It used to be so simple to receive payments! I’d do a piece of writing, mail it to the person who hired me and a week or two later a check would wander in.
Of course, then I’d have to deposit it or cash it, and back in the day banks weren’t happy if the check was from out of state, let alone from another country.
Today we’ve have so many ways freelance writers can receive payments it can actually be confusing.
Manuscripts are usually emailed. More and more writers actually post articles in some sort of content management system like WordPress, save for review and email the editor that it’s ready for his preview. Then payment arrives, usually via some online payment portal.
Here are six ways you can reliable receive payments for your writing.
You can still receive payments in cash for writing although that has almost disappeared. Until last year I had one client who would pay me in cash. I’d report it as income and it worked well. I knew him well enough to be sure I wasn’t getting illicit funds and it was kind of nice getting the actual green stuff. I don’t know if I’d accept such an arrangement today. I might if I had confidence in the client.
Publishers and many people who hire writers prefer to pay by check. It matches how they keep track of their expenses and they don’t have to learn a new system.
Over the years I’ve only had one mailed check go missing. My client stopped payment on the lost check and issued me another. Except for the delay, it wasn’t a big hassle. I can’t remember a time I received a check that didn’t clear.
I mostly deposit checks through the ATM at my credit union, but even when I take a check from another state in, they usually don’t put a hold on it. Once in a while they’ll ask me if its from a client. I’m not sure what that’s about come to think about it.
I had huge hassles with my former big bank which morphed into Chase when it came to receiving payments in check from from out of the country. That’s one of the reasons I moved my accounts to a credit union.
Wire transfers or electronic fund transfers are not as easy as they should be, in my opinion. The same client who paid me cash set up a pay-by-email through his Wells Fargo account. Geeze what a hassle. I had to register with some third party site and although I’d be notified when my client paid the money, it took two or three more days, with the bank and the third party site I suppose earning interest every step of the way. I wasn’t receiving more than several hundred dollars, but when you multiply that… I’d work to avoid that method of being paid if I could.
Real wire transfers – a direct transfer of funds from the client’s bank to your account can work well, but be difficult to set up.
I love getting paid through Paypal. The fee isn’t that much more than if I had my own merchant account – in fact, it’s less than many merchant accounts which charge a monthly fee as well as a percentage of each payment. I’ve learned to bump up my fees enough to cover the cost of receiving payments.
Clients do not have to have a Paypal account to pay me - they do need a credit card.
One potential problem is that it can take several days to transfer from your Paypal account to your business checking account. You can mitigate this for the most part with a Paypal debit MasterCard. Money in your Paypal account is immediately available on the debit card, which can be used like a credit card wherever MasterCard is accepted.
It’s easy to invoice through Paypal too. I’ve even uploaded my own logo!
Clients tell me invoicing through Paypal means all they have to do is click a link to pay me. The easier you can make it for a client to pay you the better.
I ran into a client from Europe who didn’t want to use Paypal and I wasn’t willing to accept a check. At her suggestion she paid me by Western Union. Who knew it could be so easy. I walked to my grocery store which has a Western Union pay station, and came home with a wad of cash. So now I accept payment by Western Union.
Google offers a payment system that you can use to receive payments. You’ll need to hook it to a credit card or debit card that ties in with your normal bank account. I’m not sure why I haven’t used it. Habit I guess. I’ll make a point to give it a go. I trust google, well, for things like this.
There are other payment systems out there. Any system you use to receive payments should provide good records that you can access easily. When you consider how to get paid, be sure you also know what any fees to you will be. They are probably deductible, which brings us to another point.
Tracking your income and expense are integral parts of running your business. Your income, of course, reflects those payments we’ve been talking about!
How have you gotten paid for your writing? What problems have you had? Let’s talk about them in comments.
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