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Writing For European Publisher? Ask Anne The Pro Writer

Freelance Writers Accept EurosHi Anne,

First, I want to say how much I appreciate your blog and emails. I’ve been  freelancer for about a year now and while I haven’t been wildly successful yet, I enjoy all of the advice and encouragement you provide.

Second, I applied for a contract position I found in one of your job lists a few months ago. They didn’t contract me for the job, but they’ve contacted me with another project.

My quandary is this, they are a European publisher and I’m not sure if there are any specifics I should be concerned about before undertaking this project. They are a large publisher so I’m not too worried about being ripped off, but is there anything I should be aware of?

They requested my birth date and place, address, tax number (SSN), and VAT. I don’t have a VAT and assume I don’t need one, but I could be wrong. I think it’s kind of odd that they want my birth place and date.

They offered a fairly low rate of pay, but I’m willing to accept it right now. However, they gave a pay rate in Euros – I don’t want to absorb any currency exchange fees if they cut me a check in Euros. I think I’m going to ask for an additional 10% to cover any exchange fees. Does that sound reasonable?

I’m not sure if you have any experience in this area, but I don’t know where else to turn! Thank you for any advice.




Glad you find the blog useful and congratulations on having a publisher contact you.

I don’t really know the answers to these questions, but let me tell you what I can and ask those readers in Europe to fill us in.

VAT is a Value Added Tax that’s paid in Europe. I doubt they will insist. It’s probably either your social security number or your VAT number.  Depending on how they are asking I might simply send my SSN and let them ask me again for the additional information if they really want it.

As I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere I prefer being paid by Paypal when I have an overseas client because I’ve had some trouble with checks and my soon to be ex bank Chase. I think you can also use the merchant side of Google Checkout although I’m not as familiar with that.

Of course, some still insist on paying by check. You can check in advance with your bank to determine the fees, although Chase couldn’t tell me which is one of the reasons I’m leaving them.

I also like these services because I don’t have to think so much about exchange rates. Yes, I pay a fee, but it’s one I include in my rate, although I don’t spell it out.

You do need to make sure you’re not underearning. You can find a zillion currency converters with a quick search. Choose one that makes sense to you, make sure the date is fairly current and enter your amount.

So, where am I wrong and what other information does SKM need?


Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Melisa


    The topic seems to be largely exhausted here, but just wanted to add my two cents as someone who is living and working freelance in Italy. It is not uncommon for Italian CVs to include personal information as personal as age, physical description and/or photograph, marital status, and even a description of how you dress! The culture of HR in Italy is wildly different from the US. In addition to tax reasons mentioned by others, for cultural reasons, it is not at all odd that they would ask for date and place of birth.

    As for asking for additional fees, I wouldn’t. The current exchange rate is significantly in your favor and should cover the cost of your fees. If you work with them again on another project you could ask then for the additional amount since at that stage you would know exactly what your transaction costs will be.

    • Anne

      Melisa, this makes the most sense to me… not adding fees, but I don’t have the experience to suggest it. Glad you did.

  • My two cents worth from the Czech Republic 🙂 I live here, and work for US, Canadian, Polish, German and occasionally Italian clients. No one issues checks. Everyone pays me via PayPal with the exception of a Danish client who insisted on a bank transfer into my US account. It was a small job and the wire transfer fees ate most of the pay, seriously, I had to pay International transfer fees and currency exchange fees. With PayPal I lose almost nothing, a few%, that is all, well worth it.
    It IS totally normal here for them to ask for all kinds of ID stuff, SSN, passport #, etc. Often they need to prove to their own government that they are legally dealing with tax issues, so that is usually the reason, your SSN is how income is reported for taxation, even by foreign employers (not that they do for freelance work, but they have to have it on file). The reason for this is that most EU counties have a reciprocal taxation agreement of some sort with the US, which means you won’t be asked to pay taxes in both countries, but both govts want to make sure you pay taxes SOMEWHERE!
    Personally for a short-term, small fee contract I wouldn’t ask for more money to cover the exchange, for a long-term or big money contract I would.
    .-= Paula Swenson´s last blog ..The Gift of Being Present =-.

  • In the US and Canada there are fees associated with international wire transfers that can make them impractical for regular payments, depending on the fee schedule.
    .-= Benjamin Hunting´s last blog ..Building A Macquarium =-.

  • First off, I wouldn’t worry about checks because most countries in Europe don’t use them. In my experience, bank transfers are easily done online and all you need to provide is a your name, IBAN number, your bank account number, bank name and country.

    I’m very surprised they asked for your SSN.
    .-= Writer Abroad´s last blog ..Dreams of the International Lifestyle =-.

    • Anne

      The US is getting harder and harder to deal with… asking for ssns may come from that.

      • Anne – what exactly do you mean? I would say that 80 percent of my clients are American, and as a Canadian, I have no issues with the U.S. government when it comes to payment or tax issues.
        .-= Benjamin Hunting´s last blog ..Building A Macquarium =-.

  • I agree with Lucy. For one-time projects I don’t worry about the fees, but for a long-term contract it is a good idea to have the company cover them. And I agree with Anne about paypal. I’m based in Germany and I find paypal very useful (and way cheaper than checks or wire transfers) for billing international clients. And most clients are comfortable with it because it is familiar.
    It’s pretty common in Europe to be asked for personal information like your birth date and place. You usually include that (along with a photo) on your resume and job applications, too.

  • I don’t think that’s unreasonable – I guess it’s a price they pay if they choose to hire someone outside their country. I’ve never done it as I just work the conversion fee into my rate if I do work outside this country, which isn’t often, but I’ve heard of people doing so.
    .-= Lucy Smith´s last blog ..Tempting gadgetry =-.

  • Sarah

    Thanks for all the advice folks! The company is in Italy. The quick research I did on VAT indicated that I don’t need to worry about that but I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask in case anyone has first-hand knowledge.

    And yes, I did check the currency exchange to make sure it was adequate pay, I’m more concerned about my bank charging a fee to exchange once I am paid. Does it seem unreasonable to request they increase my pay by 5% if they are going to pay me in Euros to cover the fees? (Average fee rates are 3-8%.)

    Thanks again!

  • If you don’t have a VAT number, you can’t give it to them, right? Over here (NZ) we have similar, called GST (Goods and Services Tax). All companies/service providers have to register for GST once their turnover exceeds a certain amount. It’s exempt outside this country though, so you don’t have to charge it for overseas clients. Check the VAT rules of whichever European country you’re dealing with, but I’m pretty sure VAT is normally exempt for exports – that’s why if you’re on vacation and you buy expensive stuff, you can claim your tax back.

    Which country are you dealing with, anyway? It’s going to be hard for people to help you without knowing that. Just because they share a currency, it doesn’t mean they share bureaucracy 😉

    Currency converter: you don’t even need to do a Google search for those, Google has a built-in one. Just put in something like ‘100 usd in euro’ and the exchange rate will automatically come up. It rocks.
    .-= Lucy Smith´s last blog ..Tempting gadgetry =-.

    • Anne

      Geeze, see what I mean about others knowing more about this than I do? I love it. One of the great things about getting older is I don’t have to think I know it all. Thanks Lucy.

  • I would be curious to know why they need any form of personal identification number from you to hire you as a contractor. None of my European clients have asked me for that type of information in the past. Have they mentioned what it would be used for?
    .-= Benjamin Hunting´s last blog ..Building A Macquarium =-.

    • Anne

      Suspect they think the US government will want it…. my hunch anyway.

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