Everything you need to consider when working with international clients

If you have the opportunity to do business with a new international client, or you’re considering targeting a new location, this guide covers everything you need to consider to work successfully with new clients.

There are many benefits to extending your market to international clients. You will increase your potential for growth as well as creating more revenue streams.

As well as the financial benefits, exploring new locations will give you the chance to operate in different competitive markets. While your industry might be highly competitive locally, you may find that going farther afield there are less advanced competitors going after the same clients.

You’ll be able to gather a wider experience by working with international clients and are likely to develop a deeper insight into your own business, industry and what your clients really want. This knowledge can be applied to all areas of your business, so in the long term you may even see positive repercussions for your local business.

Despite the many perks of working with international clients, it’s not always plain sailing and there are many factors that you need to be aware of.

Potential problems when working with international clients

Time zones

Particularly when working on a large project that will involve other parties, time difference can be a big issue. If your own schedule isn’t flexible, you may find it hard to collaborate, attend meetings and respond to the client in a time frame they are happy with.

Consider how important collaboration and quick communication will be to the project, and always be up front about the hours you can work with the client. It may be that for the duration of some projects you’ll have to keep unsociable hours to keep your client happy, so bear that in mind when you make the commitment.

Payment

Consider how your local clients normally pay you for your work. How will this work for an international client?

Some payment methods may incur extra costs, take longer to process or be uncommon for the client, all of which could cause a headache for you down the line.

Legal protection

While your standard contract may work fine for local clients, there could be completely different legal ramifications when working with overseas clients.

It’s best to seek legal advice before you sign any contracts to make sure you and your business are protected.

Tax implications

Work and payment from overseas companies may also complicate your tax returns, and it’s worth speaking to an accountant before going ahead to get the full picture of exactly what this could mean.

This will also help to give you a better idea of what rates you should be charging for these projects, as it’s likely to be different to your standard rates.

Rate per hour

As mentioned above, your rates are likely to change when it comes to international clients. Make sure you have a full picture of what you can reasonably work for and look at the typical rates a client might be looking to pay in the part of the world you want to work in.

If these aren’t lining up, you’ll struggle to find work that’s worth your time, and if you’re not careful you could end up losing money in the long run.

Project and work expectations

Different parts of the world are accustomed to different work ethics and styles, so it’s best to clearly lay out expectations on both sides before the contract begins.

Make sure all parties are clear on deliverables and logistics, such as response times for emails, deadlines and reviews.

Best practise for working with international clients

Once you’ve navigated any potential hurdles, come to an agreement with a client and signed a contract, it’s time to get on with the project at hand.

Below are some of our best practise tips for working with international clients and building a healthy relationship with them that may lead to more work in the future.

Maintain communication

Although communication may be tricky at times due to some of the factors above, it is crucial that you maintain regular contact throughout the project as you would with any other client.

Touching in regularly will help you spot any miscommunications earlier and will also help you to become more accustomed to their communication style, making future contact easier.

Take the appropriate steps to understand language and cultural differences

Researching a little background into the culture and mannerisms can help make building a relationship with your client much easier from the beginning, and it’s important not to lose sight of this as time goes on.

Particularly in written communication, it is best to avoid colloquialisms and be conscious of your sense of humour. Certain things may not make sense or come across in the right way even if you’re communicating with someone who speaks good English.

It can also be worth having a second review for context when delivering some projects, to make sure the work you’ve done isn’t confusing and your expertise is clear.

Do some market research

Although you’re an expert in your field locally, it may be worth checking if there are any market factors that will affect the impact of your work in a different location.

This is particularly important in areas such as marketing or sales where you need to resonate with your clients’ customers.

Get to grips with the business model

Similarly to the cultural differences you will find in different parts of the world, you may also find some significant differences in the way they do business.

Do a little research to make sure you understand the hierarchical structure and business customs that are likely to shape the business.

Have you ever worked with an international client? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!

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