measuring tape for determining dimensions, packing tape, boxes and packing peanuts or paper.
Designate a staging/shipping area. This area should be split into two distinct spaces: one for packing, the other for receiving. These two spaces should be further divided according to destination. For instance, if you are shipping baseball supplies to Japan, in the shipping space, mark out an area specifically for Japan shipments; leave another area for receiving goods from another country, such as car stereos from Korea.
Get licensed. In general, the United States government and most state governments do not require an individual to be licensed unless he is trading in one of the following: firearms, alcohol, livestock, tobacco, food, and copyrighted material, such as DVDs. Contact the US Department of Commerce and inquire if there are any licensing or permitting requirements for your particular trade items. In addition, inquire with your state's commerce department to determine if you need a permit or license.
Have start-up money ready. The typical cost of starting an import and/or export business is about $5,000. If you plan on taking out a loan, visit the Small Business Administration's website for details about getting financing. The SBA has a list of approved lenders and if the loan is under $35,000, you may consider a micro-loan.
Focus on in-demand items. To make big money, focus on importing and exporting products that are in demand domestically and overseas. For instance, in the United States, focus on importing items that are the latest in technology. When exporting, focus on goods or products that are in short supply in the country to which you are exporting.
Owen Richason grew up working in his family's small contracting business. He later became an outplacement consultant, then a retail business consultant. Richason is a former personal finance and business writer for "Tampa Bay Business and Financier." He now writes for various publications, websites and blogs.