How payment works in remote interpretation in 2021
As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt businesses around the world, the last 2 years have seen a boom in remote work opportunities. In the interpretation industry, hiring a remote interpreter (remote translator) used to be the last option but now is also preferred by both clients and interpreters. As indicated in How Does Remote Interpretation Work?, clients have increasingly been looking for interpreters from overseas to meet their demands on uncommon languages, lower prices, or higher quality.
But one of the biggest concerns from both parties is how does payment for remote interpreters work? In other words, how the interpreters can receive payments for remote work? Is there any risk in remote payment? What is the best remote payment method? Our article shall give you the answers to these concerns.
How to pay on-site interpreters?
It is a common practice to pay an on-site interpreter by cash right after the interpretation event is over. This is preferred by interpreters in developing countries as they do not need to declare this payment as income, thereby lowering tax expenses. Paying by cash immediately after an event is the safest payment timing for both parties. In some cases, on-site interpreters may also accept bank transfers within a few days after the event. This is riskier than cash payment, so usually the interpreter only accepts it for repeated clients or well-known agencies.
How to pay remote interpreters?
Cash payment is not an option for remote interpreters. If the client and the remote interpreter are in the same country, bank transfer is simple and cheap. If the remote interpreter live in a foreign country, the client has 2 remote payment options: traditional bank transfer (i.e. wire transfer or credit transfer) or online money transfer (i.e. electronic payment system or e-commerce payment system).
1. Bank transfer
Most bank offers international bank transfer. This method is safe and reliable. Clients already trust their banks with their money and government regulations ensure security for financial transactions. Furthermore, bank transfer is highly available since banks can be found in almost every city. A majority of people have a bank account, so they do not need to open a new one to send money internationally. Clients can also make payments online, which may have a lower transaction fee.
Nevertheless, this traditional payment method can be time-consuming and costly. International bank transfers usually take about 1–5 working days depending on the number of intermediary banks required. Secondly, the clients have to fill out a lot of paperwork. For some countries like Vietnam, the authorities require the clients to provide the contract for the paid services. Thirdly, banks often charge very high fees. According to Business Insider, an international transfer from the US to a foreign country will incur on average 45 USD from the client’s side, and an additional 15 USD from the interpreter’s side. The banks’ exchange rate is also lower than the mid-market rate (the rate you see on Google or xe.com). As a result, the actual amount received by an interpreter could be 10% lower than the initial amount sent by the client.
If a client in the US still wishes to pay a remote interpreter from overseas with bank transfer, we recommend Citibank. Based on Freelensia’s research, Citibank offer the most reasonable transaction fees from 25–35 USD for online transfers, and much better exchange rates compared to other American banks. But of course, the selection of bank also depends on the country of the remote interpreter.
2. Online money transfer
A client can also send money to a remote interpreter using an online money transfer platform like PayPal, Wise (formerly known as TransferWise), OFX, Western Union, WorldRemit, or Xoom (a PayPal service).
With just a few clicks on a smart device, online money transfer is simple and quick. Clients fund their payment with a credit card, debit card, or a bank account. Several platforms even accept Apple Pay or Google Pay. Interpreters can choose to store the money in their account and use it for online purchases, transfer to their bank account or another medium. Paypal even allows users to buy cryptocurrencies with their Paypal balance. Clients can transfer money at any time of day without having to come to a store. Finally, using international online money transfer services to pay the remote interpreters is extremely cost-effective since they offer lower transaction fees and higher exchange rate than banks.
Online money transfer also has its cons. Users can be scammed and their accounts hacked. Clients and interpreters must upload identification information to use their accounts, which creates privacy and security risks. Some platforms also limit the minimum or maximum amounts that can be sent. For example, if people are sending money from the US to Vietnam via Western Union, the maximum daily transaction limit is 5,000 USD. Meanwhile, when sending money from the US via OFX, people are required to send at least 1,000 USD per transfer.
To assist you in choosing the best online money transfer, Freelensia will compare Paypal and Wise, the two biggest names in the industry. Both of them allow you to send money starting from just a few dollars. However, both Wise and Paypal requires the remote interpreters to have an account in order to claim the money, and transfers funded with bank can take up to 5 business days. More detailed pros and cons of each provider are presented below.
Founded in 1998, Paypal is considered the biggest online payment system. In 2020, it had over 300 million active users across the globe. A verified US Paypal account allows you to send up to 60,000 USD vs. 10,000 USD for a un-verified account. Nevertheless, PayPal fees are high for small transactions. US clients have to pay a transaction fee of 5% ( minimum 0.99 USD, maximum is 4.99 USD). Paypal’s currency conversion fee is around 4% above the mid-market rate. Depending on the interpreters’ currencies, they may also have to pay a withdrawal fee.
Founded in 2011, Wise has become a formidable opponent to Paypal, Western Union and the likes with its lower fees. It had a total of 8 million customers globally in 2020. Wise’s selling point is its transparency, as clients can see the fees breakdown before making a transaction. For international transactions, Wise takes the mid-market exchange rate with no marginal added. When sending money from USD to popular currencies such as EUR, GBP, AUD, etc., Wise allows you send up to 1 million USD! However, this maximum limit varies significantly depending on the currency and destination country. For example, the maximum USD amount you can send to CNY and VND is only 7,000 USD and 12,000 USD respectively.
To illustrate, we compare the amounts an interpreter in Vietnam receives in VND when a US client sends 1,000 USD funded with bank balance. The mid-market exchange rate was recorded as of June 23, 2021.
When the client uses Wise, the final received amount is 815,229 VND higher than that of Paypal. Please note that we did not take into account the fee to withdraw the money that the local bank may charge (aka interbank transaction fee), as this varies among banks.
3. How remote interpreters can ensure they are fully paid?
Freelensia has known several cases outside our platform where remote interpreters did not get paid by their clients when the events had finished. When working with a new client, we suggest that the interpreter gets a Purchase Order from the client. If not possible, written confirmation by fax or e-mail will also be accepted in most jurisdictions.
Besides, interpreters should check the clients’ websites and online reviews carefully. Interpreters should avoid working with clients who fail to give detailed background information on themselves, such as phone number, mailing address, etc. If the interpretation event lasts several days, interpreters should ask for a deposit/down payment, typically 20–30%.
Accepting an interpretation event on Freelensia reduces payment risks for interpreters. Clients registering on Freelensia are required to use their corporate email addresses, which will be shared to the interpreters once they accept the reservation request. We will also closely monitor the payment process and help push the clients to pay on time. In the worst case the clients do not pay, Freelensia will ban their email domains from future activities on our site and may also make their information public in our interpreter community.