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I don’t mind getting paid by PayPal

by Catherine Jan on May 2, 2012

For the first time in my career as a translator, I was paid by PayPal.coin collection

This first-time client was courteous and professional, and it was a real pleasure to work with her. Bonus: She paid me within 24 hours of receiving my assignment.

My clients can pay in three different ways:

  • cheque
  • bank transfer
  • PayPal

The PayPal fees, paid by yours truly, were as follows:

  • 3.4% of the total amount
  • €0.25 transaction fee

So I did lose a few euros. But I can accept that.

PayPal has its merits

Why do I accept PayPal?

  • It makes life easier for the client.
  • Because it’s so convenient, it encourages clients to pay quickly.
  • I feel that I charge enough to make up for the commission.

When would I advise against using PayPal?

I think there are three cases in which I would avoid PayPal.

1. Regular clients

For regular clients, that 3.4% commission would start to add up. If a client appreciated the convenience of using PayPal, I would just add an extra fee, like an extra 2% or a surcharge of €20. Or I’d quote a little higher than usual.

2. Projects with a higher price tag

For more expensive projects, that 3.4% commission would start to add up immediately! Maybe if the order was for over €500, I’d list a small PayPal fee right upfront in the estimate and email.

3. Cheap clients

If the rate was borderline acceptable, PayPal would just add salt to my wounds.

Enough about me . . .

Any thoughts about payment methods? What types of payment do you accept? What types of payment do you not accept?


Juliette S May 2, 2012 at 16:57

Really clear and well set out post Catherine! Thanks!

Catherine Jan August 21, 2012 at 17:53

Glad you liked it, Juliette :)

Tom Ellett May 2, 2012 at 21:08

I accept PayPal for amounts up to $500. As you say, the convenience for clients often means faster payment, which makes up for the fees. I also find it invaluable for receiving payment upfront from private clients requesting certified translations.

Otherwise, since I’m in Canada and the majority of my clients are in Europe, I have them pay by bank transfer to my account in the UK (where I used to live). I then move the money across the Atlantic via a currency trading service (XE Trade). This means the client can make the payment at low cost under the Single European Payment Area rules. I transfer the sterling amount to the currency trader’s British account through online banking, and then receive the dollar equivalent by direct deposit from the currency trader’s Canadian office into my Canadian account.

The alternative of a direct wire transfer from Europe to Canada would be much more expensive for both the client and me. Most Canadian banks charge $15 for an incoming wire payment, on top of the hefty fees already paid on the client’s end and the dreaded (and totally unpredictable) deductions by any intermediary banks involved in the transfer.

For Canadian and American business clients, cheque/check is still the normal method of payment. Canadian banks (mine at least) will let you deposit American checks at no additional fee, but the exchange rate is lousy and larger amounts could be subject to a lengthy hold period. However, I was able to open a personal account with Bank of America in Niagara Falls, NY, which I now use to deposit American checks and pay any bills in US dollars. I think the banks in most American border towns are used to dealing with Canadian clients and make the process as simple as possible.

Anyway, I’m sure that’s way more information than you were looking for on other people’s payment methods!

Catherine Jan August 21, 2012 at 17:54

Very good tip about opening an account across the border for American cheques!

Gaëlle Gagné May 3, 2012 at 10:04

Great post Catherine! I agree with you, Paypal should remain a method of payment for smaller projects and occasional clients. Like Tom, I only accept Paypal for payments up to €500, beyond that I find that the fees are too high to justify the convenience.
I did a bit of research on the best ways to get paid by foreign clients and wrote a blog post (in French) on international payment methods including Paypal . If you are interested, you can read it at: Have a great day!

Catherine Jan August 21, 2012 at 17:56

Très bon billet, merci à toi :)

Allison Wright May 4, 2012 at 00:59

I have an occasional client from the USA who pays 100% before I start the job. This client also gives generous deadlines. These two factors (plus an appropriate surcharge built into my quotation) make up for any charges PayPal levies. I do not encourage the use of PayPal though. For my administrative purposes, it is much easier for me to keep track of payments transferred directly into my normal bank account.

Catherine Jan August 21, 2012 at 18:00

Thanks Allison,
That’s another good example of a situation where PayPal is acceptable.

Lisa Carter May 9, 2012 at 14:36

Like you, I don’t mind the occasional payment via PayPal, but the fees really do add up. While I was away in Costa Rica last year, I had a regular client from the US start to pay me via PayPal versus the cheques I normally received by mail and deposited into my bank account. Over time, those fees really started eating into my earnings, however, so now that I’m back in Canada, I’ve asked for cheques again.

Catherine Jan August 21, 2012 at 18:02

Good point. I guess that’s one downside of being away—you can’t deposit cheques.

Polish translator May 21, 2012 at 12:10

I do accept PayPal payments, however, some of my clients still consider it little professional. I guess it’s a matter of generation and/or nation habits.

Catherine Jan August 21, 2012 at 18:03


Carnet de trad May 23, 2012 at 15:58

I accept PayPal payments but try to avoid them as much as possible. I should do like Tom and accept them up to $500. Because the fee is according to the amount and I “lose” a lot between the conversion fee and the transfer fee, it’s usually a lot cheaper to pay the $15 commission bank charges for bank transfer.

Catherine Jan August 21, 2012 at 18:07

Since I may end up back in Canada one day, it’s really helpful that you and Tom have told me that I can expect to pay around 15 CAD for bank transfers.

Nancy Winters July 5, 2012 at 16:00

Thank you for your compliment Catherine. We will be more than happy to continue our collaboration. Your article has just gone online.

Catherine Jan August 21, 2012 at 18:07

It was a great pleasure. I hope we can work together again soon :)

Stephen Filbey November 18, 2012 at 00:47

“The PayPal fees, paid by yours truly, were as follows:”
Excuse me, but who is ‘yours truly’?????

Catherine Jan November 18, 2012 at 11:24

Hi Stephen,
That’s me.

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