All freelance writers – non-fiction and fiction writers alike – seek ways to increase their writing income. Many simply write more. Some aim at higher-paying markets and others aim at selling and re-selling to international audiences.
As a freelance writer living in Australia, I learned very quickly that the International Currency Exchange Rates have the power to potentially increase my writing income – or drastically reduce it!
The trick is to know in advance how each international payment will translate and affect your freelance writing business once it hits your bank account.
Some Benefits of Writing for International Markets
Writing for an international audience has always had plenty of benefits. Here are just a few:
- You have the benefit of being able to add that accolade to your bio or to a query letter.
- You might have an opportunity to sell reprint rights for an existing piece of work to an overseas publication.
- You reach a much wider audience
- And you have the opportunity to use the exchange rates to potentially increase your income.
Some Draw Backs of Writing for International Markets
Of course, selling work to an international editor can also have its drawbacks.
- Your work might not have an ‘international’ appeal.
- Your exchange fees on foreign checks can sometimes be high
- Payments made via snail-mail can often take weeks to arrive
- Some banks may take between 20 and 40 days to clear an international check.
Fiction or Non-Fiction?
People often associate the term ‘Freelance Writer’ with non-fiction writers, but freelancers can write and sell fiction too. In fact, it is sometimes easier to re-sell a fiction short-story to an international market than a non-fiction article. This is because fiction can have a much broader, international appeal, while some non-fiction articles may seem more pertinent to a local audience.
No matter what you write, it should still be possible to research into potential international markets for your work.
How Can Earning International Currency Increase Your Freelance Writing Income?
Find out the difference between the value of your own local dollar and then compare it to your intended target market’s local dollar value. In many cases, the value of the currency in the foreign country you are aiming at might be a little lower than your local currency, but the value to your personal income might be worth far more in terms of landing a subsequent sale for a piece of work that has already been bought locally.
For example: A few years ago, the Australian Dollar was worth approximately .49 cents in the American dollar. This meant that if a US magazine bought an article for $100, the exchange rate would convert it into $204.08 AU that went into my bank account. Obviously, it made a lot of sense for me to sell as much work as possible to American audiences at that time.
Of course, the value of currencies fluctuates all the time. It didn’t take long for the Aussie dollar to climb up to $1.10 US during the Global Financial Crisis. So if I sold an article in America for $100 US dollars, I was only receiving $90.90 AU dollars. The change in the exchange rates meant I got a pay cut for doing the same amount of work. What was earning me $204.08 was only exchanging for just $90.90, which meant it was barely worth my while sending submissions to the US at all.
However, with just a little research, I found out that the Australian Dollar was sitting at around 0.5255 of the British Pound Sterling. Guess where a lot of my queries got sent instead…
These days the Australian dollar is sitting around .77 cents US.
The point is, with just a little research you can learn which currencies can convert to a very healthy amount of local cash in your bank account.
How to Work it Out
For your convenience, the friendly people at xe.com have supplied a free Currency Converter program. In fact, your own bank’s website will also have foreign exchange rates listed on their site somewhere. You’ll also find a currency converter inside your Paypal account; just under your account balance is a link labeled ‘currency’.
Enter the figures for the amount you’ve earned in foreign currency and convert it to your own local currency. Then select ‘calculate’. You’ll be shown a figure in your own local currency that the amount you earned should exchange to.
Finding the Right International Freelance Writing Markets
Once you have a basic idea of how your international payment will look in the local currency, it’s time to research those international markets.
Before submitting any of your work anywhere, try to determine the possibility of selling the exclusive rights for the highest possible amount first. Also try to be sure that each piece has a secondary market in mind, for reprint and even foreign sale purposes.
Let’s say for the purpose of this example that I have a story about pruning roses to sell. An Australian magazine might pay me $100 AU for the rights. Upon further research, I might learn that the same Aussie market might accept reprint rights – so I’d be potentially better off selling it to a different market first.
Let’s say I find an American market for the story. If the US market pays a hypothetical $100 US – then I would receive $129.87 AU (less any bank costs) for North American print rights only. As they didn’t purchase the international rights, I am free to re-submit the exact same piece to the Australian market as a reprint, receiving another $100 AU for doing nothing more than sending it out again.
The advent of the Internet is a god-send for freelance writers worldwide. Many publications display their submission guidelines online, and some even accept online submissions. There are also plenty of Market Guides available in libraries and bookstores.
I would also suggest subscribing to online magazines that provide freelance writing markets, like Freelance Factor, Absolute Markets (http://www.absolutemarkets.com/premium.htm), or Writer’s Weekly (http://www.writersweekly.com)
We won’t go into finding and researching markets here – that’s another article.
Watching the Spread
Keep in mind that the actual foreign exchange rate may not be the same as the rate at which your bank purchases those foreign funds. That’s how banks make their money.
For example, if you see the exchange rate listed as $1 US = $0.677 GBP (British Pound), your bank may place a ‘spread’ on the exchange rate. Instead of offering you $0.677 to convert your pounds over to US dollars, they may only give you $0.691. The difference in price is the bank’s profit.
Always check how much your bank or payment processor (i.e. Paypal) will charge for the conversion of foreign currency to local currency to get a clear idea of how your income is impacted.
Foreign Transaction Fees
This part of the Foreign Currency Exchange is not fun. All banks charge exchange fees. Some are more exorbitant than others, but most are amenable to some negotiation – especially if you plan to deposit on a regular basis.
I asked the managers of several local branches to put in writing their fee-schedules for depositing and exchanging foreign funds. Then, when I had a few to compare, I went back to those same branches with some ammunition. Most were willing to negotiate lower fees and charges. Don’t be afraid to negotiate with banks; they need your business to stay in business.
You can sometimes escape the foreign transaction fees if you have a client or publication willing to pay you via Paypal. They send your payment in their own currency and you convert it with a few clicks to your own local currency. Paypal does charge transaction fees and their spread on the exchange rate is a bit higher than some banks – but in many cases those fees can be cheaper than the high fees charged to bank a check at your local branch.
Always speak to an accountant before altering your income to include foreign income. Never take a chance with your freelance writing business and never rely on hear-say of other writers. The tax laws in each country are complex and involved.
Leave nothing to chance – check, then double-check what kind of impact a foreign income could have on your taxes. Besides, your accountant may give you some handy advice about tax deductions to watch for that you might have otherwise missed.
Once you are aware of the impact foreign exchange transactions can have on your income, it’s time to research some potential international markets – and send those queries out the door!
© Copyright Lee Masterson. All Rights Reserved.