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Being Your Own Boss Abroad

When thinking of opening your own business abroad, it’s easy to underestimate the financial and emotional impact, the bureaucratic obstacles and the necessary market research that go into it. Below, we offer a brief round-up of things to consider when you open your own business in a foreign country.
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Banking is another aspect self-employed expats should deal with early on. Banks often do not allow for private bank accounts to handle business finances, even if the business is really small.

“Fortunately, opening a business account as an EU national with an Irish bank was really easy”, Anna from Austria (who now runs a successful B&B in Ireland) says.

“They actually gave me a whole starter package for the first couple of years, complete with a small business loan and an analysis by a finance and investment expert. But I’ve heard some horror stories from expat friends in other countries who had to struggle with all the details and process piles of paperwork.”

Despite one or two bumps in the road, Anna’s boarding house now enjoys a constant influx of guests. Its cozy Vienna coffee-house style makes it one of a kind among traditional B&Bs.

Cater to the Locals

If you want your business abroad to flourish, you need to learn about the locals. A grasp of the local language – or even fluency – is the essential first step. After all, whichever services you provide, you should be able to not only provide them to tourists and expats but also to the locals. But language proficiency alone will not do the trick. Knowing the local economy is just as important as knowing the locals. Their attitudes, wants and needs are what can determine the nature and success of your business.

Getting a good idea of what the local population in general is interested in and what is relevant to their tastes is key. Try to find out as much as possible about the market you are planning on delving into – if it seems as if a certain product or service you are accustomed to from your home country is lacking in your new surroundings, check whether or not there already is a popular local alternative. Not every business idea will take off, but thorough preparation can at least help you lower the risk.

Find Your Niche

When Todd (28) moved to Berlin to work as an English teacher, he soon realized that the competition was extremely tough. “There must have been dozens of American and British expats who all tried to land a teaching job somehow. What a nightmare!”

As an enthusiastic musician, Todd joined a band to indulge in his passion. As he got to know more and more about Berlin’s music scene, he soon realized that there was a demand for alternative music lessons. “There are plenty of schools here where you can learn different classical music instruments, even several that let you try electric guitars or drums or that offer noise-proof rehearsal rooms. But I was missing some of the more unusual stuff, like jazz trombone or saxophone.”

After graduating in musicology back in the UK, Todd returned to Berlin. With his previous knowledge of Berlin’s unique art and music scene and his German language proficiency, he managed to start working successfully as a self-employed music teacher. He’s proud that some of his students have already performed at local festivals, and he is currently looking into independent record labels in the Berlin area.