Getting Work

Working with overseas clients

Get more clients by going global!

Globe on a desk near a window

At a freelance networking event some time back, I hung out with some freelancers who were sharing how often they went to their clients’ offices. Like once a week, twice a week, etc.

The question then came to me, and the others seemed surprised when I said “Most of my clients are overseas, so I usually don’t go to their office.”

If your work can be done remotely and the business is open to hiring freelancers from abroad, then why not give working with overseas clients a shot? You increase your pool of potential clients and may benefit from exchange rate differences too.

(And yes, you also avoid having to head down to your client’s office.)

Here are some pointers to consider if you want to work with overseas clients.

How to get overseas clients

I think this was what surprised the other freelancers at the event. How do you get overseas clients in the first place?

Generally, you can do so using the same methods for getting local clients (but not by knocking on their door, for obvious reasons).

So, you might:

But while you’re at it, try to localise your communications to show you’re “like them”. For example:

  • Sending your emails at a reasonable time in the client’s time zone, especially if it differs greatly from yours (email scheduling is awesome here. I use it a lot!)
  • Writing your emails in the client’s language, like American English (instead of British English) if you’re targeting US clients

Which types of organisations are more likely to hire overseas freelancers?

It depends on the organisation’s policies and its leaders’ openness to this, really.

Bigger, more mature organisations tend to have SOPs in place for working with international freelancers. For example, I’ve had overseas clients who:

  • Do a first screening by asking whether you’re from countries like North Korea
  • Ask you to submit a tax form (like the Form W-8BEN if you aren’t US-based)

Meanwhile, smaller organisations may have more relaxed requirements for hiring international freelancers. Your location isn’t that important as long as you can do the job.

And some organisations (regardless of size) will just prefer to hire locals, freelancers who work within their time zone (or a narrower range outside of it) or people who can come into the office. If so, so be it. 🤷🏻‍♀️

If you’re responding to a job post, check if it says “remote-friendly” or similar before applying. Don’t waste time submitting a beautiful application to an organisation that isn’t open to hiring overseas freelancers.

Time zone differences

Keep in mind the difference between your and your client’s time zones to ensure you submit your work on time. This is especially if your client is in an earlier time zone.

I’m in the GMT+8 time zone, which is ahead of European and US time zones. So, it’s fantastic for helping me submit work ahead of my clients’ deadlines.

But scheduling meetings can be more difficult if your client’s time zone is completely opposite from yours. This would be the US time zones for me.

Fortunately, I don’t have many of these meetings. In the cases that I do, we try to compromise with a later timing for them and an earlier timing for me (or vice versa).

Payment currency

Some organisations (especially bigger ones) can pay you in your local currency. But if you’re charging in a different currency, you’ll need a way of receiving and converting these funds to your currency.

Options here include PayPal and Payoneer. I’ve used both and don’t recommend either of them. They can be troublesome and also charge high fees for helping you take payments.

My preferred option is to use Wise (affiliate link), which lets me get local bank account details for countries including the US, UK and Australia.

I give the relevant local bank account details to the client—e.g. the Australian bank account details if I’m working with an Australian client.

They transfer payment in their local currency (e.g. AUD) to me, and then I use Wise to convert the funds to my local currency for an affordable fee. Finally, I withdraw the converted funds to my bank account.

Disclosing where you’re from

If you’re approaching potential overseas clients for work, it’s good practice to tell them upfront which country you’re based in.

This way, you give them the chance to decide whether they’re open to working with someone from your location.

I’ve had at least one potential client ghost me after I told them where I was based (though I can’t be for sure whether it was because of where I was based). But at least the discussions ended swiftly and I could move on with my search.

There are plenty of other fish in the sea—especially if your “sea” is the whole world!

P.S. It’s now income tax-filing season, so don’t forget to file your taxes by 18 April!

I haven’t filed my taxes yet but if I come across any interesting insights while doing so, I’ll share them with you in my next newsletter.

More freelancer news

More support for arts self-employed persons

Self-employed persons in Singapore’s arts sector will get more support as the government puts another $100 million into the Our SG Arts Plan. This is a 5-year plan to make art more accessible to the public and help arts practitioners earn a sustainable living.

The support includes creating and supporting different training avenues for arts self-employed persons. This way, they can further refine their skills and get more (and better) job opportunities.

Learn more about this news here.

This Foodpanda rider earns around $6,000 a month

And he earned close to $8,500 last December.

His real name is unknown but he goes by “Panda King” on TikTok, where a recent video of his earnings went viral.

How does he do it?

By working long hours every day (around 14 hours on weekdays and 16 to 17 hours on weekends).

But he seems aware that his work may not be a sustainable or viable long-term career.

Because while someone commented that he could be a millionaire if he kept this up for 10 years, he replied: “Honestly, I hope not to work food delivery for too long 💀”

Watch the video here (or read the article recap of it here).

This post was first published in my email newsletter on 14 Mar 2024. If you liked it, you can sign up for my newsletter here:

Tan Siew Ann
I’m a freelance writer for some of the most amazing software businesses in the world. On this blog, I share tips on how you, too, can run a sustainable and meaningful freelance business. Let’s forge your freedom. 💪

Leave a Response