8 January 2018
Nowadays working with clients from abroad is nothing fancy or unusual. Thanks to the Internet, getting in touch with people from foreign countries have never been easier. The international business had to thrive on it, too. Right now, you can buy things from China through an app without paying for delivery cost!
It is a common knowledge that intercultural communication may cause some obstacles while doing business. One of them is time. The well-known saying “ Time is money” has never been more true. Everything revolves around time, deadlines, hours, minutes and seconds. Everything counts. Projects have to be carried out within agreed schedules and deadlines. What is going to happen when the time difference between you and your clients is 10 hours ? It comes to mind now that 2 or 3 hours difference seems to be trivial. Hence, we have been working with foreign clients for quite some time, we would like to share our experience with you.
How to manage the work within different time zones ?
Managing work within time zones while not taking on crazy hours and bizarre sleep patterns is a challenge. It takes a village, but after many trials you will find your rhythm which works for you. Everything comes to adequate planning and sticking to tight schedule that fits you and your clients’ time zones.
It is all about good organization and solid communication. Being respectful and open towards each other will make managing multiple time zones an easy task. What is more, it may become the part of your working routine. The rise of the remote worker and digital nomad made this task much easier.
Have you been wasting your time trying to calculate time zone differences yourself ? Stop doing it! Make use of the great tools which are available. World Time Buddy, Every Time Zone or The Time Zone Converter are helpful and I advise you to have it open all day. You can also set your time zones on your iPhone if it is more handy or when you are on the move. We would also recommend setting up a system or a calendar which would align with your clients’ time zones and agreed deadlines. Remember to note important dates, public holidays or when is the time being changed in a given country. It won’t leave you wondering why your client is not picking up.
The great tool for you and your clients is Google Calendar. It helps you to schedule meetings and appointments in both time zones and enables better communication and progress of the project. The apps such as “Sunrise,” “Calendly,” or “World Clock Meeting Planner” will provide clarity in your schedule and help you get people from across the globe to join the teleconference.
When you already have canvassed a client from abroad now you have to make some compromises with your schedule. You must be prepared for weird working hours in order to be able to adapt to your client. Sometimes you will need a longer break during the day to be fresh and ready for working longer in the evening. Tools such as Asana are a great deal for ongoing project management. It allows progress to continue even when some team members are sleeping. However, if you have an hour or two hours a day to overlap your working day, you should consider not taking the project at all.
As far as communication is concerned, the clarification and regularity is vital in sustaining good working relations. People may be forgetful due to being busy or distracted. That is why keeping your communication open and transparent is so important. Be honest with your clients and even overshare information. It is better to be pushy than having an information gap. Moreover, always check your emails before going to bed. There are situations when we may overlook something which will pile up for us in the morning. It is better to deal with such problems before bed even if it might make you sleep one hour less. Remember to always update your clients to give them clear picture that you cannot be available 24/7.
Which takes us to another important aspect. Set your boundaries straight.
You are not a robot or a machine and you also need some rest. It is crucial for your health and well-being. It also influence how effective you are and what mood you are in. So good night sleep and deserved rest is what will make you going in the long run. Of course, setting up a deal in the middle of the night with a client from Australia might happen, but do not make it a regular thing. Your attention to detail and decision-making abilities may decrease after certain hour so try to find time for a rest during the day or schedule meetings in the most convenient time for you and your client.
Don’t be afraid to say “no” if the client tries to overload you with work. State your working hours at the beginning and remind it when somebody pushes you too much. The client should understand your availability schedule that is why it is important to establish working plan at the beginning of the cooperation. Although, clients from abroad are a great deal, remember about your current responsibilities before agreeing on something you are not able to do.
Taking everything into consideration, working with people across multiple time zones doesn’t have to be a limitation or a problem. It only takes getting familiar with it as fast as possible and get going. With all those apps and tools available finding a system, which will accelerate your work flow, improve communication and won’t be time consuming, should be a piece of cake.