Many of us are wondering how to get international clients for our freelance business and whether they are better than local clients in our neighborhood.
Especially, with the recent COVID-19 outbreak where most of us have been forced to work from home and are unable to go get new clients at networking events.
That inevitably begs the question if we even can work with international clients as they usually are different from us.
I’m sure we’ve all heard about an experience with a company dealing with a partner from a different culture than their own.
Whether that has been American Nike with their Japanese partners as portrayed in the book “Shoe Dog” or the countless merchandise sellers in China working selling their goods via Amazon or Ali Baba.
In this article, I wanted to shed some light on the confusion of all of that as I’ve worked in outsourcing between countries for years on top of all the clients I’ve collaborated with in my own freelance business.
As I’ve been living abroad, I’ve found that often it’s just too complicated to get clients from home since they are geographically far away and sometimes not that experienced in working with international contractors across timezones.
I’ve found it to be easier to work with businesses that are used to it and those tend to come from countries with more of a cultural mix.
While I’ve had good experiences working with local clients in Asia, I’m hesitant because I don’t want it to be a habit to feel dependant on landing them offline. COVID-19 is a great example of why.
For that reason, I’ve been focusing on getting international clients from all over the world. To give you an example, I’ve worked with clients from the USA, Germany, an international team based everywhere from North America to Taiwan, and a ton of other countries and nationalities.
Real-world budget examples from clients from different countries
Let’s dive into some real-world budget examples from clients to better understand the different budgets international clients have.
There isn’t much data available but I manage to find some on Upwork. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it by region so I had to pick out countries that I know from experience and by talking with readers and other freelancers are popular to land clients from.
This isn’t representative of all clients in the world. As I’ve clarified in another article, freelance sites like Upwork make up about 1% of the freelance market but it gives you a basic idea.
In this example, I went and pulled data from Upwork on how many clients have a project budget in these five categories.
- Less than $100
As you probably already know, clients sometimes change their budgets and are willing to increase it to more than what they entered.
Keep in mind that some clients are careful about the budget they enter because they don’t want to get cheated while others simply don’t know what it should cost and are flexible.
So, take this with a grain of salt and let it serve only as a general direction. Also, keep in mind that the population of the country and how popular Upwork is in that country impacts the numbers (e.g. in Australia, Freelancer.com seems to be more popular).
I was able to get this information by searching for jobs by each country on Upwork manually using the advanced filters.
I pulled data on popular international clients from
- Saudi Arabia
- New Zealand
I also tried to get data on countries like Dubai and Japan but there were none.
As you can see, almost all the countries follow the same pattern with the most projects available with the smallest budget and slightly less for each budget category as it increases in size.
The exceptions are Germany, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Canada where you’ll notice that the second-highest category of $1K-$5K or the second-lowest of $100-$500 contains more projects than the category with just a lower budget.
This data is across all services available on Upwork, and you can easily replicate the results and note down which categories have more projects with higher budgets.
But I bet you that if you email businesses instead of using Upwork, you can use find plenty of work in any of the categories.
How to get international clients
If you are used to working with remote clients, there is no real difference in terms of how to find international clients vs. non-international clients for your freelance business.
They usually want the same and you’d approach them in the same way. Of course, there are exceptions and cultural differences which is why this blog focuses on solving their core problem instead of tiny tactics that don’t matter.
No matter how different business is culturally, they still have challenges and often times the challenges are very similar no matter where on the globe they are.
On top of that, you’ll also be able to find plenty of clients that work in cross-cultural businesses with employees that work 100% remotely and from all corners of the world mixed together. Those are often easier to work with because they are used to the cultural differences.
The key here is to go where they are e.g. Upwork or simply email them if you have a specific business you dream of working with, in mind.
The big wins, the things that really move the needle, when you want to earn more in your freelance business is to understand your clients deeply. You’ll be surprised how well this works especially because very few freelancers bother to do it.
In this case study, I show how I experimented with emails and made it work really well despite many thinking it is a dead channel.
In this guide, I’ve written about the approach in detail so you can replicate it for yourself. Instead of writing the whole thing again, I’ll give you the gist here.
Where most other freelancers like to head first and shotgun pitches left, right and center, I’ve found that it works better to aim for a little longer before shooting to get it right.
The reason is that it can be very discouraging to work a ton and see no results, and with this approach, we’ll see often see results a little faster.
That starts with picking an idea with a niche or industry of businesses you’d like to serve and a service you’d like to offer them.
The next step is to interview some of them to understand their channels followed by picking one of the challenges you hear about over and over again to solve.
That way, you know that you are solving the right problem, and when you reach out to them later it’s with the right service to offer. That makes it more attractive for them and thus easy for you to sell.
Landing them consists of four phases:
- Connecting with them
- Suggesting ideas
- Exploring ideas with a call
- Send a summary proposals
- Landing the client and working on the project
Because most other freelancers enter with a generic pitch, the first impression is not the same as with you. You’ll come with a personal note as the introduction and treat them as a human rather than a number in their analytics system.
If you want to get closer to landing international clients this month, let’s look at some specific actionable steps you can take.
If you’ve already decided on the rough service and type of client you’d like to work with, the next best step is to contact some of them for a brief interview to understand their challenges and goals more in-depth. I like to contact them in batches of ten but you can do it any way you prefer – the more the better.
Here’s a script you can use to get started scheduling the calls but don’t use the exact same script. Tailor it so it sounds like you.
I’m Y and I do (freelance service) for a living. I don’t have anything to sell but I’m researching businesses like yours and I’d love the opportunity to ask you a couple of quick questions.
I imagine you are busy, so it doesn’t have to take more than 10 mins and I can work around your schedule.
If this is OK for you, I promise to be respectful of your time. Would it be OK if I send you a few different times that might work for a call?
Keep in mind that this shouldn’t be a secret sales call. Don’t break their trust by trying to sell them. All you need to do is listen.
When you do arrange the calls, always suggest the time in their timezone and work around their schedule. Don’t make them work for it.
- The process of how to get international clients for your freelance business is the same as local or non-international clients assuming that you focus on getting them remotely. You might be able to find international clients at local networking events or tradeshows, it’s just more dependant on which ones
- If you are interested in reading more, I recommend reading the book “Shoe Dogg” about the story of Nike and their international venture with Japan early on in the company’s history