Hiring a freelancer can be confusing at the best of times, and even more so if you’re working with someone who lives oceans away! Communication, time zones and payment methods all become obstacles that you’ll have to overcome – but a bit of foresight will make everything way easier!
The Legal Stuff
You might be worried that hiring someone in another country brings with it huge issues in terms of immigration law. But this shouldn’t be a problem. Provided they’re working remotely (i.e not flying over to work for you directly), they won’t need a visa. If for some reason you want them to work for you in your country, that’s a whole different kettle of fish as without a visa their commercial activities will be very limited. If that’s the case, you’re probably better off not hiring an international freelancer!
Remember – as with any other freelancer, you can’t set hours or give them equipment, or they’ll be considered an employee.
In terms of taxes, you need to check both your own country’s laws and the laws of the country your freelancer is based in. In the US, for instance, if you’re hiring someone abroad there’s normally no obligation to withhold tax on any payment you give. But always check these details before you hire.
Practical Elements to Consider
Breaking Down the Language Barrier
There’s a good chance international freelancers won’t speak the same first language as you. They might have different cultural norms, or the business might work differently in their country. But this doesn’t mean they won’t produce excellent work. Communication is always important, but especially in these situations. Make sure you’re clear about the project details and that they know exactly what you want. It’s a good idea to drop ambiguous parts of speech – for example, idioms, slang and metaphors.
On the Clock – but whose?
Time zones can complicate working with international freelancers, so research them in advance. An hour or two probably won’t affect things too much, although make sure it’s clear when a deadline is. But if you’re continents and hours apart, remember you could essentially be working different days. Your emails won’t be answered immediately and phone or Skype calls will be difficult. For instance, if you’re in California working with someone in the UK, there’s 8 hours between you. A call at 4pm will involve midnight working hours for your freelancer – so try and schedule this communication for earlier in your own day.
These things are manageable if you plan in advance, but they can slow your project down a little, especially if you’re waiting on email replies.
Meeting in person is not an option and international phone calls can be very expensive. You’re better off using services like Skype. Messaging apps like WhatsApp are also a godsend for quick communication.
Money, Money, Money
Plan ahead and avoid nasty bank transfer charges. International bank transfers can be costly and drive up the price of your project. On top of that, the freelancer might be charged a fee by their bank, essentially reducing their fee – so you both lose out! These transfers also take longer to process than domestic ones – it can take 4-6 working days to send money internationally.
Paypal is still one of the easiest and quickest ways to send money, as it’ll be with them in seconds. Their rates and fees are also very competitive (especially when you consider the exchange rates banks will give you!) Some countries don’t have access to the service though, or have restrictions on how it can be used, so you might have to look into alternatives like Skrill.
In a similar vein, if their country has a different currency, don’t forget to take this into account! Exchange rates change all the time, so keep an eye on them so you don’t end up out of pocket. XE is a trusted and reliable source for staying up to date.
Project costs can vary massively depending on location, so you might find that an international freelancer’s rates are much higher or lower than you’re used to. Research standard rates in different countries before hiring.
There are always risks when hiring a freelancer, but these can be more worrying when they’re thousands of miles away. Yes it probably is easier for them to go AWOL, but this just means contracts and defined payment plans are more important than ever! To reduce these risks, get everything in writing and keep track of your communications.