Freight forwarding has becoming one of the hottest careers in the United States. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected job growth for freight forwarders to be near 24%. Freight forwards need to be well organized and need to be able to communicate with representatives from several other countries. They must be educated in customs and trade regulations, be able to deal with the logistics behind multiple transportation models including land, sea, and air, develop a fair pricing structure, handle the warehousing or merchandise. While some of the basic organizational and people skills may be inherent to some, much of what a freight forwarder needs to know is going to take some effort. Here’s some tips for how to become the type of freight forwarder customers want to deal with. Here are 4 Tips for Freight Forwarders that may go a long way in helping your business prosper.
Learn the Mechanics of the Business
Make a point to learn all you can about freight forwarding and the import/exporting business. Specific degrees aren’t offered for freight forwarders, so you may have to be creative when it comes to your education. Freight forwarding firms will provide some of the necessary education on the job, but keep an eye out for professional associations, transportation companies, or vocational schools that conduct independent courses and seminars about the industry and any changing policies that are occurring either in the United States or countries where you trade with often. Whatever you discover as you are learning the business, maintain an understanding that everything is subject to change.
Develop Strong Communication Skills and Knowledge of International Business
Freight forwarders represent the hub of international trade. They are responsible for cargo shipments that are arriving and being sent by both ocean and air. Having an understanding of relations with other countries will help you navigate the air and waters of an ever changing political and business landscape.
Once in the business, you’ll need to be ready to work. Flexibility, fair pricing, honesty, and product knowledge are all characteristics potential customers will want to see. If your joining a bigger existing company, you’ll need to be able to manage relationships with existing vendors. If you’re starting your own business or joining the new kid on the block, you might have to do some cold calling to generate sales and present yourself as a reliable option for new clients.
Keep Your Licensing in Order
Freight forwarders need to acquire several licenses, certification, accreditation and must abide by bonding regulations. The licensing necessary depends on the range of services you want to provide. The Federal Maritime Commission handles bonding issues for ocean shipments, and the International Air Transport Association provides accreditation for those who provide services as a cargo agent for international freight.. For ground transportation within the United States, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration overseen by the U.S. Department of Transportation can help you obtain and retain any necessary licensing needed to operate your freight forwarding business at the capacity you desire.
While having a broad knowledge is always a good thing, it is also good to know a certain area of the business really well. You may want to pick a certain group of products to handle freight forwarding duties for, or concentrate your efforts on dealing with trade with specific countries of the world, or a particular mode of transportation such as air, ocean, in-land waterways, or rail transit. Professional Associations including the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America (NCBFAA) are a must to join and will keep you informed about changes in the industry and can often guide you towards workshops and seminars geared toward areas where your interest is strongest.