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Six Tips for Freelancing Internationally

I got into video while studying. Initially I thought I would take the path of advertising and found video really compelling. I completed a 4 year bachelor degree in Communication Design. This degree allowed me to sample and combine numerous different forms of media, namely interactivity and video.

Nearly one decade later, I have worked with Dulux, Estee Lauder, Siemens and major advertising agencies across Australia, Singapore and China.

Working with agencies which have an international footprint can be a good opportunity to get access to global roles. You have to prove you’re flexible, open to new ideas and can hit the ground running, so if you get asked to freelance globally, it’s not something to turn down!

For those of you considering taking up freelancing abroad, here are my tips.

What to expect working in Asia

Everything is on a much bigger scale. Asia has a larger population and more people are involved in jobs which perhaps in Australia would only have half as many people in the team.

The hours can be challenging to get used to. It is no myth that in Asia they work hard and for longer periods of time. I have done both short stints (6 days) and longer periods of time (5 weeks) and it is imperative that you manage your time and health otherwise you lead to burning out very quickly.

In my experience, technology, innovation and willingness to try new ideas is more advanced than some elements of the Australian industry, so it’s a good opportunity to learn.

Treat larger brands like you would every client

With larger brands, there’s this perception you’ve really ‘made it’ and that you can rest on your laurels. And while it’s a big thrill working for a larger brand, at the end of the day, regardless of who you’re working with, it’s about doing a really good job under any circumstance.

Juggling different clients and jobs, you find yourself making the most out of every hour or location. You can find yourself in some really crazy situations, up until 4am working in a yoga studio with 12 other people to be close to the event you’re working at because that’s the only space available and you need content delivered by 9am the next day!

So regardless of how big or boutique the brand is, having that ability to focus, sometimes with lots of moving parts, is crucial.

Time belongs to your client

While it’s tempting to head off with local friends for drinks or hit that rooftop bar for happy hour,  you aren’t there to fulfil personal travel goals. Your agency or client has flown you across the globe to deliver, so remember you’ll need to feel focussed come work the next day.

Your schedule will be tough, there’ll be early starts and late nights. Working such gruelling schedules in a foreign place also means you need more rest, easy tasks back home can become the impossible.

Packing hacks

Asia is known as technology hub, but that doesn’t mean the equipment you need will be easily to source. Pack, check and label everything you need and do cram in those extra cables and hard drives. Never assume your local counterparts will have everything you need.

If you are required to take your own equipment make sure that the company you are traveling with has insurance that will cover your belongings. If not make sure you have insurance which fully covers all of your items.

Tag along to the local eateries

Confirm your meal costs are covered in your day / project fee. Ideally you want to negotiate a date rate that includes a daily per diem. If you have dietary requirements make sure you producer is across them.

If meals are provided on-site be prepared for some unusual interpretations of western food. As much as you may love Asian cuisine, in some workplaces, the locals offer to cater to traditional Western foods, so be mindful of being respectful here.

Ask to tag along with your colleagues for local eats and insights as they’ll order delicious finds you wouldn’t be able to identify yourself if you don’t speak the language.

Assume the locals know more than you do

Get to know people so you walk away with new friends, contacts and potentially, more work internationally. Be polite, integrate yourself and respect the way they do things, regardless if you’d do it differently.

Never walk in as though you are better than anyone (you may have taken someone’s friends potential job for example) you will rely on the local crew as much as they are relying on you to contribute to the campaign. They will show you around, help you with that thunderbolt to HDMI cable you forgot, show you where to get that 9am, 3pm and evening coffee and recommend the best places to eat.

Connect with Raechel on LinkedIn here and check out her folio here.