For many young Nigerians, freelancing is the difference between having a stable financial life and chaotic financial instability.
With rising unemployment due to economic failures and political instability, freelancing has become a primary stream of income for many, not out of choice but necessity.
When you look at the global market size for the gig-talent-freelance economy, you find that 35.4% of freelancers in the world are located in Europe, 28% in Asia, and 21.2% in Latin America.
Africa has 10.1% of freelancers, higher than only North America, which stands at 4.1% and the Middle East at 1%. These stats are according to Payoneer’s Freelancer Income Survey in 2018 . Payoneer’s report further states that the Middle East and Africa are the smallest outsourcing markets globally at 9% and 7%.
The slow growth of the gig economy in Nigeria can be attributed to several challenges freelancers face, especially the younger ones who do not have resources to run generators for stable electricity supply. These young freelancers miss team meetings, miss their deadlines, and go through mental hardship, knowing that they are performing at a lower level than their ability .
However, another significant challenge, and this article’s focus, is the difficulty freelancers and creators from Nigeria-Africa face when receiving payments from international clients.
You may be wondering, what makes receiving payments from global clients in Nigeria such a big deal?
We’ll explain. Most online marketplace platforms have various payout methods. However, these payout methods are not always accessible to individuals and businesses from certain parts of the world, e.g., African countries.
This affects African freelancers’ earning potential since the payout options on a platform determine if a person can transact business and earn on the platforms.
As it is now, most Africans are relegated to consuming and buying but cannot produce and sell to the global audience due to limited payout options.
Consider PayPal. There are few countries in Africa allowed to send and receive payments via the platform, and Nigeria is not one of them. The only provision for Nigeria (and Nigerians) on the platform is to link a credit card and make payments to merchants. No receipt of funds allowed. 
PayPal is widely used as a primary payment option across marketplace platforms, including freelance platforms, creator platforms, writing platforms, and others. But those from Nigeria-Africa and other few other regions are cut off.
What do we do?
Some freelance marketplace platforms are customer-oriented, which means they consider users from all regions in their decision-making. Examples are Freelancer and Upwork. These platforms encourage freelancers to request new payment platforms where the existing ones are not inclusive.
The response time to such requests, however, can take forever. It took Upwork about three years to diversify their payment processes, and now they have four direct transfer options and three third-party options . Fiverr previously had only PayPal as a payout option, but now allows payments through Fiverr Revenue Card, Payoneer, or Bank Transfer . This process took about two years before it was rolled out.
As we wait, how do freelancers and online creators from Nigeria – Africa get paid?
Alternative methods Nigerian freelancers use to receive international payments currently.
Through conventional methods, PayPal is a no-way-in for Nigerian freelancers. But here’s a hack to gain access. Use at your own risk.
Bypassing the restrictions
You hear a lot of talk about VPNs, dedicated US numbers, and other tech-speak that threaten to turn your brain to mush.
We’ll make it simple.
Please note that using a VPN to access PayPal is risky because your account would be blocked if foul play is detected, and most times, it is.
The solution to the PayPal problem is to create an account using PayPal Lesotho. It has all the features you need as a freelancer or online creator, including the ability to receive payments.
Here’s a step by step guide to opening a PayPal Lesotho account .
- Sign up and choose the business account option.
- Input your email address and click next.
- You’ll be required to input your personal information and business information. Please ensure it tallies with your legal information as it appears on your documents and your debit cards. Your business name can be any name.
- For your phone number, select Nigeria and enter your number.
- Select the currency to be used, and choose the USD option. Click ‘I Agree’ and ‘Continue.’
- You’ll be asked to input a summary of your business.
- Select the business category and subcategory. Be sure to omit the URL option. Do not include it.
- Click continue, and you’ll be redirected to the holder’s information page. You’ll be required to provide a means of identification to verify your account.
- Input Nigeria as your nationality and select the national identity card or international passport. Upload the document you choose.
- Click on ‘Submit,’ and you’ll be redirected to another page to confirm your email address, activate your account, and set up your payments.
- Once you’re done with this, you will be redirected to your account.
80% of the time, this works. You may need to inform your bank that you intend to receive international payments from this account.
If you’re not sold on opening a Lesotho PayPal account, here are other ways you can receive and withdraw your money from PayPal as a Nigeria freelancer or online creator:
- Payoneer: All you need to do is link your Payoneer account to a US PayPal account, and you can receive payments through withdrawals. However, you’d need someone in the US to create the Paypal account for you. Note that: you can’t transfer money from Payoneer unless you have a minimum balance of $200. For withdrawals, you need a minimum of $1000. These balance thresholds are being reviewed intermittently, so check to know the current limits.
- Teespring: you could also try Teespring. It’s a go-to option if you can’t get a US PayPal account. It is an online marketplace, and the trick is to create an account, upload a product (it doesn’t have to be real), and purchase that product. The whole transaction takes place on Payoneer, but it comes with a few snags. Each withdrawal costs about $8. Let’s not even talk about the earlier mentioned balance requirements Payoneer enforces.
- Exchangers: Anyone familiar with the Nigerian freelancing scene from way back in 2016 can attest to the age-old option of receiving payments through exchangers. The process entails selling your funds to be exchanged and sent to your local bank account. It’s still a valid option with options like OnlineNaira. The only negative here is that exchangers determine their exchange rates, so when you sell your PayPal funds, you may not be getting them at the real exchange value.
- If all else fails when it comes to dealing with using PayPal, you could also try opening a US or UK PayPal account if you happen to be in those locations. Or, as a last resort, you ask someone you trust abroad to open one for you and remit the funds when you need them.
However, enough about PayPal. Below are other options to receive international payments. We recommend these four options below.
The Best Web and Mobile Apps for Receiving Payments as a Nigerian Freelancer
We’ve already discussed Payoneer as an option to help withdraw funds on PayPal, but Payoneer is also a standalone alternative option.
All you need to do is create an account at Payoneer.com, and you can receive and make payments through the platform. Payoneer is easy to use and is also widely accepted on major platforms. Payment processing time takes 3 to 5 business days, and Payoneer is available in 200+ countries, including Nigeria.
There are two means of withdrawal from Payoneer. You could either opt for a Payoneer debit card or have your funds sent in by local bank transfer . Funds are usually available in under 2 hours. Here are the steps to create a Payoneer account:
- Fill in your name, address, etc., as it is in the ID card you want to use for verification.
- Set a password, Secret Question, and Answer and select your ID type. Provide the details of the ID as required.
- Provide your bank account details if required. You can google the SWIFT/BIC code for your bank.
Remember the bit about exchangers – when we said it’s a great payment option but comes with subjective exchange rates? If you love your funds and are not willing to part with it with exchangers, TransferWise is the best option for Nigerian freelancers.
TransferWise yanks the plug right out of the middleman socket when it comes to currency exchanges. Instead of selling your funds to a third party exchanger, TransferWise does the transfer to ensure you receive the relevant amount in your geographic location. You can transfer money up to eight times more cheaply than with a bank because you avoid traditional banking fees .
TransferWise supports over 750 currency routes and is available in 6 African countries, including Nigeria.
A side note: if you have a Nigerian PayPal account limited to making payments but not receiving, you can transfer from PayPal to your TransferWise Account and then withdraw to your local bank account .
You cannot transfer from TransferWise to PayPal, however. Here’s how to open and operate a TransferWise account:
- Log on to the TransferWise site
- Fill in your details
- Add a naira account to operate
- Your account is all set up for use.
Skrill is a payment method that allows you to create a wallet that enables you to receive payments. It offers you the option to withdraw the funds into your bank account. You will receive your funds by giving your email address to the client. Once the funds are transferred into your Skrill account, you can choose to receive the funds via check or local bank account transfer.
For first-timers, users are required to submit the same details as are necessary for first-time deposits. Funds can only be accessed by logging in using the email address to which the funds are sent. Once this is done, your funds can get credited into your account .
To open a Skrill account, you need to access the Skrill website or a mobile app and register your details. Clients can then fund your account.
Wave is another option for receiving payments if you’re a freelancer or digital creator in Nigeria. Your clients in the US, UK, Canada, or other Wave-supported countries can send payments directly to you through Wave.com.
Wave pays these funds directly into your Wave account. After this, you can withdraw into your local bank account or mobile money wallet.
There are no exchange fees, but Wave’s exchange rate is usually lower than the standard exchange rate (about 1.5 % – 5% lower). One of its most significant advantages is speed. With Wave, payments are processed quickly—two business days for credit card payments, and 2-7 business days for bank payments.
To use Wave, you need to set up your account and put your client through creating their account through these steps:
- Download the Wave app through the Apple or Android store.
- Setup an account through the app— provide name, address, contact details, and other details.
- Beneficiary enters their details (name and phone number).
- Beneficiary enters the amount they want to send and pay for the transfer.
- Wave will convert the money and send it to your mobile wallet.
These are the best and most widely used platforms to try when seeking ways to receive payments as an online creator or digital freelancer in Nigeria.
We have used and recommend these four options above.
Are you thinking of becoming a digital creator and making more money online?
You may be thinking of joining one of the freelancing, writing, courses, or other content marketplace platforms. There’s a plethora of them, and they provide good sources of additional income.
Below is a quick run-through of some popular platforms and the payout methods available to Nigerian freelancers and creators.
Medium (for writers)
Medium is a free social publishing platform that is open to everyone with a varied array of stories, philosophies, and views. The Medium Partner Program, however, takes this further by allowing writers to create, publish, and earn money from the content they create.
Unfortunately, the platform does not support PayPal or any other third-party payment provider for payouts. This means that you can read articles and write, but you cannot receive payments from the platform as a Nigerian or African writer.
To receive earnings from Medium, you need to set up a Stripe Express account. There is no other payment option, just Stripe, which is a problem as Stripe excludes many countries from its services.
Currently, enrollment in the Medium Partner Program is only available to a few countries, and Nigeria isn’t one. To create a Stripe account and enroll in the Medium Partner Program, follow the steps in this article.
Gumroad (for creators)
Gumroad enables creators to sell directly to their customers worldwide — helping them make a living doing what they love. The platform allows you to launch your products and sell directly to your audience. You can see digital and physical products on Gumroad.
If you live outside the US, Canada, UK, and Australia, PayPal is the only option to receive your earnings. You don’t need a Business PayPal account, however. A personal PayPal account works fine as long as it is verified and able to receive funds.
If you’re stuck with the Nigerian-Paypal challenge, please reference the options above.
Youtube (for video content creators)
YouTube is the world’s leading video sharing service where users can watch, like, share, comment, and upload their videos. Creators from almost every industry worldwide create successful online businesses by creating quality video content for subscribers and viewers.
Wire transfers. Easy peasy. Youtube pays your proceeds via wire transfer to a bank in your country.
Udemy (for course creators)
Udemy is an online platform that allows instructors to plan, design, and produce video how-to instructions for almost any subject. It is one of the leading global online learning marketplaces. If you’re a course content creator, this is your space.
Currently, Udemy uses Paypal and Payoneer to pay instructors. That means Payoneer will be your payout method if you’re a freelancer or course creator based in Nigeria. Payoneer payments can be delivered to your local bank account or a prepaid MasterCard.
Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (for authors)
Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is Amazon’s self-publishing service allowing authors to reach millions of readers worldwide while keeping control of their work and publishing rights. It’s one of the fastest and easiest ways to independently publish a digital book and get it to readers on the world’s biggest book marketplace.
Amazon KDP offers the Payoneer payment option. You can set up your payout easily using a Payoneer account and Payoneer MasterCard here in Nigeria.
What if it all doesn’t work for me?
While highly unlikely that none of these platforms work for you, it is still a possibility. Especially if your only option is depending on a third-party to open an account for you in another country, if you are part of a freelance or online creator community, you may be able to find someone quickly.
No man should be an island, certainly not freelancers. We thrive best together.
So if you can’t solve the issue of receiving payments from your international clients, you can ask someone in your close circle or freelance community to help.
They can help you set up a PayPal or Stripe account if they’re based abroad, or introduce you to a better payment option. There are so many fintechs now working to fix this problem!
We’ll continuously update this article as new payout options are created to include Nigeria-Africa creators.
Feature Photos via Pexels.
Contributors: Oluwadamilola Koya, Ibukun Taiwo, and Kelechi Udoagwu.
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