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Quick Tip: Pursue International Freelance Writing Clients

Read Time: 2 min

World flags - international clients

I can't remember where I read it now -- maybe on a blog, maybe on Reddit. But a few days ago I saw someone complaining about international freelancers. In this case they were talking about freelance development work and all of the competition they faced from overseas.

This is something I see all the time. But then the conversation flipped. People weren't only complaining about international freelancers, but also overseas clients. The basic argument was that people living in low cost of living countries couldn't afford to hire native English speakers, so those freelancers should only target countries like the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia.

Now I'm not sure that being a native English speaker is all that important in this case. Working with programming languages is very different than working as a freelance writer where the language you speak is far more important. It's why there isn't, and never will be, one big global writers' market.

Yet I've seen writers make similar arguments in the past.

This week's quick tip is for freelance writers: Don't buy into this nonsense. 

Stop Making Assumptions About Foreign Clients

Never assume that only clients in English-speaking countries can afford to hire you. It simply isn't true. In fact, most of my own clients over the years have been from outside the U.S. Some of my best clients have come from Pakistan, India, Denmark, and Australia. One of the most recent new clients I agreed to take on is based in China.

Some of these clients are native English speakers. Most are not. It has absolutely no impact on whether or not they can afford to hire a professional writer from a native English speaking country, or their ability to pay those higher rates.

Are there cheap clients from other countries? Sure. There are cheap clients in the U.S. too. And the same rules apply. For example, you can avoid most of these clients by staying away from content mills, bidding sites, and classified sites.

You have to put some effort into targeting the right prospects and convincing them to hire you. That's no different than working with local clients who can pay pro-level rates.

Why do these clients from Pakistan, India, China, and other countries with a lower cost of living pay more to hire a western English-speaking writer?

It isn't enough for their writers to have basic English skills. They need writers who are not only fluent in the language, but who also understand the regional markets they want to sell to. If you can do that, your services are worth a premium.

So please don't make assumptions about foreign clients. They often have more resources than you think, and it can be easier to convey your value to them than you might assume. Prejudices against these prospects are just as foolish as prejudices against small businesses, assuming they can't (or won't) pay as much as larger corporate clients. (Newsflash: Because they know every dollar counts, they'll often pay more to have a job done right.)

Have you ever let your assumptions about a prospect's location, or business size, deter you from pitching them or taking on a project? Have you had success targeting international clients? Share your stories in the comments.

6 thoughts on “Quick Tip: Pursue International Freelance Writing Clients”

  1. Jennifer,

    This is good to know. I wasn’t aware of this assumption. I have two clients from Israel that pay me more than my US clients.

    You’re right when you say foreign clients will pay top dollar to have the job done right.

    Thanks,
    Elna

    Reply
    • I understand where the assumption comes from (if writers in these countries can write for a penny-per-word, cost of living must be very low, and most companies wouldn’t have the resources to pay a U.S. writer if they could hire someone local at far lower rates). But assumptions are dangerous.

      Israel is another great example. I’d almost forgotten about a client there. I haven’t worked with them in several years because I was brought in to deal with a specific campaign series, but one of my old clients was a jewelry designer there. They never had a problem paying more for a U.S. writer because their growth emphasis was on breaking into the U.S. market. In that case they were both a foreign client and a small business owner. I would have hated to miss out on that gig because of false assumptions about their funding.

      Reply
  2. So true! I’m in the US, and many of my best clients have been from the UK, Australia, Israel, etc. In fact, some seek to hire a professional writer because English isn’t their first language.

    I like targeting an international audience because my ideal clients are all over the world. I like working with startups, and they’re booming in India, Israel, and many other countries besides the US. If I limited myself to local clients, I’d be out of business.

    Plus, I prefer communicating via email and avoiding meetings, and differing locations & time zones definitely helps with that 🙂

    Reply
    • You bring up a great point in that they sometimes hire us specifically because English isn’t their first language. The client in China that I mentioned actually brought me in for copyediting. They’d written the base copy but they needed someone to go over it and make sure it would appeal to the U.S. partners they were targeting, both from a grammatical and marketing perspective. So even if you don’t find a lot of freelance writing work from these types of clients, there is plenty of editing work to go around.

      Reply

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