As a successful creator, you’ve done the hard work of building your personal brand and cultivated a community of loyal followers along the way. You’ve snagged coveted collaborations with brands that share your values and partnered with them to seamlessly deliver relevant content to your devoted fans on social media.
There’s nothing more rewarding than working for yourself. But as every small business owner, content creator, Instagram influencer, and blogger knows, the freedom to be your own boss comes with the responsibility for day-to-day money management. That less creative other half of running a sustainable business – paying income taxes, managing the bookkeeping, and keeping an eye on payments from your brand partners – falls to you.
Arguably the most important of these is making sure you get paid for your work. For some creators, tracking payments from brands to save headaches at tax time is just part of the weekly rhythm of running a business. For others, it’s a nuisance that can too often become a scramble when taxes are due.
Whatever your relationship with tracking your business’s finances, choosing the payment method that’s right for you is essential. Some may come with high fees that can take a big bite out of your profits, while chasing down payments from the fee-free options may take up time that’s better spent developing valuable content. Some free options trade cost for security and may even leave you more vulnerable to fraud.
PayPal may be the best-known payment option, but is it the right one for you? Partly because of PayPal’s popularity and the widespread acceptance and trust of online payments, there are now more ways than ever to get paid safely. From the tried-and-true to some less traditional options you may not have considered, we’ll compare five options and weigh the pros and cons of each to help influencers like you choose a payment method with pricing that’s best for you, your business, and your bottom line.
PayPal first became popular as an online payment processing system for checkout on eBay. Today, a PayPal account can be used as a payment option for all kinds of e-commerce and is a convenient method for online checkout that keeps your credit card and debit card information secure when you’re online shopping or paying bills.
And while it may be universal and fast, transferring money in a few days for a free standard transaction, it’s PayPal for good reason. Unless a friend is reimbursing you for dinner via the platform’s fee-free friends and family option, any business transaction you accept is subject to the company’s terms of service. Those policies make clear that getting paid for work you do is subject to fees. And those fees, at 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction, can add up. For example, fees for a single $1,000 invoice are $29.30. And if you want your cash instantly, it will cost you an additional 1%, or $10.
But trying to get around those fees by asking brands to pay you via friends and family comes with risk too. If PayPal audits your account and finds misuse, it may suspend your account without notice or hold your funds for three to five days.
Because wire transfers move money directly from one bank account to another, they can be fast, usually one to three days. If larger brands work often with multiple influencers or vendors, one option may be ACH (automated clearing house), which is another direct electronic method that’s usually free to you once you provide your bank information for processing. But traditional wire transfer fees vary, and smaller brands or startups could pass on the bank fee to you (from $15 to $50 per transaction depending on the bank). Or worse, they might not have a secure system for processing and storing sensitive information, potentially putting your information at risk.
Invoicing can also be an issue with wire transfers. They’re generally irreversible, so if there’s a mistake on your invoice, say, a mixed-up routing number or account number that wires the money to someone else’s account, the money can’t be retrieved.
Even if the brands you work with offer wire transfers or ACH payments that are free and secure, manual invoicing can be a chore that requires time and effort to keep an eye on tracking payments and outstanding invoices.
Paper checks sent through the mail may be the least expensive way to get paid outside of cash, but they’re also likely to take the longest. Like cash, checks have one clear benefit: no fees. Unfortunately, in most cases, checks are also the slowest way to get paid. Some companies only cut checks on a certain date each month. Once the check is cut, you’re at the mercy of the mail, with checks taking anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks to make their way to you. And once it arrives, there’s usually a waiting period of a few days to a week for the check to clear, depending on your bank’s policies.
What if your check is sent via an untrackable method and goes missing? A larger brand may absorb the cost of canceling a check and cutting a new one (fees range from $0 to $35), but a smaller company or newer brand may not.
Working with brands on a particular influencer marketing platform can be a good way to get paid, provided all your brands are subscribers. They’ll need to be familiar with the process, and some charge monthly fees to participate. But that can be limiting if not all your brands are on board or if your collaborations are spread out across multiple platforms. In that case, you’ll need to find a supplementary method to get paid, which means spending more time tracking payments.
Whether you’re an established influencer or a micro-influencer, Lumanu offers an easy, feature-rich way to invoice, track, and manage all your payments for brand collaborations with very competitive pricing. Setup is easy and secure. Just input your bank account info once via a Plaid token, a third-party API product owned by Visa (Lumanu does not store your account info), link your US-based savings or checking account* for deposits only, and you’re ready to accept payments. There are no fees for any payment processed through Lumanu. Compared with the $1,000 example above, Lumanu’s fees are nearly 100% less than PayPal’s.
Lumanu also streamlines the payment process for both brands and influencers with an invoice dashboard for checking payment status. For influencers, Lumanu offers personal customer support and a tool for guided invoice creation. It also sends reminders to brands about outstanding payments to help you get money faster and keep more of it. Any brand partner you send an email to via Lumanu can pay you without having to subscribe (but Lumanu’s convenient dashboard can benefit them by making paying for influencer marketing more efficient, a win-win).
With so many ways for influencers to get paid today, balancing costs and convenience can seem challenging. But finding the right payment method can maximize your payout while affording you more time to spend on the most fulfilling parts of your business, seeking more lucrative collaborations, and creating new content for your followers.
*At this time, Lumanu does not receive or accept global payments.