“How do I go about getting paid as a freelancer?”
I get this question all of the time.
After two years in online business to me it’s obvious, but to those just getting started – not so much.
And since I’ve been getting invoiced more and more as of late (as opposed to doing the actual invoicing), I see a fair amount of how others are doing it.
They’re not doing it wrong per se. But there is room for improvement.
So today I want to fill you in a little on the options that exist, how I do it and what works well for me, as well as how you can make your own process more efficient.
Because, as Just Tell Julie says, making invoices easy to pay is the best way to boost your odds of getting paid as a freelancer on time in the first place. And who doesn’t want that?
Table of Contents
4 Basic Ways to Get Paid
There are more than four options available, but I’m going to focus on the most common.
PayPal is probably the most popular way to get paid. An account is super easy to set up and it seems fairly well known across the globe.
If you don’t have an account, set one up. If you have a personal account, consider making it into a business one (you don’t need a new one, you can just modify it).
Business accounts allow you to do business under a company or group name, accept all payment types for low fees, and accept payment from customers without PayPal accounts. Business accounts include all of the benefits of Premier accounts, as well as our special features.”
You can also send out invoices from PayPal with a business account and transfer larger amounts of money to your own bank account (or ask for a check to be sent for a small fee).
You don’t have to pay anything to buy or pay for services from someone else, but you do have to pay to collect payment or receive funds from someone else (at least for business purposes). The fee is currently 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. If you increase the volume of business you do with PayPal, the merchant fee can be reduced to as low as 2.2% for eligible merchants and non-profits.
The best part? PayPal is globally recognized and clients can pay by checking account, PayPal balance or credit card.
In the past, PayPal was how I got paid the majority of the time. Now it’s more diversified. Read on to learn the three other options that exist.
2. Regular Check
Some companies are stuck in the dark ages. These are the ones that typically pay “net 30” (which I hate) and need you to physically print, sign and then scan back contracts (or in some cases use snail mail).
I currently have one client that pays me via check. Even though it’s a pain in the butt to go to the bank, it’s also oddly satisfying to receive a paycheck in the mail.
Unfortunately, with checks you run the risk of not getting paid or the check “getting lost in the mail.” One way to counteract this is to send your client their invoice along with a prepaid overnight envelope. You can track receipt of the invoice and hopefully they’ll get the hint that you’d like to receive payment sooner rather than later.
If nothing else, it speeds up the mailing time and gets rid of the “check is in the mail” excuse, when it’s really not. Sending an overnight prepaid envelope will cost you money though and mutes the not paying to get paid point.
The best part? Receiving and depositing checks is for the most part free – all it costs you is a bit of time.
3. Bank Transfer
This is probably my favorite way to get paid these days. It wasn’t until May of 2015 that I actually set up my business checking account, but you should go do it now, not wait like I did.
One of my clients has me set up on his payroll system. I’m still a contractor, but my monthly retainer gets deposited in my business checking account at the beginning of each month. (I love the beginning of the month! 😉 )
Another one of my clients is moving from a recurring payment profile on PayPal to using Gusto to deposit funds directly into my business checking account each week. (One downside to PayPal recurring payments is that even if the client pays by PayPal balance, you still get dinged the 3%.)
I haven’t been hit with any fees from these two direct deposit clients, but I did get hit with a wire fee or two in the past. I think it depends if it’s an actual wire or automatic payment. Check with your client and your bank to know if there will be a fee on your end if this is an option for payment for you.
The best part? Payment is pretty instantaneous and funds are available ASAP! It can also be the most cost effective method for you to get paid.
4. Credit Card
I use Stripe to accept credit card payments. You can use PayPal too, but they charge a higher fee for Amex.
Since one of my clients was paying me regularly with his Amex some time ago, I opted for Stripe, rather than PayPal. I love that Stripe automatically transfers money every few days (when payments have come in) to my bank account on file.
Stripe takes a simple approach. They charge you a flat rate of 2.9% + 30¢ per successful charge as long as you’re doing under $1 million in volume per year. This rate varies country to country, but it’s always flat.”
The best part? Stripe makes it easy for anyone to pay using a credit card and fees are the same across the board.
So now you know a bit about the different ways you can collect payment. I try to be as flexible as possible and let the client decide. When they’re unsure or also flexible, I’ll push for what’s most convenient or cost effective for me.
After all, I want to keep as much of my paycheck as possible!
You could draft an invoice in Word, Excel or Google docs. (Another option is a free invoice generator tool like this.) A lot of people do it, but it’s not my favorite way to receive invoices and I’ll tell you why.
These invoicing options aren’t always the most professional looking. But worse than that, it’s not a very convenient way to pay for your client. And again, we want to make it as easy for clients to pay us as possible.
Now, don’t get me wrong – it’s not that hard to copy an email address and paste it into PayPal to make a payment. But it’s more steps than is necessary.
On the flip side, if you use an invoicing tool like FreshBooks, your client can click a link bringing them to the invoice, then select how they want to pay and pay you. And if they pay through PayPal a lot like me, the system will redirect them to their login page automatically.
You also both get a confirmation when the invoice has been paid and best of all, FreshBooks is a great way to save on fees.
Perks of Using FreshBooks
There are many benefits to using FreshBooks as your invoicing system. Here are a few of my favorite:
- You’ll save yourself money. If a client selects “PayPal Transfer,” you’ll only get dinged $.50, rather than the full ~3% PayPal fee. And trust me, that adds up fast! For every $1,000, that’s ~$30 kept in your pocket. Or one dinner out for the fam.
- You look like a true professional. I think FreshBooks invoices look 10X better than those from PayPal. You can do more customization and in a few minutes have a unique invoice that shows off a bit of your awesome personality.
- You can track your time. I haven’t used this feature personally, but if you need to track your time in order to invoice clients properly, this could be a great feature. It’s also helpful for finding out how much time you spend working on certain projects or for certain clients, even if you don’t need to invoice them based on hours worked.
- You can set up recurring invoices. I do this for my coaching clients and it not only saves me time, but it makes the payment process turnkey! If you have any retainer clients, sending recurring invoices will make your life so much easier.
- You can keep track of your expenses. FreshBooks makes it easy to do all of your accounting through this one platform. Want to make tax time easier? Use FreshBooks for invoicing and expense tracking.
- It’s cheap! After a free 30-day trial, you can continue using FreshBooks for as little as $9.95 per month. I pay $19.95 per month and have the entire time I’ve used the service (going on two years). The difference in price is due to how many clients you have listed to send invoices to. My membership caps me at 25 clients. The nice thing though is that I can delete inactive clients at any time therefore freeing up spots for new ones.
Want to See What it Looks like?
Create a new client, invoice and email it to your client:
How it shows up in your client’s inbox:
What it looks like when your client opens an invoice via their email:
The client’s view of the invoice when they click the link to pay:
Options for the client to use to pay:
I didn’t go as far as paying myself, so I couldn’t screenshot the confirm for you. Suffice it to say it’s as streamlined as the rest of the process above.
Knowing how to get paid is important as a freelancer.
Giving your clients options and making it easy for them to pay you is even more important. PayPal, check, direct deposit and Stripe are all great ways to get paid. Some are more convenient or less expensive than others.
And incorporating an invoicing, time and expense management tool like FreshBooks will take it all to the next level for you. Especially when it costs less than $10 per month.
What does your current invoicing process look like?
*This post may include affiliate links. If that’s not cool with you, we might not be friends. Kidding of course, but that’s my due diligence disclosure notice.