Bootstrapped Freelancer’s Guide to Getting PAID ?

You have the next great idea to start making money, whether it’s selling Kombucha at your local Farmer’s Market, or selling eBooks online. But other than getting handed over cash… How do you actually get paid?

I’ve been selling products online for over a decade, and this blog post is going to introduce you to the ways I GET PAID ?

Few of the topics we’ll be going over are:

  • Accepting Donations
  • Doing Commissions
  • Creating and Sending Invoices
  • Selling Digital Content
  • Receiving and Keeping the Money

I’ll share the one(s) I use for each purpose, and some other options that are also available, so you can see some variety.

Let’s get started! ⚡️

Accepting Donations and Commissions: Ko-Fi

If you’re a content creator like I am, you’re likely making content that doesn’t actually make money, and letting them loose into the wild for free. As such, you might be inclined to take donations from your audience or followers who are thankful for what you do.

OR, if you’re an artist or someone who provides services, you might want to do commissions for your fans or audience in exchange for money!

For these purposes, I use Ko-Fi.

With a free Ko-Fi account, you can get donations without any processing fees except through the fee for transfer service, like Paypal. As a bootstrapping freelancer looking for ways to get donations for content creation, this was really alluring. So I signed up a year ago, and have been using them since!

You can hook up Paypal for free, and if you are a Ko-Fi Gold member, you can also hook up Stripe to take credit card payments.

More Perks for $6/month

With Ko-Fi Gold account, which I pay for (a flat rate of $6), you are supporting the service, their developers, and get cool perks.

Some of the ones that I like are:

  • Recurring Monthly Donations: You can set up a Patreon-y system where someone can support you with a monthly donation!
  • Commissions: You can set up commissions for your fans, and they don’t take any fees!
  • Set Your Own Price: You can pick any amount of donation for your users to send you.
  • Supporter Only Posts: You can create “locked” content that only your supporters can see, which could be a perk offered for your monthly supporters!

All in all, while Ko-Fi doesn’t have the UX or UI that big companies like Patreon does, I love that they are keeping receiving donations accessible for people who are bootstrapping or just getting started, and I happily support them with my monthly $6 subscription.


There are quite a few alternatives, but I just never looked too into them, or they have fees, so I stuck with Ko-Fi. But here are some alternatives I see floating around:

Creating and Sending Invoices: QuickBooks

For client work, you might need to send out Invoices. For example, I send out invoices to clients when I write blog posts for them. When we agree on a price and terms, I whip up a quick invoice and shoot it over, and the transfer is completed through the service.

For clients that accept Automated Clearing House (ACH) Transfer (bank to bank transfers), I use QuickBooks Invoices, which is apparently a brand new service. They allow you to transfer funds via ACH or credit cads. For those who would rather use Paypal, I use Paypal Invoicing.

I’d rather do ACH because it’s free, and the deposit comes directly into my bank account (though I DO pay $5~10/month for QuickBooks for the accounting and tax prep help), and Paypal has their processing fees.

Being able to send out invoices (that’s branded, clean, and to the point) quickly can really help to legitimize you as a business or service provider, and make your life a lot easier! A lot of invoicing services also help you send reminders and add different fees for late payments.


  • Wave (Free Accounting and Invoicing services; Paid Payment Solution and Payroll services)
  • Invoice Bee (Free Invoicing; Best for small volumes because only free for 40/yr)

Sell Digital Content: WordPress

The best way to earn Passive Income is to have Digital Content on sale. There are many ways to do this, but having a WordPress website already, I use a FREE WordPress plug-in called Easy Digital Downloads.

As many of you guys know, I sell an eBook called Intro to AWS for Newbies on my website, (You might be interested in a case study I recently published on the pricing structure: I Let People Pay What They Want for an eBook. Guess How Much They Paid?)

While setting this up took a bit of time and effort because you have to integrate the plug-in with WordPress and your Stripe or Paypal Business account, test it, and upload your product, once it’s done, it’s worked seamlessly. For the past year, it’s been providing me passive income of $100~200 a month for free (aside from Paypal fees).

If you have digital content to sell, like ebooks, WordPress templates, graphic designs, or anything else that can be transacted digitally, I recommend giving Easy Digital Downloads a try, if you’re using WordPress.

However, because this will go on your website, you’ll have to generate your own traffic. If you don’t have much traffic, it might be better to go with the alternatives below that provide you with their own audience base.


If you aren’t using WordPress, or don’t want to do the grunt work and want things up and running, even if it means you’ll be paying some fees, here are some alternatives!

  • Gumroad (Free or $10/month and 3.5% + $0.30 per charge)
  • Etsy (You can sell physical AND digital products for a listing fee and transaction fee)
  • Shopify (You can sell physical AND digital products, but you need to download an app to sell digital downloads; Charges $30~300/mo fee + fee for each sale)
  • Amazon KDP (Amazon’s self-publishing service; They’ll take 30~60% or something like that depending on if you give them sole rights to publish your ebook; BUT you’ll also get Amazon’s audience, which we know is substantial… So it’s a trade off!)

Receiving and Keeping the Money

I’m writing about this, because while it’s obvious that the money has to somehow travel from the user to you, it’s not always clear HOW you should receive the money you make, and where you can keep them.

Transfer Money

The most popular ways to exchange money online are probably Paypal and Stripe. I think Square is also popular, but I feel like I see it more for physical sales (like at coffee shops or processing sales in small businesses) rather than for user to user online sales. For one-on-one transfers between friends, or maybe selling something on Craigslist, many people use Venmo.

From what I can see, Square and Stripe are strictly payment processing platforms, so they operate as vehicle for moving money, but doesn’t hold money for indefinite amounts of time. Paypal and Venmo make the payment transfer possible, but also will act as your “online bank”/”wallet.”

Keep the Money

Where do you keep the money? You can do it at an online bank, physical bank, or online service (like Paypal or Venmo).

I really don’t recommend you keep your money in an online service like Paypal or Venmo for any long period of time because they aren’t actual banks, and all it takes is for them to lock up your account for any reason, and you won’t be able to access your funds. (I’ve seen this happen way too often.)

It’s generally a good idea to have a “business” bank account that’s separate from your personal account, even if you are just doing a side hustle. Come tax time, you’ll be glad you kept them separate so you can do your taxes. But bigger than that, you’ll be able to compartmentalize the income and expenses in one account so you’ll know exactly how much you spent for and earned from your business.

*The “business” bank account can just be another checking account in the same bank you have your personal account until you decide to become a more legitimate business or establish sole-proprietorship.

That Bootstrap Life…

So these were services and methods that I use to sell my services, products, and get paid! I hope the services I use or the alternatives I provided are useful for you! And if you have any recommendations on services or tools you used that helped you as a bootstrapped freepreneur… I’m all ears! ?

Interested in more tools available for cheap or free for freelancers? Check out my other articles:

This post may contain affiliate links and I may be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking through my links.I only recommend products or services that I 100% believe in, or created myself!

Hiroko Nishimura
AWS Community Hero. Special Education teacher turned IT Engineer turned Technical Writer. Author "AWS for Non-Engineers" (Manning Publications). Technical Instructor "Introduction to AWS for Non-Engineers" (LinkedIn Learning).

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