One of the best things about freelancing in the present day is that you can connect with clients all over the world. Wherever you’re based, you will find people that require the services that you’re offering and will be willing to pay for them. However, when you strike up a conversation with a new potential client, you need to pay attention to the time zones. For instance, if you’re based in the UK and working for a customer in Australia, you need to be aware that you’re not even on the same day! This makes it super important to be crystal clear when it comes to agreeing on deadlines, as you don’t want to cause any confusion. Let’s look at situations in which freelancers need to be aware of time zones.
Scheduling online meetings/calls with your clients
If you like to speak to your clients face-to-face before getting started on their project, you will have to arrange an online meeting at a time that is convenient for both of you. The likelihood is that your client will propose a time that is relevant to their time zone, so you will have to then work out if it’s convenient for you (i.e. not in the middle of the night!). While you should be as accommodating as possible with your client’s request, they will be equally understanding if you don’t want to get out of bed at 4 am to jump on a call. Just be mindful of their work pattern and try and arrange a time that is suitable for both parties.
Agreeing on project milestones and deadlines
When you agree upon a project brief with a client, they might be very specific about the time they need the project delivered (for instance, 5 pm (GMT)). This may well be due to the fact that they have their own tight deadlines to work around and are expecting you to do your bit and deliver the work on time so they can then meet their deadline. The best thing to do as a freelancer is to convert all of the deadlines into your own time zone and then schedule them accordingly in your diary. If you leave the deadlines in various time zones, you will just get confused. Also, a good tip is to confirm the deadline with your client in both time zones, so they can double-check if they’re so inclined. This further reduces the risk of any confusion.
Telling clients about your availability
Many clients want to be able to get in touch with their freelancers during their business hours, which is understandable. However, before agreeing to work with someone, make sure you clearly articulate your availability. This means you should list your ‘office hours on your profile or website. There’s nothing more frustrating for clients than collaborating with a freelancer that they can’t communicate with because there was an initial breakdown in communication. You should also avoid telling people that you’re available ‘24/7’ as this is totally unsustainable. Everyone needs their sleep and time away from work, so telling people you’re always online is just going to disappoint them when they try and reach you and you’re not there.
Being specific about times and dates
When you’re working in an office, it’s perfectly reasonable to say something like, “I’ll get that to you by tomorrow afternoon.” Your colleague will be satisfied and will wait for your delivery. However, when you’re working online across different time zones, this doesn’t really mean anything at all! When agreeing upon anything with your clients (be it deadlines, meetings, or milestones), you need to get super-specific. Instead of saying “tomorrow afternoon,” you’re much better suited to say something like “Friday 3 pm (GMT).” This way, there is little room for confusion or error, and your client will know exactly when to expect the delivery or communication.
Travelling to different places
If you class yourself as a digital nomad and are constantly on the move, you need to be careful with your time zones. While there’s nothing more liberating than working from a beach hut in Thailand one day to working in the bustling centre of Dubai a few days later, you need to be aware that country hopping is likely to affect your deadlines. Make sure your platform and any related software are up to date with your new time zone, and it’s also a good idea to communicate to your clients that you’re in a new place. This ensures they will know how and when to get in touch with you.
Freelancers today are so fortunate that they can connect with people from different parts of the world with relative ease. This opens up so many possibilities when it comes to new business and gives you the chance to attract clients from so many countries without leaving your home or current place of residence. That being said, you need to be aware of the different time zones in which your clients are based. If you don’t consider this when setting deadlines and agreeing to meetings or calls, you will end up disappointing your clients, which in turn, could result in you losing their business.