Working With Clients in Different Time Zones

Thanks to the Internet, freelancers can work for clients from different parts of the globe. Though this is a good way to maximize your network, time zone differences can create challenges when working and coordinating with international clients. Here are tips on how you can effectively manage projects and communicate well with clients who are living in a different time zone from yours.

1. Synchronize your schedules.

Constant communication is key, but when a client lives in a different time zone, correspondence can be a bit tricky. The best way to keep communication smooth when you and a client are on different time zones is to create an aligned schedule. Reach an agreement on meeting times and make sure that you stick to it.

In most cases, clients and freelancers who are from different hemispheres can find a middle ground in their schedules by scheduling meetings within hours that can be both manageable for them. For instance, you can set a meeting time that may be daytime in your client’s location, but it’s not yet too late on your end or vice-versa.

For example, a freelancer from the Philippines shouldn't expect clients from New York to be able to make a teleconference call at 11AM Philippine time (UTC+8), because it's going to be 11PM (UTC -4) on the other side, which would be too late for work. However, a meeting that's scheduled at 9PM Philippine time when it’s 9AM in New York would be more viable, since it's a time when both parties are more likely to be available.

2. Refer to only one time zone.

When scheduling meetings, it’s always important to note the time zone, but it’s equally important to refer to the same time zone for the whole duration of the project.

If you’re going to use GMT, use it for every correspondence regarding schedule and don’t use it alternately with other time zones such as EST or UTC. This will help avoid confusion and keeps you and your client organized and on-track.

3. Keep track of daylight saving time (DST) changes.

This is one of the most challenging parts of working with clients from different time zones. Not everyone uses DST and there are no set dates on when it will be applied.

What you can do is find out if a client’s location uses DST. Determine which part of the hemisphere are your clients located. This will help you gauge the months that they will most likely use this method or if they use it at all. Furthermore, always consider if DST is in effect before you schedule a meeting with a client. Alerts and converters can also help.

4. Take advantage of helpful tools.

Taking note of different time zones can be quite confusing. The good news is that there are numerous tools that can help you with time conversions and proper scheduling, and you should take advantage of them. Some of the tools that you can look into are Time Trade, TimeZone Converter, and Every Time Zone. You can also tweak your Gmail settings to enable or add features that can help you schedule correspondence properly with international clients.

When you’re working as a freelancer, you have the freedom to choose which projects to participate in and which clients to work for. Don’t let time zone differences stop you from going global. With proper communication and the right tools, time zone differences can easily become a non-issue.

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