A lot of you, before clicking on the title of this post, may be wondering who an import-export agent or broker is. Well just like any other agent or broker in any given field, an import/export agent (broker) is a person/individual, a trade agent or customs broker, or as a matter of fact a company that sends and receives goods to and from different countries on behalf of another person/entity.
While I was growing up, I had always known how difficult it was back then to import or export goods into or from Nigeria. And always wondered what it would take to be able to help people do this in exchange for financial rewards/commission (money).
But that was when I was growing up. Today, just about anybody can get anything imported or exported from Nigeria if you are able to lay your hands on the right material that can guide you through the basics. Though that still, does not limit the possibility of any sharp thinking man or woman to make money helping people do it. As not everybody got the time to import what they need.
And while it’s easy to do (good for you that it is), there are still quite a handful of people that don’t know how it’s done. Apart from that, some people even after knowing how to, still need the touch of a professional whose got it as a job. Which is where you come in.
In addition, import-export agents or brokers as they may also be referred, work with both importers and exporters by helping them prepare the necessary documents for exporting or importing their products. They also help their clients that are still new in the business establish connections in foreign companies. This is not the kind of things just any individual can do. Which leads me to…
How To Become An Import/Export Agent Or Broker
1. You Need A Degree
Did I just say you need a degree to become an import agent? Yes, I did. And as a matter of fact, you do. And not just about any degree in any discipline or course in a university.
You need a degree or diploma in areas like international economics or any other discipline that focuses on international business, international marketing, and import-export trading.
This is not for anything but to make the job a lot easier for you. Time spent in a higher institution of learning in the aforementioned area of study will help sharpen your intellect for better understanding and easy adaptation in this field where mathematics and change in currency rate/value can be a nightmare. I don’t need to tell you that a degree can make clients find you capable and fit to handle their business.
By using the word “specialise”, I believe you already have a clue to where am headed. As you can’t be a jack of all trade in this line of business. You have to choose a particular kind of products you will be dealing with. You can decide to be handling the importations and exportation of one or two of the following; Agricultural products, home appliances, electronics, clothes, vehicles/automobiles, jewellery etc
You can as well pick some geographical regions or countries like china, Japan, United states, etc instead of clinging your hands on all angle. This will also help to ensure that you get to meet with all the licenses and legalities for that region and also, understand all the policies and rules governing the importation, or exportation of such product to and from such countries/regions.
3. Study Your Area Of Focus
I really don’t need to say much here. After deciding on what area to specialise in, its now left for you to study and know all the in and out of that area.
For example, language. You need to at least invest some time in learning the language of the regions or countries you chose to influence. As most of the documents might not be in English which is your native language. Same goes for the people. Most of them might not be able to understand English. If you are lucky, you might have had some basic knowledge about this languages while in school. Because languages like Chinese, French and Japanese languages are now being treated as a course in institutions.
Apart from the language barriers, you need to study your area of specialisation in other to understand the import-export law, currency transactions, trade policies as well as other things that can help in your import-export deals. To see to it that you make profit instead of losses.
4. Import Export Agent Licenses
To see to it that your imports are not hampered or tempered with by the customs or any other body, you need the necessary licenses to get involved in this business or you diving into this, may end up being your worst nightmare.
Being a Nigerian, and in Nigeria, you can easily get this import/export licenses and other necessary licenses through the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NPEC) in-charge of exportation of Agricultural products like cashew nuts, ginger roots, charcoal, cocoa etc. or Federal Ministry of Solid Minerals Development which are in charge of licensing for the exportation of other products.
Whilst if you are based in the United States, you can contact the United States Department of Commerce to apply for the appropriate licensing or to find out the licensing requirements for doing business with certain other countries. Other countries can visit the appropriate local agency to do the same.
5. Know The Local Laws Guiding Importation & Exportation
Now, after getting the necessary licenses required to start up as an Import agent, export agent or both, it’s now left for you to get yourself accustomed with your country’s export laws. As well as that of the country you wish to export to or will be doing business with.For Nigerians, you may want to take a look at this list of import prohibited goods by the Nigerian customs service (NCS).
You should try as much as you can to understand as much as you can to avoid running into any legal problems out of ignorance. As this alone, can cripple your career and prolong your journey to success.
6. Finally, Get Started!
Haha finally… After much much preparation, it’s now time to kick off. How? You ask?
It’s easy. If you’ve followed all the above steps well and gotten everything you need, then you’re truly devoted and ready for this. What you need to do now, is to look out for opportunities and apply for import-export job positions or start your own agency or brokerage firm. And reach out to your friends and family that might be interested in your services followed by meeting with some potential clients to sell yourself…
Mind you, if you are starting up your own business (being independent), you need to acquire an initial operating fund and secure an office space.
And it doesn’t end there. Trust me, I don’t mean to scare you. But starting out isn’t the end of the matter. The import-export market is ever changing, and one of the keys to success as a broker or agent is to keep abreast of global economic trends and act accordingly. You need to engage yourself in constant research to see to it that you are not weeded out of the race/competition prematurely.
For example, there may be changes just like the recent rise and fall in dollar rate/value in Nigeria. Or the government in the country you are focusing on might make an announcement that will either increase opportunities or serve as a threat to your business. You getting information like this on time, will help you be able to quickly adjust and adapt to it accordingly. And see to it that your business is not affected negatively by it.
You May Also Want To See The Complete Guide On How To Apply For A Nigerian International Passport
Now that’s it on 6 steps on how you can become an import-export agent or broker in Nigeria or anywhere around the world. It might look tough from start especially the area of you getting a degree if you don’t have one already but it only takes 3 to 4 years compared to the long years and benefits you will get from being an import/export agent afterwards.
So if they can do it, you too can! For questions, kindly table it to us through the comment boxes below and we will get to you in minutes!