How Freelancers Manage Time Zones Effectively


Living in Melbourne, Australia can provide your career with a rich variety of opportunities, and also a great lifestyle when away from your desk. The southern capital of Australia is regularly voted the World’s Most Liveable City, and there is much to recommend a freelancer starting up a new life Down Under.

The challenge of managing the clock

Were there one drawback of life in Australia, it’s the challenge of managing the clock. Sure, effective time management, making progress, and meeting deadlines are all regular components of remote work – but this is time management of a different kind.

Certainly, Hamburg being an hour ahead of London, New York 5 hours behind, and California 8 requires some good time management skills by a freelancer in the Northern Hemisphere. Yet, try 3am in Australia being 5pm in London, 12pm in New York, and 9am in LA.  If you’re to live in Australia and succeed working with global clients, it takes more than just translating what ‘gidday’ means and defending Vegemite (if you don’t spread a ton on your toast, it tastes quite good).

time zone freelance

This notwithstanding, understanding and outcomes can be very different. You can be a committed and dedicated professional, but if the reality of different time zones means your client is just leaving their office for the day when you arriving to start yours, the best of intentions can be tested.

This is regrettable on both sides, for a client can miss out on hiring a freelancer who best fits their needs; and a freelancer can miss out on a project they can do, but miss out due to secondary challenges.

So, rather than just say ‘shame about that’, let’s detail here how clients and freelancers can navigate the challenges surrounding a difference in time zone, and bring about the potential for far greater productivity for both sides as they do.

Navigating the challenge of different time zones

First, it’s vital to establish a clear channel for good communication at the start. This should really apply to all work and all projects in any time zone – but if you do have a project going between two parties that are 12 hours apart on the clock, then a huge amount of time can be lost at the start if you’re trying to outline when each other is available to reply to emails and chat.

Second, for those projects that necessitate a more limited communication throughout  – for example, ‘I am out of the office on business this week so won’t be reachable by email as easily‘ – setting up safeguards, such as providing outlines and drafts of work, ensure progress is made no less.

time zone freelance

Third, there also needs to be the willingness of a freelancer to have some flexibility in your schedule. While freelancing can give you a greater freedom over your daily schedule than other career types, it does now and then come with the regular constraints of appointments that simply must be met. This does not mean you need to regularly get out of bed at 3am for a Skype call, but it does mean being willing to start your day a little earlier and stay back later at the desk when the project requires it. You know, just like a regular job would require at times.

For Clients

Working across different time zones can be challenging at times, but it’s also far outweighed by the benefits. For a client, hiring someone in a different time zone may seem like an extra bother at first. Yet, doing so will allow you to reap the rewards that come with the access to a pool of freelancers beyond your local market.

In turn, using freelancers in a different time zone to you efficiently can be a huge boost to your productivity.  Think about it: if you hire a freelancer in a different time zone, they can be at work while you sleep. This means you wake up with a project advanced, have all day to review the work, and can then assign the next step ready for work to go on again that night.

freelancing time zones

For Freelancers

While the globalised economy may be a challenge at times with currency conversion, time zone management, and communicating across a variety of languages, the diversity of projects, clients, and opportunities on offer far outweigh any drawbacks. No better is this seen than when working with someone in another time zone effectively.

In sum, whether client or freelancer, with some good planning prior, and effective management of a project throughout, a difference in time zones can be turned from a potential problem into a real positive for productivity. No matter whether you’re in Melbourne, Milan, or Middlesbrough.

About the Author:

time zones freelancingEd Kennedy is a journalist and web designer proudly from Melbourne, Australia.  More of Ed’s writing can be found at and on Twitter @EdKennedy01. Hire Ed on PeoplePerHour.


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