Of all the reasons to lose a freelance project, perhaps the most logical is because the project doesn’t fall into your area of expertise. And perhaps the worst, in my opinion, is because you can’t figure out how to take the client’s money. I’ve never really understood why some freelancers are very rigid about how they want to be paid, and I accept the widest possible variety of payment methods. If a method costs me money to accept, I don’t pass that on to the client directly, but I build it into my rates, and chalk it up to the cost of doing business.
It costs money to make money. Almost everyone who takes a class with Training for Translators pays by credit card or PayPal, and I paid a whopping $4,700 in PayPal commissions in 2021. I’ve since added direct credit card payments via Stripe as an option, but the fees are about the same. In 2021, I had clients pay by:
- Check (yes, paper checks are still widely used in the US)
- Zelle/Chase QuickPay
- Bank to bank wire transfer
- Cash (no kidding; I translated a birth certificate for someone who came to my office with cash)
I hate paper checks. They’re slow, and they’re impossible to track. The expression, “the check’s in the mail” exists for a reason. I really try to guide clients away from paper checks, and I no longer use paper checks myself, but some clients simply will not pay any other way, so I continue to accept them.
Psychologically, my clients seem to pay much faster when they pay by an electronic method. For one of my law firm clients, I use PayPal.me, which allows you to create a one-click link that’s pre-set to the correct amount. This particular client, who wants to handle everything as fast as possible, loves the convenience of PayPal.me.
I’ve switched to using Wise for all of my outgoing international payments, for example to my online course instructors who live in other countries. I like Wise a lot. It’s easy to link it to your bank account, the fees are transparent, and you can see exactly how much the recipient will receive, before you send the payment. I also really like incoming transfers via Wise, because (for whatever reason), Wise’s international transfers post in my account as if they were a domestic ACH/direct deposit payment, so they’re free. This is compared with the $15 that I pay for an international bank-to-bank transfer, so it’s a big win.
Personally, I feel that it’s good to just ask clients what payment method they prefer, then if there’s a fee to you, build that into your rates. The only exception to this is that I require all individual clients to pay in full, in advance, before I do the translation, so I do not accept checks from individuals.
Two payment methods I’ve recently added are Venmo and Stripe. Venmo works well for individuals, as long as you’re positive that you’re sending money to or requesting money from the right person (I recommend always using the feature where you verify the last four digits of the person’s phone number). Just make sure that you have your Venmo privacy settings locked down, so that your contacts aren’t seeing all of the transactions you make on Venmo.
After using PayPal exclusively for a number of years, I just added Stripe as an option to pay for Training for Translators courses. Thanks to colleagues Madalena Sanchez Zampaulo and Meghan Konkol for their encouragement to try Stripe! Stripe allows people to pay directly by credit card without going through PayPal, their fees are reasonable, and the system to receive your money is similar to PayPal, where you link your bank account to Stripe for automatic transfers. I integrated Stripe in about 10 minutes using Woo Commerce Payments, because I’m already using Woo Commerce to process online course registrations.
I’m still hoping that someday, the US banking system will move into the 21st (or even 20th!) century and use IBAN numbers, or a system like SEPA, but until then, I’ll keep adding new electronic payment methods as good options become available.