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Improving Your Global Image
by Huw Francis

Return to International Freelancing · Print/Mobile-Friendly Version

As a freelance writer, first impressions count, and an overseas writer faces concerns the domestic writer never need consider. Potential clients worry about who you are, your language ability, the fact that you are abroad, and problems of unreliable (and expensive) foreign mail services, faxes, and telephone calls. Fortunately there are a number of ways you can alleviate these worries! Use the following ten suggestions to improve your image and streamline communications with editors around the world.

  • Telephone. Always list your exact telephone number. Don't just list your country and city dialing codes; provide the complete number an editor must dial to call you directly from the country the editor is dialing from. Making a client search for international dialing codes is guaranteed to cause annoyance, and some may not bother to look.

  • Answering machine. Connect an answering machine to your telephone line. This is not just for taking messages when you are out. People always make mistakes with time zones and you will certainly not make a good impression in the middle of the night. If you are trying to sell work in two languages, make sure you use both of them on your answering machine.

  • Fax. Faxes are quick and convenient for sending letters, contracts and proofs. But in some countries it can be difficult to arrange a second telephone line for a fax machine. Also, clients in many countries may not be authorized to send faxes to international numbers. To avoid these problems, you can secure a personal UK or U.S. fax number through an online company that provides fax-forwarding services. Such a service will receive your faxes at a number allocated exclusively to you, and send you the fax as a graphics file via e-mail, immediately. These numbers can be dialed from anywhere in the world, and the software required to view your fax is provided when you enroll.

  • E-mail. E-mail is another way to bypass problems with international telephone and fax calls, as it costs no more to send a message internationally than across town. Use a professional-looking e-mail address that is closely linked to your name or the name of your company (e.g., don't offer an alias like Firesinger@isp.com). Be sure you can take it with you if you move to a different office, city, or country. Try to choose a name that won't categorize you too tightly by subject or country, unless that is what you want. Many services allow you to choose freely a name (HuwFrancis@) and domain name (@altavista.net) from the list provided.

    Another function worth having is the ability to view your mail online. For online viewing, you access the web page of the e-mail provider, log in using your personal password, and then read your e-mail using your web browser. The advantage of online e-mail is that you can read your e-mail while traveling. Make sure you can change your e-mail settings between online or pop3host as needed to fit your schedule.

  • Website. A personal website will boost your career in a number of ways, if you use it well. You can present your personal or professional profile, listing your experience, qualifications, and previous credits. You can also post examples of previously published articles (assuming you still hold copyright). Posting clips online reduces the number of times you have to photocopy and mail traditional clips. You can also link to impressive online versions of magazines you have sold to, especially if they still post your work on their sites.

    A well-constructed site will demonstrate that you can write clearly, and will build confidence in your professionalism and reliability. Include the address of your website on your letter-head and at the end of your e-mails, and mention it in your cover letters. Submitting your site's URL to search engines and online databases will also help more people find your site, and even lead to additional writing assignments.

  • Postage. Whenever possible, use stamps, not IRCs (international reply coupons). IRCs are not available everywhere in the world, and many people don't like to use them. If you can use stamps, do so, so that a client won't have to worry about different postal procedures when writing back to you. U.S. postage stamps can be ordered online directly from the U.S. postal service. The UK, Canadian, and Australian postal services also have websites, and hopefully will start selling stamps (other than their special issues). Otherwise, ask friends to send stamps from their countries, and whenever someone you know travels abroad, ask them to bring back some stamps.

  • Spelling. Always make sure your spellchecker is set to the language style of your market. Microsoft Word offers nine variations of English. Or, visit one of the many online dictionary sites that offer various national dictionaries. Another option is to buy a CD-ROM reference library for the specific country you wish to market to.

  • Language. Word use and meanings can also vary between English-speaking countries. For example, "Quite good" means "excellent" in the U.S., but in the UK it means "okay, nothing to be proud of." For help on language usages and idioms, look for a CD-ROM reference library containing a dictionary, thesaurus, and usage guide; these are available in U.S. and UK versions.

  • Business style. Business practices and writing styles can vary from country to country, and editors can be notoriously pedantic about how they prefer to be approached. American editors seem to prefer snappy, confident, assertive queries. UK editors seem to prefer a quietly confident but not too pushy style. You can also kill a sale if an editor feels that the reader will be put off by your "foreign" writing style. Writers' magazines such as Writers' Digest (U.S.) and Freelance Market News (UK) publish articles on how to approach their national markets. Online and correspondence courses for writers from the country you are marketing to can also be useful. Reading magazines and other publications from your target country can also help you mould your style.

Find Out More...

Handling an Overseas Writing Business - Moira Allen

How Much Is that In Dollars? The Financial Side of Writing for Foreign Publishers - Audrey Faye Henderson

Copyright © 1999 Huw Francis
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

After working for eight years in the UK and Hong Kong as an engineer, communications consultant and business manager, Huw Francis (and family) moved to Ankara, Turkey, where he became a freelance writer and consultant. Francis has been published in a variety of international magazines and newspapers (in six countries). He is the author of Live and Work Abroad - A Guide For Modern Nomads and Live and Work in Turkey. Francis now lives in Wales.


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