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How to Set Up a PayPal Account for Freelancing (Outside US)

Lovelli has been freelancing for 10+ years. She's becoming a full-stack freelancer and she'll share with you her key learnings & practices.

True or False: If it is not worth waiting for, it's not worth having.

True or False: If it is not worth waiting for, it's not worth having.

Working Online: PayPal

To work online, you need an online payment setup. PayPal is one of the most used in the world, but in order to get it to work outside the US, you need to get it right.

What This Article Covers

1. Freelance Basics: Do you even know how you're getting paid?

2. Why Take Online Payments? They're fast and safe, and they offer protection.

3. Why PayPal? Because it works, and most freelance websites support it.

4. PayPal for Freelancers: At least 10 things we can do.

5. How to Manage Your Money: Withdraw it, and add more in multiple currencies!

6. Fees, Charges, and Some Known Issues. No surprises here.

Online Work Requirements

There are at least four fundamental things you need to start working online.

  • First and foremost, you need a reliable internet connection. Many platforms make it a requirement that your internet is at a certain speed to be eligible for paid projects.
  • The next thing you need is a working computer in a workspace. The standard is to have a desktop computer or a laptop, but there are tasks that you can work on with a mobile pad, or even a smartphone, which is also a must-have.
  • Thus, the third thing is a smartphone. You will need it often when registering online, to receive text confirmations, or even to change passwords.

Let’s see: You’ve got a computer machine, a working smartphone, a decent internet connection, and you’ve put your work clothes on. It looks like you’re all set. But hold on. Do you know how you’re going to get paid?

"Get rich or try sharing."

"Get rich or try sharing."

Why Take Online Payments

There are many benefits of taking online payments, especially when the nature of your work is online. Most freelance platforms, e-commerce sites, and online publications will pay their workers through an online payment system.

Some will also provide options to receive payment via check and bank transfer (if you’re within their reach), but many don’t. They only pay online.

  • Checks are fairly tricky. A check usually takes days to arrive, if it is mailed at all. And when the client is in a different country, your wait time can take up to four weeks, sometimes months.
  • International bank transfer is also a legit option. But this is also not as convenient as an online payment system. Each bank handles wire transfers differently, and there is the question of high fees, exchange rates (plus mark-ups) and fees for the intermediary and recipient banks.
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Online payments are easier for online work. It makes faster payment possible. It allows for a more accurate invoicing, using online invoices that integrate with your work platforms. It lowers your costs and eliminates fees associated with bank transfers and checks.

It's all that; plus, an online payment usually offers some type of security for fraud prevention.

The story behind your pricing model.

The story behind your pricing model.

Does It Have to Be a PayPal Account? Really?

PayPal is only one of the most used online payment services in the world. In Q3 of 2018, Statista recorded 254 million active accounts worldwide. People buy and sell goods all over the worldwide web with the service. More recently, brick-and-mortar retailers and shops have also gradually begun accepting it as a mobile payment method for in-store payment and digital wallet top-up.

It is a very popular method of payment for freelancers. Top freelance websites like Fiverr, 99Designs, Upwork, and Toptal support the PayPal method. If you sell t-shirts and other merch with Teespring, Spreadshirt or Spreadshop, you will also be paid as such. This is also if you write for Crowd Content, Boost Media, or if you test websites with User Testing.

The bottom line is you need to have a PayPal account, and you want it setup the right way.

How PayPal Works

People use PayPal to purchase online products, renew online subscriptions, shop for artworks, send money to friends and family, and for other purposes because:

1. It doesn’t reveal your banking and credit card info.

When sending money online, this online payment system does not reveal your banking information. All you need to send or receive money is the other person’s email address. So it’s fairly private.

PayPal provides a guarantee to the buyer that your money can be recovered. And to the seller, that the goods can be recovered, should anything out of the ordinary happen. Both buyers and sellers will only be dealing with PayPal as the facilitator of the transaction.

2. It lets you withdraw into a local bank account.

PayPal will automatically apply an exchange rate, so you'll receive your payment in your local currencies.

3. It allows for multiple accepted currencies.

With just one account, you can receive money in many currencies, including euro, dollars, yen, and many others. Not all currencies are accepted. You cannot, for example, send or receive Indonesian rupiahs or Indian rupees. You will have to do the transactions in any of the 25 acceptable currencies, e.g. American dollars.

PayPal's current list of currencies includes the following: American dollar, Thai baht, Australian dollar, New Taiwan dollar, Hong Kong dollar, Canadian dollar, New Zealand dollar, Singapore dollar, euro, Hungarian forint, Swiss franc, Czech koruna, Danish krone, Swedish krona, Norwegian krone, the Philippine peso, Mexican peso, pound sterling, Russian ruble, Israeli new shekel, Japanese yen, and Polish złoty.

Account Requirements

For online work, you won’t be needing a PayPal business account. A personal account is all you need to receive, send, and spend your hard-earned money. Unless you have a business that operates mainly online, such as a clothing brand or a consulting business, use the features of a personal account.

Prepare a valid email address and a valid credit card or bank account. You can connect both the card and the bank account to one email address. If later you want another account for your online business, you can create a business account in a relatively similar manner. That's right; you can have both.

How to Get a PayPal Account

1. Account Sign-up and Registration Process

To create a new account, go to PayPal's website, and from the homepage select sign-up. If you prefer the mobility of an app, download it from the app store first, and then sign-up from your mobile gadget.

2. Create a ‘Personal Account’

After you select a type of account, you will need to fill out a sign-up form. Signing up is free. Just fill in your name and email and create a password.

After you fill in your personal address and phone number, you will be asked to link a debit card or credit card. If you prefer to link your bank account, select the “Link a bank account instead” option at the bottom of the form. Or, choose “I’ll do it later” if you’re not sure which to link.

Note: You can connect your other emails along with the one you signed up with so that you can accept payments from as many as 8 personal emails (plus a primary administrative email).

Now, why would you need that many emails, you ask? It was considered good practice to secure one email for each freelance platform you register with.

But today, with your intermediate email management skills and some help from your virtual assistants and bots, you can do everything with just one email, am I right? (Okay, maybe 2 or 3 at the most.)

3. Log in and Add Information

With your credentials, log in to your new PayPal account and if you haven’t done it already, add information about your bank account or credit card from your profile.

4. Manage Multiple Currencies

Again, from your profile, click on your Wallet and select PayPal Balance. On the pop-up window, click on the “Manage currencies” link at the bottom. It will open a new page where you can select which currencies you want to receive money in. Click on the “Add Currency” button, and then select the international currencies you expect to be paid in. For payments from a currency your account is not set up to receive, PayPal will charge an extra 2.5 percent.

True or False: The longest minutes in life are spent waiting for coffee and for tips.

True or False: The longest minutes in life are spent waiting for coffee and for tips.

How Online Workers Are Using PayPal

There are many ways people are using PayPal in relation to their work online:

1. For selling

Many online stores use PayPal integration to accept payments. If you own a store, use a business account and you can receive money in more ways. But even for a direct in-person sale, such as selling your used book to a visiting friend, you can ask them to pay with PayPal.

Just let them know the email address you associated with your account, and then they can send money your way. Both you and the other person need to have opened an account with PayPal for this to happen.

2. For payment request

With the "request for payment" feature, ask for a specific amount of money to be transferred to you, for example for "last night's chicken dinner." All you need is the other person’s email address. This is a handy tool when you need to ask your friends and family members for financial help. PayPal also lets you send a reminder.

3. For international payment

After you have configured your account to be able to receive foreign currencies, your international clients can start paying you in their own currency. Be aware that PayPal is country-specific.

Even if you have a dollar account set up in the UK, for example, it is still not possible to withdraw directly in dollars. PayPal automatically converts your money into pound sterling first. Withdrawing from US dollars to a local currency is free if your balance reaches a certain threshold, but for international currencies, it will apply an added 2.5% charge.

4. For donations

PayPal donation buttons, which you can create from the PayPal Payments Standard Setup. Put it on your website, blog, or other pages you have on the web. This is particularly useful when you’re raising money for a cause or crowdfunding.

5. For online shopping

Even if you’re not really an avid shopper, some work-related subscriptions accept payments from PayPal: purchasing an app, renewing an app subscription, in-app purchases, or any other one-off purchases.

6. For invoicing

With the basic invoicing feature available from your account, you can bill your clients and have them pay you with PayPal. From your account, go to and fill in your information. There is also third-party invoicing software that integrates with it, like Xoom, Xero, QuickBooks, and Shopify invoices.

7. For tipping

With the PayPal Me feature, you can create a short link to share on text messages, tweets, or as links on social media posts. I use this feature as a tipping jar, which I include at the bottom of some of my writings. To create this link, click the Send & Request tab, and then select Request. You will have the option to create an invoice or to create said link.

8. For giving gifts

You can send money to anybody in the world if you know the email address they use for PayPal. But remember that you still cannot send money anonymously. Your banking information is kept private, but your name and address show up on the receiver’s report.

9. For credit card payments

Accepting payments from credit cards without having the customer register with PayPal is made possible for business account holders.

10. For store checkouts

You can add one of the standard PayPal buttons to your website or blog easily, even without a business account. People will be able to purchase your stuff or leave tips to say thank you. With a little bit of developer know-how, you'll create other buttons too: buy now, subscription, automatic billing, etc. Some fundamental reporting and analytics features may not be available for personal accounts.


Manage Your PayPal Account

How to Withdraw Money

Once you’ve received a payment comes the exciting part of withdrawing your money. The quickest way is to withdraw it directly into your bank account. To do this, first, make sure that you have linked your local bank account.

From your PayPal Balance, select the Withdraw Money option and then fill in the amount, currency, and destination bank account. Once everything looks right, continue with the process and your money will arrive in your bank account in a few days, usually two to five business days.

In some countries, you will also be able to withdraw your balance to your Visa credit card. The fee is $5 per transaction, which takes anywhere between 5 and 7 business days.

How to Add Money

When you use PayPal to purchase goods online or to send money, but your balance is not sufficient, it will automatically ask for another source of funds, which could be your linked bank account or credit card. That’s why it’s a good idea to link both, for such situations, especially when your entire business is run online. But you'll be able to do this manually by going to the Add Funds option.

PayPal Fees and Charges

As a middleman service, PayPal takes a percentage of the transfers.

  • It charges sellers 4.4 percent of the money received through online transactions, or 4.2 percent for in-store, plus a fixed fee for a standard transaction. For funds from the US, the online transaction charge is 2.9 percent, and the in-store is 2.7 percent, plus the fixed fees.
  • International sales that require conversions add an extra 2.5 percent currency conversion charge and another 1.5 percent fee for receiving payments from other countries.
  • Chargeback. When a customer requests for a chargeback with a credit card provider, the seller is also charged a fee based on the transaction currency.

PayPal does not apply any monthly fee for the following services, but there are additional fees:

  • Invoicing. If you’re using the free invoicing feature, you will also be charged anywhere between 1.9 percent and 3.4 percent per invoice, depending on your sales volume.
  • Donations. There is a fee of 3.7 percent for donations received from outside the US, and 2.2 percent from the US, plus a fixed transaction fee.
  • Sending money is free, but there are surcharges if you’re sending money to a friend outside of the country plus added fees related to your sources of funds.
  • Withdrawing money from your bank account is also free if you’ve reached a certain threshold. And on top of that, it also adds a surcharge just for the exchange.

Note: PayPal automatically converts the foreign currency into your local currency. Even if you're withdrawing US dollars into your bank account that is already in the same dollar currency if you're not located in the US.

Known Issues

1. Limited support for certain countries

There are 200 countries and 25 currencies currently being catered to, but PayPal provides limited services limited in certain countries, including a number of African countries, like Nigeria, Angola, and Burkina Faso, where you cannot withdraw your balance at all.

In some other countries, you can withdraw your balance directly into your US bank accounts, but in many countries, you can’t. A US bank account here is an account created with a bank in the US. Withdrawing your credit card is also not available in many supported countries. Withdrawing checks is possible in India, but not an option for people in Indonesia or Russia, for example.

2. Some countries are banned

The list of restricted countries can be found on your country’s government sites. For a list of countries banned from sending payments to the US, check out the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

3. Low conversion rates

In most countries the rates used to withdraw money to a local bank are lower than the normal exchange rates. And PayPal applies a different set of rates for payments and for a balance transfer, which happens when you convert cash already in your account to a different currency within your account.

4. High fees

On top of the low exchange rates, PayPal applies a conversion fee of 2.5 percent (3 percent for wholesale), plus the fixed fees and additional fees for cross-border transactions.

Aside from the extra buyer (and seller) protection and freelance rebate services PayPal is known for, the fees it charges for standard services, such as international transfers, are more expensive than other online payment services.


This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Is there a way to get free money through PayPal?

Answer: Unfortunately, I can't think of anything right now, but I do know some easy ways to make money with your Paypal account. One of the easy works you can do to make money online is by taking online surveys. Join Survey Junky and Swagbucks, and you'll be rewarded with cash in exchange for your survey answers. Making money with affiliate programs is also quite easy if you've already got a blog or website running. When you shop online, use Ebates, where you'll earn cash backs with your purchases. Those are three easy ways to make money with PayPal that I can recommend. Make sure your account is set up correctly to cash out.

© 2019 Lovelli Fuad


Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on June 14, 2020:

Lovelli, they is too much information here than the eye can meet. More so, your article is educational. I will re-study it again because it is updating. Thanks for sharing.

Janisa from Earth on June 13, 2020:

Very informative article! I myself have been using paypal for years and it is my go to method for accept online payments or buying things/subscriptions online.

I'd like to add some tips for using paypal in Brazil and Argentina (from my experience). In Brazil, it is not possible to have funds in foreign currencies in your account. You can receive payments from abroad, but they are converted to the Brazilian Real as soon as you accept the money. You are also required to link a credit card to your account if you're going to send a payment to someone in another country or buy something online (in most cases).

For Argentina, you can have foreign balances in your account, but you must pay a hefty fee to withdraw funds to your bank account. Argentinian accounts are also not allowed to accept personal payments. This is due to Argentina's restrictions and fees for purchasing dollars and other currencies and how some people have been going around this by creating two accounts and avoiding the country's fees this way.

som on June 11, 2020:

I have an existing paypal business account but I no longer have a business. I recently started working online as well, I would like to know if it will be better for me to use my business account to receive payment or to open a personal paypal account. thank you.

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