When working with clients who are based overseas, there are several things you should take into account - ideally, from the moment you begin working for them, rather than later in the process when you encounter a previously unconsidered obstacle.
Here are some of the main issues at hand, and how you can work around them, or even with them, to make the best possible client relationship.
One of the main problems you may encounter is when working with non-English-speaking customers; however fluent you are in a second language, there will always be gaps in your vocabulary, and this is particularly true when you move away from simple conversational 'chit chat' and into formal business discussions.
Make sure you and your client understand each other, and that you have everything in writing; you might even want to hire a translation agency to interpret your terms and conditions into the customer's own language to ensure they remain legally binding.
When does your working day begin and end, and how does this compare with the client? In some cases, there may be zero overlap at all, making it very difficult to have a live conversation with them.
Obviously email has made this less of an issue, as many conversations are no longer really 'live', but if you need to have an instant messaging, VoIP or webcam conversation, you're going to need to find a time when you or your client can work out of hours.
How much will you charge?
Unless they are in one of very few British territories, it is highly likely that your customer will be working in a different currency, and this raises a few questions of its own - do you invoice in pounds sterling, and leave it to them to cope with converting from their own currency, or do you do the conversion yourself?
If you decide to invoice in the client's own currency, make sure you are using an up to date exchange rate - a shift of just a few pence in either direction could represent a difference of a few percent in how much you take home.
How will they pay?
Once you've worked out how to invoice, you need to make sure you have an acceptable payment method for the customer to use.
Direct bank funds transfer may be an option, but you will need to supply your customer with your IBAN - International Bank Account Number - which should be clearly displayed in your online banking software, or available by request from your local branch or telephone banking service.
Alternatively, PayPal users should be able to receive payments in foreign currencies, which you can use to create a separate balance in that currency, or immediately convert into pounds sterling; you will have to pay fees on PayPal business transactions, but these should be tax deductible.
Make sure you know what legislation applies in the country where your client is based, and how that might affect your own chances of getting paid promptly.
Within the EU, most transactions are now subject to 30-day payment terms by default, but this can still be altered through mutual agreement, so read the small print carefully before you sign any supply contracts.
If a payment is late or does not seem as though it is going to arrive at all, chasing international debts can be a greater challenge than pursuing a domestic debtor. Often the distance involved coupled with the different legal jurisdictions can make it seem like an impossible task. Thankfully we can help.
We work with collections agents based all over the world, so we can refer your case to a partner in the relevant country, allowing them to pursue it on a domestic basis, and making it much more likely that you will get your money back. All of our international debt collection partners are fully conversant in the local language, customs and legal practices making them perfectly placed to chase your errant debtors.
If you have an overseas debtor that seems intent on trying to wriggle out of payment then contact us for free confidential advice.