The Gist of Importing from China
The average response time from a manufacturer in China is a couple of days. You should never come to a final decision based on a single quote. Try to get in contact with as many factories as you can. Don’t get your hopes up too soon. Create profiles for each factory you’re considering. How long did it take to find them? What was the average response time? Did they offer quotes with highly detailed reports? Were they open to each question?
You should only go into business with a manufacturer until you have built a relationship with them. Look into their background online. Browse through online forums and search for individual comments about their name. Google them and see what pops up.
Samples are generally free, but you should give the manufacturer your shipping account. Always ask for pictures before they ship anything. Shipping, even a couple of samples, can average about $50.00. One sample order here, another there, it quickly adds up. Make sure you know what you’re looking for.
If you’re requesting samples for a new product you’re designing, expect to pay for tooling and other labor fees. I suggest you obtain several quotes from a bunch of factories, that way you, and your business has a better feel about the whole process. Depending on the complexity of your product design, tooling can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Before you pay for anything, make sure the manufacturer understands what you want and the type of material you requested.
Always ask your contact to take a picture of the sample next to a ruler, so you have a reference point to base your idea off of. Remember, the Chinese use the metric system, but they are used to working with American standards of measurement, and they can work in inches. If they prefer to work only in metric, there are thousands of online tools that easily convert metric to inches.
One more thing, ask for the FOB price before you have your sample shipped. If the price is beyond your budget, what’s the point in ordering a sample? Most people get excited over a sample order that they don’t even negotiate a fair price. The price will always decrease as the order increases. Your contact will always want you to buy more than you actually need. Be strong, and let them know that this will be your first order, but the next order will be larger.
As you continue to contact with manufacturers, you’re going to experience their reaction to your requests. It’s always a good sign when they respond right away. Jot down notes to see if they pay attention to the finer details of your order. Are they attentive? Do you have to explain everything over and over again? Are they easy to talk to?
If your own personal experience is less than desirable in the first stages, you should keep on trucking. You’ll probably lose a few hundred dollars, but at least you’ve avoided losing thousands of dollars.
After you have received your sample order, and you are ready to place another order, be ready to wire them a deposit. The opening transfer is a third of the total order. To lower your risk, try to talk them down into accepting the humblest amount possible. Wiring money also comes with some risk.
If your contact ends up running off with your money, there’s not much you can do to reclaim your losses. You’re probably going to be ripped off once, but that fact shouldn’t discourage you. Importing takes courage. Don’t take any shortcuts. Have a direct line of communication with the manufacturer. Simplify your intentions. Establish a working relationship.
After your order is finally completed, you’re expected to pay the remaining balance. You should never pay until you received the Bill of Lading. Once you get a copy of it, you can be sure that your product was actually loaded at the nearest port. Sadly, you will never know until you have a copy on your end. The entire process is invigorating. It takes careful planning, bargaining, and a bit of luck.