It makes sense particularly if you’re in the USA, Canada or Australia.
This is a question all those seeking a new and improved website should be asking themselves if they are a company in the USA, Canada or Australia – should I hire a web designer from the UK? It happens more often than you may think. But what about the time difference? Communication? Language and cultural idiosyncrasies? These are important questions but each has an answer that benefits both the client and the web designer.
Benefit to you and your client
The first concern for clients would be the time difference. Depending on where the client is, there may be a difference of between 5 and 11 hours. A client in Hawaii would be 11 hours behind the UK, in California / Vancouver 8 hours behind or in New York / Toronto only 5 hours behind. Australia and New Zealand are between 8 and 10 hours in front of the UK. Is this a problem? No. Absolutely not.
It’s simple; the UK web designer works while the client is asleep and vice versa. This gives ample time for each party to examine the work being done, note any amendments, additions or subtractions, jot it all down in an email and send it off. The client goes home and goes to bed. When they wake up in the morning the work has been done. Hey presto! It’s like magic! There is always an answer waiting for you when you start work. It is productivity at its best as there is no waiting around during the working day for an answer to an email.
How would you communicate?
What about talking to your new client when you are in the UK and they are not? By phone? That’s expensive, isn’t it? What about discussing things face-to-face?
This is not really a problem. Freelance web designers set their own hours so it is easy to work around when to make a call and you don’t need to run up ridiculous telephone bills as you can speak over the internet with Skype or a similar service. Video calling over wireless internet is available on nearly every device whether smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. The vast majority of laptops come with a webcam built-in, practically all smartphones have a front-facing camera… well, you get the drift. You could use Facetime on iPhone/iPad or even the video service on your Xbox 360!
With the current capabilities of technology, there is no real barrier preventing communication with the other side of the world at low or no additional cost. You just have to set a mutually agreed time with each party and make the call.
In the case of American / Australian English and British English, there is little difference in usage and spelling. A web designer uses American English all the time when writing in any web language or mark-up no matter which country they are in. Besides, if in doubt there are lots of free online dictionaries to check your spelling.
Every culture is different. If your clients are living in another country then it pays to do your homework but also make an effort to present yourself in the best possible light.
A few things to bear in mind are:
- Be likeable, honest and sincere – this will win your clients over anywhere in the world e.g. being likeable, friendly and approachable are the most important aspects for Australians rather than a cool, professional approach;
- Make an effort to learn a little about the country’s history and culture – with Google it’s just a click away!
- Be patient. Sometimes one meeting is not enough. The first meeting may not even cover business. It may just be an icebreaker to get to know you;
- Be calm. If a client is late to a meeting it doesn’t matter because you were punctual which is part of the image you wish to project e.g. Russians may be 1-2 hours late but to Americans promptness is everything;
- Be polite and well-mannered – Britons are seen to be obsessed with politeness and manners by those beyond their borders. This isn’t a bad thing as politeness and manners will always create a good impression. What you need to bear in mind if you are British is that the client may not be as polite or as well-mannered as you because it simply is not part of their culture to be so. It is important that you don’t take offense and keep an open mind and sense of humour about these things;
- Be clear about what you can provide and do to prevent any misunderstandings;
- Be prepared to go the extra mile e.g. translating into client language if not English – there are lots of translation apps out there;
- Be aware of holidays and festivities in your client’s country e.g. arranging a call on 4 July to a client in America is a really bad idea; five minutes on Google can give you this information;
- If video meeting/messaging remember your body language – be open and friendly (never cross your arms!); think about what the client can see in the background – you may have some lovely white flowers on display but Chinese associate these with death!
- How much do you promote yourself? Depends who you’re talking to e.g. Australians don’t like over-the-top details and flashy deals – don’t brag, this is considered as arrogant and gives a bad impression; in other cultures you are expected to promote your own achievements as individual competition is highly prized (over team work);
- Be direct, clear and concise with your language e.g. a web designer from the UK may ask:
“Would you mind sending me the information about the services you offer?”
When what you really mean is:
“I need this information as quickly as possible to be able to do the job!”
So instead you might tell the client:
“I am working on the homepage. I need information about your services in order to proceed. Please send me all information about the services you offer that you wish to include as soon as possible.”
End with a “much appreciated” and “kind regards”.
- If you are getting more and more clients from abroad then it may pay you to take a cross-cultural awareness course.
You may only be able to prepare and learn so much from the internet. The key thing is you smile and relax, watch and listen. Your overseas clients may do things that seem odd to you so keep an open mind and a sense of humour. This will see you through. If appropriate, feel free to offer information and insights into your own country and culture. This will help to create a good rapport.
Every culture has its quirks but if you put the effort in then culture, and certainly communication, should not be barriers to progression and success.
Food for thought
I hope this has stimulated your little grey cells and given you something to think about.
But wait! Why stop with just the USA, Canada and Australia? Why not have clients from any country in the world?
“The world is the mollusc of your choice.” Terry Pratchett, Pyramids (1989).
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