Oh, the fabulous life of a digital nomad. In theory, the rise of the internet and smartphone has brought us all closer together and today, there’s nothing stopping you from living in Lisbon and working for clients in LA, New York or Bangkok.
As of 2018, 3.9 million Americans and 70% of people globally work remotely, and a significant amount work for clients or businesses in a different time zone. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools out there to help you cope with the challenges.
The Challenges of Working with International Clients
Working with clients in different time zones can be a good thing. When you’re a few hours ahead, you’ll get to enjoy “quiet time” every day when no one else has clocked in yet, so you can get a lot more done.
In fact, one out of every 13 remote workers says that being in a different time zone is the biggest challenge. Coordinating deadlines, getting everybody in one place for a meeting, and simply getting hold of someone can be difficult when you’re not on the same schedule. In addition, 22% of remote workers struggle with unplugging after work, which can get become more of an obstacle when your workplace is still busy for several hours afterwards.
We gathered our favorite tips and tools for effectively managing global clients so that you don’t get stuck in time zone hell.
4 Tips to Effectively Manage Clients in Different Time Zones
Although working with clients around the world can be a challenge, it’s one that you can cope with. Here are 4 tips on staying productive and responsive to global clients, without working 24/7.
1. Establish Time Zone Rules
The first trick is to be completely clear about who is at work and when. There are a number of excellent tools like Every Time Zone, the Time Zone Converter and World Time Buddy that can save you from trying to work out what time it is in Sydney if it’s 5pm in Prague. You can also set your smartphone to show you the time in different zones.
If you’re working for clients with workers in a number of different places, it can help to agree on a single official time zone to use when scheduling meetings in different time zones. For example, if you use UTC time when sharing the time of every meeting, everyone else knows how to convert that to their own local time.
2. Communicate Clearly and Consistently
Communication is the key to every good client relationship, but it’s even more important when you’re scheduling across time zones. Tools such as Slack are vital because you don’t have to all be online at the same time in order to ask and answer questions. You can look back at messages and conversation threads to remember where the discussion left off.
Try synchronizing your calendar. Google Calendar helps you schedule a meeting between time zones by showing meetings in local time for both you and your clients, without you needing to calculate the time difference. You can use Calendly to show when you’re available so that your client can schedule a conversation without spending days sending messages back and forth trying to find a time when you’re both awake.
3. Be Clear on Expectations
Being responsive is a pillar of life for any freelancer, but you can’t be available all the time. You also don’t want to let your clients down, so it’s best to set expectations from the start.
Always be open with your clients about which time zone you’re living in and let them know when you’ll be able to reply to emails or phone calls. Most clients will respect your boundaries and stick to your time zone needs but be prepared to ignore a phone call or politely but firmly say “no” when it’s necessary.
One of the biggest issues for remote workers when scheduling across time zones is setting and meeting deadlines. You don’t want to end up missing a deadline because you think that it’s not due till tomorrow, but it’s already “today” for your client. Project management tools like Asana and Trello are a big help in this area. Use them to set deadlines that include the time and the time zone, not just the date.
4. Organize Your Day Accordingly
When you’re working for clients in different time zones, you might need to organize your day slightly differently. This is especially important if you only have a few hours of overlap on your waking and working hours because you need to make the most of that time. Set it aside for meetings, follow-up conversations, and discussions.
If you can be flexible with your working time, try starting earlier in the morning or later in the day instead of setting a typical 9-to-5 working day. For example, if you’re in Berlin and your client is in Houston, you might want to take a break in the middle of the day so you can work from 4pm till 8pm (that’s 9am till 1pm in Houston) and catch your client in the office.
Working Across Time Zones is Part of Life for Remote Workers
Working with international clients can be challenging, but with the right tools and a sensible strategy for organizing your time, you’ll find that you can make the most of it. You might even enjoy having a late start to your working day in exchange for ending it later. Payment solutions like Payoneer help remote workers with global clients by making it easy to make cross-border payments in any time zone.
As that famous Disney song once said, “it’s a small world after all”.