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The 7 Best Ways For Getting Paid Quickly & Safely As A Freelancer

Freelancers, contractors, and consultants all know that you need clients to pay you on time. Fortunately, many companies have figured out ways to make getting paid easier.

    Jason Vissers
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How to get paid as a freelancer

While freelancing has been on the rise for years, the pandemic has kicked this trend into overdrive. Hence, the gig economy is increasingly just “the economy.” With so many of us doing freelance work — whether for supplemental income or as a career — there’s one thing freelancers can all agree on: Being your own one-person billing department is no fun.

Freelancers, contractors, and consultants all know that if your clients can’t or won’t pay you in a timely manner, you can’t pay your rent. For solopreneurs looking to spend more time doing billable work and less time sending invoices and chasing after payments, we wanted to write this piece to offer guidance on how to get paid as a freelancer.

Fortunately, many companies have figured out ways to make it easier for you. From credit cards to ACH to money transfer apps, the best payment services will facilitate you getting paid via modern, safe, quick methods. In this article, we’ll be highlighting some services that streamline the invoicing and payment process for you. We’ll also discuss a few tips that may help you get paid faster.

Learn More About Our Top Picks

CompanyBest ForNext StepsBest For
Square Invoices

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  • Accept credit, debit, ACH, and digital wallet payments
  • Best for the widest variety of freelance businesses
  • Accept credit, debit, ACH, and digital wallet payments
  • Best for the widest variety of freelance businesses

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FreshBooks

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  • Accept credit, debit, ACH, and digital wallet payments
  • Best for freelancers who do a lot of quotes/proposals
  • Accept credit, debit, ACH, and digital wallet payments
  • Best for freelancers who do a lot of quotes/proposals

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PayPal

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  • Accept credit, debit, ACH, digital wallet, and PayPal digital payments
  • Best for part-time freelancers
  • Accept credit, debit, ACH, digital wallet, and PayPal digital payments
  • Best for part-time freelancers

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QuickBooks Self-Employed

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  • Accept credit, debit, ACH, and digital wallet payments
  • Best for freelancers who use QuickBooks software for other business purposes
  • Accept credit, debit, ACH, and digital wallet payments
  • Best for freelancers who use QuickBooks software for other business purposes

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Wave

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  • Accept credit, debit, ACH, and digital wallet payments
  • Best for freelancers who want free bookkeeping software
  • Accept credit, debit, ACH, and digital wallet payments
  • Best for freelancers who want free bookkeeping software

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Other Featured Options:

  • TransferWise:
    • Accept credit, debit, ACH, and wire transfer payments
    • Best for freelancers who do frequent work across borders & want to minimize fees
  • Stripe Payments:
    • Accept credit, debit, ACH, and digital wallet payments
    • Best for freelancers with developer skills

Read more below to learn why we chose these options.

Why It’s Time To Ditch Cash & Checks As Freelance Payment Options

So how do freelancers get paid? And what are the best ways to get paid as a freelancer? Of course, the only fee-free way to accept payments from your clients is to take cash and/or checks. However, these old-school payment methods can’t match the safety and convenience of digital payments.

As cash payments must be accepted in person (sending cash in the mail is a very bad idea), their disadvantages are obvious. However, some firms still prefer making payments via check, so you may not be able to get all your clients to make the switch. Nonetheless, checks carry several downsides: they can get lost in the mail, get stolen (thus compromising your client’s information), take a while to arrive, and there’s always the chance that a check could bounce.

Getting paid quickly, securely, and across borders is a serious issue for freelancers. Business software provider Bonzai analyzed three years’ worth of invoice data in its system and found that 29% of invoices sent by freelancers were paid at least a day late. Thankfully, with digital payments and other tools (such as automated follow-up notifications) offered by modern payment services, you can increase your chances of getting paid on time and spend more of your valuable time on billable work rather than chasing past-due payments.

7 Best Freelance Payment Methods

Below are seven of our top picks for invoice management software that are particularly suited for freelancers. These freelance payment methods offer easy signup, easy termination, low to no monthly minimum volume requirements, reasonable fees, and pay-per-use service.

1. Square

Square Invoices



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Pros

  • No monthly fees
  • Easy to use
  • Impressive feature set
  • All-in-one invoicing and payment processing solution

Cons

Square is best known for its credit card processing and mobile POS system. However, freelancers should know that Square also offers a free service called Square Invoices. Your free Square Invoices account comes with the following:

  • Square dashboard
  • Online payment processing
  • Recurring invoices
  • Estimates
  • Sales tracking and analytics
  • Contact management
  • Appointments

Square Invoices does have some weaknesses — no multicurrency support and limited sales tax functionality. There’s also no project management at the free level, so if you tend to have complex multistage projects where you bill by milestone, you’ll need to spring for the paid version of the software, Square Invoices Plus. For $20/month, this package allows you to create milestone-based payment schedules and offers some basic project management features.

For online invoice payments, the Square fee is 2.9% + $0.30 per invoice or 3.5% + $0.15 to charge a card stored on fileThe fee is the same for all card types, and there is no charge for customers who pay invoices via cash or check. You can cancel your account at any time (but Square can unilaterally cancel your account too).

Square prohibits transactions it considers high-risk, so be sure your industry is accepted before creating an account, lest you find your account terminated later. Also, Square is not ideal for users with large processing amounts. If you regularly process more than $10,000/month, you might want to look for a merchant account provider to get the best deal.

If Square Invoices sounds right for you, read our full Square Invoices review for more details.

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2. FreshBooks

FreshBooks



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Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Excellent customer service
  • Well-designed UI
  • Attractive invoice templates

Cons

  • Limited users
  • Limited features

If your business does a lot of quotes/proposals, FreshBooks might be the invoicing software you need. Technically, FreshBooks is accounting software, but it lacks accounts payable, budgeting, and tax support capabilities, so it might not work as well as the various versions of QuickBooks. FreshBooks does have project management capabilities, so if this functionality is important to your business, you might want to take a closer look at FreshBooks.

Each of FreshBooks’ pricing plans only supports one user by default (additional users cost $10/month each), and the software does not support multiple businesses. FreshBooks has a three-tiered plan, from the Lite ($6/month) to the Plus ($10/month) to the Premium ($20). These prices are less than half of what they were just a few months ago.

As a freelancer, the Plus plan at $10/month probably makes the most sense. For payments made through FreshBooks, each invoice costs 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for most credit cards (American Express is 3.5% + $0.30 per transaction). ACH transfers cost 1% of the transferred amount.

FreshBooks offers two basic invoice templates that are customizable. Multilingual and multinational currency support is also offered, and with FreshBooks’ project management feature, you can create and keep track of hourly or flat-rate projects. To learn even more about the software, read our guide to using Freshbooks Payments.

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3. PayPal

PayPal



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Pros

  • Trusted by consumers
  • Flat-rate pricing, with fees taken out when the client pays
  • Ideal for low-volume merchants
  • International and multicurrency support

Cons

  • Account stability issues
  • Not suitable for high-risk industries

Like Square, PayPal is a third-party processor that provides a free invoicing feature. The difference is that PayPal Invoicing has international capabilities with multicurrency support, which is great if you tend to freelance overseas (or if you’re overseas and have clients in the US). And like Square, PayPal suits freelancers making under $10K/month.

PayPal Invoicing lets you start an invoice with various customizable templates where you can add your logo, contact information, and other custom items. You can use the app to send an estimate, and if the client accepts the price, you can convert the estimate to an invoice with one tap of a button. The invoice can be sent via email or an accessible shared link. You can schedule an invoice to be sent out at a future time or set up recurring invoices. If the client doesn’t pay on time, the app can send follow-up reminders.

Unfortunately, PayPal recently raised its processing rates and now charges 3.49% + $0.49 per invoiced transaction inside the US (more than you’ll pay with most alternatives), taken out when the customer pays. This is the same fee PayPal charges for online credit card processing, so variations on cross-border/international charges also apply. There’s also a tipping option, and you can set up installment payments. An API is available for integrating the invoicing function into custom billing software.

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4. QuickBooks Self-Employed

QuickBooks Self-Employed



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Pros

  • Suited for freelancers
  • Start invoicing/processing right away, and you can stop any time without penalty
  • No need to shop around — connect to QuickBooks Payments automatically
  • Multicurrency support

Cons

  • Limited invoice features
  • Unscalable

There are several flavors of QuickBooks, both online and for desktop, and each flavor is geared to fit the special needs of businesses from large to small. There’s even one specifically designed for freelancers. Fortunately, invoicing is such a basic function that all versions of QuickBooks have this feature. Because this article focuses on freelancers’ needs, we’ll focus more on QuickBooks Self-Employed (QBSE) here.

QBSE is a cloud-based app designed for the self-employed, including freelancers, independent contractors, and eCommerce merchants. QBSE isn’t full accounting software, but it has the features freelancers need most to manage federal taxes, track deductions, and separate personal and business expenses. There are three tiers of service, with the basic tier costing $7.50/month. You’ll pay 2.9% + $0.25 per invoice when paid by credit card, and ACH transfers will cost 1% per transaction (capped at $10). All three tiers have the same invoicing capability.

QBSE provides very basic invoices. You can invoice by the hour, by the item, or by a flat rate. There is no contact management or inventory tracking, but the software will remember past invoice information and let you select previous contacts and items from within the invoice. There are no invoice customizations, sales tax support, or estimates. However, you can add your logo to your invoices, send payment reminders, and accept payments online using Intuit’s credit card processor, QuickBooks Payments.

If you bill by project milestone and wish to stick with QuickBooks for your invoicing needs, you can upgrade to QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks Desktop. Both are better known as powerful accounting software, so the invoicing feature is just an add-on for convenience. You can integrate your existing processor to one of these versions of QuickBooks and send invoices that way, or you can use QuickBooks Payments by default. Read our detailed reviews for both the online version and the desktop version if your freelancing business needs more than the self-employed version of QuickBooks.

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5. Wave

Wave



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Pros

  • Free
  • Easy to use
  • Attractive invoice templates
  • Help from expert accountants is available

Cons

  • Unsuited for large businesses
  • Poor customer support
  • Limited mobile apps

Every accounting software with invoicing functionalities we’ve listed so far is fee-based. Wave is the exception. The full version of the software is completely free. Wave makes money through payments processed through it, commissions on loans, payroll processing, and professional bookkeeping services.

There are no artificial limits on invoicing, contacts, items, or other features with Wave. The software supports multiple companies and offers personal accounting as well. Wave charges 2.9% +  $0.30 per credit card transaction (Amex is 3.4% + $0.30) with a processing time of two days. For ACH payments, Wave charges 1% per transaction with a processing time of two to seven days. It also supports 160+ currencies, and exchange rates are updated daily. Wave is ad-free, and you can cancel your account at any time.

There are only three invoice templates, but they are attractive, modern, and customizable. Once an invoice is sent, Wave prompts you to schedule reminders, record payments, and send receipts. Wave offers recurring invoices as well. Wave also has a nice invoice dashboard where you can see overdue invoices, outstanding invoices, the average number of days it takes your invoice to get paid, and your next payout. The only downside about Wave’s invoicing is that you have to add sales tax on each item, and you can’t add discounts (you have to calculate them manually using a new item line).

For an even more detailed look at how to use Wave, read our guide to using Wave to process payments.

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6. Wise

TransferWise



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Pros

  • Low, transparent fees
  • No minimum transfer amount
  • Easy online account setup
  • Excellent customer support

Cons

  • Slower transfers than many competitors
  • Occasional account terminations

Wise (formerly TransferWise) offers freelancers a transparent, low-cost way to accept payments across borders. Wise can charge such low fees by having bank accounts in the countries in which it operates — when someone in another country pays you, their payment goes to the Wise bank account located in that country. You are then paid by the Wise account in your country. As the payment itself doesn’t cross borders, currency conversion charges and most other associated fees are eliminated.

Wise’s fees generally range between 0.4 and 1.4% of the amount transferred, based on the type of currency being sent and received. Thankfully, the online calculator will do the math for you.

Along with its money transfer services, TransferWise offers features for freelancers and businesses that need to provide payroll support to overseas employees. Particularly noteworthy is a batch payment tool that can process up to 1,000 payments at a time. Payments should arrive within one to two days in most cases, making this option faster than the normal timeframe for individual users.

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7. Stripe

Stripe Payments



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Pros

  • Excellent developer tools
  • Advanced reporting tools
  • Great subscription features
  • Multicurrency support

Cons

  • Account stability issues
  • Needs technical skill to implement

Just like its contemporaries Stripe and PayPal, third-party processor Stripe offers invoicing and billing services that are generally well-suited to freelancers and other small businesses.

Stripe Billing features flexible billing logic that allows for a wide variety of different billing models to be used. As for invoices, you can use the invoice template or the API to customize your invoices, email receipts, invoice PDFs, and more. As for Stripe Invoicing, the Starter plan offers 25 fee-free invoices per month with a 0.4% charge per subsequent invoice, while the Plus plan charges 0.5% for all invoices. Neither plan charges a monthly fee.

The Starter plan offers a hosted invoice page along with analytics, while the Plus plan throws in automatic collection, invoice auto-reconciliation, and the ability to send quotes.

While Stripe doesn’t quite offer the range of freelancer-friendly features that Square and PayPal offer, it’s a compelling solution in its own right. Check out our Stripe review to learn more about the company’s services.

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Looking For One Of These Freelance Payment Options?

Zelle

Zelle started as a consumer-only P2P money transfer app, but in 2018, the company moved into the B2B payment space. Unlike apps such as PayPal and Venmo, a Zelle money transfer goes directly from one user’s bank account to another. Accordingly, to use Zelle for business, Zelle must be integrated into your bank’s mobile banking app, and your bank must specifically permit the use of Zelle for business (not just personal) transactions. Without advanced invoicing and tax features, Zelle didn’t make our list of top choices, but if you’re still interested, check with your bank to see if you can use Zelle for business.

Cash App

Cash App (once known as Square Cash) is a Venmo-like money transfer service that didn’t quite make our Best Of list for freelance payment options. Like Venmo and Zelle, it’s a handy way to send and receive digital payments quickly. However, without invoicing and task management capabilities (as well as the fact that Cash App can’t be used to send payments across borders), Cash App doesn’t have the heft to be a true payment solution for freelancers.

Can You Accept Crypto For Freelance Payments?

As we explain in our article about accepting cryptocurrency as payment, yes, you can absolutely accept crypto as payment for your freelance work. Getting paid in crypto does come with certain advantages. First, it can potentially be cheaper than accepting credit cards, as there is no payment processor markup (though blockchains such as Bitcoin and Ethereum can have expensive network fees during periods of congestion). Additionally, taking cross-border crypto payments is just as easy as accepting a crypto payment from your roommate.

On the downside, crypto is highly volatile (this is a plus when crypto is going up, not so much when it’s crashing), and there is no built-in system for resolving payment disputes.

As things stand, accepting crypto payments may make sense for some freelancers, particularly those with clients in another country. However, it’s definitely not a necessity at the moment, and it’s not likely to be for some time.

11 Tips To Make Getting Paid As A Freelancer Easier

Even with the best invoicing tools available, there are still some tricks to getting paid that you can incorporate into your business practices. We’ve compiled some of them below.

Send Out Invoices & Then Follow Up

This may sound obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many freelancers fail to do this regularly. If you don’t send out invoices, then your clients have no way of knowing (or have a perfect excuse for not knowing) how much they owe you and by what date they must pay you. We know it’s painful for freelancers to stop doing billable work to send out invoices. That’s why automated invoicing software can be important.

Of course, not only must you send invoices, but you’ll also need to send follow-up reminders, so those who are slow to pay (or won’t pay) can be reminded of the bill. Fortunately, a lot of the invoicing platforms we highlighted above also send automatic follow-ups.

Have A Clear Contract

A contract doesn’t have to be full of legalese. Just set out, in plain English, what you’re going to do for your client, when everything is due, how you’re going to send the work to your client, and how and when they will pay you. Sometimes, you can attach your work proposal to ensure clarity.

You don’t always need a lawyer to do this, but once you start making money as a freelancer, it’s probably best if you hire a lawyer to draft a form contract for you to use for all your freelancing work.

Require A Deposit

Some clients — especially new clients — can be challenging to work with. They might claim you’ve done a bad job or require you to fix something repeatedly and then refuse to pay. So your time isn’t a complete loss, ask for a deposit before starting work. This way, at least you’ll get paid something for your troubles. The exact amount of the deposit depends on the customary practices of each industry, with some requiring up to 50%.

Do some research so that you have a reasonable starting point, and adjust the percentage depending on the situation.

Consider Using An Escrow Service

An escrow service is sort of a man-in-the-middle. It solves the problem where the freelancer demands payment in full before the work starts, but the client fears the freelancer will take the money and not do any work at all. When you hire an escrow service, the client sends the money to the escrow to be held until the job is completed. Then the escrow service releases the money to the freelancer.

Some freelancer platforms, such as Upwork (plus Upwork’s slightly different new escrow service) and Fiverr, work like that. Of course, escrow services charge a fee, but at least you’ll have peace of mind knowing you’ll be paid for your work.

Break Down Tasks & Give Detailed Descriptions

This only applies if you bill by the hour, of course, but people like to know what they’ve paid for. If you break down your tasks and describe them in some detail — e.g., “write first draft (2 hrs.), revise draft (1 hr.), fact check (1 hr.)” instead of “write article (4 hrs.),” the client will have some comfort that you’ve done the work. And if they do dispute the bill and you have to write down your hours, you can more easily do so and perhaps write down less if you have a detailed breakdown.

Be Upfront About Costs To Eliminate Surprises

People don’t like to be surprised by a huge bill. Even though it’s difficult and some potential clients will go away after the talk, be upfront about your charges. If you’re not exactly sure, do your best to give an estimate and make sure your client understands that this is a “soft quote” (and write the amount down, so neither side misremembers the number).

If You're Going Over Budget, Discuss ASAP & Get The Client's OK Before Proceeding

Expanding on the “no surprises” principle, if you anticipate going over a money or time budget set at the start of a project, let the client know about this right away. The client might tell you to ignore some aspects of the project while focusing on others. Or the client might want to terminate the project (make sure you get paid for your services up to the time of termination). Or the client might approve the revised budget. Be sure to get everything in writing, so everyone understands the new goal.

If You Give A Discount, Make Sure The Client Knows About It

People always like a discount, so let the client know if you do give one. This way, you can earn their appreciation, which might translate to faster payment and maybe even repeated business.

Consider Giving A Discount For Prompt Payment & Charge Interest For Late Payment

Related to the above, you might set out a policy where you always provide a discount if you receive your payment within, say, 10 days of sending the invoice, but also charge a penalty for delayed payment. This incentive can get you paid faster. But if you wish to charge a penalty, check your state’s usury laws to make sure you’re not in violation.

Don't Hesitate To Pause Work If The Client Hasn't Paid

If you’re doing work with milestone payments and your client hasn’t paid the first milestone while you’re ready to move on to the third milestone, don’t hesitate to stop work until you get paid, at least for the first milestone or maybe both the first and second milestones.

If they don’t pay, your time is better spent going out to get new paying clients than doing work that you’re not sure you’ll be paid for.

Don't Be Shy About Firing Nonpaying Clients

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that having a client is better than having none. Non-paying clients make you waste time doing their work when you can better use that time finding other clients who will pay. Firing a client — especially one who used to pay but now won’t — will be one of the most difficult things you’ll do as a freelancer, but sometimes, it’s the only sensible thing to do.

The Bottom Line On Getting Paid As A Freelancer, Solopreneur, Or Consultant

Freelancing has its pluses and minuses. You own your own business, set your own hours, and, to an extent, you get to pick your own projects. But with the good comes the bad: You’ll have to do all the office administration paperwork yourself, including sending out invoices and dealing with clients that pay late or refuse to pay altogether.

Fortunately, with the increased number of people doing freelance work, plenty of payment platforms have designed software for the needs of freelancers, including invoicing functionality. These platforms should save you time and increase the rate you’re paid on time. With the right tools, your invoicing process should run fairly automatically.

Beyond invoicing software, we’ve also included some tips on how to get paid faster in this article. Which tip is applicable to you depends on the nature of your freelancing business. For instance, if you’re an Uber driver, most of these tips won’t apply, but if you’re a writer, a web designer, or a programmer, we hope the tips will help.

Do you have freelancing tips of your own or a war story to tell about getting paid as a freelancer? If you do, please let us know in the comments!

If you’re looking for more information to help you run your freelancing business, check out the following resources!

In Summary: 7 Best Freelance Payment Methods

  1. Square Invoices:
    • Accept credit, debit, ACH, and digital wallet payments
    • Best for the widest variety of freelance businesses
  2. FreshBooks:
    • Accept credit, debit, ACH, and digital wallet payments
    • Best for freelancers who do a lot of quotes/proposals
  3. PayPal:
    • Accept credit, debit, ACH, digital wallet, and PayPal digital payments
    • Best for part-time freelancers
  4. QuickBooks Self-Employed:
    • Accept credit, debit, ACH, and digital wallet payments
    • Best for freelancers who use QuickBooks software for other business purposes
  5. Wave:
    • Accept credit, debit, ACH, and digital wallet payments
    • Best for freelancers who want free bookkeeping software
  6. TransferWise:
    • Accept credit, debit, ACH, and wire transfer payments
    • Best for freelancers who do frequent work across borders & want to minimize fees
  7. Stripe Payments:
    • Accept credit, debit, ACH, and digital wallet payments
    • Best for freelancers with developer skills
Jason Vissers

Jason Vissers

Expert Analyst & Reviewer at Merchant Maverick
Jason Vissers has been researching, analyzing, and writing about small business software and finance since 2015. His financial expertise has been cited in numerous publications, including The Ladders. Jason graduated with a Political Science degree from San Diego State University in 2001.
Jason Vissers
View Jason Vissers's professional experience on LinkedIn.

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