How sped up payments and built trust with their team using Plane

Since moving to Plane, has expanded and empowered their remote workforce in 59 countries.


Fully distributed

Team members

300+ in 59 countries


Marketing Agency


2020 is a content marketing agency that creates technical content for companies that want to market to software developers. Based in Chicago, Illinois, Karl Hughes founded in 2020 and hired remote writers from the start. Because the content they produce is highly technical,’s writers are software engineers, and each article is also reviewed by multiple editors with technical expertise. Today, Karl has grown the company to over 300 remote team members, located in 59 countries around the world.When Karl first started, he worked with ten to twelve writers who were contractors, and he used PayPal to pay them. However, he ran into many challenges. “It took forever,” he says, “because I had to log into PayPal and put in a bunch of individual emails. It was very error-prone.”He couldn’t rely completely on PayPal, either, depending on where a writer was located. Karl says, “Occasionally, a country [where a writer was based] wouldn’t accept PayPal. Then I would have to use bank transfers. These are extremely challenging to use for some countries, because banks get suspicious if you send money to, for example, Nigeria, where there’s been fraud issues in the past.” With bank transfers, he ran into similar issues of having to spend time doing manual work: “I’d have to enter all their wire information and copy and paste very meticulously, and even then I’d still get calls from the bank asking, ‘Is this a real transfer?’ And I’d have to respond to those questions.”It was also expensive to use PayPal and bank transfers. Karl states, “PayPal has a big overhead. On the contractors’ side, they pay a big fee to use PayPal, so that was never a very popular option. Banks would also often charge fees for wire transfers.” Karl estimates that payroll would cost about $40 per contractor for each payroll run. However, the high cost didn’t equate to speed. Karl says, “It was very slow. It wasn’t like it costs $40 and one click completes the process. It was just very time-consuming and error-prone.” He estimates that payroll for ten to twelve people would take him up to four hours a week. As started to grow faster, Karl realized that he needed a better payments solution: “Over the course of months, we started getting this growth trajectory. I realized there’s no way we could keep doing payments the way we’d been doing it. So I started to look for a solution, and Plane came up.”When he was researching payroll and HR solutions, Karl had a few major features on his wishlist. One of them was a platform that’s user-friendly. He says, “I wanted a platform that makes payroll easy and less error-prone. Plane gives me guardrails so I don’t have to be as meticulous. As long as I have the right person selected, and I put in the right payment amount, it’s very easy to make payments or pay the right invoices.” This ease of use and Plane’s automated payments have saved hours of time each month. Karl says, “Payroll should be less than an hour, which is what Plane takes.”Karl was also looking for a payroll solution that wasn’t “prohibitively expensive.” He states, “Some payroll providers will charge you per contractor in the system, even if you don’t pay them that month. We have people who do just one or two articles a year, and we don’t want to pay for them all year long just to do those articles. It just wouldn’t make sense financially.” Since Plane only charges per active contractor or employee, Karl didn’t have to worry about this issue.Coverage of countries was also important to Karl says, “We knew we were trying to find technical experts, and we didn’t want to have to restrict the countries where we looked, beyond sanctioned countries. Whether you’re in Nigeria, India, Zaire, or South America, if you’re a technical expert and can write this article and help us out, I want to be able to pay you.” Plane’s ability to pay contractors in over 240 countries worldwide opened up hiring options for Karl states, “That’s what Plane does better than anyone I’ve found, is just giving us this openness to where we can pay people anywhere.”As Karl and his team continue to work with Plane, they have found more features that have impressed them. Karl says, “Plane’s customer support team has been fantastic, both on my side as well as on the contractor side. When I was onboarding people manually before Plane, I had to answer all of their questions about different tax forms during onboarding. Now, I tell new hires that Plane support is great. If they have a question, I tell them to ask Plane, and I almost never hear any follow-up questions.”Karl also likes that Plane provides a central place for him and his team to track payment information. He says, “When it comes to keeping track of how much we’ve paid, I can export that information from Plane in two seconds. I can keep track of who I paid what and for what invoice. All of that information is just neatly collected together versus when using bank transfers.”He also appreciates Plane’s multi-level payment approvals feature. He says, “For some roles, we have an approval process, and the software makes it very easy to do that, so we don’t have to manually try to figure out who’s approving and send a bunch of emails around.”Plane’s guided hiring and onboarding workflow has been a big timesaver for Before Plane, Karl states, “The onboarding process used to be very manual for each contractor. We would send them a request to fill out a W-8, and then we’d get questions from them. Then for people in the US, we’d need to get W-9 forms from them, and all the legal verifications. It was very manual and tedious.” Now, with Plane, onboarding is much smoother. Karl says, “We’re a small business, but we’re able to give each contractor a very nice onboarding experience. They can easily get all their banking information and tax information in one place. They know where to find out how much they got paid and when they got paid. It’s a good experience for them and feels very seamless.”This positive onboarding and payments experience has helped build a strong relationship for and their team members. Karl states, “When you’re a small employer, you want to keep transparency high and trust high, so that you can retain your best people, especially when they’re all over the world. We don’t want them to feel like they did a bunch of work for us and got ripped off — that would really damage our reputation, because we get so much goodwill from trust building. Plane helps us make the experience transparent and makes our team feel they’re in a professional atmosphere, versus just getting a random PayPal email when they get paid. I only hear good things from our contractors about Plane — how simple it is and how easy it is to get their money and see when they’ll get paid.”As grows, they have also found Plane’s Employer of Record (EOR) options to be helpful in expanding their hiring options: “The option to hire people as employees through the Employer of Record service is really nice. It wasn’t the reason we had initially selected Plane, but now that we’ve grown, we have a few people who are full-time employees outside the US.” When it comes to hiring international employees, Karl appreciates that Plane’s team can advise him on global compliance. He says, “Even if you only have employees in three or four countries, the difference in labor laws is massive. I didn’t want to tackle that on my own. Whenever I have a question about benefits or offboarding, the team at Plane has been super helpful. If an employee asks me, ‘Hey, if I want to go full-time, what’s the pathway to do that?’ I have the confidence to say, ‘Okay, here’s the pathway, I know what that looks like,’ thanks to Plane.”Recently, acquired a new business, The Podcast Consultant, a podcast agency that’s also fully distributed, with over 20 contractors worldwide. After acquiring The Podcast Consultant, Karl switched them over to using Plane. He says, “They were doing payments very similarly to how we did them at in the early days, and I knew one of the big improvements we could do right off the bat was to improve payroll.” Now, with Plane, The Podcast Consultant has also saved hours of time each month running payroll. Karl states, “It takes about ten minutes. It’s very, very simple.”Karl recommends Plane to other businesses that want to expand their hiring possibilities. He says, “The hiring landscape and the skills landscape are getting such that there’s no reason not to hire people outside the US. For some roles, maybe it makes sense to stay in the US, like if you want to have a salesperson who could fly to all of your customers locally. But for other roles, there’s no reason to lock them in by geography, unless you have a legal restriction or business restriction. I think the macro trend is that we’re all going to be hiring more remotely. You don’t want to have your payroll be your limiting factor to hiring anywhere. So I’m always telling people, if you don’t know how to do that, get Plane.”

Ready to dive in?Talk to our team today.

Schedule a demoWatch a quick tour video