5 expat business ideas to find success in France

Last updated: 08 July 2024 Views: 349
5 expat business ideas to find success in France

Whether you’ve moved to France temporarily or intend to stick it out for the long term, there’s no reason you can’t start a business. Whether it’s just a way to keep busy, a prelude to permanent residence, or even a retirement hobby, starting a business abroad can be a fulfilling, rewarding, and even a lucrative endeavour.

The five ideas below take into account current trends, ease of access, and the unique qualities of the French market. While the formation process isn’t always straightforward, the French market offers a myriad of opportunities to expat entrepreneurs, and plenty of incentives to start the business of your dreams.

1. Sustainability and green business

Unlike some other countries, France’s investment in nuclear power means it isn’t facing an imminent energy crisis. For all the inroads the country has made on clean energy, however, sustainability is still a major concern in France. The country is highly industrialised, and businesses are grappling to bring their businesses in line with increasingly strict EU emissions rules.

Outsiders have the potential to bring unique perspectives and experiences with them to France, and build a business around positive change. This could take the form of consulting services for businesses looking to reduce their environmental impact: applying waste reduction strategies, sourcing sustainable materials, or helping businesses navigate green certification processes. Alternatively, you could join France’s burgeoning tech scene and start a greentech business—using apps, technologies and bright ideas to improve your new home nation. For more information, see our article How to start a cleantech business in France

2. Coaching English

Perhaps the most obvious and commonly-tread route for expats is to teach their native language. While the level of English proficiency in France is steadily improving, there remains a big disparity between urban and rural areas, as well as smaller and larger cities. Teaching English can be a two-way street, where you improve other people’s language skills while also sharpening your French.

If you're a native English speaker, you can leverage platforms such as Zoom or Teams to offer personalised online language coaching. This caters to busy professionals and allows you to work remotely, offering flexibility and affordability. Alternatively, you could rent a community space or other small facility to provide tuition and classes locally, bringing a valuable service to a smaller town or village.

3. Find an ecommerce niche

As in most countries, ecommerce is booming in France. However, the market is not quite as mature yet as in some other countries, leaving opportunities for new businesses with new ideas. This can be a great way not only to sell within France, but also to capitalise on France’s reputation for quality products, and help small businesses or individuals to sell their products abroad.

Related article: 4 Simple Tips For Exporting Your eCommerce Business To France

The best place to start is often to identify a niche market where your experience or cultural background gives you an edge. This could be handcrafted goods from your home country, eco-friendly beauty products, or catering to niche tastes, such as exporting British food and drink. This can then give you the platform to partner with French artisans or source unique products from the area around you to offer a high quality, unique shopping experience to people in both countries.

4. Become a content creator

Many kids dream of being YouTube or TikTok stars, but there’s nothing stopping you if you’re a bit older! As an expat yourself, you’ll have an intrinsic understanding of the joys and challenges of navigating a new life in France. Many of these will be positive, but some will be negative, and people often appreciate the honesty and insight this provides.

While blogs are less visited now, they can still provide a good platform to support and share other content. A YouTube channel has a big potential audience, particularly for longer and more serious content, but can be harder to get off the ground.
Social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram however can help you build an audience with minimal production required. Again, this may start

with offering tips, advice, and cultural insights specifically for expats, but could expand to broader topics and partnerships with local businesses, offering courses, language exchange programmes, or simply a window into your wonderful life in France.

5. Start a remote working retreat

French cities aren’t too bad in themselves, but the rise of remote work has created a demand for beautiful, functional workspaces further afield. If you live in a charming French village or have access to a unique location, it may be worth considering creating a coworking retreat specifically for remote workers.

The migration of people in France to the major cities has left many villages and towns underpopulated, with large and historic properties being sold extremely cheaply. This may be as much of a renovation project as a business idea, but the finished article could cater to a rapidly-growing segment looking for a better work-life balance, an inspiring place to work, and a simple change of scenery. If you love working in France, plenty of other people will too!

Tips to start an expat business in France

We have a comprehensive guide on the steps you need to take to start a business in France. (Download the guide for free at the end of this article or see our article How to start a business in France in 8 steps.) However, when it comes to starting an expat business in France, there are a few more general tips we can provide. Many of these apply in any country, but some pertain very specifically to the nature of French business and bureaucracy.

Research the market

Every market is different, and France is no exception. French consumers have different interests and requirements—you’d be brave to open a ‘greasy spoon’ restaurant, for instance! This applies to business relationships as well, where cultural differences could scupper your efforts to strike deals and find partnerships.

Before diving in, thoroughly research your chosen niche, the competitor landscape, and regulations, both in your chosen area and in France as a whole. Employ local talent to advise you, and French speakers to check your marketing copy and strategies. Something innocuous in your country could be baffling or plain insulting to a French audience! For more information, see our article How to market your business in France

Be humble, stay local

A little arrogance and self-belief is necessary when starting any business. However, starting a business abroad can put you slightly on the back foot, as many people prefer to support local businesses to those from further afield. As an expat, you’ll have to prove your local credentials and the contribution you’re making to the local area to help win people over.

Hiring locally will obviously help, although you will have the benefit of attracting talent from across the EU. But so will contributing to the local economy and community through sponsorships, outreach, fundraising, and involving yourself on a personal level to support local causes. All of this can go a long way to ingratiating yourself, and helping to establish your business as a peer to your French counterparts.

Network, network, network

One of the great things about being an expat business owner is that there are plenty of other people in the same position. Expats often survive initially by forging relationships with other expats, and navigating their new environment together. This can be the basis for a successful business, as you help each other deal with problems and obstacles.

Connect with other expats—particularly business owners—and find out what mistakes or faux pas they might have made. It’s also worth reaching out to local business owners, and getting honest advice on how they operate and the dynamics of the local area. Building a presence online or in-person can also connect you to potential customers, who will give you valuable insights and act as your first brand ambassadors.

Seek professional guidance

While the process of setting up a business in France isn’t as terrifying as some people suggest, it can be challenging and overwhelming for a first-timer. There are various types of businesses to choose from, and making sure you make the right choice at the start is an important decision. (For more help on this, see our article What's the difference between a SARL, SAS, SA, EURL, Micro-Entreprise & Auto-Entrepreneur?) The necessity to submit multiple forms in French and talk to officials can be a barrier to starting a business, putting expats off from trying their hand.

We always recommend consulting a French company formation expert who can help navigate the formation process, set up your business structure, and ensure you adhere to legal requirements. Visit our French formation page or get in touch today, and gear yourself up for success as an expat entrepreneur in France.

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