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How can you sell services abroad?

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In the last six months I have had requests for work from the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Mexico, Qatar, Spain and USA (Florida, Oregon, LA, Ohio).

Some of requests have now turned into clients of whom, hopefully, I will be working with for a long time to come. Others are a least an introduction and you never know what may come of them in future.

The services I offer lend themselves to being carried out in a location agnostic way. I provide web design services and specialise in Squarespace and WordPress sites and also consultancy to guide web strategy.

For the clients I deal with, many of them now setup their own sites and just need specific support in editing templates, or translating a design into the final site.

I can carry out most of this work via email thus I never speak to the client. The consultancy clients however I need to book in Skype sessions to work through various issues they may have or training on aspects of their sites. Personally, I prefer to talk and see the client so Skype is great for that.

I tell you all this as international working is one of the strengths of the Internet. Globalisation has meant that if you offer a service or product which is location independent its now easier than ever to sell abroad.

Four things you need to think about.

  1. Time zones – This is critical to make sure you get to communicate with your client at the right times. Especially important if booking a Skype session. You don’t want to miss appointments. Remember local time derivations such as British Summer Time (BST) in the UK. Use websites like World Clock to help.
  2. Broadband – Make sure you have as good and fast a connection as possible. There have been a few times when the Internet connection where I have been -or from the clients location is simply not good enough to run Skype with full video. Check out some low bandwidth options. You can sometimes get by with just audio, but it obviously depends on the service you’re offering.
  3. Money – The work I do is generally smallish amounts for quick site updates or 1 – 2 hour consultancy sessions. For all of this I receive 100% of the money paid upfront. All payments so far have been via PayPal and although they have their problems and i’m certainly not their biggest fan, it is an internationally trusted brand. Bear in mind the PayPal fees and add that to your cost structure. I also offer a 100% refund if the client is not satisfied with my work which gives additional peace-of-mind. Thankfully I haven’t had to activate this yet.
    For work thats a bit larger I use my standard policy of 50% deposit and 50% on completion. Using a good financial app like Freeagent can really help you to manage the payment process well.
  4. Communication – If you’re communicating via email only its even more important to understand what the client wants. Ask as many questions as it takes so you are clear on whats required -and of course whether you can or want to accept the job. If things go wrong, make sure you understand how to end the relationship in the best way.

So how can you work internationally?

Do you have a skill that you can teach others? Could you offer this through Skype sessions? This could be musical instrument tuition, dance coaching, teaching drawing or illustration skills or design skills. You could even offer group sessions. Google hangouts offer up to 10 people sharing video.

So how do you get work? Its worth looking at promoting yourself through international directories such as Craigslist or Freelance Switch. Try looking for directories that may be specific to your creative areas. For example, most of my contacts come through being on the Squarespace specialists directory. This gives an immediate amount of credibility as you have to have shown your skill to get on the directory.

Over to you…

Let me know how you get on working internationally. What is it that you can offer international clients? What tips have you got for others?

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Richard Lalchan is founder of Creatives Hub whose mission is to help as many creatives as possible get rid of the shackles of procrastination, break out of fear, grow in confidence and get stuff done. He also works with individuals and businesses to build their web presence, runs a podcast network and is currently writing his first sci-fi novella.

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