You’ve started a profitable portable career. You have clients or projects (or you know how to get them). Congratulations, you can work from almost anywhere in the world. You just need your laptop, camera and an internet connection, and you’re in business.
Now, how do you get paid?
The best portable career in the world doesn’t do you any good if you can’t access the money you’ve earned.
Back in the US, clients mailed me checks which I took to the bank and deposited. That doesn’t work so well here in Panama. Depositing funds in a non-local currency can be a big hassle, and can get very expensive. Mailing checks to your new overseas home, and sending deposits back to your bank is cumbersome and eats up a lot of time. So what’s a portable careerist to do?
Fortunately, you’ve got options. They may vary depending on your home country, but they do exist. Since I’m most familiar with the US options, those are the ones I’ll be talking about.
Continue Accepting Payment By Check
Yes, you can still do this if you have someone in the US you trust to do your banking for you. A family member, friend or trusted assistant could collect your mail and deposit your checks for you. Depending on how many checks you receive per month, though, this could become a bit burdensome for a volunteer to handle — or they might forget to do it for weeks at a time.
Get Paid Online — Specifically, Use PayPal
This is the solution I’ve chosen. It’s digital, it’s instantaneous and it’s easy. Anyone with an email address can send or receive PayPal payments.
The downside is the fees, which can add up quickly.
In fact, you can use PayPal to receive payment for non-business transactions, too. I used it once to collect money from family members who had agreed to pitch in for an enormous bouquet for a special event.
To request payment, you simply log into your PayPal account — and if you don’t have one you should set one up ASAP. Give them the payer’s email address and the amount you’re billing for. PayPal then sends out a notice asking them to complete the payment. Once they’ve put in the funds, PayPal lets you know your bill has been paid.
If you’re running a business, though, and not just asking cousin Jane to reimburse you $10 for the flowers, you can send an invoice requesting digital payment. The form includes a PayPal “Pay Now” button to make it really easy for your customer.
Fees range from 2.2% to 2.9% depending on the size of the transaction. (That’s from $2.50 to $3.20 for every $100 you’re being paid.) I recently received a payment for $450, and the fee was $13.35.
Yes, that’s a bit on the hefty side, but what’s the alternative? I’d have expenses if I hired someone to handle my banking for me back in the US, so either way my cost of doing business is a little higher than if I stayed quietly at “home.”
Creating an invoice is easy. Just click on “Request Money,” then select “Create an Invoice.” After you fill out the simple form you can print it, edit and send it. I always print a copy as a PDF and save it on my computer, and they send me an email copy as well. Of course you can access it through your PayPal account at any time.
Once the payment hits in your PayPal account, how do you access those funds?
I transfer the money online directly to my bank account. This requires that you go through the process of getting your bank account “approved.” It takes a few days, but it’s not difficult.
Alternatively, you can get a PayPal debit card and have the funds transferred to it. You can also request a paper check, but we’re trying to move away from that.
Alternatives to PayPal
Admittedly, PayPal has had some snafus in the past, particularly in the area of charitable donations. I had a situation early this year where my account was the target of some fraudulent activity. Although stressful at the time, once I finally reached a live person at PayPal they were pleasant, professional, helpful and cleared it up very quickly.
If you don’t want to work with PayPal, here are some other options.
- Amazon Payments. Individuals can send and receive payments using their Amazon.com login information and email addresses. For business, though, you should look at Amazon Simple Pay Standard, designed to transfer money online to pay for the sale of digital goods and services.
- Serve. Serve is affiliated with American Express. It’s free to sign up, but after March of next year they’ll start charging fees for adding funds from a credit card and ATM withdrawals.
- WePay. WePay presents itself as the “anti PayPal,” emphasizing its ease of doing business. Its market is small business owners and casual sellers of goods and services.
- Your own merchant account. It would allow you to accept credit card payments directly. It is an option but I don’t recommend it as a way to collect on client invoices. It can be appropriate if you’re selling a good volume of your own information products or photographs.