Whether you’re a new freelancer, an employee considering to go freelance or an established freelancer in your country – this article can prove useful to you. Being a freelancer in your home region or native country is one thing. Succeeding internationally can give you many extra things to have to take care of. In this article you will get some tips on how to approach this.
One thing is for sure; freelancers can be found behind every tree and underneath every rock out there. In America alone there are an estimated and unbelievable amount of 42 million freelancers divided into a wide range of niches. This is an example of what kind of competition you can expect. Obviously not all of these are in your niche or competing for your clients, but you get the point.
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For many freelancers their skills and interests will limit them to work in their own country or region, while others (like for instance web designers, graphic designers, different types of writers and so on) can theoretically take on work from pretty much any region of the world.
Are you happy with things?
The first thing to ask yourself before doing any changes to your current situation is “am I happy where I am today”.
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For many of us the comfort of working with clients that are close to use geographically, speak the same language and can be met in person is what makes us successful. For some freelancers, going international is not something that will be worth it or feel right. So make sure to think things through for a while before getting your hopes up and diving into things. Taking the step into the rest of the world doesn’t necessarily have to be the best solution for you if you’re happy with your current situation. But, if you’re not pleased, this can be an opportunity of a lifetime.
Now let’s have a closer look at some things that can be rewarding and challenging if you’re going international.
Endless amounts of potential clients
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By opening up your business to clients worldwide you will have many potential projects out there. If you’re struggling to find fitting projects “at home”, taking the step out into the world will give you a better chance at finding projects that fit your expertise.
Looking for clients in other parts of the world can provide you with a nice additional income on top of what you’re currently earning. Many freelancers that have some spare hours when their regular projects are done find this a great way of getting a valuable income stream.
Working with clients from other parts of the world can give you some very valuable experiences that may not be present in your home country. These can look great in your portfolio and help you become even better at what you do.
Meeting new people
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Getting to know new people all over the globe is a positive experience for many of us. This can give us a great creative boost and also benefit us in our everyday life. Personally I’ve gotten a lot of valuable inspiration from working alongside freelancers that work hard, stay positive and value what they have in a completely different way compared to many people I knew before.
Learning new things
No matter which clients you work for, there’s a good chance that you will get knowledge of things you never thought you’d learn or even get use for. This often adds positive energy. And let’s just admit it; gaining knowledge is a good thing, no matter the topic.
More exciting projects
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When taking a look outside your own area you will soon see that there are many exiting projects you can be part of. This can be very useful and the experience can be priceless and life-changing in some cases.
The language barriers must not be underestimated. One thing is that you have to at least have English skills above average, and additional languages is a plus. The reasons for this are many. Misunderstanding the projects can cost you valuable hours if something has to be completely redone. And your clients also have to be able to communicate well. One way of preventing unnecessary problems related to this will be to always ask any questions you may have. Asking one extra time is usually a good plan.
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As mentioned earlier you will meet a lot of competition. You will need to be prepared for this and have the strength to deal with many turn downs before you finally get a project. Trying and failing will help you in getting to know how things are done “out there”.
With more competition, you will need to find a way to stand out in the crowd. Make sure you know your One of your best tools in this process will be having a good portfolio, as good work usually speaks for itself. Remember to show your variety and prepare to put in your best effort and numerous hours making the portfolio a good one. Additionally you will need a good website. This is very valuable as it is accessible for anyone with an Internet connection, in this case all of your potential clients.
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Working with clients abroad can mean many changes to your standard contracts. Not only will you have to get this translated the correct way, you also have to make sure that they are correct for the types of products/services and the countries involved. My tip would be to talk to a lawyer or someone else that has expertise in this field. Doing things the wrong way can become very pricy and give you extra work.
People not being who you think they are
Meeting new people is great and while most people are honest and serious, there are always some rotten apples. When working with people you are unable to meet or get valid references from it can be hard to know how things will turn out. Maybe you’ll be unlucky and end up not getting paid and so on. There are many things that can be done to prevent “scammers”, but you will never be 100% sure. An advantage of working locally is that you can check with others or get good references that can easily be contacted.
Not being able to meet in person
Picture by Sergio Roberto Bichara
There are more things to this than people being someone else than you thought. Not being able to meet your clients in person will increase the chance of misunderstandings and give you challenges regarding communication in general. When you’re not able to meet someone, you will need to compensate by having a good dialogue via phone or mail.
One of the most common problems related to this type of work is often of a financial type. There are many things that can affect this. You have to have agreed upon a payment method that works for both parties. Theres always the chance of delays, extra fees and tracking payments can be harder. This means that you will have to find a policy of when you’re supposed to get paid and when to deliver the finished product.
Pricing your services
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People earn differently in various countries. You may not think of this as an issue at first but this can eventually mean that your hourly wages will be considered extremely high in some areas and decent in others. Always check out what the usual price range is in the actual country and calculate what your earnings will be in your own currency before deciding.
You have to know about any legal issues, like copyright, taxes and so on. When you start doing business outside your own country it’s very important to gain proper knowledge of which laws that apply.
As you can see there are both benefits and challenges that will enter your freelance-life the minute you take a leap into the world. If you have the right attitude, do your things well and prepare, you can be in for a lot of positive things as well.
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The advice I’d give you is to have a look at each of these points, read up, consult professionals and make your decision. A healthy great way of exploring this new opportunity can be to start taking on smaller projects part-time until you have the experience to go all in.
As usual we’d love to hear your own tips and experiences.