Want more freelance work? Start looking outside your borders for international opportunities.
If you’re looking to recession-proof your freelancing business, boost your income, or just expand your horizons and start leveraging your strengths, there’s an easy way to do all of this with one simple technique: Go global.
Consider, for instance, that over the last decade, as the world’s media collapsed and started finding ways to reinvent itself, India’s traditional media was booming. Smart freelancers — and there were many — looked to countries outside their own and started bringing in freelance work from economies that were still somewhat stable.
In the globally-connected world we live in today, this can be a huge advantage for young professionals willing to think outside the box. If your own country is facing a downturn, you could easily make a list of all other countries that are not. Even if you’re not in recession, going international gives you a fantastic way to diversify your sources of income, get extra credibility (“I’ve worked with businesses in 60+ countries”) and ensures that market or cultural shifts in one region of the world don’t take down your freelance business with them.
How can you use a connected world to boost your income and find some of that security us freelancers and small business owners so sorely miss? Here are a few ideas. (Click here to tweet these ideas.)
1. Ask existing clients for international introductions
If you haven’t already, start taking note of the international operations your current clients have. Look into what’s happening in those markets, where you could fit in, and if you have any experience or specific knowledge about those countries. Language skills are a bonus, too.
If you have these skills or any sort of “in,” don’t hesitate to ask your clients to make introductions to partners or managers of operations in other parts of the world that might benefit from your services. A happy client is a fantastic source of referrals and they probably never get asked to make international referrals — which not only makes it easier for them to do, but makes it a lot easier for you to make that connection and potentially get work or experience in those regions.
Working with businesses and clients in many different countries and regions of the world helps you diversify. While freelancers are always told to diversify in terms of markets, if the economy in your country crashes, most of your clients will feel the pinch and that will affect your business, no matter the different markets you’re in.
By diversifying in terms of location, you ensure that should there be a financial collapse, you have some level of security. Even if the collapse is global, it still doesn’t affect all countries in the same way.
Further, by making sure you have clients in different countries, you increase your growth potential substantially, not only because there’s less competition but also because when you do get a recommendation to a new client in Japan, you’re much more likely to get hired through that referral.
2. Target businesses in developing countries
It’s an increasingly good idea to start networking with businesses in countries such as India and China, which show huge growth potential. There is a huge demand for quality freelance services in these countries, but local standards of delivery and customer service aren’t quite up to par yet.
If you focus on mid-level businesses that have received a round or two of funding and seem stable enough, the initial low figures you make in your own currency could quickly translate to huge growth when those companies take off in the global market.
3. Build relationships over Skype
No, you can’t meet your international clients and contacts over coffee and if you keep waiting, you might as well be waiting forever. (Deborah in Toronto and I have been meaning to get together some day, somewhere for about 12 years now.) Do the next best thing: Ask them if they’ll talk to you over Skype instead.
Don’t just limit yourself to your clients, however. If you can, build relationships with and mentor young freelance professionals in countries in Asia and Africa who do not have access to the resources you do, the networks you do, and the opportunities that young Western professionals take for granted.
By nurturing relationships with millennials in the developing world, you not only gain some good business karma, but you are in the unique position of having people spread the word about your work and your services in places and industries that you can’t.
Have you tried going global yet? What has your experience been like? Would you do it again?
Mridu Khullar Relph is the founder of The International Freelancer, a website that teaches globally-minded writers and bloggers how to navigate the world of freelancing so they can tell meaningful stories, have fulfilling careers, and find financial freedom.