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5 Options for Paying Freelance Technical Writers

If you haven’t tapped into the gig economy yet, don’t worry — you will. Freelancing is bigger than ever, employing a massive 1.1 billion people worldwide and generating a whopping 5% of the American GDP.

A third of Fortune 500 companies hire freelancers, and it’s easy to see why. Forgoing benefits, PTO, and other employee costs, freelance technical writers are a huge boon to corporate businesses. There’s just one potential problem: paying them.

Payments for freelance technical writers can take on many forms. From physical checks to payroll systems, it’s something that should and must get done before the first project is ever completed. But which option is the right one?

In this roundup, we’ll take a closer look at how to pay for your gig talent, all without breaking the bank.

What Are Freelance Technical Writers Used For?

Freelance technical writers can create:

  • Tutorials
  • Blog posts
  • White papers
  • Case studies
  • Webpages
  • Product manuals

Since they can take on very specific work with tight deadlines, freelance technical writers remove unnecessary burdens from your core team. They are highly skilled at what they do and make it easy for leads to access your technical content. Finally, and maybe most importantly, freelance tech writers cost much less than full-time employees. Instead of paying training costs, benefits, and salaries, you’ll only pay the freelancer’s asking rate.

What’s So Hard About Paying Your Freelance Technical Writer?

Paying freelancers quickly and on-time may come with certain barriers. Before you write a check, you’ll need to consider obstacles that might be in the way, including:

  • Currency exchanges for international writers
  • Compliance steps for freelance status based on location (think of California and their AB5 bill)
  • International taxes or laws preventing certain payment methods
  • Identity theft or fraud for physical checks

Bear in mind that this is not an exhaustive list of issues that could arise with freelance payment systems. It’s important to do some research of your own to ensure you’re aware of legal requirements inside and outside of the United States.

Options for Paying Freelance Technical Writers

Although it can be tricky, it is possible to pay your writers quickly, safely, and efficiently. Let’s list and compare the top 5 most popular options for paying your freelance technical writers.

Upwork

Upwork is the world’s largest freelance marketplace

Formerly branded as “Elance-oDesk,” Upwork is a freelancing platform that connects independent talent to paying businesses. It mediates the interactions between writers and clients, and provides a talent pool of nearly 18 million users. As of 2021, Upwork is the world’s largest freelance marketplace.

Upwork helps businesses gain access to writers quickly, providing ways to interview via phone calls, text chat, and video conversations. Best of all, payments for these freelancers are built-in to Upwork’s interface. After linking a few accounts and numbers, you can send payments to your writers with just a quick button press.

Advantages

  • Convenient: Upwork acts as a consistent middleman between project managers, writers, and any other freelance talent. You won’t need to worry about juggling multiple invoices or payment information. Just approve the project and move on.
  • Multifaceted: One of the biggest advantages of Upwork is that the platform offers much more than just freelance technical writers. If you need to quickly source freelance SEO specialists, photographers, or content strategists, you can quickly and easily hire in-platform. Plus, all of the billing and invoicing is handled in-app (so you don’t have to).

Disadvantages

  • Costs: Upwork is a very expensive payment option, picking away at your price point with several fees and commission costs. In addition, the company takes a 3% cut of all payment processing — leaving you with a much lighter wallet.
  • Talent pool: While you can find many different writers on Upwork, you might not always find the highly trained professionals you’re looking for. Upwork is not great for technical writers, which limits your opportunity to generate high quality, long-term relationships.

ACH

ACH is a digital network for low-value direct payment processing

Short for “automated clearing house,” ACH is a digital network for low-value direct payment processing. This program uses qualified banks and accounts to support both credit transfers and direct debits, making it easy to deposit money for your freelancer’s completed work.

ACH is a fully automatic payment system, meaning that it completely removes the need to manually handle deposits for individual invoices. This makes it an amazing option for businesses that plan on hiring multiple freelance writers. What’s more, it’s a much safer and more streamlined process than wire transfers, keeping better records of your money over time.

Advantages

  • Low cost: Unlike Upwork, ACH transfers are extremely cost-effective. The vast majority of ACH transactions do not have processing fees or large costs associated with labor.
  • Speedy deposits: Some payment systems take several weeks to successfully transfer funds from one account to the next. ACH deposits take roughly one or two days to process, and are sometimes even accessible on the same day.

Disadvantages

  • Location locked: ACH only works for US-based freelancers. If you are looking to hire a freelance technical writer living outside of the US, this system is simply not going to work for you.
  • Overdrafting: Because ACH transfers are completely hands-free, they can sometimes lead to overdrafts of accounts, miscommunication, and general concerns about billing. Other billing errors could force you to accumulate fees, or accidentally keep paying for services you are no longer receiving.

Wire Transfer

Wire transfers continue to be one of the most used payment systems for international billing. There are many reasons why they remain popular for technical writers, including ease of access and flat-out convenience. Unfortunately, wire transfers are also used in more nefarious transactions, including scams (remember the Nigerian Prince?). It’s best to know exactly where your money is going while using a wire transfer — or have a lot of good faith in the recipient.

Advantages

  • **Works internationally: **Wire transfers allow you to send funds to anyone in any location. If you are planning on hiring a freelance technical writer anywhere outside of the US, you can easily bypass ACH limitations with a simple wire transfer.
  • Online convenience: Funds can be wired from your bank, grocery store, or even your home office. Chances are you won’t take more than a few minutes to get the job done.

Disadvantages

  • Costs: Wire funds can quickly rack up additional costs, including transfers, international outbound, and domestic fees. These costs grow heftier the further away you plan to transfer money.
  • Legal issues: Unlike other types of freelancer payments, wire transfers won’t handle any legal or withholding concerns for you. This is up to your team to handle separately. What’s more, wire transfers are nonreversible. If something goes wrong, you’re on your own.

**PayPal **

PayPal offers an easy interface and rapid transfers

Lots of freelance technical writers prefer getting their payments via PayPal thanks to an easy interface and rapid transfers. While the convenience is tempting, it might not be the best option for your team or current freelancer relationship.

Advantages

  • Easy to use: It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how PayPal works. Even if you do get a little tripped up, the company offers plenty of helpful content on how to send and receive funds.
  • **Fast setup: **Invoicing and payment plans are free to set up using an email and phone number, resulting in almost no paperwork or red tape.

Disadvantages

  • Business account fees: PayPal isn’t completely free, though. Business accounts are charged a whopping 2.9% to receive money and transfers, as well as business invoices.
  • Account suspension: PayPal has full authority to suspend your account for any reason at any time. All funds in your account may be frozen for an undetermined number of days, and it can be frustrating trying to contact support.

Draft.dev

Draft.dev is a marketing agency that specializes in the use of freelance technical writers

Draft.dev is a marketing agency that specializes in the use of freelance technical writers. We help software startups generate technical marketing content that informs, educates, and impresses potential leads from all over the country. Blog posts, tutorials, case studies, and lots of other forms of technical marketing plans are executed by a talented team of freelance writers. Best of all, there’s no need to manage payment, invoicing, or billing. We’ve got it all covered.

Advantages

  • Ongoing support: Draft.dev takes care of all administration, supervision, and editing with freelance technical writers. You just get ready to publish content and pay each month, and we’ll handle the rest.
  • Quick and easy: We take pride in how easy we make it for clients to pay their freelance writers. Plus, we take care of all legal and compliance issues with technical writers, taking an unnecessary burden off your plate.

Disadvantages

  • Agency costs: Draft.dev is an agency, meaning that there are fees associated with our services compared to hiring a freelance writer directly. However, bear in mind that you are paying extra to have everything handled for you — billing, supervision, and end of project invoicing.

Interested to see what we can do? Let’s talk. Learn more about Draft.dev and the work we do by chatting with a team member.

Meagan Shelley

By Meagan Shelley

Meagan is a professional writer in VA that specializes in content marketing, research, and SEO. If she's not helping people craft their own stories, she's working on some of her own. When she takes time to step away from the laptop, she enjoys hiking, farmer's markets, and occasional thru-hikes.