How to Pay Your International Vendors, Freelancers, and Suppliers
Here’s how to send payments to your overseas freelancers, vendors, and suppliers — and what to keep in mind during the process.
In today’s global economy, most businesses have come to rely on overseas vendors, freelancers, and suppliers in addition to domestic independent contractors and traditional employees. It can be confusing, time-consuming, and labor-intensive to pay international vendors, freelancers, and suppliers.
Here’s how to send those payments and what to keep in mind during the process.
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Agree on the Payment Currency
If you’ve set things up properly, you will have a Master Service Agreement and a Statement of Work (SOW) or Work Order (WO) with your supplier, vendor, or freelancer. Within these documents, you’ve agreed on pricing and terms. However, when you are paying an overseas vendor, suppliers, or freelancer, you will also need to agree on the currency, which is usually specified on the invoice. In some cases, international suppliers or vendors prefer to be paid in their home currency. Other times, you may want to pay in your own home currency or a different currency, or the vendor would prefer to receive USD (and has a foreign account that is able to receive USD). Make sure you clarify the payment currency with your overseas freelancers, vendors, and suppliers, and that this is reflected on the invoice.
Now that you’ve agreed to payment currency, how will you make the payment overseas? Here are some options.
International Bank Wire Transfers for Overseas Freelancers, Vendors, and Suppliers
The most common way to pay international invoices is through bank wire transfers. This service lets you send money from your bank account to a recipient’s bank account elsewhere in the world and is offered by almost every bank or credit union.
Most banks typically charge between $30 – $50 for each international wire transfer and mark up the exchange rate by 5% – 6%. Be aware that the bank of your overseas vendor, supplier, or freelancer may charge additional fees for the incoming wire transfer, and some businesses choose to reimburse those costs.
International wire transfers are very safe, provided you have entered the correct recipient details and you’re using established banks. Always check and double check those details and your money should arrive safely at its destination in 2 to 5 days.
PayPal for International Vendors, Freelancers, and Suppliers
You’ve surely heard of PayPal and have likely used it since it is one of the most popular payment solutions today. But you may not have used their business offerings before. It’s very easy to use PayPal — you likely already have an account set up and your overseas vendor likely has one set up, too. With just their email address, you’ll be able to send off an invoice payment quickly without worrying about the safety of the payment.
When using Paypal (or sister platform Venmo) to pay your international vendors, freelancers, and suppliers, you’ll want to keep an eye on the fees. There are fixed fees and percentage fees, depending on how you’ve set up your account and how you’ve set up the payment. In addition, you’ll want to keep an eye on Paypal’s foreign exchange rate as they aren’t known to be friendly.
Bill.com for International Wire Payments
Bill.com is a popular business payment platform that enables its customers to make international wire payments — payments to vendors, suppliers, and freelancers outside the US for business purposes.
Bill.com’s international wire payments solution is available to business entities such as corporations, LLC, and partnerships and to sole proprietors that use Bill.com to make business or commercial payments. For USD to USD payments, Bill.com charges $9.99 for the wire transfer fee. These wire transfer fees can be found in your monthly billing statement.
For payments made in local foreign currencies, Bill.com does not charge a wire transfer fee (though you should keep an eye on the foreign exchange rate charged, as you should when paying via wire transfers or on PayPal).
Upwork via Third-Party Solutions
Upwork is a well known freelancing marketplace and platform. If you are hiring or sourcing your international freelancers, vendors, and suppliers on Upwork, then you may want to consider making your payments directly through Upwork. Paying your overseas vendors on Upwork is the same as paying your domestic vendors on Upwork. What’s different is how your vendors, suppliers, and freelancers choose to receive payment.
When receiving payment as a US contractor, Upwork offers a number of choices for its users to receive payments. However, for overseas freelancers, vendors, and suppliers, Upwork uses third-party solutions including PayPal and charges fees for contractors to use these solutions, on top of the fees that those solutions charge.
As a result, contractors on Upwork frequently charge more when working and paying on Upwork than they might if you were working with them directly.
Using a Global PEO / International PEO / Global Employment Organization or Global Employment Outsourcing (GEO)
If you want to also provide benefits such as sick leave to your freelancers or freelancer’s country of residence has strict compliance rules, then you could look into using a global PEO, international PEO, Global Employment Organization (CEO), Global Employment Outsourcing (GEO), or other Employer of Record (EOR) services. These types of services generally have high fixed costs per employee and sometimes also charge a percentage of the payments paid.
If you are working with a small number of international freelancers or vendors who are properly paying their local taxes, the benefits of PEOs / GEOs / EORs don’t outweigh the risks. For smaller companies, it may make more sense to make direct payments to international freelancers and contractors as PEOs / GEOs / EORs are very costly.
Liquid for International Freelancers, Vendors, and Suppliers
Liquid is on a mission to make it simpler to onboard, manage and pay your vendors, freelancers, and suppliers, regardless of whether they are domestic or overseas. With all of the Liquid plans, you are able to work with and pay international suppliers, vendors, and freelancers. The fees are clear and straightforward — it’s just a flat $8 fee per invoice when you pay internationally via ACH, whether you are paying in USD or in your vendor’s local currency. ACH stands for Automated Clearing House and is a computer-based electronic network for processing transactions — allowing you to move money between banks without using paper checks, wire transfers, credit card networks, or cash.
When paying US vendors, suppliers, and freelancers, the fee for making payments via ACH is just $3, with the additional option of paying via credit card for a 5% fee.
That’s right, on Liquid you can pay your domestic vendors and freelancers via credit card! And, we are working to support payments to international vendors via credit card as well.
In addition, Liquid supports invoicing in foreign currencies and also supports Work Orders (WOs) / Statements of Work (SOWs) in foreign currencies.
Reconcile International Payments in your Accounting Software
After you’ve successfully made your overseas payment, you’ll have to reconcile the payment in your accounting software. With most of the payment methods listed above, you will need to perform this action in your accounting software manually. However, some will automatically do the reconciliation for you.
While there are many ways to pay your international vendors, suppliers, and freelancers, it’s best to find one that is both convenient and cost-effective. When possible, paying them in the same way you pay your domestic vendors, freelancers, and suppliers will simplify your workflow and save you time.
Ready to pay your international freelancers, vendors, and suppliers? Try Liquid today.
Note, we are not providing legal, tax or payroll advice. Please consult your legal, tax and payroll professionals. These are simply to serve as guidelines based on our own experiences.
Updated: July 13, 2021
Quick note: This is not to be taken as tax advice or legal advice or payroll advice. Since tax rules and laws change over time and can vary by location and industry, consult a CPA / tax advisor and/or attorney for specific guidance.