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Overseas Work: Arranging Payment
by Nicole Bishop

A lot of the time, payment will not just come from the States (though, if it does come from the States, you may want to have your tax estimator on standby).When you are being paid in a foreign currency, you may have to contend with delays getting your payment by post, or with increased bank processing fees. Not only this, but you must also contend with the insecurity of dealing with someone across the other side of the world whose trustworthiness is hard to gauge. If they turn out not to be trustworthy, then you have very little recourse. It’s difficult to enforce payment for defaulters at any time, more so if they reside overseas, way outside of your reach , and even more so for small businesses who do not usually have the time or money to hire a lawyer to resolve disputes over payment. 

As a freelancer, you obviously want to get paid as quickly as possible, while avoiding (or reducing) bank fees, AND you want the power to enforce this payment on those who would try to take advantage of your work for free. A tall order? Perhaps! Anyway, here are some suggestions, both from myself and from readers of this newsletter.

I am by no means an expert on this topic—so let’s make this a forum for discussion. You are invited to mail us your own tips and experiences as well

Transferring the Money

What’s the best, most cost-effective way to get the money from your payer’s bank to your bank? There are quite a few options to consider when making this decision. Here are some of them:

1. PayPal. Pay Pal ( ) allows people to send and receive money by email or by setting up a merchant account. It eliminates the delays involved in sending and clearing cheques, as well as the expenses involved in wire transfer.

2. International Cheque. This cheque can be either in your own (NZ) currency, or it can be in the currency of the overseas payer. The cheapest option is to accept the cheque in the currency of the overseas payer, as this mimimises bank fees. The downside is the delay involved— the delay caused by international postal delivery PLUS the delay caused by the need to wait 10 days or so for your cheque to clear. 

3. Credit Card Merchant Account. If you have your own merchant account you can get your client to pay you directly by credit card, saving the delays involved in transferring and clearing cheques. However, there are commission fees involved (usually between 3-5%) and the banks will usually require you to charge your clients in New Zealand dollars. 

4. Foreign Bank Account. Having a bank account in the currency of your payer means you can collect payment directly—saving yourself both the bank fees involved in wire transfer and the delays involved in receiving and clearing international cheques. Of course, you will need to find a bank that will work with 'non-resident aliens'—not always easy to find (most banks require that you live in the same country). 

Getting Them to Pay Up

So you’ve decided upon a payment method that works for you. Now all you have to do is make sure they actually pay up! Here are some suggestions:

1. Use a Credit Card Merchant Account

Kevin McMahon, a business coach, has the following advice to offer:

"In terms of payment for writers who are working internationally I would make the following brief comment. Invoicing and checks are great for your local market but not for international transactions. I would recommend credit card payment. A small business would expect to pay 3.75% commission on each transaction—something most would say is justifiable given the increased certainty of payment...

Kevin McMahon
McMahon Coaching International

2. Clarify your Agreement 

According to Jann Dyer, clarifying the agreement before you start should be a high priority:

"Always get confirmation of the following: 
· your hourly rate or rate per word 
· method and terms of payment 
· an outline of the exact work you are going to do 
· deadlines

For off-shore people it's important that both parties are clear about the currency in which the work is to be paid for and how the payment will be made. It can make a substantial difference to the end result. For example cheques in US$ sent as is can often be better than cheques that have been converted to NZ$. Writers need to check out the banks and see if they are better off to open a foreign currency account. These are good for simply holding funds until it's better to convert to local currency—not so relevant just now though. 

.... I would certainly like to get tips from others who have had 'educational' experiences. 

Jann Dyer"

Marty Pilott wrote:

"Re: Getting paid from overseas. Noting the various problems involved, I prefer to start with a 'taster'. I invite the client to send a small piece of work which I complete rapidly with an account. They can then see if they like my work and I can see if get paid. We both have a chance to discuss it if things are going wrong...Marty Pilott>>

....And Louise Thomas wrote:

<<I work for a number of overseas publications, mostly in Australia and the US, although I also have clients in Ireland, England and Japan.

I would normally have two to three overseas invoices per month.

I invoice by email and in all cases the publication concerned mails a cheque from their normal business account in the currency of that country. In terms of the time taken to receive payments I've never noticed it to be any slower than NZ publications— most publications have a monthly payment cycle anyway. The worst experience I've had was actually a well-known NZ publication which took six months to pay!...