Accepting the Cost of Doing Business (why you shouldn’t try to get around transaction fees)

Why are you trying to cheat PayPal out of their money? They deserve to be paid for their service just as much as you do.

There’s something really upsetting about new freelancers and small business owners who try to get around paying for their business.

I guess it’s because I have this idea that freelancers and small businesses should be more respectful of paying for services. I mean, these freelancers have clients and obviously they expect payment in return for their time/work, right? So why are some freelancers trying to weasel their way out of paying for the services they use to help run their businesses?

If you use a service, PAY FOR IT.

PayPal is a big one here.

Freelancers use PayPal to accept payments for their products and services. Sometimes those freelancers stumble across to Facebook groups and inquire as to how to get rid of the PayPal fees.

  • You’re using PayPal to make money (literally).
  • You’re using a valuable service.
  • You want to find a way around paying for said service.

How is that any different from a client basically saying to their friends, “So there’s this wonderful designer I want to work with but I don’t want to pay her… How can I get around that?” If the freelancer found out, I guarantee we’d get a rant about it in the same Facebook group.

So why are some of us trying so hard to NOT pay for premium services that are incredibly useful?

Those little fees are the whole reason PayPal can stay in business and keep providing you with services.

Another example: finding loopholes to use premium services without paying.

This is a new one I’ve come across several times recently and my god, it’s so disappointing.

Maybe you’ve heard of the e-course platform, Teachable. At the time of writing, Teachable has four plans, the first of which is a ‘free’ plan. This plan allows you to create an account, build your own e-courses (unlimited), upload videos into their system, and have unlimited students. How can Teachable afford to give all that away for free? Particularly the video space!

They charge transaction fees.

The fees are pretty big ($1 + 10% goes to Teachable, plus any credit card fees on top of that). But that’s the price you pay for having a $0 monthly fee.

Free plans like this allow businesses to get started without a significant monthly investment.

If you’re just building your business and don’t have any clients and don’t have an established presence, Teachable’s free plan allows you to get started with 0 regular monthly costs. You only pay if you yourself make money. It’s useful.

So what’s the problem?

Some people are using third party payment processors to get away with using Teachable 100% for free—with no transaction fees.

Since on the free plan you only pay when you make a sale, some people are using this as a loophole to not do any selling through Teachable at all. It works something like this:

  • They set up the course through Teachable.
  • They advertise the course on their own site.
  • They tell people to send money some other way (through Gumroad or PayPal, etc.).
  • The seller manually checks payment and once received, they manually send the person login details to Teachable, thus bypassing the normal payment system.

Since a sale isn’t being made on Teachable, they never pay Teachable. They essentially use a paid service without paying for it.

  • They use Teachable’s platform.
  • They use Teachable’s storage space.
  • They use Teachable’s bandwidth.

They use use use, and then find a way to scam Teachable out of their cut. This results in Teachable paying for this person’s site out of their own pocket. How does that possibly sound okay?

If you’re not happy with a service’s fees, find a new service.

Yes, Teachable has high fees, so I totally get why someone wouldn’t want to pay them. But using the service and scamming the company out of their deserved money is NOT the answer. I don’t care if there’s nothing forbidding it in their Terms and Conditions—it’s in damn poor taste. That’s why I call it a loophole. It clearly goes against the spirit of their system and the intended usage.

If a service’s fees are too high for your liking, then the answer is to find a new service.

But as a business, I think you should be fully prepared to pay something. If you’re making money through your services/courses/products, why shouldn’t the services that help you achieve that also make money?

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I'm a 30-something California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). My three great passions are: books, coding, and fitness. more »

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  1. Unfortunately, I think this is a symptom of today’s culture as a whole – people do their best to find loopholes in everything and then they justify it by telling themselves that “everyone does it.” There’s this feeling that as long as other people are skirting the same territory, it must be okay. We need more people like you who will tell it like it is – sure, the companies themselves can do it, but it’s just not the same coming from them. People will just scoff that away – but when someone else points it out, it means more.

    1. I think you’re right Nicole. It’s right up there with all the blatant copyright infringement that “everyone does”. Particularly on social media.

      1. There is NO correlation between copyright infringement which is against the law- and – using as much freebies like I do – which is LEGAL.

        Yesterday I wrote here but my post is nowhere to be seen.

        1] I use lots of free services “legally” – getting people to pay me on Paypal (yet I pay zero to Paypal) and then subscribing them on Teachable (did I say free).

        Your article is completely nonsensical. Read the “N” word . You can Not make up the law. We did not hire you. You are imposing your own ethics (which are not based upon any philosophical foundation). For example if you are Christian, I won’t even go to hell at death for doing this because its not immoral to Christ – is it ?

        So if it is not il-legal and not im-moral then everyone one of us should be using loopholes to the fullest, shouldn’t we?

        I make money. Do you?

    1. Exactly Sara! I really want to sit down with these people and ask them some hard questions…

      “So you want people to pay you for your services?”
      “But you don’t want to pay PayPal for the service they’re offering you? You think you deserve that free?”
      *awkward silence*

      1. That describes me: I both have people pay me and I use Paypal free then take them to teachable – maximizing their features – did I say free?

        Its legal. Its ethical. You can’t impose and force your subjective ethics on us.

  2. This is something I’ve been noticing more and more as I get into freelancing. I know many people who send money through Paypal using the “send to friends and family” option so they don’t have to pay fees.

    I get where their coming from, as one’s business grows, seeing a decent chunk going towards fees can be heart breaking but it rubs me the wrong way. Creatives are their own worst enemy sometimes. People want to be paid fairly yet then they turn around and do the thing they didn’t want done to them, to another person/company. It’s just bad.

    Hopefully this post will usher in a new discussion about this.

    1. Yes it’s the hypocrisy that gets me.

      Yes, the fees add up. But they’re part of doing business. You’re using a service made by someone else in order to send money back and forth. That service deserves a cut. Don’t like it? Take payments by bank transfer only.

      I just know exactly how pissed off these freelancers would be if they found out one of their clients was trying to get access to their e-course or something without paying. And yet, those same people try to do the exact same thing to PayPal or Teachable.

      Hypocrisy is lame.

  3. It is sad to hear this, but not surprising. It reminds me of people pirate books, movies and music. If you keep stealing that stuff, how do you expect those people to be able to afford to keep producing the stuff you love. Another example are the people who don’t want to pay taxes. No one wants to pay taxes, but you need roads that are taken care of, you need fire services, etc. The problem with taxes is making sure that the government is spending those dollars wisely (which is a whole other discussion), but to think we would get rid of taxes completely is ludicrous (and we have people in the US who want to do that). I’m not trying to make this political, just stating that things have to be paid for somehow. Nothing is completely free. You have to pay for everything some how.

    1. Excellent point, Melanie! Taxes can be rough, but hey, the help the world go ’round.

  4. I’m so glad you wrote this post. Honestly, I have chosen not to do business with anyone who asks for a handout. I think it is horrible practice. Running a business involves dealing with the expenses involved with it!

    Speaking of “not paying fees”, I’m always surprised when people are upset they have to pay freelance taxes – either at the end of the year or quarterly. All work is taxed, welcome to life!

    Like the new design tweaks too!

    Lindsay recently posted: How I Keep My Blog Organized
    1. Yes! Another person mentioned taxes as well. Sure, it sucks to see a huge chunk of your income just disappear, but taxes are necessary to keep communities running.

      1. With respect – what utter garbage. Seriously Ashley – where do you learn things? Taxes are an abomination to mankind. The U.S.A was founded upon and folks be came the richest people on earth (self made) as well as making the nation the strongest, richest on earth – to this day – because of “zero taxation” from 1776 to 1906 – when taxes are introduced for 1% on the richest (disgusting to tax our heroes).

  5. LOVE this post! Entitlement is lame. Period. Thanks for having integrity and calling out what you are seeing. I didn’t know about the whole Teachable thing (I just paid for the basic plan myself), but it’s disappointing.

    1. I’ve seen people actually recommending that Teachable method to people. Like, “here’s an awesome way to get around the transaction fees!”

      It’s disgusting. :/

  6. Totally agree with this post. It makes me sad that people try to get around the costs of a premium service. It doesn’t help anybody. I get that when you’re first starting off it’s hard to put money into something you’re unsure of, but I’m a firm believer in the whole “you have to spend money to make money” concept and people that try to find loopholes to get around it make me sad. Because ultimately those people are the ones who causes prices to inflate for the rest of us honest paying customers.

    1. I totally agree Rebecca!

      And with the transaction fee set up, it’s not like that could ever force you into the negative. You only pay when you yourself earn money. Like, with a monthly fee it would be entirely possible to spend more money than you make if you have to pay $29 a month or whatever, but you get zero sales in a month. Then you’re in the negative and that sucks.

      But with the free plan, it’s only transaction-based so you only pay when you yourself earn money.

      I think it’s disgusting that people can take a premium service and feel they deserve to use it without paying for it. It’s so hypocritical, because OF COURSE that person would be pissed if one of their own customers did something dishonest like that to them. Like if one customer bought the e-course then shared login details with a few friends, so that the friends didn’t have to pay. The course creator would be pissed, right?

      If they’re scamming the course platform out of their money, then as far as I’m concerned they have zero right to be pissed about customers scamming them right back.

      1. Right?? They would be furious if people cheated them out of their money yet they’re willing to do it to someone else who has worked just as hard as they are at building their product and business. Makes me so angry. Or when people just bitch in general about having to pay for something. Nothing good is free. That’s the beauty of business. That’s why we all work so hard! The worst part is I don’t think this problem will ever go away. 🙁

        Rebecca @ Unbound Pages recently posted: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
        1. “Or when people just bitch in general about having to pay for something. Nothing good is free.”

          Oh Rebecca, your comment is dead on! I love it!
          I own and manage a fairly new book review company and while we haven’t personally experienced any negative feedback or backlash (quite the opposite actually), the wanting something for free mentality is staggeringly rampant in the publishing world. We’re licensed, pay our quarterly taxes & state sales tax and our monthly operating expenses are at times more than the money coming in each month (let alone enough to hire more employees needed for growing power). Yet, if an author pays to guarantee their book is reviewed and provides ample exposure as well, it must mean it’s a vanity review, thus it must mean that only reviews where only a book was exchanged result in honest reviews (Quite the opposite actually). I’ll say anything you want me to for a 7-11 Oreo Brownie. (please don’t send us brownies in exchange for book reviews! My ass thanks you! {but seriously, have you had one before? Nom. Nom. Nom})

          As is, we offer free reviews for new release books and remove unreviewed books after 90 days, with no guarantees, and ask that 2 physical copies be submitted, or 1 digital and 1 physical. However, at least 50% of the digital books submitted are well older than 90 days, around 20% will resubmit their non reviewed digital book every 100 or so days, around 40% will send an email every few weeks asking for an update (despite having a no-reply policy) and at least 95% never send a 2nd physical copy. (these figures haven’t been recalculated in about 8 months)

          At the end of my 12-16 hour day of “ripping off authors” I roll around my bed gleefully laughing as I shower myself in the 8 – $1 bills of cold hard cash I’ve earned for a hard day’s work. That’s right; that’s .008 Gs take home pay bishes!! (But I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!)

          Kim recently posted: Writing the Fantasy Novel
  7. Yes yes yes! I understand why it may feel pertinent for freelancers to cut out those pesky transaction processing fees, but honestly? Larger businesses get stuck with those transaction processing fees too! Unless you CREATE you’re own payment processing system/site (THAT IS PCI COMPLIANT!!!) … just suck it up, ya know?

    1. And even if you use your own payment processing system, you STILL have transaction fees. You have to pay fees to Visa, Mastercard, and AMEX to even process their cards. That’s where a good portion of fees come from. It does make your fees lower, but even then, there are still fees!

  8. Love this post, Ashley! Accounting and payment processing tools like Freshbooks, Wave, Stripe, Paypal, etc save us time. I’m happy to pay Freshbooks my hard-earned money so my clients can pay me easily.

    The truth is, if the payment processing fees are adding up … your business is probably doing well. The more fees you’re paying, the more money you have coming in. 😉

    Paying for services makes me feel like they’ll be around for awhile. Somehow a free accounting service doesn’t seem as promising. By paying for Freshbooks, I know they’re earning money and continuing to improve the service.

    1. Yeah I’m always sceptical of free services simply because I’m expecting them to disappear at any moment!

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