6 Essentials When Starting an International Shipping Business

Shipping Business

As of 2020, the worldwide export value for all commercial services was about $5 trillion. Global transportation service exports were worth more than $600 billion in 2020. That was last year, in the middle of a pandemic. So, it’s safe to say that there is plenty of money to be made in the shipping business.

Interestingly, your brand reputation depends on how seamless the entire process of ordering and receiving is. Businesses will always need to transfer goods from one place to another, whether across town or the world. As giants like Amazon and eBay continue to raise the bar, customers’ demands for quick and easy deliveries grow. For small businesses, it may be challenging to meet the standards set by these behemoths, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

If you are considering starting a shipping business, the information provided above must have given you a basic idea about the scope of this business. So, let’s dive in and see the steps you need to follow to build a shipping business successfully.

1. Understand The Business First!

What is a shipping business? No, not the boats and the vast containers you see at the ports. A shipping company helps other businesses to ship their products to customers. These businesses either don’t have an e-commerce department, or their shipping needs are too large to handle in-house. From finding new shipping containers for sale to filling them with products and then delivering them to the customers, shipping businesses address it all.

2. Types Of Shipping Businesses

There are different types of shipping businesses. Some specialize in small packages, while others focus on large ones. Some focus on local deliveries, while others handle international shipments. There are even businesses that specialize in hazardous materials.

However, to successfully start and manage a shipping business, you must understand how a shipping business operates. There are two types of shipping businesses:

Domestic Shipping: Shipping goods within the boundaries of your own country. Products like food, clothes, books, and other consumer products are mostly distributed within the same country.

International Shipping: Shipping goods to another country. Goods like machinery parts, chemicals, and other industrial products are shipped internationally.

3. Start With Robust Market Research

No matter which type of shipping business you want to start, the first step will always be the same, i.e., research. You need to understand the market, your competition, and potential customers.

Here are a few things that you need to research before starting your shipping business:

  • The global or domestic shipping market: Which one do you want to tap into?
  • Your competition: Who are your competitors, and what services do they offer?
  • Your target audience: Who are you planning to ship for?
  • The type of products you will ship: What kind of goods will you be shipping?
  • The cost of starting a shipping business: How much money do you need to get started?

It will also be beneficial to consider the pros and cons of starting a company from the ground up, purchasing an established firm, or joining an independent shipping agent.

4. What’s Your Business Model?

After doing your research, it’s time to sit down and devise a business strategy. This strategy will help you to achieve your business goals.

A business model is a plan that delineates how your shipping business will operate. It covers everything from what services you will offer to how you will make money.

There are two types of business models for shipping businesses:

Asset-Based: In this type of business model, the shipping company owns the vehicles and other assets. They are responsible for maintaining these assets and covering all the costs associated with them.

Non-Asset-Based: The shipping company doesn’t own any assets in this type of business model. They arrange to ship the goods through another company that owns the assets.

With a well-executed business model, you can achieve your business goals and grow your shipping business. Additionally, investors will be more likely to invest in your company.

5. Get the Right Licenses and Permits

Before running a shipping business, you need to get the necessary licenses and permits. The requirements for these vary from country to country.

For example, in the United States, you need to have a license from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to operate a shipping business that ships goods across state lines.

You must also get a Department of Transportation (DOT) permit to ship hazardous materials.

You need to fill out the necessary paperwork and pass the required tests to get these licenses and permits. Once you have all the required licenses and permits, you can start operating your business.

6. Pin Your Niche

For any business to scale, it is vital to have a niche. There are many different niches that you can choose from for shipping businesses.

You can focus on perishable shipping, dangerous, or oversize goods. You can also focus on shipping to a specific region or country.

The pivot is to find a niche that you are passionate about and build your business around it.

If you choose the right niche, you will be able to scale your business and achieve your goals. We recommend thoroughly researching options like freight forwarding, dropshipping, e-commerce shipping, etc.


Having a shipping business can be very profitable. But it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. If you want to be successful, you need to put in the hard work and make sure that you have a solid business plan. Also, please don’t forget to factor in your speed to market when shipping updated products.

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