Client’s Geographical Location
(Page 2 of 3)
Time Zones and Communication Lag
One of the biggest problems with doing business internationally is dealing with time zone differences. If you live in New Zealand and your client lives in Germany, you’re offset from each other by half a day. As your work day is starting, your client is settling down to enjoy his or her evening meal, or even getting ready for bed. And vice-versa.
Of course, doing business online means that in theory time zone doesn’t matter. You can post messages when you are working, and the client can reply when he or she is. However, this can lead to significant slowdowns in communication if both parties only read and respond during standard business hours. In the worst case you end up with only a single back-and-forth every 24 hours.
I remember doing a project for a client in Asia who would only respond to queries during a three or four hour window that happened to be early in the morning my time. I would see a message when I woke up, send a reply, and then not hear anything all day. I’d only get a response in my inbox the next morning. This caused the project to drag out for over a week longer than it would have if the client had been local.
The issue can be even worse if you need to speak with the client directly. Usually the client will assume he or she can work standard business hours, and it will fall to you to be flexible in working off hours to enable conversations to take place. This isn’t a show-stopper for most contractors, but it is something you have to deal with much less if you stick with clients closer to home.
The client and contractor understanding each other is essential for a successful project. There is little more frustrating than getting a project and not being able to complete it because you can’t understand what the client is telling you. And unfortunately, these situations are much more common when your client is from a country where the local language is different from your own.
I realize that it’s a bit politically incorrect to raise this issue, but I owe it to you to tell it to you straight. And the truth, based on my experiences, is that if you are an English speaker, you are much more likely to encounter communication problems with clients from non-English-speaking countries. That doesn’t mean that you should avoid such clients: doing so would be both irrationally prejudiced—because many people in all countries speak English very well—as well as counterproductive. But you should be aware of the issue, and the higher chances of communication issues.
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