Business Development

Starting A Freight Forwarding Business: Some Friendly Advice

By Barsha Bhattacharya

September 15, 2023

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Hey there, future freight forwarder! Before you start dreaming about that big office with an ocean view, let’s get honest about the logistics world. It’s an exciting space, but you’ll need more than a fancy name and a desk to get things rolling.

Here’s some straight-talk advice from someone who’s been around the block.

  1. It’s All About the People Think of your business like a big, interconnected web—the tighter and more extensive your web, the better. Build solid relationships with everyone – from the shipper down the road to the customs officer who loves his morning coffee. Word of mouth still counts for a lot in our industry.
  2. Decoding the Big, Bad World of Trade Rules Remember the first time you tried to solve a Rubik’s Cube? International trade rules can feel a bit like that. Each country has a different color, and you must align things perfectly. Spend time learning the rules, and maybe find a mentor to guide you. It’ll save you a ton of headaches.
  3. The Digital Bandwagon Okay, it might seem intimidating, but tech’s your new best friend. Trust us, there’s software that can make tasks like tracking shipments as easy as tracking your pizza delivery. And who doesn’t love knowing exactly when their pizza’s arriving?
  4. Mastering the Intricacies of Customs Brokerage: In the vast landscape of freight forwarding, understanding the nitty-gritty of customs brokerage can truly set you apart. This isn’t just about ensuring shipments glide smoothly through checkpoints and understanding international trade regulations, tariffs, and duties.

Acquiring expertise in this area is akin to possessing a compass in the complex maze of global shipping, guiding your business and clients through with efficiency and confidence.

  1. Counting Those Pennies: You’re not just moving goods; you’re moving money, too. Often, you’ll find yourself paying carriers upfront and waiting on client payments. Stay on top of your finances, keep some reserves, and maybe even chat with a financial guru who knows the ropes.
  2. Stuff Happens, Be Prepared: Remember that vase Aunt Margie shipped, and it arrived in pieces? Accidents happen. So, invest in some good insurance and always have a backup plan. It’s like carrying an umbrella; it’s better to have it and not need it.
  3. Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket. Dabble in a bit of everything at first – air, sea, and everything in between. Once you figure out what you’re really good at or where the demand lies, you can dive deep.
  4. Be a Sponge: The freight world’s always on the move. New rules, new tech, new everything! Soak it all up. Attend seminars, have chats over coffee, and always keep an ear to the ground.
  5. Treat Customers Like Gold They’re entrusting you with their precious cargo, so make their experience memorable (in a good way!). A happy customer means more business and, often, a new friend in the industry.
  6. Your Crew Matters As you grow, you’ll need a trusty crew to manage the stormy seas with you. Invest in them, nurture them, and share the victories together.
  7. Been There, Done That: Find folks who’ve been in the business longer than you. They’ve seen the good, bad, and ugly. Grab a coffee or a beer with them; their advice is gold.
  8. Licensing and Documentation – Not Just Paperwork: Before you roll your eyes at more paperwork, understand that this is your ticket to the big leagues in the freight forwarding world.

Get to grips with what’s mandatory and what’s advisable, and keep everything organized. A well-maintained document vault can distinguish between smooth sailing and choppy waters.

  1. Tackling Time Zones Like a Pro With clients and partners across the globe, you might find yourself calculating time differences more than you’d like. But with a bit of practice and some handy apps, you’ll soon be syncing up meetings and shipments like a time zone whisperer.
  2. Eco-friendly Forwarding: The Future is Green. Your clients will appreciate a green approach as the world moves towards sustainability. Dive into eco-friendly options, and you might save the planet, cut costs, and impress clients.
  3. Handling Difficult Conversations with Grace: Let’s be real; not every chat will be about the weather. Sometimes, delays happen, or shipments get mixed up. How you handle these chats can define your business reputation.

A calm demeanor and a solution-first approach will be your best allies.

  1. Adapting to Global Crises and Market Shifts: From pandemics to political upheavals, the world is always changing. Build flexibility into your business model and stay informed. Being adaptable in the face of adversity is a mark of a seasoned freight forwarder.
  2. Navigating Cultural Nuances The beauty of global business? Meeting folks from diverse backgrounds. But remember, a gesture or phrase can mean different things in different cultures. Do your homework and respect those cultural nuances.
  3. Celebrating Small Wins, Prepping for Bigger Battles Every shipment that reaches on time, every satisfied client, deserves a little celebration. These small victories keep the morale high. But always be ready; the next challenge could be just around the corner.
  4. Harnessing the Power of Feedback It might sting a little when a client is criticized, but take it in stride. Feedback, both good and bad, is invaluable. It’s like having a map that tells you where to go next.
  5. Continuous Learning: The Ocean’s Always Changing: Just when you think you’ve got the hang of it, there’ll be a new regulation, a new tech tool, or a market shift. Stay curious, keep learning, and you’ll be riding the waves like a pro.
  6. Building Your Brand: More than Just a Logo Think about the big names in any industry. They’re not just known for their services but for their brand. Invest time in crafting a brand story, an identity. It’s the beacon that’ll draw clients and partners to your harbor.

Wrapping Up:

Look, starting a freight forwarding venture is like starting any journey – unpredictable, challenging, but rewarding. Keep your eyes on the horizon, lean on your network, and remember to enjoy the ride. Here’s to smooth seas and a strong wind at your back.

We hope you learned something; if we missed anything, please tell us in the comments below.

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Barsha Bhattacharya

Barsha Bhattacharya is a senior content writing executive. As a marketing enthusiast and professional for the past 4 years, writing is new to Barsha. And she is loving every bit of it. Her niches are marketing, lifestyle, wellness, travel and entertainment. Apart from writing, Barsha loves to travel, binge-watch, research conspiracy theories, Instagram and overthink.

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