Payment Gateway: A huge hindrance to digital freelancers

As digital freelancing becomes popular in Bhutan, digital freelancers encounter payment gateway bottlenecks.

As the world is turning to digitization, the digital landscape has ushered in a new era of work, digital freelancing which has given opportunities for freelancers to connect with clients globally. The traditional job setting has transformed, and Bhutan is picking up on the transformation.

In order to advance the private sector, DHI BizAP was created under a Royal Charter, and it has made notable progress in nurturing and fostering the growth of freelancers in Bhutan. Since the program’s launch on March 4, 2021, it has sought to address the issues that freelancers around the world confront while having a global influence.

Similarly, DeSuung Skilling Project also gives freelancing courses to DeSuups. As the digital freelancing pickups in the country, the freelancers face constraints and challenges, in terms of payment gateway.

The borderless world of digital work heavily relies on an efficient payment gateway to receive payments for their services. These freelancers, from graphic designers to programmers to digital marketers, work in a highly interconnected ecosystem where smooth financial transactions are crucial.

This bottleneck issue stems from a variety of sources. According to Namgay, a new freelancer, there are common hurdles in terms of payment gateway. “The lack of payment gateways that support particular areas or currencies is a common barrier. Freelancers frequently have to navigate through options, each with its own requirements, fees, and transfer times.”

Bhutanese freelancers mostly use Payoneer as their payment gateway, as Bhutan does not have access to PayPal or Apple Pay.

Most freelancers are either on Fiverr or Upwork, and Namgay points out that, in the Bhutanese case, unless one earns a huge amount, it is not very profitable. “Fiverr and Upwork cut a certain amount of money we earn, and then we have to transfer it to Payoneer, which also cuts a certain amount, and after transferring to our local banks, it also cuts a certain amount. Due to the lack of payment gateway systems like PayPal or Apple Pay, we lose out on the profits.”

Although the gig economy is not huge, it is still in its nascent stage, few freelancers do earn a lot of money. According to Dorji, the freelancers do bring in foreign currency and help with the foreign currency reserves. “Currently, there is a 10 percent incentive for remittances from abroad to help with the foreign currency reserve position. I asked the banks whether freelancers could receive the same incentive; however, they stated that it is not possible. Freelancers also bring in foreign currency, and in the end, the incentive was introduced to increase the reserve position. If the same incentive can be given to us freelancers, as we are bringing in the foreign currency, it would be encouraging.”

With digitization in the frontline, the gig economy will gain popularity, with remote working becoming a norm in the future. Digital freelancers will be at the forefront of this evolving landscape, therefore, the financial system in the country needs to be addressed for a sustainable growth of freelancing.

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