As a freelance writer and cryptocurrency enthusiast, I decided recently it was high time I started accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment for my online business.
Knowing that plenty of other businesses are already doing this, I turned to Google looking for some comprehensive guides on the process. I was disappointed with what I found.
So I figured I’d explore the different ways to accept Bitcoin payments on my own, and document my findings for others.
Why accept Bitcoin payments for your online business?
Well, offering more payment options for your customers is always a good idea. Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency out there, and it’s valuable: as of this writing 1 Bitcoin = $11,382.01.
Cryptocurrency may or may not be the money of the future, but if it does keep trending upward, I want me and my business to be along for the ride.
Table of Contents
- Setting up your Bitcoin wallet
- Way 1: Manually accept payments to your wallet
- Way 2: Use a Payment Processor
- Advertise that you accept Bitcoin
- Someone sent you Bitcoin. Now what?
- Be prepared for crypto taxes…
How to accept Bitcoin payments for your online business
At the moment, there are two main ways you can start accepting Bitcoin payments for your online business: Accepting them manually through your own cryptocurrency wallet, or using a third party processing tool to manage it all.
Here I’ll show you how to do both, but first you need to set up your wallet.
Setting up your Bitcoin wallet
Before you start accepting Bitcoin payments, you need to create a digital wallet where you can safely access it. Your wallet isn’t where you “keep” your Bitcoin, since Bitcoins aren’t really stored anywhere. All cryptocurrencies (including Bitcoin) exist as part of the blockchain and your wallet is just a way of accessing the blockchain to see and send your coins. Your wallet is like a lock, and you have a private key that allows you to unlock it, access, claim, and move your Bitcoin.
Don’t worry, I didn’t get it at first either.
There are lots of different ways to lock up your Bitcoin using digital, hardware, and/or paper wallets. Most people start with a digital wallet though.
Here are a few popular digital wallets you can use to do this:
I already have a Bitcoin wallet set up on Jaxx, so I’ll walk you through a different one: Breadwallet.
Download the App to your phone, then click “Create new wallet.” Next you’ll be prompted to set a 6-digit PIN.
Memorize it, or you won’t be able to access your Bitcoin!
Next, Breadwallet will give you a 12-word “Paper Key” that you need to write down.
Your paper key will be just a string of unrelated words, like “Carbon Bicycle Tower Carrot… etc.”
If something happens to your phone, this key is the only thing that can help you access your Bitcoin. DO NOT save it somewhere on your computer. The best thing to do is either memorize it or store it somewhere hackers can’t access.
Now that you’ve done that, you’re ready to start accepting Bitcoin payments.
Way 1: Manually accept payments to your wallet
Okay, doing anything “manually” is bound to take more time and energy, but in the case of cryptocurrency payments, there are some benefits.
For one, using a third-party tool takes away a lot of the privacy that makes cryptocurrency so appealing to a lot of people. And while I personally am not too concerned about processing anonymous transactions, I do care about the potential fees that could come along with third-party processors.
That said, if you run an ecommerce store that processes 10s or hundreds of transactions a day, it’ll be hard to keep track of them manually from your wallet. In that case, a third-party tool can help a lot.
Manually accepting payments a great strategy if you only need to process payments periodically, such as with a freelance business like mine.
So, after setting up Breadwallet or another option, you have access to a secure wallet where you can send and receive Bitcoin.
Assuming your client has their own wallet already loaded up with Bitcoin, all you have to do now to accept payment is provide them with a receive address. Here’s where you find it on Breadwallet:
Breadwallet then creates a text address your client can send payments to. You can set a price in Bitcoin or in equivalent USD.
That jumble of letters and numbers you see is the receive address. Your customers can copy and paste it to send you Bitcoin, or use the QR code for mobile wallets.
Breadwallet will convert USD into Bitcoin automatically when you send it out to an email address.
Each time you receive payment on your public key, a new address will be automatically generated (but the old addresses still work).
Breadwallet gives you options to text or email your public keys. If you want to be more professional, you can include them as a payment option in your invoices.
I just checked my invoicing software, and it looks like they have Bitcoin as a billing currency option:
If yours doesn’t, you can bill in Dollars (or Pounds, Euros, etc.), then give an equivalent Bitcoin payment option.
Once your client has paid your invoice, the funds should appear right in your Breadwallet!
Way 2: Use a Payment Processor
Your other option here is to use a payment processor. This is an invaluable tool to have if you process a lot of transactions (e.g. you run an ecommerce store) and you need help keeping track of them all for bookkeeping purposes.
Here’s a breakdown of a few popular payment processors to choose from:
BitPay is probably the most popular tool business can use to accept Bitcoin. With it, you can set up direct bank deposits, automatically converting payments into fiat currency (Dollar, Euro, etc.) and sending it to your bank account. This helps merchants avoid risk with the volatility of Bitcoin.
BitPay has a 1% transaction fee, unless you process less than 30 transactions a month or $10,000 worth of Bitcoin per year. So only the smallest of small businesses can use this tool for free. Although, if you’re only offering Bitcoin as one of many payment options, you very well may only get the occasional transaction as adoption of Bitcoin is still pretty low (for now).
Coinbase is probably a familiar platform for your crypto-wielding customers, as it’s the first place most Americans go when they start investing in crypto. It also offers merchant services, using a lot of the same features as BitPay. They have plugins for your ecommerce store and you can can set up automatic transfers to fiat. They also have a 1% transaction fee for merchant processing.
GoCoin is your third major option here, and like Coinbase and BitPay, has a 1% transaction fee. I took a hard look at their features and most are similar to Coinbase and BitPay, however their list of integrations was significantly shorter, and it was unclear whether they offered a native wallet to manage your crypto funds.
PayPal remains the most well known payment service on the web. When encouraging customers to adopt a new payment option, it’s beneficial to do so through a well-trusted platform like PayPal. Luckily you can do this, as PayPal has integrations with BitPay, CoinBase, and GoCoin.
Setting up BitPay as your payment processor
For this walkthrough I’m going to set up BitPay as my payment processor, simply because small businesses (like mine) can avoid the 1% processing fee on transactions. You might prefer CoinBase because it’s familiar to you or your customers, or GoCoin with a PayPal integration, etc.
If you head to BitPay.com and click “Get Started,” you’ll see you have 3 options to proceed:
- Set up a BitPay Card Account
- Set up a Business Account
- Create a wallet to store Bitcoin
You’re going to choose Business Account:
You may also want to set up a BitPay wallet, which you can do later on by downloading the mobile app. The setup process is similar to Breadwallet (described above).
Once you fill out your information and sign up, you’ll see there are 3 steps to start accepting bitcoin:
Start by checking your email and clicking the confirmation link. Then navigate to “Get Verified.” Here they ask basic information about your business like your address and URL, who owns the business, etc.
It looks like they take some time to verify your business information, but that doesn’t stop you from moving forward with the process:
Next navigate to “Add a Bank Account.” You’ll see there’s options to add your bank account or a bitcoin address to store money:
If you only want to automatically transfer Bitcoin to fiat and put in your bank account, then you can add your bank account information and you’re done. If you want to keep some or all of your payments in crypto, then add a bitcoin address as well.
I showed you above how to access your BreadWallet receive address. If you’re using BitPay wallet or another wallet, there should be a similar option to view and copy it.
Paste it into BitPay and make sure it’s accurate. If it’s not, your payments will be lost.
You’ll also see there’s an option called “% Settlement Percentage”:
Here you can set how much of your transaction you want sent to your bank account, and how much you want to send to your wallet and keep in crypto.
Advertise that you accept Bitcoin
Despite a huge burst of interest at the end of 2017, cryptocurrency still isn’t that widely used yet. Since you and I are still among the early adopters, we need to make extra efforts to advertise it as an accepted form of payment. Most consumers, even those that love crypto, will assume it’s not a payment option unless you tell them it is.
So, include notifications and calls-to-action on your website to encourage customers to try this payment method:
If you use BitPay or Coinbase to accept Bitcoin, they also have Wordpress plugins that integrate right into your site.
To get inspiration for different ways to highlight that you accept Bitcoin on your site, check out this list of companies that accept crypto. Newegg does a good job of it:
If your business is like mine and you communicate with your clients mostly through email, consider including a notice as part of your email signature, e.g. “We accept Bitcoin,” or “Ask me about paying in crypto!”
Someone sent you Bitcoin. Now what?
If you’ve done a good job advertising that you accept Bitcoin and attract the right customers, you should get your first crypto payment before long. So what do you do next with this magic computer money?
If you set up a payment processor like BitPay, then you don’t have to do anything — it will automatically convert your Bitcoin to dollars (or Pounds, Euros, etc.) and transfer it to your bank account as you specified.
Your other option is to keep your Bitcoin stored in your secure wallet as an investment. We don’t have any hard numbers on how many people use Bitcoin to buy and sell services, but if Bitcoin’s value trends give us any indication, consumer confidence and adoption of crypto is on the rise:
So holding (HODLing, etc.) your Bitcoin might make your earnings even more valuable over time (Or not, I’m just a person with no financial expertise. Do your own research before making any kind of investment decisions).
If you store your Bitcoin with Breadwallet or another tool, you can easily turn some of it into fiat currency and cash out to your bank account whenever you please. All you have to do is sign up for a cryptocurrency exchange that lets you sell to fiat, such as CoinBase.
Sign up for CoinBase, get verified, add your bank account, etc. CoinBase will prompt you to set up two-factor authentication — do it. Your CoinBase account is vulnerable to hacking just like any other place you store your cryptocurrency.
Then under “Accounts” find your BTC Wallet. Click “Receive”:
Coinbase will then show you a Bitcoin address. Copy that into the “Send” section of your Bitcoin wallet, select how much Bitcoin you want to send, hit send, and you’re done.
After a short wait, the BTC will appear in your Coinbase account. You can then go to the “Buy/Sell” tab and select to sell BTC to your bank account:
There are fees and it will take a few days to process. But that’s how you cash out your Bitcoin to fiat currency whenever you want.
Be prepared for crypto taxes…
Just like with any other kind of money you earn, there are tax responsibilities when you earn Bitcoin. I know a lot of cryptocurrency fans shrug this off, since governments don’t have any way to track how much crypto they have if they keep it secured in their wallets.
If you’re one of them, heed this warning: There is no statute of limitations on civil tax fraud.
So don’t try to get sneaky with your crypto earnings.
That said, the cryptocurrency tax waters are still largely unnavigated. Each country has or is developing their own standard for how to handle cryptocurrency taxes. Rather than dive into specifics, I advise you to do your own homework on what your obligations are, or better yet, seek advice from a professional.
If you made it through this whole article, you officially know more about Bitcoin and how to use it than 99% of people. But that doesn’t mean accepting Bitcoin payments for your online business isn’t a worthwhile endeavour.
People who work online tend to be early adopters of new and exciting technologies. And as cryptocurrency gains more traction in the digital world, there will be more potential to attract customers who prefer to pay with Bitcoin or another coin. And when you think about it, adding on another payment option is always a valuable strategy to encourage people to convert. Spikes and dips in Bitcoin value aside, what do you have to lose?