Working overseas can be of great benefit for any freelancer. However, difficult aspects, such as different time zones, can be challenging. Read here how to handle this.
For the modern freelancer, different countries and even continents represent opportunities rather than boundaries. Good-working, motivated experts are in demand all over the world and today's technology makes international business relationships possible more so than ever. However, there are certain hurdles that need to be overcome when working on an international scale. Something as simple as not being able to manage the different time zones of your clients can cost you the job - so here's how to do it in four simple steps.
1. Time zone Spreadsheet
First and foremost, you want to know where each one of your clients is working from. A country may have more than one time zone in itself, so make sure you know the exact city of your client. Once you have that information, make sure you place it somewhere visible on your desk or desktop. That way, you won't have to constantly remember the time difference. Time zones aren't the only country specific factors though - you can go a step further and check the holidays in your client's country at the beginning of the month. Being told too late that your client doesn't go to his office on a certain day or not being told at all can lead to a lot of confusion.
2. Leave no room for interpretation when talking about time
"I'll send you my work until the end of the day" is definitely a no-go sentence when working with international clients. You want to be completely clear in order to avoid confusion. Saying that something will be done until 2 PM GMT + 2 is also not necessarily what you want to tell a client. Preferably, try communicating with them in their own time - "I need the photos of your company logo at 10 AM your time". It is generally a good idea to make sure there is absolutely no way to be misunderstood when talking about different time zones.
3. Communicate your schedule
As much as you would like to be available for your client the whole day, sometimes it is just not possible. Let's say you work from Berlin with a client from San Francisco - that's a 9 hour difference. Your client will have closed his office by the time you wake up. That can make work difficult, but if you communicate your schedule openly, it will get much easier. Communicate the exact times at which you are in front of your computer, when exactly you would be available for a video conference, etc.
4. Start and finish your day strong
For most clients it is important that you do the work, not when you do it. But, sometimes if they have a short question, urgently need a file sent to them or something similar, waiting for 15 hours is bound to be extremely unpleasant. You cannot cut out the wait time completely, but you can shorten it - by starting and finishing your day strong. Check your mail in the morning shortly after you wake up and do it again in the evening. That doesn't mean that you should work 3 hours on an answer, but if you can address an issue in 15 minutes, you could save your client a lot of time.
Furthermore, if you do exchange a lot of emails, try to avoid the typical bouncing of back and forth answers. Be specific and try to answer any questions that your email may lead to - this can avoid hours of wasteful waiting for both sides.