How to Accept Credit Card Payments as a Freelancer

Starting as a freelancer can be exciting, but it comes with some challenging issues like the credit card Payments to accept from clients. One of the most important things you need to figure out is how to securely accept payments from clients so you actually get paid for all your hard work.

How to Accept Credit Card Payments as a Freelancer

Accepting credit card payments is the preferred route for most freelancers today.

Why Accept Credit Card Payments as a Freelancer

There are a few major reasons why accepting credit card payments while being a freelancer is beneficial:


Credit cards are ubiquitous now. Most clients will have one and feel comfortable using it for purchases online.

For many, paying via credit card is simpler and faster than sending checks or bank transfers. By accepting cards, you make it easier for customers to pay you.


You get paid faster when accepting credit card payments compared to checks which take longer to clear into your bank account.

Because it’s an electronic transfer, the money from credit card transactions will hit your account much quicker, usually within a few business days.


Accepting credit card payments makes your freelance operation seem more established and professional.

It shows clients that you understand standard business practices around securely accepting and managing payments.

Merchant Account Vs Payment Processor

To be able to accept credit card payments legally, you need establish merchant status for your freelance operation. There are two options to make this happen:

  • Obtain your own merchant account with a bank
  • Use a third-party payment processor like PayPal

Merchant Account

A merchant account enables you to accept payments directly without an intermediary. But getting one with a bank often requires:

  • Having a registered business entity
  • Good credit score
  • Paying account fees
  • Dealing with paperwork/long applications

Unless your freelance operation is already an official business, going through the hassle of setting up a merchant account is not recommended when first starting out.

Online Payment Processors

Using an online payment processor/gateway like PayPal, Stripe or Square is the easiest way to accept payments as a freelancer today. With these services, customers can securely pay invoices online using their credit/debit cards or other payment methods.

The setup process is simple, requiring just some basic personal/bank account information. The payment provider handles all the complicated payment processing in the background for you.

They will also provide you helpful invoicing features and analytics on payments received. Many of them today cater specifically to freelancers and small businesses.

PayPal and Stripe are currently two of the most widely used payment processors. We’ll cover them in more detail later.

How Credit Card Payments Work

Before diving into specific solutions, let’s briefly outline the typical workflow for how credit card payments are processed:

  • Customer purchases product/service from merchant and provides credit card info
  • Merchant submits the credit card details to their bank or payment processor
  • Payment processor routes info to credit card network
  • Network requests payment authorization from issuing bank
  • Issuing bank approves/declines transaction based on customer’s available funds
  • Confirmation flows back to payment processor then to the merchant
  • Merchant fulfills order upon receiving payment

So in your case as the freelancer, once your client’s card is successfully charged after completing steps 1-6, payment will be deposited to your chosen bank account (connected to your merchant account or payment provider). This electronic bank transfer process usually completes within 1-3 business days.

Choosing the Best Credit Card Processor

Now that you understand how credit card payments work at a basic level, let’s explore some of the most popular processing solutions suitable for freelancers today so you can determine the best fit.

1. PayPal

PayPal is one of the longest running and most widely used online payment systems. They make it very easy to create an account and start accepting electronic payments right away.


  • Well-known globally – Clients likely already have account
  • Easy integration using email or custom checkout form
  • No setup, subscription or termination fees
  • Funds deposited to bank within 1-3 days

Potential Cons

  • Transaction fees per payment (2.9% + $0.30) reduce profits
  • Can hold funds for up to 21 days for new accounts
  • Heavier lawsuits and restrictions among providers

Overall PayPal delivers simplicity when you’re just starting out and want to get up and running quickly. Be aware that some freelancers complain about the holding of funds and lack of supportive customer service.

2. Stripe

Stripe focuses on providing a robust credit card processing platform with strong ecommerce integration support.


  • Great API and customization options
  • Low transaction fees (2.9% + $0.30)
  • No monthly fees or early termination fees
  • Funds available in bank within 2 days

Potential Cons

  • Must have existing business registered
  • More complex setup and requirements
  • Focus on larger mid-market businesses

If you foresee high sales volumes or want deep integration with an existing web or mobile app down the road, Stripe may be a good solution to grow with. But the setup requires more effort and technical comfort.

3. Square

Square offers a unique hybrid model enabling in-person mobile payments as well as online sales, all in a simple free app.


  • Free app to start (just sign up)
  • Great for selling at markets, fairs etc.
  • Minimal transaction rates (2.6% + $0.10)
  • Next day deposits available
  • Good ecommerce integration

Potential Cons

  • Requires mobile or tablet on Android/iOS
  • Must swipe card for lower rates
  • Overall more retail focused
  • eCommerce features more complex

Square delivers flexibility to capture payments both face to face and online. But they cater more towards sellers of products vs. professional service providers.

Tips to Set Up to Accept Payments

Once you’ve compared the options and selected a suitable credit card processor, it’s time to get setup to start accepting payments!

The process will vary slightly depending on which provider you choose, but here is an overview of common steps:

  1. Signup – Create your business account with the processor through their website or mobile app. Enter any info like SSN for identity verification.
  2. Connect Bank Account – Link a valid checking account to transfer your earnings into from credit card transactions.
  3. Install Integration – Install the processor’s plugin, API, or custom checkout on your website if selling online. For online marketplaces, follow their guides.
  4. Test Payments – Process a few test charges with small amounts on your own cards first. Verify the money transfers properly between accounts.

Once these steps are completed, your integration will be ready for real customers to securely checkout and pay invoices!

You Can Now Get Paid Globally

A bonus advantage of using online payment processors like PayPal or Stripe is they allow you to get paid from clients across the world easily.

Features like:

  • Multi-currency support – Accept payments in USD, Euros, Pounds etc..
  • Global bank transfers – Deposit earnings to accounts based internationally
  • Language customization – Checkouts can be localized into different languages
  • Fraud protection – Protection against risky cross border payments

This flexibility enables your freelance services to extend well beyond your home country. You can take on clients from anywhere global payments are supported.

Managing Taxes on Earnings

As your freelance income starts ramping up from credit card payments, proper tax planning is essential. In most countries, you must pay estimated income tax and self-employment tax quarterly.

Some tips:

  • Track all business expenses related to your freelance work to reduce tax liability
  • Set aside % of each payment received to pay estimated quarterly taxes
  • Hire a knowledgeable tax professional to understand personal tax responsibility
  • Use accounting software to accurately report taxes owed each year

Keeping diligent records will ensure you don’t run into issues with government requirements.

Conclusion on How to Accept Credit Card Payments as a Freelancer

Having the ability to securely accept client credit card payments is a must-have to succeed at freelancing full time.

Solutions like PayPal, Stripe and Square make the entire process very straightforward to setup compared to traditional merchant accounts.

Just follow the steps outlined to get setup, consider costs of each provider, test the end-to-end integration thoroughly, and ensure taxes are planned for appropriately as income grows.

Before long, you’ll see payments from satisfied customers all over the world start rolling into your chosen bank account automatically. So take the first step now, you can start accepting credit cards to take your freelancing career to new heights.

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