Communicating with international clients as a freelancer

03.09.2015

Working remotely gives freelancers perfect opportunities when it comes down to working internationally. Having access to contracts from all over the world is truly a blessing for any freelancer to enjoy. However, cross-cultural communication does not always go as smoothly as planned.

When working remote as a freelancer, making sure you can actually work efficiently with international clients is vital for a successful freelancing career and understanding is the basis of any good working relationship. Here are four key areas where communicating with international clients can differ quite a bit from what you’re normally used to.

1. Language differences
The barrier that first comes to mind when dealing with international customers has to be the language. Speaking clearly and outlining each point you say should go without saying if you are using a language which is not native you, your client, or both. A little greeting in the local language can go a long way in showing others that you took your time for them and have an interest in their culture. Just don’t overdo it and make sure to practice your pronunciation beforehand. Another option is working with an interpreter, but make sure he is fluent in your field of expertise and knows the terminology you’re likely to use.

2. Time zones
Time zones are something everyone knows about, but mistakes are still made very often. When working with an international client, make sure you double check what time it is before calling them at 10 AM, which could actually be late into the evening for them. Having time zone awareness is also vital when setting deadlines, you should clearly state the hour and time zone you are referring to when discussing something as important. Time zones are actually very easy to keep in check, but forgetting them can cause major inconveniences for you and your client. Here you can learn how to manage different time zones when working remotly.

3. Cultural differences
Different cultures have different ways of thinking and acting. Some clients might prefer to be addressed informally; others will prefer a more formal approach. Pay attention to their writing style and try to deduce preferences from their way of communicating. Bargaining is also something that might be look down upon in certain cultures, while outright necessary in others. A little research can go a long way, but try to avoid serving clichés, this could offend your client. Adapting to your clients style of work and being as considerate as possible can go a long way.

4. Legal differences
Written agreements with international clients are certainly part of a good business practice. However, they may not have the same legal status in all countries. This issue can only be tackled by research, which while a bit cumbersome, can spare you heaps of trouble. Making sure you are aware of country-specific business practices is a very good idea as well. Fellow freelancers that have already worked with a certain country can help you in figuring out all that stuff, so make sure your networking is up to snuff as well. International communication has never been as easy as it is today. Be aware of the challenges cross-cultural communication can provide and have a way to handle them. Following these tips, you can take advantage of the business opportunities the world today has to offer and make a name for yourself globally.

When working with international clients in different parts of the world, you should also think about using free tools for remote teams that will facilitate the communication.

Pic: © V. Yakobchuk - fotolia.com
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