As a virtual assistant, I can choose to work from pretty much anywhere; providing I have a stable internet connection. That’s why I’ve chosen to reside in SW France. After all, who wouldn’t, given the opportunity, want to live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world!?

However, while living abroad obviously has a number of benefits, it’s not without its glitches – although I admit the pros far outweigh the cons! And, it was one of these minor niggles that prompted me to write this post.

You see, as a virtual assistant, I work with clients from all over the world. Whilst this is fantastic and means that I can grow my professional network exponentially across the globe, it does raise the question of how to get paid?

For a start, everything I do in terms of banking here is in Euros. But I’ve got clients who work in pounds, dollars and a number of other currencies. Therefore, exchange rates need to be taken into consideration whenever I’m compiling an invoice.

Previously, I found myself either raising an invoice through Paypal – which meant I received payment in all manner of currencies and had to take a hit on the fees – or via international bank transfers.

The Paypal route is fine and affords a lot of convenience but exchange rates are out of your control and the fees at present are around 4%.There’s also a lot of horror stories on the internet of people’s Paypal accounts being suspended without reason and the money is seemingly gone forever. Okay, so they’re probably trying to swindle the system but it does reiterate that the money isn’t yours once it’s sat in your Paypal account.

Now, with international bank transfers the fees can make even more of a dent. For example, I was recently sent £80 for some work I’d completed for a client. They paid me via international bank transfer to my French bank account and I was charged more than €30 to receive it! Obviously, this is less than ideal and has a huge impact on my business from a financial perspective.

It’s also worth noting that as an auto-entrepreneur I pay social security contributions at a standard rate based on my turnover (yes turnover not profit!). Also, I cannot offset expenses, including fees, against my income. In fact, I calculated that in a single month, using Paypal/bank transfers, I could end up paying around €100 in just fees – which I still have to make social security payments on.

So what’s the answer? Well, I was recently introduced by a client of mine to Transferwise. And, so far, I must say that it’s been a breath of fresh air. You can see from their homepage a typical example of how much you can save in a single transaction when making payments abroad:

Banks typically charge around 5% in fees for international payments. Compare this Transferwise’s 0.5% and you can already start to see the benefit – 10 times less! Furthermore, there are no long waits when using Transferwise and I have always received payments promptly.

I must point out that I am not here to promote Transferwise specifically and I’m not affiliated with them in any way. I am merely talking about my personal experience with them in the hope that it will help some of you going forward.

At the time of writing, Transferwise support international payments to a host of countries around the world and this list will inevitably increase in the future.

So if you’ve been looking for a way to send/receive international payments securely and haven’t tried Transferwise yet, I recommend you give them a go and leave a comment outlining your experience. Likewise, if anyone uses any similar money transfer services, I’d love to hear about them.

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