10 Things to Know (How to Do) to Be a Freelancer
Getting Paid from All Over the World… Without Losing All Your Income in the Process!
Nowadays it’s incredibly easy to contact and do business with customers anywhere in the world, especially in the digital service industry. No need to think about transportation, taxes or borders. You only need a common language! And it is, by the way, an excellent diversification strategy to secure your income, or even a strategy to niche your offerings and decrease competition tremendously (I don’t think I’ve got a single French customer in my voice or translation business, even though my mother tongue is French and that’s what my clients mostly request).
Yet there’s one pain point left – getting paid. Within the European Economic Area that issue has all but disappeared since there are practically no costs associated with cross-borders payments in euros. However outside of this, money transfers from bank to bank between countries and currencies are indeed convenient but also pricey.
Once upon a time the obvious answer (and perhaps the only realistic alternative) used to be PayPal. However over the last couple of years, an increase of their fees combined with the rise of real alternatives has made them obsolete in many cases (although for some countries and/or currencies they remain one of the few available options). At the time of writing (September 2021), receiving payments costs around 4% of the amount, and converting them into Swedish crowns (since my company is in Sweden) costs me another ~4%. That’s a total of approximately 8% in fees. Ouch.
I personally recommend Wise (A.K.A. TransferWise). You only need to create a free account, then pay around USD 30 to activate access to bank details in a dozen or so currencies (including euros, British pounds, American/Canadian/New-Zealand/Australian dollars, etc.). From there all you have to do is provide your customers from these countries with these bank details and they can make a regular bank transfer. On their side it’ll be similar to a domestic transfer, and on yours it’s free. Money will reach an account in the same currency on Wise and you can withdraw it to whatever bank account you want (or use their bank card). The withdrawal fee changes (and increases if currency conversion is needed), but so far I’ve never paid more than 1% to convert and withdraw funds.
Payoneer offers a very similar yet complementary system because they cover some currencies Wise doesn’t have (and the opposite is also true). Withdrawing EUR, USD or GBP costs 1,5 of that currency while withdrawing in another currency costs 2% of the amount (including conversion fee).
If your customers have an account on these platforms they can pay directly, without using bank details, and Payoneer even offers to receive bank card payments through their “Request a Payment” service.
Finally I’ve also come across Stripe on a few occasions, although I don’t know the system enough to talk more about it. Just investigate and see if that would work for you (especially if the above options aren’t enough). The possibility to receive payments by card in many currencies is an advantage, especially if combined with transfers to Payoneer or Wise accounts to benefit from their low exchange rate and the ability to withdraw funds whenever we want. On the other hand Stripe invoices ~3,6% per payment received and has a 2% exchange rate fee.