Going it Alone vs. Using an Agent for Importing

Just as in any business venture, success depends on how well you know the ropes and when you import goods from China or another country, there are a lot of ropes to know.

There is a seemingly endless amount of paperwork, hours of phone work verifying suppliers, confirming specifications and negotiating prices; and all of it with people who often don’t speak English.

So if you do decide to go it alone, you can expect a lot of hard work, a lot of frustration and no guarantees that when your shipping container finally arrives, it will contain what you actually ordered.

Many of the websites you will encounter offering cheap imports are not factories at all, but middlemen posing as factories. They will find you the cheapest factory they can in order to make the most profit from you and the resultant product quality will usually be poor.

That is if they are even genuine contacts. Many scammers pose as suppliers, and if they manage to get your money, you won’t see it again, nor have any legal recourse for getting it back.

That’s why many businesses that import from foreign countries prefer to use a recognised import agent. The agency takes care of all the shipping documentation, taxes, fees, customs declarations and the like and verifies the credentials of the chinese manufacturer on your behalf.

But often, that’s all they do. If they are based in Australia, they have little control over what happens at the manufacturer’s end, other than what they can glean over the telephone.

The ideal agent to help you with importing to Australia is one based in the country you are importing from. Local representation is vital to ensure your goods are made to specifications by a reputable factory.

Advantages of using a sourcing company in China, ‘on the ground’ include:

Local knowledge

An Australian import agent with a foreign office knows the local industry, the various regions where certain goods are manufactured and the legitimate players in these regions. They can verify your chosen supplier’s credentials far more accurately than you can ever do by phone or email.

Quality control

A locally based agent can also visit the factory on your behalf, confirm product quality and oversee production to ensure you are getting what you are paying for. They know the local language and customs, which means they are treated as locals rather than as foreigners to be exploited.


Because your import agent is there on the spot, they are able to visit the factory at short notice if problems arise, and they always do. Having someone on the factory floor to assess the problem and deal with it there and then can not only save you time, but potentially a lot of money as well.

So whether you choose to go it alone as an importer or seek the services of a reputable import agent really comes down to whether you:

  • Trust your chosen supplier
  • Are able to deal effectively via phone and email
  • Know the local language and customs
  • Know all the red tape to be followed

You may find after your first attempt that the fee you would have paid to an agent is nothing compared to the amount of money you have lost through time spent away from your business.

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    About the Author: Adam

    Adam Gilbourne is the Founder and Managing Director of Easy Imex. Since 2005, he has helped hundreds of companies worldwide to successfully import from China. He has a large expertise on product sourcing, quality assurance, and supply chain management.

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