Planning on shipping internationally for the first time? You can avoid common mistakes be observing these tips for handling your shipments.

1. Plan Ahead

International shipping is all about managing costs, which can be painfully higher than domestic shipping fees. Study typical costs, then build an annual budget that forecasts how much you think shipping will cost. This helps avoid unpleasant surprises later on.

2. Research Shipment Options

Will you ship by air, by ship, by train, by truck? What do you need to reach international customers, and what options do your target countries have available?

Research all available options and draw up an ideal shipping plan. Air freight is very expensive but tends to be more reliable. Multiple stops between trucks, trains, and other vehicles create a greater risk that the products will get lost or damaged. All freight needs to pass through customs, too.

3. Study Incoterms

Incoterms are international codes and conditions that govern the transfer of shipments between most countries. These are especially useful when defining who’s responsible for what and how the package is treated.

If you do not have much experience in Incoterms, you should start studying them now.

4. Remember DDP and EXW

DDP refers to delivered duty paid, a practice that has the seller paying for all duties, taxes, and charges until the buyer receives the goods. This can be very, very expensive for small businesses.

EXW stands for ex works. It refers to an arrangement in which the buyer pays for all shipping and is responsible for the goods. This is much more advantageous for your business.

5. Convert measurements

Remember that packages will probably need to be translated from pounds to kilograms, feet to meters, and so forth. Perform these calculations yourself to make shipping easier and less prone to errors.

6. Make invoices easy

Design your invoices for international travel. Make them durable and easy to read. Include all essential product information in a large, bold font on the front page where it will be easy to find. This avoids confusion and helps move the goods along as fast as possible. Consider translation services if appropriate.

7. Make your own postage

While outsourcing postage may help you increase accuracy, it can be a big expense for a small business. It’s sometimes better to print your own postage and labels, and learn the postage process yourself as you go. Conduct cost analyses to see if outsourcing will really save you time or money.