I receive calls from customers who’ve tried to buy from China on their own, have been burned, and want to know if we can help them sort out the mess. I usually decline because at that point we don’t have a relationship with the factory and it doesn’t always go well to introduce a fresh party into the equation at the last minute… meaning the factory might not give us the time of day in such a situation.

But for those brave souls who might want to go it alone, here are a few China import tips:

The only way to know if you can trust a factory is to go and meet them, or have someone you know and trust in China who understands the business culture and can handle your business for you (which is what we do). Going on a business transaction by email alone is dangerous because you don’t know if you’re dealing with one guy in an apartment with a PC, a China trading company, or a factory, and you’ll have no idea of their integrity or abilities. This means you’ll have to spend several thousand dollars plus a week to go to China and hopefully learn the ropes.

Don’t 100% pay for an order up front, especially with a new supplier. Standard production payment terms for most factories are 30% deposit with order, with the balance paid once the shipment is ready to leave China. You can have a 3rd party inspection company inspect the shipment when it’s ready to go who can provide pictures and a written report. (We work with an inspection company that can do just that).

Unless your product is a plush toy, have engineer’s drawings and a final, working prototope made that you can supply the factory. Detailed engineer’s drawings with all dimensions, tolerances and material callouts are always best as then you have an objective standard to hold the factory to.