How to be an international freelancer in a global economy.

By Simon Davies

As digital advances continue to widen the global market, so too do they widen the horizons of freelancers. Where there’s internet connection, there’s business. Independent entrepreneurs are often perfect candidates for global expansion, offering services which can be virtually recruited and implemented, regardless of geographical location.

With new territory comes new risks and challenges. It is important to understand what tools and support you are going to need before you set out.

International invoices: the amount you make is not the same as the amount you earn. Money makes the world that you are expanding into, go round. When your clients are spread out over such a large expanse, knowing where your next paycheck is coming from is all the more important.

One of the first things you will want to wrap your head around is currency exchange rates. Staying up to date with the ever fluctuating position of euros, pounds and pesos will take some work. There are many sites and resources which enable you track live exchange rates, but these are not to be mistaken for international invoice calculators. When it comes to working out how much you’re owed by an overseas client, simply translating a lump sum into a different currency will not give you an accurate idea of how much you should really be expecting from that commission.

Most UK banks, Paypal, Stripe and many new international invoice services charge additional service fees and offer poor exchange rates—despite the rates you’re finding online. These seemingly inescapable costs can end up eating into your hard earned dough, leaving you -if you’re not prepared- with much less income than you expected.

Online tools for keeping profit in your pocket. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize on these losses. As businesses on both side of transfers become increasingly vocal about their resentment towards large overheads, new ways of processing international invoices are beginning to emerge.

Services such as Regent FE and HIFX offer to transfer, protect and manage your money without those troublesome high fees. Simple innovative banking options, such as converting your money at real-time rates, are ideal for small freelance businesses taking the global plunge.

Paypal is still the most well known service and is, therefore, the one are most likely to encounter when dealing with online payments. If you’re an established freelancer, this may not be miles off the system you use already. For international entrepreneurs, getting to know some popular invoice systems such as Freshbooks and Transferwise will help you budget your business and, by escaping excessive conversion fees, your personal life too.

Contractor Accountants 3 Wise Bears recommend using software such as Freeagent or Xero. These also enable you to send professional invoices and manage online payments from any location or device. Real time information tools to help you track expenses can be really useful features, especially when you are expecting payments from different time zones.

Language can unlock doors across the world. Opening yourself up to international clients can be make a huge difference to the success of your business. If you’re considering the move, no doubt you’ve already mentally addressed and scaled the language barrier. Many freelancers choose to venture into new lands where the language is already familiar or where they share a common language with the contractor. As your business communications will be carried fairly exclusively online, there is less pressure to become fluent in other languages.

However, you know by now to always read the small print, always understand exactly what your contracts are asking of you. As laws around copyright and expectations around practices differ across the globe, it’s important not to assume anything.

Using a translation service to help you draw up a contract template or to go over an existing contract before you sign, could save you from any unforeseen legal drama.

This is not an expense you want to constantly undertake, so it is important to understand how much translations cost before you place your order. You may also want a translator to look over emails, proposals and any international press you receive as a result of your work. For these, budget business translations are available to give you a clearer insight into the expectations and customs of other business cultures; enabling you to perform better and secure a position in the global market.

Localization is an essential part of preparing for the global market. Re-contextualizing your business into a range of new cultures is important to international success. You must be able to adapt your service to match your client and their target audience.

While this may be something you already feel very informed about, don’t stop researching. Stay up to date with world news, research socio-cultural views and, if it’s worth the investment, travel.

If your freelance business is successful it will travel further than you. Your website is going to be viewed by potential clients far and wide, ensuring it is both understandable and appealing to different cultures will take some heavy tweaking.

Equally important to onsite content translation, is localization. If the way you have explained or presented your service is at odds with client culture, they are less likely to engage. Localizing your website builds credibility and increases revenue, make your first impression count.

Simon Davies is a freelance journalist interested in marketing, tech and small business. Follow him at @SimonTheoDavies.