How to Manage Different Time Zones as a Freelancer
When I lived on the East Coast, I was amazed at how great it felt. My day started at the same time as many of my clients. Arranging meetings was easy. On top of that, I felt ahead of the game compared to those living in the west. It just felt like I was getting more done — even though I still had the same hours in a day.
Moving to the intermountain west changed that. Today, I have to manage different time zones. I often use Eastern as a standard reference, since it’s the time zone so many of my clients are in.
But it’s not just about managing U.S. time zones. In my years as a freelancer, I’ve worked with clients on the other side of the globe. I’ve had clients in Taiwan, Israel, Ukraine, and the U.K. How you manage different time zones as a freelancer matters.
Getting Work Done as Expected
Because I so often work for clients who are ahead of me in terms of time, I often have to negotiate deadlines based on when they need the work. For my Taiwanese client, I was careful to plan my own work schedule so that I completed the work at least a day before my “due date.” That way, the finished product arrived in my client’s email on the day he expected it.
When you have someone so far ahead of you, it makes sense to think through the situation.
Of course, while I was traveling in Europe over the summer, I had the opposite problem. I was often up and finished the day before my clients got up. It did have its perks, though. My work would be done, and they would see it first thing. It could be discussed quickly. However, sometimes it was inconvenient since I wanted to be eating dinner or enjoying the evening — not working more.
Make sure you plan for these situations as you set up your work schedule to avoid as many problems as possible.
As a freelancer, you don’t often have to talk on the phone or have video meetings. At the times it becomes necessary, though, it’s important to carefully manage different time zones and use the best tools available. You don’t want to have to get up at 2 a.m. to have a meeting. I know. I’ve done it before. (And hope to never do it again.)
Instead, it’s important to compromise. Most clients would be willing to hold a meeting at 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. their time if it means that you are reasonably alert at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. If the client isn’t willing to compromise and work with you, it might not be worth the trouble to maintain them, especially if the meetings are regularly held.
I didn’t like sticking around for last minute issues at 5 p.m. while I was in Europe. However, it was a compromise I made while I was gone. My colleagues needed to reach me, so I tried to be accommodating. And it was certainly better to do it at 5 p.m. than at 10 p.m., when I was getting ready for bed.
How you handle meetings and manage different time zones can mean more business if you are flexible in your approach. Don’t discount someone just because they live on the other side of the world. Work out an arrangement that everyone can manage and then go from there.