One of the major benefits of working as a contractor or freelancer, is the additional flexibility it offers. As technology continues to evolve, more and more professionals are moving away from traditional on-site commitments to working remotely; doing business with anyone, from anywhere. 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.
According to recent data from OddsMonkey, 50% of the UK workforce will work remotely by 2020. As we all know, the contracting and freelance industries are usually ahead of the times, and many projects are already less location dependent. Should the value of the pound continue to fall, international purchasing power will increase; potentially attracting new clients from abroad. Alternatively, if you’ve ever wished to take yourself overseas, now could be the perfect time to set-up anywhere in the world. You can continue to work remotely with your existing clients (while finding new ones) to support your set-up in a new country or simply to fund your travels.
Working internationally is not without its difficulties, however. We’ve compiled four key things to consider when working with overseas clients or choosing to relocate outside of the UK.
1. Know 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 rely on face to face meetings to get to know our client and their expectations. Understanding your client’s needs can be more difficult through web conferences and phone calls.
Where your clients are based will also affect what you deliver, remember to keep abreast of 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 fees.
2. Understand your payments
Arguably the most important thing you need to understand is how your own and your client’s location will impact your payments. Will you be paid in a foreign currency? How will your client pay you? Many banks will add a 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 both your accountant and an FCA authorised Foreign Exchange specialist to see what savings could be made.
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) to accept payment. While these methods will likely have associated fees, it’s worth evaluating your options to see what payment method will best suit you.
3. Brush up on cultural customs
Working with clients from around the world can bring 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 client’s first language. There can often be different interpretations of what certain job roles mean, misunderstanding of slang and industry terms and miscommunication on both the clients and contractors side that can cause trouble. Having a written agreement or contract will help to confirm your client’s expectations match your own.
Be sure to follow up any verbal communications and decisions with an email; this will guarantee that you and the client are on the same page.
4. Keep up with 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 to arrange a time you’re both consistently available. Always ensure you only refer to one-time zone to avoid confusion and keep track of any daylight saving time changes.
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.
Thinking of relocating?
For more information on working abroad and maintaining your clients in the UK, take a look at our ‘Digital Nomad’ series.