Have you thought about doing international consulting? At this point in the cycle, I know many of you have. Recently I have started working elsewhere in the Americas and I am also considering projects in Europe.
To help those looking to get started in international work, here are some tips from my experiences so far:
Start by making connections.
My first engagement started when a US-based consultant I know called and asked if I could help his client run a modern persuasive ad campaign – and get it live in days. only. A RFP process followed and we got the job.
My advice: talk to people in your networks about your desire to work internationally. If you know someone who does this job, ask them if they have any challenges you can help solve for their next engagement.
Be (a little) humble.
When working in a foreign environment, much of what you know about messaging, political coalitions, and the political environment can be totally wrong. Your instincts might also be right. It will take time for you to get your sea legs on things you might take for granted at home.
My first international client had a very specific need: they wanted someone to develop and execute their digital-first paid media strategy for an upcoming election. Initially, creative would be handled by an in-house team or a local creative agency.
I was confident. It was a perfect field of work for me. Paid media strategy, execution and measurement for persuasive purposes is my core competency, having led similar advertising and measurement programs in support of US Democratic candidates.
That said, if my client had asked me on day one to write a screenplay for his audience, I would have had some apprehension about writing for a foreign audience in a multiparty field.
At the end of their cycle, in partnership with their in-house digital team, we ended up writing and producing the most persuasive creative to their audience, as shown by quantitative and qualitative testing.
Check your digital platforms and media partners.
Be warned: not all partners, toolsets or digital media services are present in all regions of the world. For example, at first I was surprised to find that Hulu didn’t offer advertising outside of the United States.
Also, even when working on a great advertising platform, such as YouTube, which works well outside of the US, you may find that some specific tools or policies may be different from what you’re used to. In the case of YouTube, my main caveat is that Brand Lift didn’t have as many options for crafting political questions and didn’t work as reliably as it did here in the US.
Get help with tax laws.
Foreign taxes can be very different from those in the United States. You need expert advice to help you plan and file your taxes for your assignments.
For example, your invoices for professional services, creative development, or media buys may need to include substantial value-added tax or sales tax. And these taxes may even vary from region to region depending on provincial regulations.
In addition, foreign tax laws are not static. When tax policy changes in the middle of an election cycle, your advisors need to know. This happened recently when an applicable rule was changed to better capture the use of digital tools and e-commerce, which impacted some of my billing and filing requirements.
In short, hire an expert if your current accountant doesn’t know the tax rules of the country you want to work in.
Remember the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)
When talking with their peers about working abroad, many ask about the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). While not providing legal advice on this, I would recommend visiting FARA’s Department of Justice website to learn more and get legal advice on the international job you are considering.
Develop lasting customer relationships.
This advice should be axiomatic for all practitioners, regardless of location, but must be developed in a foreign context: get to know your client well. Ask them how they define program success and help them achieve it.
Looking back on a recent partnership, we were able to achieve program goals, but more than that, we were able to set up the client and digital team practitioners with a data-driven approach to strategic planning and decision making. which should pay them dividends down the road.
If going above and beyond also leads to more work down the road, it’s a win-win situation for your firm and the client.
Andrew Eldredge-Martin is the founder and president of Measured Campaigns, a digitally-focused media consultancy specializing in persuasion and targeted advocacy. He has led more than $110 million in political, nonprofit and brand campaigns, including supporting Presidents Joe Biden and Barack Obama, the senses. Bernie Sanders, Mark Kelly and Jeanne Shaheen.