Nowadays, with the extraordinary scope and reach of the internet, it’s not unusual for freelancers to work with clients based in other countries or specialize in working with foreign clients – think translation/localization agencies or corporate immigration specialists.
However, significant differences can crop up when working with overseas clients instead of those based in your home country.
Here are 8 top tips for dealing with international clients as a freelancer.
While you don’t have to be an expert in the culture, traditions and norms of your client’s home country, it’s beneficial to be at least aware of them.
This doesn’t only cover national and local holidays (so you know when they operate) but also customs and ways of doing business. What might be acceptable in your home country may be seen as rude or discourteous in theirs.
Being culturally aware and mindful also opens you up to a new and interesting worldview and conveys respect and openness – all qualities that make you even more attractive to work with and help develop the relationship.
Payment methods and gateways
Some jurisdictions will only be able to pay in a certain way or by a specific method.
That’s why it’s good to be able to offer a range of different payment methods as well as payment gateways such as Stripe or PayPal.
With Invoice Ninja, you can integrate your account with a range of payment gateways, enabling your clients to pay their invoices with just one click.
The payment gateway processes the transaction in the background, which means your client never has to leave their Invoice Ninja client-side portal.
This makes everything so much more simple for your overseas client.
Different systems and processes
Your overseas client will likely have different internal systems than your onshore clients.
And just as you should get to know your home country client’s specific procedures and processes, e.g. for tasks such as project work and invoicing, the same, if not more so, is especially true for overseas clients.
They may have different dates, management hierarchies, and protocols for approval and payment of your invoices.
So ensure you know what they are from the very beginning of your client relationship.
Currency (payment and exchange rates)
As a rule of thumb, it’s probably easier to invoice in your local currency, but if, for whatever reason, you can’t, you’ll need to factor in the cost of any foreign currency exchange into your prices.
You might have a bank account in your client’s currency or some other reason for accepting foreign currency, but the key is to get paid the rate you charge, and any extra costs need to be factored in.
It’s, therefore, useful to have invoice software that provides the option to bill in foreign currencies.
Invoice Ninja supports dozens of languages as well as currencies.
Communication is key
Sometimes, due to language and cultural differences, things can get lost in translation.
So, with overseas clients, it is always important that both parties are clear in their communications and fully understand one another.
Whether this is about the finer details of the project (deliverables) to cultural boundaries (i.e. what is an acceptable way of working, if there is a time difference, what hours can you communicate, etc.) or payment issues (do you charge for late payment, is there a specific date you’ll be paid, and how, etc.).
Naturally, if you can speak their language, things will be a lot easier but don’t assume that something that is the norm in your country will be the same for your international client.
When working with overseas clients, it is essential to have a contract or written agreement that details the project’s scope and specifics about payment, etc.
The type of items covered in a contract can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but as a minimum, you should consider the following, which we’ve laid out in our post here, and even consider getting professional advice.
It’s also important that the contract, if applicable, is in your language and, if applicable, your client’s native language, too.
It’s crucial that both parties know exactly what the contract includes (and what it doesn’t) to avoid any nasty surprises down the line.
Tax and permits
One of the first things to consider is if you can work with a client in a different jurisdiction.
While your country may allow it, the client’s country may have restrictions and vice versa.
This is especially the case for some countries that are on a sanctions list or have restricted trade agreements.
You may also want to consider the tax implications for you personally and your business.
For example, what impact does VAT have? What about state and local taxes? – that’s why, if, in any doubt, you should check these factors out with a professional first.
Take note of time zones
Being reliable is key when it comes to freelancing.
Some companies and clients will have fast turnaround times and expectations, so it’s important to be extra mindful of deadlines and timescales when dealing with international clients.
If they expect something to be done by the end of business, do they mean their end of business day or yours? Which could be substantially different.
And what do they consider the end of the day – 5 pm or midnight?
This goes back to our point about communication – and could be a good point to add to your written agreement or contract.
We hope you found this helpful. If you know anyone else who might benefit, please share. Thank you!