Getting paid by international clients as a freelancer can be tricky. Check out our guide to learn the best ways to get paid from abroad without losing on fees.
Guru is a great way for freelancers and clients to connect - wherever on the planet they happen to be. So far, $200 million has been paid out to freelancers registered with the site, with a million jobs completed already. There’s even a version of the site for enterprise customers - clients who have so many freelancers to manage that they need extra support. And what’s possibly even better, if you work as a freelancer through Guru, you get to call yourself - you guessed it - a guru. That’s an influential teacher or popular expert, according to the dictionary definition. How cool is that!
If you’re thinking about joining the huge numbers of people finding work through Guru, you need to know how to get your hands on your hard earned money. Here’s all you need to know to get you started.
If you’re just starting to consider working with Guru, you’ll need to know a bit about how it works.
Setting up a basic account is free, but you can upgrade to different membership packages for a fee. These give extra functionality within the site, and can also mean that you pay a lower fee for finding clients through Guru. Full details are available on the website, with a handy comparison table to see the membership levels side by side.
You can find a freelance job through Guru, in one of the following ways:
- Search available jobs
- Get invited to a job by a client
The most common way to find work through Guru is to search through the jobs which have been posted by employers looking for freelance professionals. There are thousands available at any one time, across lots of different fields, and you can search for things that suit your skills based on keywords, budget and location.
Once you have found a job you like, you submit a bid, detailing what you can do for the customer, what you’d charge and so on. The client then chooses a freelancer from those who have bid on the job. There are a limited number of bids any freelancer can submit on the free, basic package - if you want to apply for lots of jobs, or boost your chance of your quote being seen by the employer, you have to pay to upgrade your subscription.
Depending on the package you have, you might also get job matches, which highlight where an employer has posted a job that matches your skills, but you haven't viewed yet. You can then apply for it directly. Otherwise, you can set up a RSS feed to make sure that the jobs posted using keywords that are relevant to you, are sent directly to your inbox.
Once you’ve registered with Guru, you first have to create a profile page, which includes details like the services you can offer, and a portfolio which shows work you’ve done previously. Once this is up and running, employers can find you if your skills match their needs, and invite you to bid on a specific job.
You then go through the same process as if you had found the job yourself, but in this case your bid doesn’t count towards the total amount of bids you can submit in a month, which is limited according to your membership level and package.
You have a couple of different options when it comes to receiving the money you got for work done through Guru. You can invoice your client directly through Guru, or work with the platform to get paid using their channels, which offer some additional protection thanks to SafePay. This means that clients pay Guru for any work upfront, which is then released after you’ve delivered the project and paid to you using a bank transfer, PayPal or other transfer method. Guru recommends that you use SafePay when working with clients you don’t know, and save direct invoicing for customers you have worked with before, and trust to actually pay. In the event of an unpaid invoice, Guru can’t help if it’s been submitted directly to the client.
Using SafePay gives a degree of certainty that you’re working with a legitimate client and will be paid - however, there are some fees for withdrawing funds with some of the methods. It’s especially costly if you’re being paid in USD but need to get your hands on your money in a different currency.
Read all the small print before you decide how to withdraw money from Guru, or you could end up with less money than you’d expect, especially if currency conversion is involved. We’ll talk a bit more about fees later - to help you make sure you see as much of your earnings as possible.
The amount of time it’ll take to receive your money can also depend on how it’s being transferred. International bank transfers tend to take a few days to reach their destination - a wait of 5 days or more is not unheard of.
Direct invoice? Wire transfer? Direct Deposit (ACH)? PayPal? Payoneer Prepaid Card? Which one is best?
Once you’re up and running on Guru, you’ll have to choose how you want to receive your payments. Your options are:
- Invoice your client directly
- Wire transfer to a bank account, available worldwide
- Direct deposit to a US bank account
- Wire transfer to PayPal
- A transfer to a Payoneer account or Payoneer prepaid MasterCard
You can create invoices within Guru, which could be to cover entire projects, for work paid on an hourly rate, or for milestones within a larger project. These can then be sent directly to the client for payment, through the platform’s messaging system.
Bank transfers can be used to move your money to a bank account held in a currency other than USD. However, in this case, as well as the $9 charge applied by Guru, you’ll have to consider the exchange rate that the bank will use, and any additional fees that could be added along the way by intermediary banks.
Exchange rates used in international bank transfers like these, in many cases offer pretty bad value, so you end up losing out.
Not only that, if your money is moving across borders, the fees added can be painful, as your money will likely be transferred via the SWIFT network. This can mean that on top of a poor exchange rate, extra fees are charged by anywhere between 1- 3 intermediary banks, as your money moves through the banking system. Before you see the money in your bank account, your own bank could also charge you to receive the international transfer. That means you end up with far less in your pocket than you should.
If you want to beat unfair charges, a Wise multi-currency borderless account might be your answer. You’ll get the real exchange rate for any currency conversions - set out clearly, and without markups - and you can also get paid using local bank details in the UK, Europe, Australia and the US. If you’re a Guru user based outside of America, with a borderless account, you could use US bank details to receive your money through a domestic ACH payment. That means you avoid excess charges, but still withdraw the money to your local bank account later at a fair rate. More on that later, though.
Direct deposits to bank accounts in the US are often called ACH (Automated Clearing House) payments. With this method you’re paid directly into your local US bank account. And if you don’t have a US bank account, you could generate local bank details with a Wise borderless multi-currency account, and still use this transfer method.
If you have an existing PayPal account, you can link it to your Guru profile, and ask for your earnings to be sent there. You can then use your cash to buy things directly using your PayPal, balance or move it to your linked bank account. Although there are no fees payable to Guru for the withdrawal, you might find that there are additional fees for moving your money if it’s going across borders, or if there’s a currency conversion involved. Check out the details before you decide to use PayPal.
An alternative is to have your earnings paid to a Payoneer prepaid MasterCard, which you can then use to make payments or withdrawals at ATMs. Guru doesn’t charge anything if you choose this withdrawal method. However, there are charges levied by Payoneer for transactions and to activate the card. Read the small print if you’re considering this option, to make sure that it works for you.
How do I withdraw my earnings in US dollars from Guru to my bank account? What if I live overseas - aka, not in America?
The fees Guru will charge for withdrawing payments depend on the method you want to use.
The option which gives you the most control - and zero fees - is to use an ACH transfer to a US based bank account. That means there’s no charge from Guru, and no currency conversion to worry about.
Live outside of the US? Meet the Wise borderless multi-currency account.
With a Transferwise borderless account, you can live in one country, but get paid locally in another. That means you can be paid with local bank details in the EU, the US, the UK and Australia, and avoid the fees associated with payments made across borders. You can then choose when and how to convert your money to the currency you want, with the real rate and a transparent and low fee, both of which are always stated upfront.
For example: Alex is a freelancer living in Sweden. He’s working on a project paid in USD through Guru. However, his bank account is held in euros. To minimise the fees levied on his payment and make sure there are no surprises, Alex opens a new borderless account with Wise. He activates USD and generates local bank details for this currency. With these local US bank details, Alex can get his funds using a local ACH payment from Guru. This means no fees for withdrawal or converting the currency. Once he has his money, Alex can either keep it in USD in his new Wise borderless account or move it out of the borderless account to a bank account held in a different currency, using the real rate and a low fee.
All of the fees Guru might charge are detailed within their Terms and Conditions. Each freelancer is charged a project fee for every job they undertake on Guru, which varies depending on the membership level you have. This can run from 4.95%- 8.95%, and is deducted directly from the amount the client pays you. It’s also worth noting, that if you run into any problems and need Guru to resolve an issue with your client, you’ll have to pay an additional fee of at least $25 or 5% of the project fee, depending on which is bigger.
Once Guru has taken the project fee, you might also incur a cost to withdraw your money from the platform.
Here’s Guru’s charging system for withdrawals:
|Direct Deposit (ACH)||No fee|
|PayPal||No fee from Guru, but check out the small print if you’re moving money across borders or between currencies as there may be additional charges from PayPal directly.|
|Payoneer card||Guru doesn’t charge, but Payoneer levies an activation fee, a monthly charge and various other fees for getting cash out. Make sure you read the small print.|
(Source 28 February 2018)
It’s worth knowing that there could be additional charges, depending on your location and the currency you’re withdrawing in. PayPal, banks, and most money transfer services can add high charges to any transfer which crosses international borders - these aren’t in the control of Guru, but might reduce the amount of cash you receive in the end.
As a freelancer, you want to get your money with the lowest fees possible, but you’ll also need to make sure the exchange rate is fair if you’re planning on sending USD to a bank account or PayPal account held in a different currency. You can check the exchange rates pretty easily online with an online currency converter.
Unfortunately, the rates applied to international transfers by banks of standard money transfer services are often not transparent. Don’t believe it, when they say that they'll move your money for free. They’re notorious for taking their own cut. Simply by providing you with a poor exchange rate, you could lose out on an additional 4-5%. Which means you’ll end up with less money in your bank at the end of the day.
A better bet is to use Wise for your international transfer. Wise uses the live mid-market rate - the same one you’ll find on Google as well as the same rate banks use to trade money amongst themselves. So people get the same rate as big banks do - and freelancers get to see more of their pay.
You can still take on USD jobs in Guru, even if you don’t have an American bank account. However, a wire transfer to an account held outside of the US will come with a high fee from Guru, and the exchange rate used to convert your payment from USD to the currency of your home account isn’t transparent. That leaves you exposed to hidden fees, and can mean you receive less money than you should.
To avoid this, you can get local bank account details for the US with a speciality service like Wise. You’re then able to take your payment in dollars and then transfer your money through Wise into your home bank account. That way, you can see upfront the fees, and the exchange rate you get. And have a whole lot more control over how much you receive in the end.
As the internet brings freelance workers, and prospective clients ever closer, the world is your oyster if you work for yourself. However, traditional banking isn’t designed to serve people who work independently with clients who could be based anywhere in the world.
That’s where Wise comes in. The Wise borderless account is built for international people. It’s the new alternative to old-fashioned banking.
If you create a multi-currency borderless account you can manage dozens of currencies at once in a single account. You can access local bank details in the US, the UK, the EU and Australia as well as a debit card linked to your account, too. What’s not to love?
Check out whether you’re eligible, based on where you live, below.
Wise borderless multi-currency accounts are supported for freelancers living in the following countries
- Aland Islands
- American Samoa
- British Indian Ocean Territory
- British Virgin Islands
- Cape Verde
- Christmas Island
- Cocos (Keeling) Islands
- Cook Islands
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- Dominican Republic
- Faroe Islands
- French Guiana
- French Polynesia
- French Southern Territories
- Holy See (Vatican City State)
- Isle of Man
- Marshall Islands
- New Caledonia
- Norfolk Island
- Puerto Rico
- Saint Helena
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Pierre and Miquelon
- Saint Vincent and Grenadines
- Saint-Martin (French part)
- San Marino
- Sao Tome and Principe
- South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
- South Korea
- Turks and Caicos Islands
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
Wise borderless multi-currency accounts support transfers and switching with the following currencies
Wise borderless multi-currency accounts can generate local bank details in the following regions / currencies
These days, as a freelancer you’re not limited by borders. You can work with customers all over the world, just as easily as you might work with someone in your hometown. But old-fashioned banking hasn’t caught up - and if you rely on your usual bank to deal with payments from international customers, it can cost you more than you need to pay. Don’t lose out. Check out the alternatives, to make sure you get the best deal available - and the sky’s the limit for your new business venture.
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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