Since I turned my Dutch coaching practice into a global business in November 2011, a lot of people asked me questions about it.
They want to know how I did it, and if I have any tips for them.
I do. And you find them inside this article.
These tips specifically apply to non-native English speaking, mission-driven solo entrepreneurs who deliver a service.
If it’s your dream to work globally, too, these practical and mindset tips will help you with that.
So let’s start with THE number one obstacle that comes up for non-native speakers who want to work globally:
#1 The language.
If you want to deliver your services and programs internationally, you HAVE to offer them in English.
Dutch, German, Swedish, French, Hungarian, Korean, or whatever else language you speak, are simply not languages that are understood and spoken globally.
Which means you have to either take the leap to switch to working in English completely, OR add an English version of your website / blog / books / programs / products to your existing website.
This is the biggest hurdle that comes up for people who aspire to work globally.
Lots of little things and decisions come up along the way – not to mention the doubts and fears that get triggered as well.
Let’s address those first, because once your inner obstacles are cleared, the practical steps are not that hard anymore:
Inner shit: some doubts and fears that get triggered (and how to deal with them)
- Is my English good enough?
If so: go for it and stop doubting yourself. If not: take a course. Hire a private teacher. Practice.
Allow yourself to make mistakes AND to learn and get better at it.
I still make mistakes. But I also made mistakes when I was still working in Dutch. And I see shitloads of native speakers who make mistakes in their English as well.
Lighten up. Your English doesn’t have to be perfect. So stop thinking it should be before you take the leap.
- Will my audience in my home country accept it if I switch to working in English?
Some will and some won’t. No matter what you change in your business, there will always be people who like it, and those who don’t. Stop worrying about that. You can never please everybody. So don’t even try. Let it go.
- Will I exclude those people who aren’t comfortable reading and speaking English?
A few, sure.
But you’ll INCLUDE millions of others who can understand you now.
Outer shit: some practical questions and decisions (and how I dealt with them)
- Should I switch to English completely OR keep a website in my own language as well?
Both options work. Keep in mind though that holding on to your own language means a lot of extra work.
BUT that can be worth it, for example when you offer in person retreats or workshops in your own country & language.
For me, it made most sense to switch completely to English: I only work online, and in my group programs women entrepreneurs from all countries can participate.
- Do I have to translate all my old blogs and articles into English?
I didn’t, because I also changed my audience and all of my offerings at the same time as I started working in English. Everything was new and I couldn’t use any of my old blogs or programs anymore.
If the only thing that changes for you is the language and your content remains the same, I’d start with translating your website and programs and online products first.
AND start writing new blogs and articles in English from now on. If after that you still have the energy to translate your old blogs, go for it.
- Should I transition to working in English gradually or cold turkey? Do I address this with my ‘old’ clients and ezine / newsletter subscribers?
I announced it in one ezine, and wrote the next one in English.
I did announce much earlier that things were changing and that I would stop working as a career coach.
And when I changed my audience and programs as well, I decided the best way to handle it was to change everything at once.
So I didn’t change gradually. I’m more of a take-the-leap-at-once-kinda-person anyway. Gradually is NOT my middle name 😉
You pick the way that fits YOUR personality. That always works best. If it feels good to you, it’ll work out just fine.
A mindset-tip with regards to fears around getting tons of unsubscribes from people on your list:
Be willing to lose them all.
You WON’T lose everyone on your list. But you MIGHT, right? You’re scared of that, and you can’t know how many people will stay or unsubscribe until you GO for it and start writing in English.
So, ask yourself: are you willing to lose your entire list if that’s what it takes to go after your dream?
Even if lots of people unsubscribe, it really doesn’t matter.
New people who resonate with the ‘new’ you will take their place.
EVERY time you change ANYTHING in your business, you’ll lose some people who don’t like these changes. And you’ll ALWAYS ALSO attract new people who do.
#2 How do you find international clients?
In a nutshell: online marketing.
Write articles, start a list, grow your list, offer free teleclasses, publish your articles on article sites, join Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, etc.
There are dozens of places to get to know likeminded people and/or potential clients online.
Don’t know anything about online marketing? It’s time to learn, baby. It’s the easiest, fastest, cheapest, best way to make yourself visible globally.
Be patient. It takes time for people to get to know you and to understand how you can serve them.
Yes, it COULD go fast…but it probably won’t.
When you start working globally, ESPECIALLY when you’re not a native English speaker and didn’t have an English website before, NO ONE outside of your own country knows who you are yet.
Which means you’re basically building a new business.
So, be patient. Be consistent. And do not give up.
Some inner shit that might come up:
- OMG now I have sooooo much more competitors than I had before! How will people ever find me? And why would they pick me instead of someone else?
Know the value of your work. Own it. Claim it. Be authentic and be YOU – this automatically makes you stand out.
Trust there is an abundance of clients out there for everyone.
You have more competitors now, sure. AND you ALSO have a much bigger audience now.
So in the end, nothing changes that much.
Make yourself visible. Constantly and consistently market your business. Be patient. Keep going. Never give up.
- I don’t know where to start! I feel so overwhelmed!
Start wherever you feel like starting. Love Twitter? Start there. Love writing articles? Write your little ass off, publish your articles on dozens of free article sites, and share them on Social Media.
Just start anywhere you like. And: keep going, be patient, blabla, you know the drill by now.
- What tone of voice should I choose? What if I’m too Dutch for the Americans or too French for the Germans or…..you get the picture.
YOUR tone of voice, of course! What other options are there? NONE.
You’re a solo entrepreneur with a mission and a message and a difference you were born to bring to this world.
The ONLY way to make that difference, be happy, feel free and make money with it too, is to be YOU to the max. Your ideal clients will resonate with you and be attracted to you, no matter where they come from.
- Do you take cultural differences into account? And if so, how?
No. See above.
Also: what cultural differences?
Sometimes people tell me I shouldn’t swear, because Americans don’t like it.
(Really? Watched any American movies or series lately?)
I’m sure some of them don’t like it.
The Irish probably think I don’t curse enough. So will the Australians.
The Dutch usually don’t really care. And then again, some do.
I have no idea where the Danish, Norwegians, Finnish or Swedish stand when it comes to cursing.
If the FANTASTIC Danish/Swedish series ‘The Bridge’ is anything to go on, the Danes quite like ‘for helvede’, and the Swedish are fond of ‘fan’.
So based on that, I don’t think they will mind the occasional ‘fuck’ 😉
It’s impossible to decide what to take into account and what not. So I don’t even try.
And neither should you. Just be YOU so your ideal clients can easily find you.
(And yes, all of this might be different when you’re a large corporation with offices all over the world and have thousands of people from different cultures working for you. But I’m not that. And neither are you.)
#3 Some practical things to think about
How to accept payments & invoice automation
If all you sell are 1-1 coaching sessions or more expensive group programs, you can probably get by the old fashioned way: manually creating and sending an invoice to your clients, so they can pay them through their bank account.
(Or send them a PayPal payment link, of course.)
If you’re looking for serious business growth, you can’t keep on doing it this way, though.
Which means you’ll need:
- A shopping cart
- A merchant account
- So that people can pay you via PayPal and/or a credit card.
You can also choose to work with PayPal only, by the way – you won’t need a merchant account in that case.
That works just fine.
I work with Simplero*. That works best for my type of business.
There are plenty of other options out there, so make sure to do your own homework to find out which option works best for your type of business.
If you don’t want to set up whatever service you choose yourself, hire a great team to do it for you.
I HIGHLY recommend Amber Miller, my own VA and her team*, for all these tech-related issues. She’s great at what she does and a wonderful person as well.
I use Stripe for credit card payments.
It’s very easy to set up and connects perfectly with Simplero.
Again, do your own homework on this please. I’m not an expert on this topic either.
Let your VA help you in setting up your merchant account as well. Saves you a lot of headaches.
VAT and other tax-related issues
Different countries have different VAT percentages and different tax laws.
Make sure you know about the rules and laws that apply to you.
This was a bloody annoying thing to deal with AND it still is sometimes with the new EU tax rules (2015) and different tax rules and laws for different EU countries.
My advice in a nutshell: ask your bookkeeper or accountant about this.
I’m not an expert and am NOT giving anyone any advice on this.
Most importantly: don’t let any of these practical things stop you from going global!!!
Yes, sorting out the VAT shit and how to set it up in Infusionsoft and finding the anwers to all my questions has been a giant pain in the ass.
And I know this is another thing that feels like a big hurdle on your way to working internationally.
But don’t let it stop you.
You and your dream are bigger than some admin or tax related shit, right?
Get help, ask questions, and stand in your power.
You’re not a victim, it’s not rocket science, and you are fully capable of sorting it out!
#4 Some random (mindset) advice
- Think big. Open your mind. Stretch yourself.
The reason you want to work globally is that you want to impact more people. A LOT more people. The mindset and way of thinking that was big and bold enough to make it locally or nationally won’t be enough anymore.
- Hire a business coach who works globally herself as well.
They get you and your dream. They can give you practical tips and advice. Share their resources with you. Help you stretch your mind. They have a bigger view and mindset themselves, which makes it easier for YOU to think big, too. And maybe they can even help you spread the word and your work in their network.
The moment I decided to turn my entire business around AND go for my global dream, I immediately hired a business coach for a year. Which was one of the best decisions I ever made in my business.
- Make sure you have a good bookkeeper / accountant.
Until now you may have been able to wing it yourself. Don’t do that anymore. You need good advice you can rely on.
And you have better things to spend your time on: sharpening your gift & expertise, and make it known and seen by people all over the world.
- Make sure you hire an English speaking VA (virtual assistant).
(S)he doesn’t have to be a native speaker, of course, as long as their English is very good. It also helps if this VA is used to working with entrepreneurs who work globally AND knows the programs and systems you work with.
#5 Some random questions several different people have asked me about going global and working internationally that haven’t been answered in this article yet:
Florien: Did it bring the (international) (focused) clients you aimed for? What else did it bring?
Yes, it did. It took a while, though. The first year all of my clients were mainly Dutch and Belgian, just like before. It took time for people in other European countries and outside of Europe to find and hire me.
What else it brought me?
A whole hell of a lot of FREEDOM. I think bigger and experience less boundaries in myself. My horizon has literally and figuratively expanded. I like that.
It also feels INCREDIBLY free to be the outsider basically everywhere.
In the Netherlands, I’m the coach who works in English. Which makes me different in my own country.
In the United States, I’m the European coach. In other countries I’m the Dutch coach. So again, I’m kind of an outsider.
I never really fit in anywhere, and I LOVE that. I’m not a group person, and I function best on my own.
And I always have a great coach (or coaches) to make sure I get all the support I need.
Don’t let this scare you off if you feel the need to fit in or be part of a group! This is how I experience it because I LIKE and CHOOSE to experience it like this.
If I wanted to fit in somewhere I’d have created my own group of non-native English speaking coaches from all over the world. I don’t want that, so I didn’t do that.
YOU can create the experience of YOUR OWN preference.
Another thing: I LOVE working in a different language.
Thinking, writing and expressing yourself in another language is very inspiring. It makes you think differently. In a way, it’s easier to express yourself.
I never thought that would happen. The first few months, it was mainly tiring.
I had to think about every sentence I wrote or spoke, had to look up words all the time, and often felt frustrated when I couldn’t come up with the right word or expression.
It was especially frustrating when I was dealing with anything technical, admin or tax-related. I find it hard to understand all that in Dutch, let alone in English.
But after a while I noticed working in another language changed the way I think.
It still does.
I can’t really explain it. But when you’re literally looking for words, it forces you to be very clear on what it is you want to express EXACTLY.
You have to think about it more than you do in your own language.
Which makes you dive deeper into your own content, and brings you new insights and perspectives.
Lianne: What mindset did it require from you to take such a step?
Besides the things I already mentioned about mindset throughout this article, the MOST important thing was a very deep desire:
I KNEW in my bones that it was part of my soul’s purpose to work globally and reach millions of women worldwide.
I had this dream for a couple of years. And it scared the SHIT out of me first. So I tried to suppress it.
That didn’t work.
The dream was bigger than my fear. It didn’t go away. It only grew stronger. And I decided to honor it because I choose to LIVE full out.
I don’t want to die and regret the things I haven’t done. I want to live my dreams, not my fears.
I choose to honor my calling and be all I can be.
And I’m curious to see what I’m capable of if I keep stretching myself.
All of this is what made me take the leap and GO for it.
©️ Brigitte van Tuijl
About to take the leap and wonder if I can help you? If you’re an experienced woman entrepreneur, I might.
* these are affiliate links, which means I might make some money if you decide to hire them using these links. If you don’t want that, just google them yourself.
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