Take Your Business Global: How to Work with International Clients
Initially I had visions of being the go-to copywriter for local businesses. I'd write for the mom-and-pop shops around town. And for the larger companies based in our area.
So far, I've had only one client in Arkansas.
The internet had a different plan in mind.
In 2013, I received an email from a community manager of a marketing hub website, asking if I would write content-marketing articles for them. She was in Toronto, Canada.
I accepted, and that started a 2 ½-year, very fun adventure in my freelance copywriting career. In fact, the next three major gigs came from there, too.
It didn't take long for my copywriting business to stretch way beyond North America.
I've now been contacted by international copywriting prospects on every continent except South America and Antarctica.
I'm finally getting some U.S.-based prospects and clients. But the lion's share of my business has been beyond the border.
I believe your copywriting business can go global, too. Probably sooner than you realize.
You'll need to plan for it. You need to learn how to work with international clients.
The basics I share here are a good place to start.
Connecting with global copywriting clients
My first international clients reached out to me rather than the other way around. Some found my website through Google search. Some of them discovered me through LinkedIn.
What does that tell you?
Your website and LinkedIn profiles are worldwide marketing tools.
They provide a way for prospects—no matter where they’re located—to find you. They serve as your portfolio and samples, as well. How you write them speaks volumes to your prospects.
They're good indicators of how you'll write for international clients, too.
Communicating with international copywriting clients
This can be tricky because of the time differences. But with a little commitment on your end, easy solutions are at hand.
By the way, this even works for prospects in your own country.
- Go to www.thetimenow.com and find out where in the world the prospect is and how many hours separate you.
- Set up a phone call or Skype meeting with them. Give them a few choices as to time and day. They think you’re giving them a choice … and you are. But you’re also making sure those times are a good fit for your schedule, too.
- Stay in control of the call. The person who asks the questions owns the call.
- Once first contact has been made, you can communicate through email for the rest of the project, unless something comes up that merits a voice conversation.
Sometimes, email is the only way to make contact. But, whenever possible, make the first contact through video or voice chat. You may need to adjust your schedule to accommodate them. I've stayed up late to be on a call with a client located in "tomorrow”!
Writing for their audience or customer base
This is an extremely important point on any project, but it’s extra-important when working with international clients.
When writing to an international audience, remember you're "not in Kansas anymore." That phrase is a perfect example. If you never saw the movie "Wizard of Oz," you'd have no idea what I was talking about. You need to make sure you’re using words, concepts and illustrations your foreign audience can relate to.
Make sure you discuss this with your client or do your own research, if necessary. Some words may not fly in a foreign country.
For example, I wrote a brochure for an IT company in Canada. Their product was a monitoring system for network infrastructures. It warned of impending failure. That sounded just like the Early Warning System here that blares horns when a tornado is heading our way.
So, I used it.
But the client didn't know what I meant. They don’t have those where he’s located. So, I had to come up with something else.
One thing I tell every international client is that I'm an American writer. More specifically, I’m from Arkansas! We chuckle a bit, and then I let them know if something I write for them doesn't fit their audience, I’m happy to make any necessary adjustments.
I'll change it immediately without argument. Understand that revisions are inevitable when working with international clients.
So, get used to revisions. They're a part of the game. But, you can set your fees to cover them. And, as you can imagine, the more you work with a client and get to know their prospect, the fewer instances crop up. You begin to understand their lifestyle and how they speak.
That brings us to the last, very important part of working globally – getting paid.
Ways to get paid from international copywriting clients
That is kind of important, right?
After all, I don't do this for fun (although, it is fun). I seriously doubt you do either. So, how do you get paid by these clients?
Paper check is one way to get paid.
I wouldn't recommend this for most international clients, but it can work. I did get checks from a client in Canada. Make sure your bank can handle foreign checks. And, be sure to have your client use U.S. dollars if you're in the States. Another caveat is that checks over certain amounts may be held for a while. Again, ask your bank about the details.
Payment gateways are another option.
PayPal is an example of a payment gateway. I've used PayPal a lot. You can create an invoice onsite and send it. They pay from their account or with a credit card.
One thing I hear often is that PayPal charges for the payment processing. And that they charge for other things, like currency exchange and overseas fees.
They do. That's how they make money. Just include those fees in your quote. I had an Australian client that paid me $800/month. I contacted PayPal, and a representative helped me figure out what I needed to charge to get the full $800.
By the way, my proposal stated that the client would pay those fees, and they agreed to it. Get it in writing!
Wire transfers may be the best option in some cases.
This is one option I'm using more and more. In fact, I just finished up a project with a client in The Netherlands. They insisted on using a wire transfer.
Large corporations often want to deal directly through banks. They consider gateways such as PayPal to be amateurish.
Actually, there is a benefit for you, as well. With PayPal, they pay to your online account. After it gets there, you must download it to your bank account, if that's where you want the money. That can take almost a week. A wire transfer goes directly to your bank account, so you have access to the funds faster.
There are limitations. The biggest one? Your bank must be able to accept international wire transfers for overseas clients. Most local or regional banks can't.
My local bank can only accept transfers from within the United States. For international businesses, I use a separate Bank of America account.
Wire transfers have associated fees, similar to a payment gateway. Just add that into your project fee, and you've got it covered.
My advice is that you get set up for any kind of payment your clients might prefer. That shows your flexibility and your professionalism.
There is no doubt in my mind you'll be contacted by international prospects. In this digital age, your copywriting business can easily go global. Particularly if you’re a web copywriter.
Mine has. And it's been a rewarding and interesting ride.
This article, Take Your Business Global: How to Work with International Clients, was originally published by Wealthy Web Writer.
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Thanks for the practical advice Steve. As a newbie, your experiences shared will prove invaluable!
Corina Hartley –