Running an eCommerce Store From Outside the USA
Help Page for Members Outside the USA
Store Coach is NOT just for US residents. Store Coach is for everyone interested in making money online, regardless of what country they live in. In fact, over one third of Store Coach Members live outside the United States. Some of those non-US members have chosen to build stores targeting their home country, while others have chosen to build a store targeting the US online shopping marketplace. Both approaches have their PROs and CONs (as we'll discuss below), but both are great options. At the bottom of this page, you'll find answers to ALL of the common questions asked by our non-US members. But first, let's address the 3 most commonly asked questions...
SHOULD MY STORE TARGET THE USA OR MY HOME COUNTRY?
It’s completely up to you, but we'll say this… About 75% of our members who live outside the United States choose to build a store that targets the USA marketplace. Why? Because the USA's online shopping marketplace is by far the largest in the world and therefore has the highest profit potential. Almost all Americans do a large percentage of their shopping online (much higher than in other countries throughout the world). And there really aren't very many extra requirements for building a USA-targeted store. Our US-Based Business Set-Up Guide (which is included FREE with Pro Membership) will help you easily complete those extra requirements. But again, the decision is completely up to you. If your home country has a good-sized online shopping marketplace OR if the product you're planning to sell is especially popular in your home country, it may make the most sense for you to build a store targeting your home country instead. You could "diversify" by launching 2 stores: one targeting the USA marketplace and one targeting your home country.
IS PRO MEMBERSHIP STILL BENEFICIAL TO ME?
If your store is targeting the USA market, Pro Membership will be just as beneficial to you as it is for our US members, if not more beneficial to you. The US-Based Business Set-Up Guide included free with Pro Membership will guide you through the necessary steps to set up a US business entity and secure a US mailing address, phone number, etc. If your store is targeting your home country's marketplace, Pro Membership will be almost as beneficial to you as it is for USA members, but there are a couple of tools that don't work for all countries. Niche Finder Pro (our tool for identifying golden niches) pulls data from Google.com (USA), Google.co.uk (UK) and Google.com.au (Australia). And Rank Master Pro pulls data from only Google.com (USA). So these two tools may have limited benefit to you (depending on what country your store will target), but you will get maximum benefit from all of the other tools and benefits of Pro Membership. Again, it doesn't matter whether you actually reside in the USA or not. The only thing that matters is what country your store will be targeting (i.e. where the customers live).
ENGLISH ISN'T MY FIRST LANGUAGE. ANY ADVICE?
Having well-written, high-quality content is very important, both for getting your store ranked well in Google and for building visitors' trust so they feel comfortable ordering from your store. (Shoppers are "turned off" by content that doesn't read well.) If you're planning to build a store targeting the USA market and you're not comfortable writing English content yourself, it is quite inexpensive to have the content written for you. There are a lot of websites that offer extremely affordable content writing services... click here to see our #1 recommendation for high-quality, affordable content. Store Coach doesn't currently offer any solutions for writing product descriptions or web page copy, but we do have a great service for writing content for your store's on-site blog (which is very important for getting your store ranked well in Google). Click here to learn more about our blogging service.
- A US business entity (Limited Liability Company, or LLC)
- A US state-issued Seller’s Permit
- A US tax ID number (Employer Identification Number, or EIN)
- A US street address
- A US toll-free phone number
- A merchant account for accepting credit card payments from US customers
- A debit card for paying your US-based suppliers
Our 19-page guide explains whether you'll need each of these things and how to get them for an affordable price. This PDF guide is not available to purchase separately, but it is INCLUDED FREE with Pro Membership.
OTHER FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
If I choose to build a store targeting my home country, will Store Coach's training course and tools still work for me?
100% of the training course will be applicable to you. The concepts and process of choosing a good niche, building a customer-friendly store, getting it ranked, marketing it and operating it are exactly the same regardless of what country your store is targeting.
- Niche Finder Pro - This tool is specific to the USA, United Kingdom and Australia (since it pulls data from Google.com, Google.co.uk and Google.com.au). If you plan to build a store that targets the UK or Australia, you'll still be able to use Niche Finder Pro. It doesn't matter where you live; it just matters what country your store will be targeting. If you plan to build a store targeting another country, Niche Finder Pro will have limited benefit for you.
- Supplier Directory - Our Supplier Directory contains dropship and wholesale suppliers from dozens and dozens of countries throughout the entire world. It is NOT restricted to just US-based suppliers and will therefore be just as useful to you as it is for people looking for suppliers in the United States.
- Private Facebook Group - Many of the discussions that take place in the private Facebook group are specific to non-US residents. You'll be able to use this Facebook group to connect with other Store Coach members living in your home country so you can help each other and share your ideas and experiences.
- Pro-Only Webinars - Virtually every topic we cover in our Pro-only webinars will be fully applicable to you. Although most of the webinars are held in the evenings (USA Eastern time) and you may not be able to attend live, we record all webinars and post the replays on the Dashboard page for you to access any time.
- Rank Master Pro - This is the one tool included with Pro Membership that will not be of much benefit to you, since it is based on Google.com (USA) data and search results.
- Kick-Off Call with a Coach - The 30-minute kick-off call with a Coach will be especially helpful to you since it will give you a chance to discuss your exact scenario with a Coach and get expert advice on how to best proceed.
Are there any Store Coach services I cannot use?
If I choose to build a site that targets the USA marketplace, what challenges will I face and what will I need to overcome them?
Typically, there are very few additional hurdles for a non-US resident to set up a USA-targeted store. Here's a list of things you may need to operate a successful store and a discussion on each…
- US Business Entity (LLC), Seller’s Permit and Tax ID - You may or may not need any of these things. It really depends on whether your supplier(s) require you to have a US Employer Identification Number (EIN) and/or a Seller's Permit (sometimes called a 'Sales Tax Certificate'). If a supplier you really want to work with requires you to have one or both of these ID numbers, you will need to set up an LLC in one of the 50 states within the United States. (We recommend registering your LLC in Idaho for several reasons, discussed in the answer to question #4 immediately below.) Our all-inclusive US-Based Business Set-Up Guide contains easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions (including sample forms) for setting up an Idaho-based LLC, obtaining a US tax ID number (i.e. EIN) and also obtaining an Idaho Seller’s Permit. These 3 things should satisfy the requirements of any US-based supplier.
- US Merchant Account - If you're in a country that allows you to have a PayPal account that can accept PayPal payments from customers, you should definitely offer PayPal on your site. However, you should certainly ALSO accept credit card payments on-site, which means you'll want a merchant account. US shoppers are very picky about being able to "check out" without leaving your website and being able to pay by credit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover). Many American shoppers aren't comfortable being taken off your site to complete their purchase, like they are with PayPal. See this page for a list of good merchant account options available to you.
- US Toll-Free Number - You can get a toll-free number for only $9.99/month at Phone.com and then set it up to automatically forward calls to a US-based Skype number. Our all-inclusive US-Based Business Set-Up Guide walks you through the steps to set all this up. (Note: As we’ll discuss in the guide, you do NOT need to be available to actually answer incoming phone calls. But we still recommend having and displaying a toll-free number to build customers' trust and look more legitimate and professional.)
- US Street Address - You don't necessarily need a US mailing address, but American shoppers really like to see a US-based mailing address listed on your site (i.e on the 'Contact Us' page and/or 'About Us' page). Click here to see our recommendation for setting up a US mailing address that will automatically forward mail to you (electronically and/or physically).
- US Debit Card - Many suppliers and vendors will accept either PayPal, foreign credit cards and/or international money orders, so there's a good chance you won't need a US debit card. But some suppliers may require you to pay them with a US debit card. Our guide for non-US residents shows you how to obtain a US debit card for paying US-based suppliers.
You may be wondering why a US business bank account wasn't included on this list. That's because you really don't need a US bank account! (Note: A few years ago, it was fairly easy for a non-US resident to set up a US business bank account remotely. But recent US banking regulations have now made it virtually impossible for a non-US resident to set up an account without personally flying to the United States and visiting a local branch.) But again, you really don't need a US bank account to operate your store.
If I build a US-targeted store, do I need a US Limited Liability Company (LLC)? If so, what is the best state to register one in? And will I have to pay US income taxes?
The question as to whether you'll need to register an LLC is answered in the Q&A immediately above (question #3). You won't necessarily need one… it largely depends on what your supplier(s) require. If you decide to register an LLC, we recommend setting it up in the state of Idaho for these reasons…
- Low $100 registration fee (some other states charge double to triple this amount)
- No annual renewal fees or franchise taxes (other states, such as Delaware, charge hundreds of dollars per year to keep your LLC active)
- Low-cost 24-hour expedite fee (and if you don't pay the $20 expedite fee, it's still set up within just a few days - other states have much higher ($50-100) expedite fees, and if you don't pay it, you have to wait weeks for your LLC to be set up)
- Very few in-state sales (which is good because you only have to collect/pay sales taxes on in-state sales)
Our all-inclusive US-Based Business Set-Up Guide walks you step-by-step through the process of setting up an Idaho LLC (along with setting up everything else you may need, as discussed in the Q&A immediately above). Regarding taxes, it is our understanding that the United States has "tax treaties" with many countries throughout the world that may, based on your circumstances, result in you not having to actually pay any tax to the US government (but you will still have to file an "informational" tax return). Our understanding is that, for many countries' residents, if 1) you are not a resident/citizen of the USA, 2) you don't have any assets, equipment or property in the USA, 3) you don't have any "physical presence" in the USA, and 4) you don't have any employees in the USA, then you will not be required to pay any taxes to the USA. So the tax return you file would just be an "informational" tax return without any payment due. Our understanding is that you will just report the income to your home country's tax agency and pay taxes to your home country. (You will also need to file an informational tax return (without any taxes due) to the state of Idaho.) Disclaimer: Please be advised that we are not attorneys or licensed CPAs, so we cannot tell you definitively what your filing, reporting and tax requirements will be or provide tax advice or legal advice on these matters. Please consult with your attorney and/or CPA to determine what your filing, reporting and tax requirements will be for your specific country and circumstances. You are solely responsible for fulfilling all filing and tax obligations for the business entities and tax accounts you choose to set up. Use this information at your own risk.
If I build a US-targeted store, what merchant account providers (i.e. credit card processors) will work with me?
See this page for a list of good options for accepting credit card payments.
If I build a US-targeted store, how can I get a US phone number and US mailing address?
Information about both of these topics is provided in our all-inclusive US-Based Business Set-Up Guide. Also, see the answer to question #3 above.
If I build a US-targeted store, will I need a US bank account?
You really don’t need a US bank account. You can set up your merchant account to deposit funds directly into your home country's bank account and/or onto your pre-paid US debit card (so you can turn around and make payments to your suppliers and other vendors). Note: A few years ago, it was fairly easy for a non-US resident to set up a US business bank account remotely. But recent US banking regulations have now made it virtually impossible for a non-US resident to set up an account without personally flying to the United States and visiting a local branch.