I have just returned to Canberra after the second of my regular working trips to Europe. As a freelancer, one of my biggest concerns about announcing our move to Australia was the reaction of my clients. To calm their nerves about whether the relationship would continue to be workable from Australia, I committed to regular return visits. And, thus far, things seem to be working pretty well.
I’ve worked for and with global organisations for most of my career, and I know that, when you work in-house, operating globally is accepted as normal practice these days – I’ve had bosses based in the US, staff in Europe and the US, responsibility for programmes on every continent, and have been lucky enough to travel the world under the guise of ‘working’. But for freelance staff – in my case, as a writer and communications consultant – there’s often a preference for local contacts.
In planning our move, I had anticipated and planned for a drop off in my European work, and assumed that, over time, I would need to replace it with more local, Asia-Pacific-based clients.
But actually, very little has changed. When I revealed our migration plans to my clients, most responded by asking if I’d still be willing to work for them from afar, pre-empting my own: “but I hope you’ll still allow me to work for you from afar.” And, eight months after our move, with the help of my regular ‘remember me?’ trips, my location is barely worth a mention in our interactions.
As if to illustrate the point, last week I was approached by a new client – a Copenhagen-based design agency seeking a writer for the annual report of a major Danish company. I felt the need to explain my situation to them early in the conversation. “That’s no problem. We like the work you did for Pandora (the jewellery company) and think you’d be perfect for this project.”
Separately, I was also invited by a ‘creative writing in business’ training programme that I’ve been involved with, to take a more front-line role developing the programme further and tutoring courses. This time, the centre of gravity for the opportunity is the UK, although there is the possibility of me playing a role in expanding the programme to this part of the world.
Again, location was barely mentioned in discussions about the role. There was much more of the: “We think you’re right for this” and none of the “we really need you to be five minutes down the road.” Both experiences have been heartening and have forced a reassessment of how I think things might work out here – instead of a gradual weaning from European to local work, I now have a much more homogenous, global view of who I work for and how the relationship can operate.
Most importantly, this unexpected continuity of work from abroad has allowed us a much softer entry into our new lives than might otherwise have been the case. Instead of feeling like someone who moved to Canberra and disappeared, I feel much more as though Canberra can be a base from which I can maintain a global presence. And my regular ‘client contact’ trips are the relatively inexpensive glue that helps everything stick together.