7 tips for moving your small business overseas with you

moving business overseas

In July 2012, my family and I relocated to The Netherlands from Australia.  If you’re interested, you can read about our adventures over on Dutch Australian.

After starting a small business as a sole trader in Australia (in 2008), I then needed to finalise my business in Australia and consider starting one here in The Netherlands.  I thought it might be useful and interesting to others to share my process of moving my small business overseas with me.

1.  Reassess your personal situation and goals

Though I’m quite used to juggling business and family, with two young children the move across the world was a big one.  My husband started full time employment not long after we arrived and our family decision was that I wouldn’t work for a few months so we could settle ourselves and the children into our new life a little.

We considered a number of aspects including financial situation, part time job availability for me, my desire to work, the schedules of the children ‘s schooling and lots more.  It soon became clear that it did seem the best plan going forward would be for me to relaunch Zestee as a new business in The Netherlands from the beginning of January 2013.

This time was also a good opportunity to continue to reassess my current skills in social media and marketing, as well work on developing skills I am really interested in such as photography and some basic website and graphic design.

2. Research the market in your new location

For the first few months I spoke to as many people as I could in The Netherlands – family, friends, expats and dutch – about the type of work I’d done in Australia through Zestee (social media and marketing training predominantly), the type of work I had skills and interest in (website design, photography, business development, marketing, sales), the languages I spoke (native English and basic Dutch) and just general feedback about running a business and the job market.

The picture started to become clearer of my possibilities.  Firstly, finding part time work which would fit around my children’s schedules was near impossible, and daycare was extremely expensive.  I attended a number of networking events in Dutch and English and began to see that social media marketing was in demand here, and with my native English my target market could be expats.

I also undertook a lot of online research e.g. Facebook groups, Google, LinkedIn and more to get a general feel of what services were already being offered and what niche I could fill here.  I was fortunate to also meet with a number of other local expats already running businesses here who generously offered knowledge and support, such as Lynn from MoloWorks & Nomad Parents, Molly Quell Consulting and Lucie Cunningham.

3. Consider continuing to service clients in your previous location

With the nature of my online work and the international nature of many businesses these days, I also didn’t want to ignore the possibility I could still service those clients in Australia who already knew and trusted me – here from The Netherlands.  Continuing to develop my online Zestee Social Media School is part of that ongoing plan and I’m becoming a Skype regular – and as long as you co-ordinate times, it then doesn’t matter if you’re talking to someone down the road or across the world!  So if you’re reading this and have worked with me in Australia, I’m only a Skype call away…. (renee_veldman)

4.  Find out about and go through the registration process in the new country

Once it became clear I wanted to relaunch my business here, I started finding out about exactly how I went about it.  Turns out it was quite easy.  Due to the tax year running from 01 January here in The Netherlands and as I also still had some settling to do, I set my start date as 01 January 2013.  Here in The Netherlands, you need to make an appointment with the KVK (Chamber of Commerce).  They actually even have an entire section on their website in English.

My dutch is reasonable so I attended an information session they offered on starting a business here which was helpful.  It didn’t even cost me anything to register…I had heard it was about E30-50, but from 1 January 2013, this was no longer the case – it’s now free to register as an eenmanzaak (similar to sole trader in Australia)

I’m still working my way through what I need to do with the tax department (Belastingdienst) but it seems fairly straightforward.  I have opened a business bank account with ING Bank, am working on business cards and finished my new business plan using the great Business Model Generation Book.  As I write this post, a month into operating officially, I am just about to invoice my first client!

5. Update website and other online (and print) marketing materials

I had always wanted to buy www.zestee.com right from the launch of my business in Australia in 2008, however someone had “parked” that domain…so I settled for http://www.zestee.com.au and waited until I was able to grab .com about a year ago. While I was still in Australia, I just rediverted .com to the .com.au site – but once I made the move here, I spent some time updating the entire site over to .com.  I’m still working on this but it’s at least underway.  I also am about to reprint some business cards to use here in Holland.

6.  Do some volunteer work

Since I arrived I have actively pursued, or through networking events have been asked to volunteer with, various organisations and tasks.  My first instinct is to do whatever I can!  However from past experience, as well as a really busy schedule with the children and settling in, I made a point of focussing on specific volunteer work that would support my personal and professional goals.  Since I’ve arrived, I’ve been involved in some level of volunteer work with:

Each of these has taught me a lot and led me to new possibilities, friends and clients…even before I launched my business.

7.  Network, network, network

This is a fantastic way of researching the local market, meeting people, and ultimately finding new clients.  It’s also a great way to settle into a new country personally as well as professionally.   Here are a number of networking groups and events I’ve attended over the last 6 months.

I’m also looking at restarting the networking group I began myself in Australia more than 3 years ago now – Professional Parents.

Online networking is also wonderful and I’ve been using a combination of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

So though I’ve only been officially in business for a month here in The Netherlands, by spending time on each of the above, I’m already up and running.  Most exciting is that  I’ve recently started working with www.expatica.com as social media manager…this role suits me perfectly, is flexible enough to fit around my children, and still allows me to spend some time on other projects.  Wishing you every success if you move your business overseas – though many of these strategies will also work for your business if you’re staying put!

Your comments and feedback on this article are most welcome!  You might also like to read more about me, browse this website or check out the social media school.  I always love to hear from readers too, just use the contact form.  




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7 thoughts on “7 tips for moving your small business overseas with you

  1. Hi Renee,
    I just stumbled across your blog post. Thanks for sharing. I’m in the process of moving from Australia to Canada and will be taking my web design business with me. I want to continue to serve my existing clients here and don’t see any issue other than time difference. I’m struggling with the right approach to take in informing my clients of the move and wonder if you have any advice?


  2. Hi Catherine,

    All the best with the move! I’m glad you found the article interesting. A web business sounds quite portable. I’m not sure I can advise the “right” way to do things but as I knew the move was coming for some time and needed quite a lot of free time to manage it (especially with 2 small children), I wound up most of my projects in Australia before I left and then relaunched in The Netherlands when I was ready. I also posted an announcement on the blog that I was moving and sent out an e-newsletter to advise. Another thing you could do is find someone in your current location who has a similar business and who you can confidently refer people to who would prefer face to face after you move. Then I pretty much went though all the steps above after the move. I’m sure it’s really personal and varies, but I’ve found that now, almost a year after the move, I’m settling quite well and my business is growing, so just be prepared give it some time. Good luck!! (oh and by the way what is your website and I’ll take a look!)

  3. Pingback: - Dutch Australian

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