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How to Accommodate Clients in a Different Time Zone

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The beauty of modern technology means that many freelancers and business owners can conduct work from anywhere. All you need is a good laptop and a strong WiFi connection.

This freedom allows many entrepreneurs to adopt a nomadic lifestyle, moving all around the world to explore while they work.

Those who have chosen the digital nomad style seem to be living the dream, but they’ll also tell you that it comes with its challenges. It can be difficult to keep on top of your work schedule when you’re in a new city awash with potential adventures. You might find yourself searching far and wide for an internet connection strong enough to accommodate a conference call. And, perhaps most frustrating, your time zone no longer aligns with your clients’ time zone back home.

When you face a massive time difference with your clients, whether because you’re traveling or because you have international clients, it can be difficult to maintain a good work-life balance. You’ll be tempted to answer emails all through the night, and your clients might schedule meetings at inconvenient times.

However, dealing with time difference doesn’t have to mean that you’re a slave to your phone 24 hours a day. Here are some tips to accommodating clients in different time zones.

Be clear about your availability

If you and your clients are 6 - 9 hours apart, then your work schedules will rarely overlap. This means that you’ll be sending emails when they’re out of office, and they’ll likely reply outside of your office hours as well. This can quickly become frustrating, since it often delays action.

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Be transparent.

Let your clients know which hours they can expect a response from you.

Make sure that your clients know your hours and availability so that they can respond to your emails within that time frame. For example, if you’re located in Europe and your client is on the East Coast of the US, you will be 6 hours ahead of them. If they keep the standard 9 - 5 work schedule, they’ll get into their office around 3pm your time. If they know that you’re 6 hours ahead and that you’ll still be working at 3pm, then they’ll make it a priority to respond to your emails first thing in the morning. 

This clarity will also help your clients know the best way to reach you. If they are aware that you’ll be out of office for the majority of their working hours, they can text or call you instead of emailing if they have an emergency. They also won’t be frustrated if you don’t respond until the next day.

The majority of clients won’t mind delayed responses as long as you are clear about your availability and the time difference.

Be prepared to take meetings at odd hours

It’s not your client’s fault that you’re located in a different time zone, especially if you were originally in a similar time zone and decided to travel. Therefore, you should be prepared to be flexible with your schedule to accommodate meeting times during their working hours, even if it means taking a meeting at 11pm.

You might find that your clients are willing to work with you, so don’t be afraid to reach out and ask if they can move a meeting to a more convenient time for you. However, if they can’t, then it’s your job to be flexible. Your client will likely appreciate your effort, and your dedication will be noted. 

Keep an eye on your email in the evenings, but don’t be a slave to it

In many ways, you need to “train” your clients to know when they can expect a response from you. This is especially true when you’re dealing with a massive time difference. You can’t set the precedent that you’ll respond to emails at 10pm your time if you’re not prepared to always respond to those emails.

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Take a break.

Just because your clients email you at 10pm your time doesn’t mean that you have to respond.

It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your email during your clients’ working hours, just in case there’s an edit or question that you need to address immediately. Even if your clients know your hours, it’s easy for them to forget that their lunch hour might actually be your bedtime. Take a glance every hour or two to make sure that there’s nothing that you need to immediately address. If you receive an email that doesn’t require an instant response, leave it until tomorrow.

Be considerate of their time zones

When you’re clear about your availability, you expect your clients to know when and how to reach you, and you don’t want them to call you in the middle of the night your time. You need to extend the same considerations to your clients.

Try not to send texts or another form of communication that might make their phone buzz on their nightstand at 1am. If you’re worried you’ll forget, you can always schedule an email to arrive at a more convenient time for them. 

Bedtime isn’t the only time you need to be considerate of. You might not expect them to respond when it’s their evening, but some people might feel obligated to respond to your texts or emails, even if they’ve just sat down to dinner. If it can wait, you should try to postpone your email until a more appropriate time, or make sure that it’s clear in the message that you aren’t expecting a response.

It’s easy to feel obligated to keep on top of your work 24 hours a day when you have clients with major time differences, but you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your work-life balance just because you have clients all over the world.

If you’re open with your clients, set clear office hours, and only check your email briefly outside of your work hours, there’s no reason why the time difference should pose anything more than a slight consideration.

Meghan O'NealComment