How to move your freelance career overseas
One of the perks of being a freelancer is that you can base yourself anywhere in the world. Who doesn’t dream of working by the beach? As one of the few careers that aren’t location-dependent, freelancing gives you the incredible gift of being able to work anywhere that has got internet service.
But the daunting downside of shipping yourself and your business overseas, whether you’re travelling or emigrating, is the potential to have to start from scratch.
New country, new cultures, new rules. But if you’re smart and savvy, it also means new opportunities, new clients to win and new ways to grow.
As a freelancer who recently emigrated from Manchester, England to Australia, I’m just starting to branch out into what is very unfamiliar – albeit much warmer – territory. And as a copywriter in Sydney, I’ve already discovered I’m the newest, foreign fish in what has turned out to be a very crowded pond.
So if you’re thinking of leaping from one country to another, these tips may be a useful starting point to help get you and your business settled:
Existing clients travel too
Because all that’s needed to tap into the expertise and skills of a professional freelance copywriter is an email address and the internet, your physical location doesn’t matter. So if you move, your clients can make a move with you. But it’s all about how you sell it. Yes, there’s the issue of different time zones to tackle, but this can be advantageous for both you and your clients.
They send you a brief, you write the copy while they sleep, and it’s ready and in their inbox for their next working day. Face to face meetings continue over Facetime or Skype at mutually convenient times. Yes it might mean you’re responding to emails very late at night, or taking Skype calls when you should be going to bed, but keeping in touch with clients in ‘their’ time zone and business day is important to show that you’re very much still present and available for them, even though you’re not actually in the country anymore.
Rules and regulations
You can’t just unpack your case and start working. Just like in the UK, there will be rules and regulations to fulfil to establish yourself as a business in your new country. Do your research and find out precisely what steps you need to take to register yourself as a sole-trader, ideally before you leave the UK.
For example, in Australia, you need a Tax File Number, and it’s a good idea to have an ABN (Australian Business Number). An ABN isn’t obligatory, but it has tax implications when you invoice Australian businesses, and without an ABN, you can’t register a .com.au domain name.
New location, new website
One of the first things to do is to establish a new ‘local’ website for the country you’re now living. It helps to not only position you like a bonafide business in the eyes of new clients but to ensure you’re found in country-specific search engines. In my case, I added elizabethwilsoncopywriting.com.au as a domain to redirect to my .com site.
Share your skills
You’ve not just brought yourself and your family to a new country to live, you’ve brought all your skills and experience too. There will be businesses in your new home that need your help just as there are in the UK. Make a list of all your skills and the specialisms you have, then target appropriate companies who could benefit from your expertise.
New country, new social life. If you’ve not already got them, consider establishing dedicated social media accounts that aren’t personal but purely business, to promote yourself in your new country across all social platforms.
Attend any local networking events, have a presence on regional small business forums. Prepare a little pitch about yourself ready for when you meet new contacts: who you are, what you do, and what you specialise. For instance: “Hi, I’m Elizabeth, I write website copy, blogs and marketing content to help small businesses succeed online and off.”
Blog, blog, blog
You’ve got a new local web presence, SEO-optimised – but you’re getting lost amongst existing competitors in your new country. Here’s where a blog comes into its own. If you’ve already started blogging, now’s the time to ramp it up. A new post every other day takes effort, but it can work wonders in terms of your search engine presence as you try to get established.
Always write blogs relating to your chosen keywords and your specific services. What you’re doing with regularly refreshed content is shouting out to Google that you’re all about these keywords and topics, so it ranks you higher.
So you’ve won your first client! Before you even start any work, make sure you’ve got some contract or agreement in place. You’re an unknown and dealing with businesses in a brand new country; it makes absolute sense to protect yourself. It doesn’t need to be any legal heavyweight document, but your agreement should outline what you’ll be providing to your client, how you’ll be providing the work, your terms of business and how and when you expect to be paid.
By being crystal clear at the outset about what you expect of your client – and what they can expect from you – you can avoid many potential problems down the line, such as changing briefs or additional work being added that you’d not factored into your quote.
Don’t take it personally
And finally, just as there are clients who understand the impact a skilled copywriter can make on their online reputation, there will be those who aren’t willing to take the risk on someone so new to their country, regardless of expertise. Don’t take it personally.
You know you don’t need to live in the suburb of a client’s business, or even use its services, to get them the results they want. But many small business owners – especially those who are new to digital marketing – may still think that local knowledge is everything. And that to be successful, you have to be their target market and actively live their brand to understand their audience.
In these instances, your skills often seem like they count for nothing, you’re penalised because of your geographical and brand unfamiliarity, even though you know you can deliver and exceed the client’s expectations. Of course, many businesses undoubtedly find out for themselves that a freelancer’s proximity and brand knowledge doesn’t mean they get the right results.