Contractors and consultants: working internationally

Working internationally

One of the major benefits for independent professionals, such as contractors and freelancers, is the additional flexibility their roles offer. As technology continues to evolve, more and more professionals are moving away from the usual on-site commitments to work remotely. Working remotely needn’t be short-listed to UK clients. Digital contracts can connect you with clients all over the world, or even allow you to move your base abroad.

Many projects are becoming less location dependent, allowing freelancers and contractors to do business with anyone, anywhere. Should the value of the pound continue to fall, international purchasing power will increase. New international clients, may well be attracted to seek contractors in the UK. Alternatively if you’ve ever wished to take yourself overseas, now could be the perfect time to set-up anywhere in world. You can continue to digitally work while you travel or support your set-up in a new country.

Of course, working internationally is not without it’s difficulties. We take a look at some of the key things you should consider when working with international clients or choosing to relocate outside of the UK.

Knowing your business

Can the service you offer be delivered completely remotely? While the immediate answer might be ‘of course!’, remember all your communication with the client is likely to be virtual. Many of us will rely on face to face meetings to get to know our client and their expectations. Understanding your clients needs can be more difficult over mediums such as web conferences and even harder on phone calls.

Where you clients are based will also affect what you deliver, the laws in your market area and your fees. Should your client work in an emerging economy or deal in a low exchange rate currency, you may need to rethink your fee.

Top tip: websites and social media are great worldwide marketing tools.

Legal implications

Most of us will always make sure we have a written agreement or contract with a client. When working internationally a contract may not have the same legal status in your clients country as it does your own. Legal disputes in a foreign country can be exceedingly complex and expensive. Be sure to get expert advice on the legal implications of your agreement in your clients country. You can also ask clients to agree to a contract that binds them to the payment laws of your home country.

Top tip: working and receiving payment abroad may create special tax considerations. Be sure to check any tax implications with your accountant.

Payment

Arguably the most important thing you need to understand is how your own or your clients location will affect your payments. Will you be paid in a foreign currency? How will your client pay you? Many banks will add a whole host of additional charges for transfers in foreign currency. Savings can be made by ensuring the best possible exchange rates, minimising transfer fees and protecting against exchange rate changes. It’s worth shopping around to see which banks can offer you the best rates, as well as speaking to your accountants and FCA authorised Foreign Exchange specialists to see what savings could made when you are paid in foreign currency.

International bank transfers can be slow and costly. Many independent professionals will utilise other means such as: online payment services (i.e. Paypal), international bank accounts and in some progressive cases digital currency (Bitcoin). While these methods will likely have associated fees, it’s worth evaluating your options to see what payment method will best suit you.

Cultural customs

Working with clients from around the world can bring many new experiences and a diverse range of projects. However, alongside any financial implications you need to consider the customs and cultural norms of your clients country. Before relocating or choosing to work with an international client, we recommend researching the country’s linguistic and cultural background. Take extra care to ask plenty of questions and properly establish the scope of the project, your role and delivery expectations.

Remember, English may not be your clients first language. There can often be different interpretations of what a certain job roles mean, misunderstanding of slang and industry terms and miscommunication on both the clients and contractors side. Having a written agreement or contract will help to confirm your clients expectations match your own.

Top tip: be sure to follow up any verbal communications and decisions with an email; this will help to guarantee you and the client are both on the same page.

Time zones

When working remotely, continued communication is key. Communication can prove more problematic when working with clients across time zones, especially when it comes to time sensitive projects. Be sure to remain aware of any time zone differences between you and the client. Try to work out an aligned schedule with your client to arrange a time you are both consistently available, ensure you refer to only one time zone to avoid confusion and keep track of any daylight saving time changes.

Top tip: keep an eye on the cost of international calls and try to use free options wherever possible.

While working with international clients can bring complications, the benefits of being able to source work and a diverse range of projects from across the globe can be hugely rewarding. Likewise, the ability to continue working, and potentially maintaining your client base, while travelling or setting up in a new country could see you happily working in the place of your dreams.

For more information on working abroad and maintaining your clients in the UK, check out our ‘Digital Nomad’ series.