Working with clients for whom English is a second language can be a challenge, no matter your niche. It doesn’t mean, however, you need to turn down a client because of a language barrier. It just means you need to adjust your approach.
ESL Poses Problems
Working with English as a Second Language (ESL) clients sometimes can be daunting. There can be miscommunication and misunderstanding. Email can be hard to comprehend because of unfamiliar wording, and phone calls can be challenging because your ear may not be attuned to someone’s accent. In addition, there can be cultural and work ethic differences.
Over the years, I have worked with a number of ESL clients. They used my skills as a native English speaker to edit their copy and ghostwrite articles. The last thing these clients wanted was for their websites to give away the fact they are not English natives and turn off customers. Some also were concerned about unintentionally insulting the reader and about correct word usage.
I have only turned down one ESL client who approached me for my services and that was because I felt he wasn’t clear on his project needs and expectations. For the most part, working with ESL clients is quite rewarding because they appreciate skilled writing and editing more than native English speakers.
How to Serve This Niche
So how do you better serve ESL clients in your business?
- Ask lots of questions. Don’t assume the client understands you or that you understand the client’s expectations.
- When reading email and other written correspondence, read through it more than once. A meaning that wasn’t clear during the initial read might be clearer based on context clues. If not, ask.
- During telephone conversations or face-to-face meetings, summarize what the client has said, then ask if you have understood correctly. This is a lot less rude than interrupting someone while they are speaking to ask for clarifications.
- Understand that a client’s expectations might be different from native English speakers.
- Learn to adapt.
Have you ever worked with someone for whom English was his or her second language? What was your experience like?