A long, long time ago (when Internet Exporer 6 was cutting edge) Web Designer Magazine contacted Suspire Media and asked if we would like to contribute to a teleworking feature they were going to run in their next edition. The article was presented in the time-honoured Q and A format.
WDM: Have you found that working for clients on a different continent presents its own set of challenges? Can you briefly outline any obstacles you had to overcome to complete these commissions?
SM: An obvious obstacle is time delay: when your client is based in the UK it’s very easy just to pick up the phone to clarify or discuss development issues. However, if your client is based in a different time zone that instant communication is not always available.
One solution is to make use of any brief window of time when both parties are at their computers. Making an effort to be online the same time as the client enables the use of systems like Skype or MS Messenger. Its then possible to discuss any development issues in real-time. The obvious downside is that the web designer is working late and the client has to start their day a little earlier (or vice-versa).
WDM: I would guess that without the aid of email and the Internet, these International commissions simply wouldn’t be possible. How important did you find that close contact was with these clients? I would guess even more important than usual as you couldn’t just nip over to their offices.
SM: To create any successful website its important that a trusting relationship is built up between the web designer and client, however, when your client is based on another continent it’s a little more difficult to create that important bond.
If your client is based outside your time zone communicating professionally via email becomes the medium to build that trust. It’s essential that every piece of e-correspondence expresses your thoughts with clarity and in a professional manner. Banging out an ill-formed email containing spelling or grammatical errors will make you look unprofessional and it will not put your clients mind at ease.
WDM: Does the web design community as a whole not really recognise geographical boundaries? By this I mean that anyone, anywhere can access a website. Do you feel that you’re a British designer or just a designer in the global community?
SM: We have found it difficult to see ourselves exclusively as a “British Designers”; we tend to view our work as a web designers in a global context. In terms of aesthetics, design and style, web design is a medium without geographical borders and this often produces work without a clear cultural identity.
WDM: Did you find that you had to learn any new skills when you began to work for overseas clients?
SM: Not really, however, as mentioned above it was important to take additional care when contributing opinions, thoughts and ideas via email.
WDM: How did you handle the currency differences? Did you have to make your pitch in the clients’ local currency? And did they pay you in pounds?
SM: We have generally agreed a fee in the client’s local currency; it’s fairly easy to quickly convert any local currency (within reason) into Stirling or vice-versa by visiting an on-line currency conversions system like http://www.xe.com.
When it came to payment we discussed two possible ways to transfer the fees. Either via our banks or via a system like http://www.paypal.com we opted to use the Pay Pal system as it saved a lot of time and took the hassle out of both parties making trips to the bank. In terms exchange rates and currency conversion, the Pay Pal system took care of this.
WDM: What advice would you give to other designers who are being approached for the first time to take on overseas clients?
- Make sure that when you price up the work you may be working a few unsociable hours, adjust your fees to reflect this
- If you decide to use a system like Pay Pal investigate how much they charge for transfers and if necessary adjust your fees accordingly
- Create and agree on a series of sign-off points or milestones. As you complete each stage ask the client to fax the signed form back to you. Repeat this for each section of the process.
- Before starting the work its essential to agree on two or three payment stages. As each stage is completed the client can transfer the agreed percent of the total fee.
- Finally, work hard on building a trusting, professional relationship with the client and take extra care with all written correspondence.
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