Thanks to the internet, remote work and “digital nomads” are rising in number as more people turn to the worldwide web for conducting business.
It can be really exciting as a freelancer to work with people from all over the world!
Unfortunately, working with clients from across the globe can come with its own challenges. Varying time zones, in particular, can be tough to navigate if you’re accustomed to conducting business locally. Your clients may prefer to communicate at a certain time of day which might not work with your own schedule.
Yet strong communication with your clients is critical to success as a freelancer. Fortunately, there are ways for communicating across time zones and working with your clients in such a way that doesn’t inconvenience them, while staying respectful of your own time and schedule.
If you handle multiple projects or tasks for a client, it’s of utmost importance that you are both clear on the prioritization and deadline for each item. But once you have so many projects on the go, it can become tough to stay on the same page with what needs to be done by when.
Enter Trello: This free task management program is 100% free and is perfect for juggling multiple projects. You can add due dates, color-coded labels, and individual team members to each task (referred to as a “card”) so that there is never any doubt on who should be working on what and when.
There are also board add-ons called “power-ups” you can activate that allow you to integrate with Google Drive, your calendar, Slack, and more. For example, if you have several cards that each indicate a task with a due date, you can use the calendar power-up to sync everything with your desktop calendar:
Plus, you get to change the background to whatever photo you want and use stickers to mark the cards. How fun is that?
Use a Voice Messaging App
Sometimes phone calls are not feasible if your client lives halfway across the world or keeps a schedule that’s totally opposite of yours. (Not to mention the impact that worldwide calls have on your phone bill!) But emailing or texting back and forth can be really difficult, especially if there are detailed messages you need to leave one another about various projects.
Voxer is the perfect app to solve this problem! This free “Walkie Talkie” app allows you to leave voice messages for your contacts. You can also share files via Dropbox, or write quick, text-like messages.
You can use Voxer on your computer, or download the app on your phone. So if you know you need to speak to your client when you can’t be at your computer, all you need to do is talk while holding down the button on your phone and your voice message will reach them instantly.
You can also do “group calls” with multiple team members on the same communication string, which makes team projects that much more convenient!
World Clock App or Chrome Extension
Let’s face it, time zones can be confusing. Some countries observe daylight savings time while others don’t. Even if you know how many hours ahead or behind they are, it’s all too easy to get confused. If you’re not 100% clear on what time zone your client is operating in, you risk missing meetings and deadlines.
Fortunately, there are a number of free tools that can keep you straight on what time it is across the globe. One of my favorite apps is the Work Clock Chrome extension which allows you to get a quick peek at multiple time zones just by clicking on the clock icon on your browser bar.
Another great option is World Time Buddy. This is a free website you can use to easily compare times. There’s also a mobile app and even a widget for integration with HTML.
There are many other free apps you can download on your phone as well. With so many options, there’s really no excuse to get confused on time.
Establish Availability and Turnaround Time from the Get-Go
Before you even begin working together, you should set clear expectations and boundaries about your availability and how quickly you can complete the tasks assigned. If they are time-sensitive duties, make sure you can commit to them based on your schedule.
Sometimes, the time zones can work to your advantage. For example, if you are a few hours ahead of your clients, you can get tasks completed before they even log on in the morning. Other times, opposite schedules can become really tricky, so it’s important to agree on timelines and deadlines for each new assignment.
Resist the temptation to accept terms that conflict your schedule for fear of losing the client. (Like working in the middle of the night when you do the rest of your work during the day, or during the time you would normally spend with your family.) You might be able to keep it up for a while, but eventually, you’ll burn out, your productivity will suffer, and neither side will be happy with the outcome.
In the end, working successfully with long-distance clients really comes down to communication, (just like any relationship!) Some of these online tools will help you establish crystal clear expectations that will make communicating across time zones easy and benefit both sides equally.
Having a client/service provider contract can really help iron out the details and ensure that everyone is on the same page, protecting both the client and the service provider.
Remember that not every potential client will be the right fit, and that’s completely normal and okay. If it’s absolutely not working because of communication expectations that are made impossible by the time zones, then it’s okay to decline work with that client. Even if it takes longer to get a full roster of clients, it will be more beneficial in the long run!
How do you find working with clients in other time zones? Any questions or tips we missed? We'd love to hear from you in the comments!
Need some more tips on running a successful home business? Check out this article with 10 steps to become a better entrepreneur.