Being a freelancer is an exciting experience; everything you do is on your own terms. However, when it comes to the payment side of things, it can get frustrating. You may fall victim to high fees or be forced to deal with unreliable clients. You even risk not being paid for your work at all.
With no company to deposit your salary into your bank account in nice equal chunks, getting your money to the right place at the right time can be far more work. It’s a struggle that can affect both new and experienced freelancers.
Whether you’re just starting out or you’re not satisfied with your current strategy, I can help you find a payment system that works for you. Over my years as a freelancer, I’ve tried just about every method there is, so I have plenty of recommendations and tips to share.
7 Ways to Accept Payments as a Freelancer
First, I’ll go over the main ways freelancers get paid for their freelancing work. I’ll start with the not-so-good so you know what to avoid, and then move on to the good!
Depending on the kind of contract work you do, getting paid in cash can be a legitimate option. This method is mostly used by professionals who do on-site work, such as decorating or handyman work that requires house visits. For remote workers like writers and designers, however, the nature of the work tends to require non-cash payment.
If you do use cash, one downside is that you’ll need to visit a bank or cash machine regularly to deposit your money into your bank account. Another downside is that you’ll have to draw up your own receipts to keep track and proof of your earnings for tax purposes. On the upside, you can get paid on the spot without having to worry about fees.
Another fee-free option is checks, but this method is not very flexible, and it’s becoming less common. Checks need to be mailed to you, which slows down the process significantly.
It can also limit the number of clients you can work with, as not everyone will be willing to send checks in the mail – these days, many clients may not even own a checkbook in the first place. Getting paid with checks comes with other risks, such as receiving post-dated checks or even worse, bad checks that bounce when you try to cash them.
Using checks also means using the mail service, which can potentially get a little frustrating. Sending checks by normal mail takes time, and until it arrives at your door, there’s no way to know where it is. You can track your check if your client uses a registered delivery, but it will cost more money, and you’ll need to be at home to provide a signature.
If you do on-site work and can receive payment in person, checks can be a safer alternative to cash that’s easier to deposit into your bank account.
Moving on to non-physical payment options, PayPal is the most common and widespread digital payment service and the go-to for many freelancers. The fact that it’s used in most of the world makes it convenient for those who work with clients in different countries, and it’s very easy to set up and start using.
However, using PayPal comes with fees, typically 3.49% + $0.49 per transaction, which is higher than some of its competitors. If you use PayPal to receive all of your payments, this can add up to a significant amount of money over the course of a year. For example, if you earn $70,000 from six monthly-paying clients, your fees will amount to around $2,480.
Although receiving payments to your PayPal account is instant, you then need to transfer the funds to your bank account, and this typically takes 2 to 3 business days. Since PayPal is not a bank, it’s not safe to keep money stored in your account for long periods of time. You can be locked out of your PayPal account for a number of reasons, and this can leave you without access to your money.
4. Credit Cards
With the magic of technology, it’s now possible for anyone to accept card payments online. All you need is an online service that will process your card payments. Using Pay.com is a great option here – your clients will be able to pay by card easily and securely.
With Pay.com’s Pay Links, you can send your clients payment requests with links to personal checkout pages. You can send the link through text message or email, allowing them to enter their details and pay effortlessly.
Payment service providers do charge fees for their services, with the speed, ease, and security they provide, I think it’s well worth it. With Pay.com, the fees for all of your transactions are displayed transparently on the Pay Dashboard, so you always know how much you’re paying and why.
5. ACH Transfers
An ACH (Automated Clearing House) transfer is a specific kind of bank-to-bank payment available in the U.S. It can be a fast and cost-effective way for freelancers to get paid.
If a regular client decides to pay you through an ACH transfer, you’ll receive a scheduled payment right into your bank just like you used to when you were employed by a company.
6. Bank Transfers
You can also use normal bank transfers to receive payments quickly and securely. However, this method is only really viable for domestic clients, as international bank transfers can cost anywhere from $20-$70.
If you want to complete an international bank transfer without paying so much, you can use services like Wise to bring the costs down significantly.
7. Digital Wallets
These days, digital wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay are becoming a common way to receive payments. This way, your clients can send you money through your smartphones.
Which Payment Method Is Best for You?
The best payment method for you will depend on a number of factors, such as the type of work you do, your location, your preferences, and your clients’ preferences.
The good news is, there’s no need to limit yourself to one method! When you use Pay.com as your payment service provider, you can accept multiple online payment methods, including Visa, Mastercard, Google Pay, Apple Pay, ACH transfers, and many more. You can easily choose which methods you’d like to accept.
You don’t need any technical experience to get started. All you have to do is fill out our quick application form.
7 Tips to Make Sure You Actually Get Paid for Your Freelance Work
Aside from setting up a reliable payment system, freelancers can also struggle to get paid on time. To help you avoid this problem, here are my top tips to make sure you get paid for your work – on time!
1. Use Contracts
Getting clients to agree to contracts can be difficult when you’re just starting out as a freelancer, but I recommend using them as soon as you can.
When a contract is written up, it's important to state the cost of your work and when the bill should be paid. If the contract is vague, a client can put off paying you for a number of reasons without breaking the contract.
2. Require a Deposit
In some industries, it’s very common for clients to pay a 30 to 50% deposit for contracted work. This helps freelancers find trustworthy clients and avoid those who are likely to skip out on the bill.
If you work in an industry that relies on deposits, it’s both good for you and your fellow freelancers if you contribute to this standard. Even if it's not the tradition in your particular industry, it's never a bad idea to make it a tradition in your freelance business.
3. Use Invoices
Invoices are both necessary to help you file your taxes and they’re a great way to clarify and remind your clients of payments without looking pushy. To make the process even smoother, there are apps and services like Hectic or Freshbooks that can automate invoices and send them to clients on your behalf, and they can even send periodic reminders when a client is slow to pay up.
If you don’t use an accounting app, you can also write your own payment reminders to send to clients.
4. Be Upfront About Costs
For some freelance work, like writing, deciding on a fee is as simple as having a price per word. However, other kinds of work are not as straightforward, and there can be many different costs to account for.
When providing an estimate for a potential client, you might be tempted to go as low as possible to maximize the chances of getting hired. However, this strategy can go badly if the amount of work exceeds expectations and you’re forced to either charge a lot more or lose money.
5. Always Communicate Changes
When you’re being contracted by a small company or a single person, it’s important to remember that budgets can be tight, and there might not be room for you to go over.
In these situations, it can be helpful to keep a line of communication going between you and the client, so you can be very clear about any changing costs.
The ultimate goal is to avoid giving your clients a nasty surprise when you invoice them, as this can sour your relationship and even cause the customer to avoid paying you.
6. Consider Pausing Work If You Don’t Get Paid
If you’ve taken a long-term job with multiple hand-ins and multiple payments, but your client is late in paying, you don’t have to keep working. This is especially true if you have a contract and a specific pay date that is not being met.
It’s true that it might damage your reputation with this client, but their reputation with you has also been damaged, and that matters too.
It’s important to set a precedent that work must be paid for and paid for on time, and most clients who make this mistake once won’t make it again.
7. Don’t Continue Working With Clients Who Don’t Pay
If you have persisting payment problems with a client, my best recommendation is to start looking for a replacement job as soon as possible.
Not many jobs are worth the stress of chasing up payments and being in danger of losing money, and it’s also important to play a part in setting a standard within the industry that such behavior isn’t acceptable.
It can be nerve-wracking to fire a client, and you may worry about it affecting your reputation, but I often find that being strict, clear, and organized with your payment requirements actually helps make you look more professional.
The Bottom Line: What's the Best Way to Get Paid as a Freelancer?
There are pros and cons to each of the methods I covered here, but the best way to get paid as a freelancer will often depend on your specific situation. There are a number of things to keep in mind when considering your options, such as:
- The kind of payment that works best for you (cash, digital, or both)
- Where your work comes from (domestic, international, or both)
- What fees you are willing to pay (per transaction fees or membership fees)
- How long you are willing to wait to get the money in your bank
- How you like to prepare your invoices and receipts (automated or manually)
Remember to check out Pay.com for solutions that can help you manage multiple payment methods quickly and easily. It’s simple to sign up and start receiving payments, and you can customize your checkout page with your freelance business logo and colors for a professional look.
For freelancers, using Pay Links is a great way to enable quick and straightforward payment, and it even allows your client to choose from a range of payment methods.
When I’m working with multiple clients with different preferences and have payments coming in all the time, I find that Pay.com’s easy-to-use service saves me considerable time and stress. Just being able to check my Pay Dashbdoard and see all my payments in one place is helpful.