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How to Become a Self-Employed Freelancer in Germany



Self-employed female worker in Germany
Freelancers in Germany enjoy special tax benefits that are exclusive to them | Photo: Artem Podrez

I always knew I wanted to be my own boss. When I was working a salaried job, I would daydream about what it would be like to be self-employed. But I had no idea how to make the transition from employee to self-employed. I knew where I could get a good head start, though.

A few years ago, I left my cushy job in the UAE and moved to Germany—a country that is known for its thriving freelance culture. I wanted to start a freelance business to capture more opportunities. So I started my life here as an expat student as I figured a business school education would give me a boost.

If you’re thinking of making the switch yourself, here are some things you need to know before you become your own boss in Germany:


1.  You need to figure out if you are going to be self-employed or a freelancer.

For many of us, the words self-employed and freelancer are synonymous. But with the German bureaucracy being infamous for its fastidiousness, potential freelancers must understand that these terms mean wildly different things.

Self-employment is a catch-all umbrella term for any income-producing activity that is not conducted while being employed by a company or enterprise. In Germany, this is divided into two broad categories: freelancing and trade (commercial activity). Do note that when people talk about being self-employed in Germany, what they really mean is being a tradesperson (i.e., businessperson or entrepreneur). Many expats and even Germans often get confused about this, but the differences are important to note.

Within the freelancing category, there are further distinctions to be made: Freiberufler vs. Freelancer (Freier Mitarbeiter). In Germany, when people say “Freelancer”, they are usually referring to the second group, the “Freie Mitarbeiter”. Examples from this group would be marketing consultants, graphic designers, web designers, and copywriters. If you are a budding freelancer in Germany, then the tips in this article would be most helpful to you.

Why are these terms so important to understand? That’s because in Germany, you need to apply for specific permits or visas before you undertake any kind of business activity. And based on this, the Finanzamt (Tax Office) will classify how you will be taxed. Hence, you need to be able to anticipate how your work status will be regulated.

Decide if the pros and cons of being a freelancer are acceptable to you.

Working as a freelancer in Germany has perks that are the envy of tradespeople.

Key among them is that this is the easiest type of work to get into. You simply need to visit the Finanzamt to apply for a Tax ID and then you can start working as a freelancer. Meanwhile, tradespeople need to go through a few more regulatory hoops to be allowed to work.

Another key perk is being able to charge a higher than average hourly fixed rate or service packages. This means potentially getting a higher income relative to the general population.

Furthermore, freelancers enjoy special tax benefits that are exclusive to them. They are not required to register their business as a trade and hence do not need to pay trade tax. They are also not required to keep accounts and only have to submit a surplus income statement at the end of the year.

The downside to not having to pay trade tax is that freelancers pay a bit more on income tax. Also, you would not be eligible to sell products like books, planners, and merchandise in your capacity as a freelancer. But there is a workaround to that: you can try getting a permit for conducting mixed activities (gemischte Tätigkeiten). This way, you can scale your freelance business with sales from your trade business.


2.  Make sure you have a residence permit.

You can work as a freelancer in Germany without restrictions if you’re an EU/EEA citizen or Swiss national. But it’s important to know the requirements for different visa types before starting your freelancing career. You need to have the right permits and paperwork. That said, there are no restrictions on who can work as long as their visa or residence permit is up-to-date.

I started my freelancing journey a bit differently than most people. After getting an MBA from Reutlingen University, I was given over a year to find work. My search started right at the height of the COVID pandemic, so it took a bit of time for things to take off. If you are like me, a non-EU expat with a degree from a German university, you can start working as a freelancer right away with the jobseeker visa that you are granted. So here’s a top tip: try to get your second degree in Germany and then start your freelancing journey from there.


3.  Register with the Tax Office.

To register as a self-employed freelancer in Germany, it is important to file your application with the proper authorities.

You can either download and fill out an original form called “Fragenbogen zur steuerliche Erfassung” (Questionnaire for Taxation) and submit it to your local tax office. Alternatively, you can complete the form online through ELSTER (a German version). The forms need to be filled out in German. Take your time to complete them so that when you submit them, all the details match up correctly.

Should you choose to get in touch with the Tax Office yourself, have the following information on-hand:

  • Your Tax ID
  • Description of your freelance activity
  • Details of your German bank accounts (both personal and business)
  • Estimated business revenue and expenses
  • Estimated profit
  • Whether you wish to charge VAT

Based on the answers you provide, the Tax Office is going to determine whether or not you are a freelancer. They will issue a Tax Number (different from a Tax ID), which you will need to quote in your invoices and on your tax returns. If you request a VAT number, that will be provided as well.

And with all this, you are well on your way to being your own boss. Working as a self-employed expat freelancer in Germany is a daily challenge, but the rewards are great. So what are you waiting for? Apply these tips today and open up a new world of possibilities with a freelancing career in Germany!


The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project announces 50 nominees



Kim Rihal, founder of social enterprise Equal Education, is one of the 50 women shortlisted for The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project
Kim Rihal, founder of social enterprise Equal Education, is one of the 50 women shortlisted for The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project

Earlier this year, on International Women’s Day 2023, Häagen-Dazs launched ‘The Rose Project’, a global initiative with a $100,000 (USD) bursary grant inviting nominations to recognise unsung trailblazing women in honour of the brand’s female co-founder Rose Mattus. Yesterday, 23 November, on what would have been Rose Mattus’ birthday, Häagen-Dazs announced the top 50 #WomenWhoDontHoldBack nominees being shortlisted for their achievements and its five globally accomplished Häagen-Dazs Rose Project judges.

Over 2,500 applications were received for The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project putting forward pioneering efforts and societal contributions made by women across the globe. From these, 50 talented and inspirational women have been shortlisted and will be put forward to win one of five monetary grants of $20,000 (USD), which will be announced on International Women’s Day 2024, to continue their exceptional work, unleash their potential or give to a cause they are passionate about. The top 50 shortlist includes women from 17 countries hailing from across Europe, Asia, Africa & Middle East, Australia and the Americas.

The all-female judging panel from across the world has been handpicked for the final selection stage of The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project includes. UK-based author, broadcaster and philanthropist Katie Piper, fashion entrepreneur and advocate for women’s fertility issues, Velda Tan from Singapore and Spanish entrepreneur and creative director Inés Arroyo, are amongst the judges.

“International Women’s Day 2023 marked the launch of The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project to honour the legacy of our co-founder, Rose Mattus, and create a fund platform to provide opportunities to women across all fields around the world who are truly deserving of support and recognition. We were thrilled to receive thousands of nominations across countries and our #WomenWhoDontHoldBack Top 50 shortlist is a compelling and diverse mosaic of trailblazing female narratives that moved us and serve as an inspiration to women everywhere”, says Aurélie Lory, Häagen-Dazs spokesperson.

To find out more about the story of each entrepreneur shortlisted for The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project, visit:

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47% of women feel their workplace is not combatting inequality



Katherine Maher, CEO, Web Summit, on Centre Stage during day one of Web Summit 2023 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal
Katherine Maher, CEO, Web Summit, on Centre Stage during day one of Web Summit 2023 | Photo: Eóin Noonan/Web Summit

The proportion of women who feel that their workplace is not taking appropriate measures to combat gender inequality has nearly doubled in a year, a new survey has revealed.

Web Summit, the world’s largest technology event taking place in Lisbon this week, has released its third annual State of Gender Equity in Tech report, which is based on a survey distributed among its women in tech community.

76.1 percent of respondents feel empowered to pursue and/or hold a leadership position; fewer respondents (41.8 %) feel the need to choose between family and career when compared to 2022 (50.4 %); and there is at least one woman in a senior management position in 80.4 percent of respondents’ companies, a similar proportion to last year (81.3%).

The survey found that 70.5 percent of respondents feel pressure to prove their worth compared to male counterparts, while 77.2 percent feel they need to work harder to prove themselves because of their gender.

Over three quarters of respondents (76.1 %) feel empowered to pursue and/or hold a leadership position. And almost half of respondents think that their workplace is not taking appropriate measures to combat gender inequality, increasing from 26 percent in 2022 to 47
percent in 2023.

“While it is encouraging to see progress in some areas, such as those feeling the need to choose between their family and career, there are also some deeply concerning trends within this report. Seeing an increase in those who report having experienced sexism in the workplace in the last year is disheartening in 2023. We hope that this kind of research can breed some positives, and that it will push workplaces – and women within these workplaces – to broach these topics and make progress in these areas,” said Carolyn Quinlan, VP of community at Web Summit.

Last year, 42 percent of attendees at Web Summit were women and 33 percent of speakers were women. In 2023 these numbers have slightly improved with 43 percent of attendees and 38 percent of speakers on stage being women this year.

The women in tech programme at this year’s Web Summit is at capacity, and the women in tech programme at Web Summit Rio 2023 reached capacity in record time.

The WebSummit 2023 is running from November 13th to 16th in Lisbon, Portugal.

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Krispy Kreme to give away free donuts on World Kindness Day



A box of Krispy Kreme donuts opened and with donuts inside
The company, founded in 1937, is giving away 60,000 free doughnuts around the world today | Photo: Clément Proust

American multinational doughnut company and coffeehouse chain, Krispy Kreme, is celebrating “World Kindness Day” today by distributing free donuts in the US and the UK.

The chain is giving away a box of a dozen glazed donuts for free with no purchase necessary. But only the first 500 guests that visit each participating Krispy Kreme US stores on “World Kindness Day”, Monday November 13th, will be able to get a free box of donuts.

Krispy Kreme often gives away free or discounted donuts to generate buzz on special occasions. The company, founded in 1937, traditionally gives out free donuts to customers on National Donut Day, celebrated on the first Friday of June of each year. And in July, a dozen of glazed donuts were sold for 86 cents to celebrate its 86th birthday.

Thousands of free donuts are also expected to be given away today across Krispy Kreme stores in the United Kingdom, with customers being encouraged to ask for the World Kindness Day offer. No purchase necessary.

The company, which operates in over 30 countries around the world, said it wants the brand associated with World Kindness Day to make “meaningful connections” with customers.

“World Kindness Day is an opportunity to make a positive difference by being generous,” Dave Skena, Krispy Kreme’s global chief brand officer, said in a release. “Simple gestures of caring and thanks, including sharing a sweet treat, is a great way to do that.”

Krispy Kreme said that it’s considering expanding a limited partnership it has with McDonald’s to sell more of its donuts at the latter’s location.

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