How to get started and become a freelancer in Germany

A little over 4 years ago, i decided to quit my job to become self-employed in Germany. After years spent in the cosy realm of full-time employment, i took a leap into completely uncharted territories for me. I was excited, i was motivated and with no regrets. Soon thereafter however, i was facing a little mountain called bureaucracy. To become a freelancer in Germany was not going to be easy but with my best efforts and a little help, i did go through that challenge unharmed. This guide is an attempt at transferring my experience to spare you some sweat, tears and stress.

How to become a freelancer in Germany

Disclaimer: Please note that this is an attempt at covering an excessively broad topic. You might want to prepare a cup of tea before diving in. It’s a whale of a read.

The difference between freelancer & self-employed: which one are you?

Before worrying about documents, registration, taxes and so on, you will need to understand the difference between being a freelancer and being self-employed in Germany. Although it does sound similar, there are pretty substantial differences between the two. Self-employment can be divided into 2 broad categories:

  • Freiberuflich or freelancer: it is one specific type of self-employment that is limited to only a certain number of liberal occupations. Those professions are often linked to some sort of scholar, academic or creative service, as defined in income tax law here (EStG § 18). Those can range from dancers to doctors, from architects to journalists, from lawyers to programmers. Freelancing in Germany does not require to register a business which involves less paperwork.
  • Gewerbetreibende or tradesman/business: this is linked to all other kinds of occupations that don’t qualify for the official freelancer definition. Any other sort of commercial entreprise usually falls under the classification of business in Germany. Most often than not, it is about building, trading or selling physical stuff. In this case, you will need to register a business (Gewerbe), which explains why the term “Gewerbetreibende” is used to differentiate this category.

Everything around registration

In that part, i will assume all that you have already cleared the following things:

If not, just click on the link for each topic. It will redirect you to another guide on this blog.

Registering as a freelancer in Germany

Registering as a freelancer in Germany is a fairly straightforward process as it doesn’t involve registering a corporation or getting trade permits. However, please hold in mind that some occupations will require a specific degree to be able to do freelancing in that field.

All you need to do is to:

  1. Fill in this form (Fragebogen zur steuerliche Erfassung). It’s a small questionnaire to let your Finanzamt know that you plan to become a freelancer in Germany. You can fill-it online, save it or print it when you are done. If your German is a bit sketchy, you can use this little guide or use Sorted’s easy to use registration tool (100% English there). Bring it to your local Finanzamt. If unsure, which one is yours, enter your postal code here.
  2. Alternatively, you can use this tool to fill it online, in English and submit all digitally to your Finanzamt.
  3. Receive your new tax-ID (Steuernummer), which you will put on all your bills from now on.

Registering as self-employed in Germany (Gewerbetreibende)

As the name suggests, you will need to register a Gewerbe (a business) at your local Gewerbeamt (Trade office). Please note that in this case, you will need to register your Gewerbe before going to your Finanzamt. The process at the Finanzamt is then the same as mentioned above for freelancers. This is also fairly easy, especially if your status is going to be Einzelunternehmer (Sole proprietorship). You will need to bring the following with you at the Gewerbeamt:

  • A valid ID document or passport
  • Your Meldebescheinigung (adress registration certificate)
  • The filled-out Gewerbe-Anmeldung form available on your city’s local platform. (Links for BerlinHamburgMunichFrankfurt)
  • Between ten and forty euros for the registration fee

Additional pieces could be health or regulatory permits (for opening a café for example), certificate from trade offices if you are going into a particular skilled craft sector or if working with children, a certificate that you don’t have a criminal record. If you are unsure about this, get in touch with your local Industrie- und Handelskammer – IHK (Chamber of commerce); they will tell you about all the permits you need for your activity.

I’m not covering here other business structures such as UG, GmbH or GbR as this post is aiming at one-man businesses and at how to become a freelancer in Germany. It usually requires to go in front of a lawyer to establish the corporation, and registration at the local IHK first (Handelsregister).

Health insurance self-employment in Germany

Everything around health insurance

A big concern when becoming a freelancer in Germany is to be able to understand the system & pick the right health insurance. You probably know that you can either go with private or public companies. If you need to refresh your knowledge on the matter, have a look at this post on this blog that explains how it all works. In a nutshell though;

  • Going with public companies (Gesetzlichen Krankenkasse) means that yours fees for health insurance will be based on your income at around 15% of what you earn, with a legal minimum monthly fee of about 350€. This option is more costly, especially in the beginning when you don’t earn anything, but it does cover kids and spouse with you.
  • Going with a private scheme (Private Krankenversicherung) means that the rate is based on your health profile and risks. Consequently, if you are young and fit in your twenties, you might have plans as cheap as 150€ per month. However, as years go by and your health is more fragile, it can quickly increase to 500€ or even more if you are in your fifties. Kids and spouse are not covered. Pick your provider carefully since they each have unique plans and different coverage at different prices. The offer is way more diverse than in the public system. It is recommended to meet a broker or use comparison platforms such as Tarifcheck or to find the best fit and the best price.

Good to know

Artists & performers can have half of their fees covered by the KSK (Künstlersozialkasse) when they stay in the public scheme.

People currently out of a job and registered at the Arbeitsagentur can apply for a Gründerzuschuss. It is a little grant which helps you pay your health insurance in the early days of your self-employment in Germany.

Taxes as a freelancer in Germany

Everything around taxes

Let me first introduce the main actors involved in this story:

Umsatzsteuer or Mehrwertsteuer (V.A.T)

As pretty much anywhere, a value-added tax paid by businesses (Normally. 19% or 7%, temporary 16% or 5% from July until December 2020, because of Corona). Here, you can deduct the amount of V.A.T you paid on good or services you bought from the amount of V.A.T you added to your own bills. If you paid more than you received, the Finanzamt will refund the difference. This is paid monthly to the Finanzamt during the first 2 years and quarterly after this if you don’t collect so much V.A.T through your activity.

Freelancers and other self-employed people earning less than 17.500€ per year can choose to avoid this scheme altogether by adopting the “Kleinunternehmerregelung” (Small business rule). This means that there is no V.A.T on your bills, but you can’t deduct V.A.T on things you bought either. This rule makes sense for smaller operations with little investment: less strain on the cash flow. Above this limit, it’s compulsory to bill V.A.T as well. You also need to register for an EU V.A.T ID if you plan to do business with clients outside of Germany.

You can apply for a V.A.T ID at registration or after registration, if your plan changes. If it’s after registration, go here and choose the form on the right hand menu “Vergabe einer USt-ID”. The right form will open. Choose the right Bundesland where you are located, and the right Finanzamt, insert your Steuernummer as well and the legal form of your activity (Einzelunternehmer or Freiberufler). The form will be processed automatically when you send it and you should receive your number by mail a few days after.

Einkommensteuer (Income tax)

For freelancers and self-employed people, the income tax will apply to everything you earn with your small business. In Germany, there is a threshold under which the income is always tax free. In 2016, this amount was 8 652€ per year, i.e; any euro above this is taxed.  The tax is due every year to the Finanzamt and should be declared before the 31st May of the following year. It is a part of your Steuererklärung. For the second or third year of operations, the Finanzamt usually decides to set quarterly installments instead, based on previous statements. This means that instead of paying the whole amount at once every year, you need to transfer a part of it every quarter. This has the advantage to be safer/smoother on your cash flow.

Gewerbesteuer (Trade tax)

This trade tax only applies to Gewerbetreibende. It’s an additional tax that applies on your overall turnover for the year. You are not required to pay if your turnover is below 24 500€ per year. It is due yearly to the Finanzamt and should also be part of your Steuererklärung, sent in before the 31st May of the following year. For high-earners, you can also expect quarterly installments too.

So to sum it up:

Tax typeWho pays it?When?How?
UmsatzsteuerFreelancer – Gewerbetreibende (except if Kleinunternehmer rule applies)Monthly until the 10th of next month, then every quarter if you don’t collect a lot of V.A.T.Fill in form: “Ust-VA”


(Umsatzsteuer Voranmeldung)

EinkommensteuerFreelancer – GewerbetreibendeEvery year until 31st July (for the year prior) or quarterly installments instead.With your Steuererklärung


Fill in form: “Est 1 A”

GewerbesteuerGewerbetreibendeEvery year until 31st July (for the year prior) or quarterly installments instead.With your Steuererklärung


Fill in form


How do i communicate with the Finanzamt?

It is highly required to use the government’s issued ELSTER tool to communicate with the Finanzamt. This software has all the forms required to be able to declare what’s relevant and do your tax return.

What does the process for the yearly tax return (Steuererklärung) look like?

I have made detailed guide about this topic this way. It has a lot more details and i will avoid making this post longer than it already is.

Which expenses can I put off in taxes?

Being successful as a freelancer in Germany is just as much about increasing your income as it is about decreasing your taxable income. There are a certain number of expenses that can be accounted for to reduce your total taxable income. This is why you need to make sure to keep during 7 years all bills related to:

Banking for freelancers in Germany

About banking

Do i need a special business bank account?

Becoming a freelancer in Germany (or simply self-employed for that matter) comes with simplified management, and that’s true for your bank account too.  You can simply use your personal bank account if you already have one to support all your expenses and incoming payments for your operation. This comes with the risk of using your personal funds to support your professional life though. Make sure to separate both to avoid cash flow issues, especially if you decide to pay V.A.T as well.

You can of course decide to open a second bank account dedicated to your professional life. If you need help on how to open a bank account in Germany, i have already made a dedicated guide this way.

Bookkeeping self employment in Germany

Around invoices, bookkeeping & billing

Bookkeeping obligations

All Gewerbe that reach 60K€ of profit or 600K€ of revenue 2 years in a row will be requested to switch from a simple entry accounting record (Einfache Buchführung: via an EÜR – Einkommen Überschuss Rechnung) to a double entry system (Doppelte Buchführung: Bilanzierung). Below these limits, simple entry system is enough.

Freiberuflich people can stick to a simple entry accounting system, no matter their level of income or revenue.

Deep dive into this double entry system topic on this page and on the simple entry system on this page. (in German)

Doing invoices right

Now that you are a proper business, make sure that your bills are also as professional as your business cards. They need to include all the following items to be valid:

  1. Your full name and address
  2. Full name and adress of your customer
  3. Location, date and unique ID of invoice
  4. Your tax number (Steuernummer)
  5. Description of goods/services, time of delivery & when payment is due
  6. Net price & discounts if applicable
  7. Added tax if applicable (If not; mention the Kleinunternehmer rule § 19 UStG Paragraph 1)
  8. Total price

You can find a pretty nice excel template on this website. You can then edit them to fit your situation and your looks.

Keeping your books clean

I don’t need to tell you that one of the challenges becoming a freelancer in Germany is to be able to keep an eye on your finances, your ingoing and outgoing bills. A lot of self-employed people in Germany have failed their projects or lost a lot of money because of bad accounting. I know i know; it is sometimes frustrating to be almost spending more time being an accountant than doing your actual job. Why is this important:

Rigorous accounting has 3 long-term advantages

  1. At some point or other, you will get audited by the Finanzamt. This means they can ask questions on anything. Keeping the records straight will avoid headaches and conflicts, especially if it’s about 5 year old items.
  2. Every year until the 31st May, you will need to do your tax return (Steuererklärung) and communicates how much in total you earned during last year, this can be done in minutes if things are kept clean, not hours.
  3. You can account for all small expenses you had during the year, which will add up to a lot to reduce your taxable income for your tax return to. This requires properly recording and filing each bill you received, physical or not.

For this, a simple excel sheet will do if you have patience and you are rigorous. This page has a pretty neat Excel template (especially for Gewerbetreibende). This involves a manual entry for each item in a table divided by month. It’s also hard to keep a copy of each bill when you have expenses.

However it doesn’t have to be that way. Nowadays, there are free or reasonably priced apps that allow to keep control of all movements during the year and facilitate the work of a Steuerberater if you have one. This is a little selection of bookkeeping software for freelancers in Germany:

  • Lexware: Consistently awarded by “Praxis Tests”, trusted by Steuerberatern and used by thousands of small business owners and freelancers. It is a reference in Germany and covers all of your accounting, invoicing and tax returning. (From 10€ per month – Interface in German only).
  • Debitoor: Also, a trusted name in the German market and internationally and my personal favorite. Debitoor offers the same broad array of services as Lexware but it seems to be a bit more open to a new economy use by integrating third party partners or API to make it easy to accept payments through PayPal, use Izettle or connect your online shop. (From 12€ per month – Interface in English, German or 7 other languages – Free test)
  • Sorted: An interesting newcomer on the market, that offers a free option that lets you do your Steuerklärung. The paid option lets you do quarterly/monthly declarations. It’s the only player on the market that offers a Steuerberater on demand, directly from the software. (Free or 20€ per month – Interface 100% in English.)
  • FastBill: A great contender on this list, FastBill is great at keeping an overview of the current affairs in a slick interface. You can also use different ways to receive your money and manages international business too.  (From 9€ per month – Interface in English – Free trial month)
  • Reviso: Formely know as e-economic, it’s also making a name for itself with its KPMG-certified software. Unlike its competitors, the different prices and plans don’t limit features but simply the amount of entries. (From 10€ per month – Interface in English & 6 other languages – Free trial month).
  • Zervant: A simple to use tool to manage your invoicing. It only does that but it does this well and most of all: it’s for free.

Remember if you pick one of the paid options: this would count as an expense you can put it off in taxes too! It’s money well invested.

Using a Steuerberater

You may have worked with a Steuerberater before to optimize your tax return as an employee, but if you become a freelancer in Germany, they can do much more than this. Although the name “Tax advisor” only suggests proficiency in tax related issues, they can help freelancers for the following issues:

  • Bookkeeping & Accounting
  • Professional law
  • Help with with V.A.T, Income & Tade Tax (calculating and filing when it’s due.)
  • Help with the annual tax return (+ EÜR & Gewerbe tax for Gewerbetreibende)
  • Representative duty (communicating with the Finanzamt in your stead.)
  • General legal counselling

Using a Steuerberater can appear costly but it’s often worth it when you are starting to earn well. The bet is that the benefits/return will off-set the expenses. Their fees are usually paid monthly if they are involved with the daily accounting business and/or yearly, if you only need help for the tax return until the 31st of May.

The costs of hiring Steuerberater is often well worth-it as it will optimize your expenses & maximize your tax return.

You can often greatly reduce their monthly fee by using one of the bookkeeping programs mentioned above. This is because it’s much less work for the Steuerberater to collect and process information through an export function than to process an excel sheet. Those software usually have a special access for Steuerberater made especially for that.

If you don’t know where to start to look for one, you can use platforms like Ageras which connects freelancers to English-speaking Steuerberater all across Germany for free. More info on how to find an English-speaking Steuerberater in Berlin here.

Resources for self-employment

Other resources to consider when becoming a freelancer in Germany

  • Make it in Germany: A government-owned website for skilled-workers wanting to move to Germany. It has information on setting up your own business.
  • Existenzgründer: Another great government-owned website that gives a lot of details on how to become a freelancer in Germany. It works for each profile of self-employment. It’s available in other languages but it is most complete in its German version.

FAQ & Notes

Can i combine a normal day-time job together with self-employment?

Yes, it is possible, provided you don’t do more than 18 hours on top of your full-time job. Your Krankenkasse costs will still be covered by your employer while combining both operations. You also need approval from your employer (in writing is better).

About working for a former employer, or for a single client

I’ve seen around forums and FB groups that some people register as a freelancer to work for their former employer or a single agency. Please note that this completely illegal and can be considered a tax fraud or an evasion scheme. The German term for this is Scheinselbständigkeit , which could be best translated to “disguised employment”. It’s often an attempt from the employer to pay less taxes. It’s illegal even if the former employee, now freelancer, agrees to this setup.

Naturally, if you are just starting out as a freelancer in Germany, the Finanzamt won’t look too close if you only have a single client for a little while. It might become suspicious over time though.

Good luck!

Ps: please note that despite all my best intentions, some of this information can be inaccurate or missing details. I urge you to talk to a professional coach, especially if you are preparing your freelance visa from abroad. Let me know in the comments if you spot something unclear that needs improvement or if i should cover something more.

Sources: 1, 2


  • Reply Gila Blum 24/01/2020 at 16:08

    Hi , Thank you for all this information , i still did not understand if i am a self employee or a frelancer then .
    Its says to see in that list but i could find anything.
    Could you maybe tell me the status for me ? i work 5 days a week from home giving my services as office admin for a swiss company , i have no diploma for that.
    Thanks in advance

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/01/2020 at 14:19

      Hey Gila. It’s not linked a degree in particular. Do you have an employment contract from this company or do you send an invoice to them?

  • Reply Jo 20/01/2020 at 14:58

    Hi, great article – very informative and helpful! I have a question about VAT that maybe you could answer. I have a contract with a client and they are exempt from VAT because the business is based in the canary islands. Do you have any idea how I write them an invoice. As I understand, the German government requires me to charge VAT if I am over a certain threshold (which I will be).

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/01/2020 at 09:58

      Hey Jo. The 2 topics are not linked. You don’t apply VAT for clients based outside Germany. There are different best practices on how to do an invoice then. Here is a good overview.

  • Reply Andrew 20/01/2020 at 01:34

    As a freelancer in Berlin what percentage of your invoices would you recommend saving for tax payments?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/01/2020 at 09:33

      Hey Andrew. If you are talking about income tax, you can try to do a simulation of how much you would earn, thus forecasting how much you’d owe in income tax. Here for example.

  • Reply Gowtham Babu Tummala 15/01/2020 at 14:44

    Hi !

    A Question! I got an opportunity to work as a freelancer. But this work is not regular. Some months there won’t be any work. Do I need to still pay V.A.T or other taxes for the months where I don’t have any freelancing work?


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/01/2020 at 09:13

      Hey Gowtham. It depends at which point of your self-employement you are. You owe VAT to the Finanzamt on top of every invoice you make. This needs to be paid monthly or quarterly depending on your business turnover. As for income tax or business tax: there can be prepayments even though you might not generate any business at all. But i assume prepayments don’t apply to you if you work is not that regular. Note that you still need to declare VAT to the Finanzamt even though you do 0€ that/those months.

  • Reply Alsalama Ali 12/01/2020 at 18:49

    Many thanks for the valuable information

  • Reply Matei 11/01/2020 at 22:37

    Hi Bastien,

    Many thanks for the blog – it’s been really helpful. I have a small dilemma though and couldn’t really find a clear answer – maybe you might be able to give a tip:
    I’m working as a full-time employed architect in Berlin. Recently I did a presentation in Frankfurt, on my own as a freelancer lets say, for which I will get paid (not much – the fee is about 700 euros). For the moment this is an isolated event. Do I need to declare such a small income? Do you know anything about such cases and what would be the right handling? Anything will be much appreciated. Best!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/01/2020 at 09:51

      Hey Matei. Well in theory, you should be able to bill your clients with a proper invoice, as a self-employed person. You need to declare all and any income to the Finanzamt.

  • Reply Claire Geiger 19/12/2019 at 16:44

    Hi there, is an Independent Contractor the same thing as a Freelancer? Or does that fall in another category?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/12/2019 at 15:50

      Hey Claire. “Self-employed” and “independent contractor” mean the same in this post.

  • Reply Murray 04/12/2019 at 10:02

    Hi, thanks for the great info.

    My question is regarding hardware / software.

    I am yet to become a freelancer as I need to gain experience with with new software first so that I am more efficient when working for clients. I can’t use the software (CAD) that I already know and use as it is too expensive. If I need to buy new hardware and software before registering, can I add these expenditure costs to my tax return once I am registered?


    If I register as a freelancer do I need to inform my full time employer?



    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/12/2019 at 00:35

      Hey Murray. You first need to register as a freelancer to be able expense those costs. Your full time employer needs to be aware and agree to your side gigs.

  • Reply Zensu 03/12/2019 at 20:19

    Hi! This is a great article, and an invaluable resource. Thank you so much for compiling this information here!

    Quick question – what do you mean when you say that you can combine freelance and day-job “provided you don’t do more than 18 hours on top of your full-time job”?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/12/2019 at 16:02

      Hey Zensu. That is because the legal limit of weekly working hours is 58h.

    • Reply Manuel 12/12/2019 at 07:50

      Hi! Amazing post, super helpful.
      I have a really short question. How long does it take to have the new Steuernummer since you submit the form? Like, from applying to been able to send an invoice. Thanks!

      • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/12/2019 at 00:07

        Hey Manuel. It depends, between 1 and 2 weeks, if all is in order.

  • Reply Guacho 28/11/2019 at 18:43

    Hi i have a visa with the name of the company that also lets me work as freelancer. Im waiting for the new visa but will take a month and i would be without a job without being able to start in the new company. Im considering working as freelancer for them 1 month while i get the corrected visa.


    I already have a SteuerID, can i use that one and just register as freelancer or do i need a new one?

    Also, can i do that for 1 month and then go back as regular employee?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/11/2019 at 09:43

      Hey Guacho. I can’t comment on visa related issues but regarding the SteuerID, you will probably keep the same number. The Finanzamt will let you know if it changes or not, or maybe if you get a separate one, after registration. You can be a freelancer and an employee at the same time, so the amount of time you are a freelancer is not relevant for the Finanzamt. However, please be aware that you can’t work for a single client, as it would be considered hidden/fake employment.

  • Reply Burger 18/11/2019 at 14:47

    Thank you so much for explaining the difference between freelancer & self-employed! ( I didn’t know that!)
    I would like to ask if you’ve ever known my situation: I have a work visa which bound with the company for a year (I only work for less than 1 year, 6 months first for Praktikum, 2 months ago in the same company got a normal part-time job visa)
    Surprisingly, I just found on the visa, it says “selbständig tätigkeit gestatt” so it means I can do freelance work at the same time, I supposed?
    So I will try to register in Finanzamt.
    But, I am confused about the insurance:
    by the “Everything around health insurance” part, I think it’s only for a “real” freelancer or self-employed?
    Because I have insurance TK as a normal worker. Do I need to get myself another expensive insurance because I carry on some freelance job?
    Or if you know where I may find the information about this “mix” situation…
    Thanks in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/11/2019 at 12:26

      Hey Burger. I am in th same situation. It’s fairly simply: if you earn more as an employee, your Krankenkasse is paid from that. If you earn more as a freelancer, you need to pay yourself. You need to let TK know if that is ever the case.

  • Reply Joseph 15/11/2019 at 04:46

    Hey Bastien
    Thank you for this great article.
    I am a non EU Citizen , I work as a sound engineer , and I want to move to Germany , I have a German business visa for one year , can I move to Germany with this visa and start working as a freelancer ? And if it is possible to have permit resident without going back to my home country for having the freelancer visas. Thank you

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/11/2019 at 11:55

      Hey Joseph. i am no expert on the business visa but it seems that it is not meant for people to become German residents eventually, which is something you need to be, to become a freelancer here. As for the rest, you may want to use the hotline here

  • Reply Rick 09/11/2019 at 19:19

    Another question… I have heard you can have a Hauptarbeit to cover the official insurance requirements, and then get a Gewerbeschein with less hassle to do your “self employed” job as a part time job.
    Do you know anything about this, especially how it works in practice?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/11/2019 at 15:28

      If you are referring to health insurance, your main job will pay for it, as long as you don’t earn more with your self-employment gigs. At this point, you need to notify your Krankenkasse about it and you ought to pay it yourself.

  • Reply Rick 09/11/2019 at 19:05

    Great article, thanks.
    So, random hypothetical questions that seem to be missed from most online topics and I am curious now. There must have been cases before?

    What happens if you work as a freelancer before you register? What happens if you invoice and receive money before you are registered?
    What happens if you work as a Self-Employed before you register? What happens if you invoice and receive money before you are registered?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/11/2019 at 15:27

      Hey Rick. Well in theory, that is not allowed so i guess you can try to invoice your client later, after you have actually registered?

  • Reply Thomas Lawrence 04/11/2019 at 12:21

    Hi, i have been searching online for the following info but perhaps i am searching in all the wrong places. I have been a freelancer for two years now in events. I stopped freelancing in October, and continued just with a minijob. Do i need to inform finanzamt or someone? Many thanks for your infos.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/11/2019 at 09:47

      Hey Thomas. Sorry, i’m not knowledgeable about Minijobs in general.

  • Reply Beau 24/10/2019 at 22:45


    If I am newly unemployed after 2years employment and eligible for Unemployment benefits. It would be best to tell the job centre straight away, that I am looking to become a freelancer?

    With the grant that is offered, this is only for self-employed or also freelancing?

    I would need to live off the money that I am making myself, plus have the small grant to cover insurance?

    Thanks !

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/10/2019 at 09:03

      Hey Beau. From my experience, the job center first tries to push you into a new job, since it’s usually a better chance to make somebody financially sustainable.

  • Reply Racquel 17/10/2019 at 10:25

    Hi Bastien,
    I am self employed as a small business and also employed as minijob. The Auslanderbehörde send me paper that i need to send them the Prüfungbericht as self employed . I do my invoices under elster. Who should i ask for this Prüfungbericht.thanks in advance

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/10/2019 at 21:47

      Hey Racquel. Not sure i understand: Elster has an invoicing function? Alternatively if you need to prove income, can you not send your Steuerbescheid of last year, if you were self employed already?

  • Reply Nancy 08/10/2019 at 21:21

    Hi Bastien!

    Thank you for this article.

    I don’t let have a tax number, and I have my Anmeldung appointment on Friday where I will also request one. Do you know if it’s possible to request to be freelance during my Anmeldung appointment to kill two birds with one stone?



    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/10/2019 at 15:39

      Hey Nancy, it doesn’t work like this. You do this at the Finanzamt, and not during your anmeldung appointment.

      • Reply Nancy 18/10/2019 at 16:43

        Hi Bastien,

        Many thanks for your reply. I have now registered my address at the Bürgeramt. Do you know if I have to wait for them to send me my tax number before I can register as freelance as the Finanzamt?



        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/10/2019 at 21:50

          Hey Nancy. Good question. If i were you, I’d rather wait a bit so you get all the right documents by post, confirming you that you now exist (from a tax perspective) in Germany. This might avoid some processing issues. But up to you!

  • Reply Andreia 06/10/2019 at 18:47

    Hi, Bastian.
    Thanks for the info. How is the payment for alterskasse (retirement)? I’m worried that it’s too expensive and my freelancer work wouldn’t be my primary income as, for now, I wouldn’t make much.

    PS: I have German citizenship.

  • Reply mare 28/09/2019 at 23:14

    Hi Bastien,
    I am employed and have a tax number.
    If i now register with the finanzamt for freelancing, will I get a NEW tax number ?

    Thanks in advance,

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/09/2019 at 22:57

      Hey Mare. It depends. Sometimes, it changes, sometimes it doesn’t.

  • Reply Loola 02/09/2019 at 21:24

    Hi Bastien,

    I think you have a mistake in this article. In Germany, there is a difference between Self-Employed (Freiberuflich) and Freelancer, but those are altogether different from Self-employed while having a business venture (“Gewerbe”), which makes your article confusing for people. There are certainly different bureaucratic steps that need to be taken depending on these classifications. There are several other blogs covering specific distinctions of these categories. I thought you might wanna know 🙂

  • Reply Chris 28/08/2019 at 15:55

    Hey Bastien,
    Thanks for the info. My wife, based in Berlin is interested in doing Sales remotely for a Denmark Footwear brand and only earning commission. Would this fall under Self employed, Freelancer or employed by the Denmark company? She will not physically touch or distribute the items, purely remote sales.
    Let me know if you can, Thanks.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/08/2019 at 09:41

      Hey Chris. She would probably be self-employed here in Germany, if she is a German resident and the footwear company has not interest in employing her.

  • Reply Gabriela 14/08/2019 at 20:26

    Hi, Thanks for all the information. I wanna ask how can I finish my freelance papers? Thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 19/08/2019 at 09:45


  • Reply Dubravka 05/08/2019 at 21:52

    Hi Bastien,

    Thank you for this great article! I have my own business, selling web templates and also work for UK agency UI design per project. I’m a Non-EU person and want to move to Germany. Is there any possibility to move my business there and how this will be treated by the German law?

    Thank you very much,

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 09/08/2019 at 16:22

      Hey Dubravka. The business in itself is completely fine and you would be able to run it from here. It’s just a matter of getting a visa with that kind of business. Have you checked this?

  • Reply Louise 29/07/2019 at 09:48

    Hey Bastien,

    thanks for this amazing article! I wanted to ask, when you quit your job to become self-employed, did this website become your business? I’m interested in becoming a full-time blogger but I’m not sure how much registering this kind of business differs from a self-employed/ freelance journalist for example. I’m also a bit intimidated to visit the authorities and talk to them about this as I think they probably wouldn’t consider it a real profression and might laugh at me!

    Any tips on how to go about this? Thanks in advance

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/07/2019 at 14:02

      Hey Louise. (Although this website generates some income, i cannot go full time with it. I’m still working a normal job. When i quit, it was to create another company.). A self-published blog would not be considered a “Freiberufliche” profession. It would be considered Gewerbe (like it is, in my case). The registration process is just the same as for any other Gewerbe.

  • Reply GR 27/07/2019 at 09:29

    Hi! If I am employed elsewhere (in another country) and work remotely here under the Work Holiday Visa – do I still need to pay taxes? Even though my salary is coming from another country?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/07/2019 at 13:55

      Hey GR. It depends, are you considered a German resident for that time? I would assume not since work holiday visa are usually less than 6 months long ?

  • Reply Emily Green 21/07/2019 at 16:28

    Hey! Thank you so much for this post it is really excellent and informative. I have been a registered freelancer for 2 months, and now I’m leaving Germany. My income from the job won’t be more than 3,ooo EUR so am I correct in thinking I do not owe any tax? Do I just need to declare it to the Finanzamt?

    Thank you once again!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/07/2019 at 08:58

      Hey Emily. If you only have had this an income, then yes, you will be below the threshold, but you still need to declare it to the Finanzamt, or possibly from wherever you are moving next.

  • Reply Vendi 11/07/2019 at 10:04

    Hi! Thanks for a great article! My question is: I’ve been selling my handmade ceramics on Etsy and at markets for about 18months already, but i still haven’t registered as a Gewerbe/Kleinunternehmen. If I register now, what happens with the income from the last 18 months? It’s at a total of 2000 euros for 2018. Thanks again for your help!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/07/2019 at 21:53

      Hey Vendi. Well, this would be considered black-market/work under the table so i’m not sure if you would get a fine now, even if the total turnover is low. This amount is in theory adding up to your total taxable income, but since you were not in theory allowed to produce that income, i’m not sure how you would even declare for your tax returns. Good luck with it all.

  • Reply Daniel 11/06/2019 at 16:38

    Hi Bastien, great article!

    I have a short question. Few days ago I meet a guy and asked me for help about some programming stuff for his business.
    I’m not yet registered as freelance. Can i still invoice for this small gig? As everything is going through his Business I am not sure about how to do this. Even if the amount is little.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/06/2019 at 11:45

      Hey Daniel. First register, then invoice.

  • Reply santhosh 08/06/2019 at 14:47

    Hey BASTIEN, Great Job on this nice article.. I have question about Freelance work on behalf of my wife. My wife just started working as freelance for an IT company. The contract shall last for six months and the income expected out of it is definitely less than 17500 €.
    – Does my wife eligible for the Kleinunternehmerregelung (Small business rule).
    – Does my income also counts into this bussiness.
    – What are the best insurance options she can choose for six months.
    – How do we apply for it.
    – Do we need VAT number (do you recommend having it).
    – Do you know how to apply and procedure via ELSTER. we are trying hard to find way for filling this forms online.
    – Can you put in simple words where to begin and how to proceed with the invoicing her client.

    many thanks again.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/06/2019 at 15:40

      Hey Santosh. I suggest you had research of your own of those pointers. You wife can be a Kleinunternehmer, but i suspect that as freelance in IT, she will soon be over that limit. Your wife’s activity is her own. You have nothing to do with this. I don’t know what you mean by insurance options, can’t help you. VAT number: up to you, probably a good idea. Please refer to the section about invoicing in the post otherwise. I will ammend to post to explain how to get a VAT ID. Go here and choose the form on the right hand menu “Vergabe einer USt-ID”. The right form will open. Choose the right Bundesland where you are located, and the right Finanzamt, insert your Steuernummer as well and the legal form of your activity.

  • Reply Silviu 07/06/2019 at 19:12

    Hi Bastien,

    I am already registered as Freiberufler. I know that is possible to hire someone else as part of my business, are there restrictions related from which country that person should be and work? Does he/she has to be a german resident or it can be someone from Spain, registered there with the taxes and work remotely?
    Thank you!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/06/2019 at 15:30

      Hey Silviu. You are a Freiberufler, hence not a business. There are no particular restrictions as they will be a service provider to you and not an employee. They simply send you a proper invoice for that.

  • Reply Avocatera Nikos 14/05/2019 at 17:12

    Hey, Bastien, first of all congrats for your article, very helpful. Thanks for doing this. I have some questions. I am a EU citizen and currently living in Germany for 17 months. I have a unbefristet, fest arbeitsfertrag and I am interesting to work also online, offering services through my website which currently is under development (I am a web developer). It will be a directory of professionals that will offer their services to users that need them. I will earn from the registration and publication of the professional’s profile on the website. What do i need to do? Should i speak with my arbeitsgeber? Do i have to register? And as what should i be registered? Probably will pass some time until the professionals join and publish their profile for a fee. So i won’t earn nothing. Should i run it without registration and when the first professional joins then i will take the required steps. I have no idea what should i do. I am not good at public office services and bureaucratic things and processes. What would you do in my place? Please help.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/05/2019 at 14:30

      Hey Nikos. Your employer needs to be aware of your side gig and needs to give consent. In theory, you could build your platform and consider it as a hobby in the beginning, so no need to register a business yet. It’s only if you plan to be able to invoice and put off expenses with this project that you need to register. Hope this helps.

    • Reply Emilia Pope 26/05/2019 at 13:14

      Thank you for your super informative blog.
      Can you please guide me towards regulations for working from home.
      More specifically is the ‘live-work’ situation available in the UK also possible in Germany?
      To be specific, I am a professional sewer. I own all my own industrial equipment. Rather than pay rent x 2, at times in the past I have been able to rent a larger place and dedicate a part for work and the other part for living. Any advice or leads as to how I can find out if this is possible in Germany? Thank you.

      • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/05/2019 at 10:50

        Hey Emilia. If you are using a room in your apartment as a work place, you can deduct part of the rent (per sqm) for that space off in taxes, as work related expenses. The room must be clearly separated from the rest of the living space and only have this work-related purpose.

  • Reply sarah mb 12/05/2019 at 11:31

    thank you for this great article
    an i have to work for german clients to be register as a freelancer ?
    i’m already have a freelance work on many contries .. is that enough ? or i have to leave those clients and search for new ones in germany !

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/05/2019 at 14:09

      Hey Sarah. No, you don’t need have any German clients, if you don’t need any visa to work as a freelancer.

  • Reply Martin Gorrie 08/05/2019 at 17:38

    Hi Bastien, thanks for your efforts on this article – very helpful!

    I am an Australian applying for the freelancer visa as a digital marketer. Quick question, do I need to register my Gewerbe and go to my Finanzamt before I have the interview at the Auslandebehorde?

    Also, if I am registered as an Einzelunternehmer (sole operator), am I able to hire other freelancers outside of Germany on a short term basis to help with my projects?


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 10/05/2019 at 21:26

      Hey Martin. Have you seen this post about getting a freelancer visa for Germany. Requirements are listed there. You can work with whoever you like, freelancers from abroad included.

  • Reply Mila 04/05/2019 at 14:40

    Thank you for this excellent article. I am working full time and have the Niederlassungserlaubnis. Now I want to try out freelancing on the side with small side gigs. For example, work on marketing projects posted on I think I will spend only a few hours and earn up to 400 or less in general per month with such gigs. Questions:
    – do I need a freelancer permit?
    – do I need to check with my employer? Contract doesn’t say much.
    – is declaring my side income yearly enough? I use tax consultant service to do my taxes.
    -would taxes eat into the side income so its not worthwhile?


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/05/2019 at 12:54

      Hey Mila. Glad the article could help. Yes, you need to register as freelancer but if you are permanent resident here, a freelancer visa is not needed. Your employer needs to be aware of your side gig and agree to it. Best is to record the agreement in writing. Regarding taxes: what you need to declare and when is stated in the post. See this post for income tax, there is a calculator there. Good luck with it all.

  • Reply MIKAEL 16/04/2019 at 13:16

    Hi Bastien,
    I am currently living and working in Denmark as a freelance videographer. I am considering going to Berlin for some periods to collaborate on projects, and assume that I would then have to register as a freelancer in Germany. But since I am already health insured in Denmark, would I have to be insured in Germany as well to be working there? Thanks a lot!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/04/2019 at 09:39

      Hey Mikael. You don’t necessarily need to register here as a freelancer to work in Germany. If you remain a Danish resident, you could consider those periods of time business trips, and bill from Denmmark and be insured there.

  • Reply Ajeesh Damodaran 16/04/2019 at 10:34


    As per my understanding for the first year as freelance you cannot pay income tax quarterly. You are supposed to pay during tax returns next year. From second year onwards you can pay quarterly. Is my understanding correct?


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/04/2019 at 09:41

      Hey Ajeesh. Yes, correct.

  • Reply David 14/04/2019 at 18:02

    Hi Everyone,

    Okay, not sure if this can be answered but here we go. If from the UK and setting up an online business, can I be registered in Berlin but do all the tx etc from the UK? By that I mean be a UK paying resident of business and located and registered in Berlin?

    Thank you, love this site!!!!!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/04/2019 at 10:04

      Hey David. If you are an English resident and you work as a freelancer (not a registered business), then you need to be paying taxes in the UK.

  • Reply David 13/04/2019 at 11:57


    I just left my job and have health insurance valid for one more month (AOK) before i need to cover it myself. As a freelancer – once registered can i call up my health and arrange a payment based on being a freelancer now (?)

    Great information!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/04/2019 at 10:10

      Hey David. Yes, simply let them know about your new situation.

  • Reply Delphine 11/04/2019 at 12:19

    Hello Bastien, thanks for all this information. I see you have mentioned health care, but what about pension (or social security fees?); I red that with net revenue exceeding 450€ per month, it is mandatory to pay for the social security pension scheme, around 18% of monthly income. Is this correct? If yes, where should we register? Many thanks.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/04/2019 at 10:26

      Hey Delphine, this would be dealt through the Krankenkasse as well. You can chose to opt-out of certain contributions in some cases.

  • Reply Gabriela 04/04/2019 at 13:18

    Hi! Is ok if I have a part time job with a contract and I also want to be a freelancer? Thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/04/2019 at 22:08

      Hey Gabriela. Yes.

  • Reply Vinh Hoang 29/03/2019 at 09:55

    Thanks Bastien for this great and useful article. Can I have a question? I am a Vietnamese and having a dependent Visa attached to my wife’s student visa (3 years), ending this September but we are going to extend the visa. So, in this situation, could I myself apply for a freelancer visa? I am a translator/interpreter. I had my Steuernumber already. If i have a freelancer visa in Germany, can I work in another Eu countries? I would really appreciate if you can give me some hints on this issue. Thank you very much for your kind help!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 31/03/2019 at 20:26

      Hey Vinh. Have you looked at this post? It may give you the answers you are looking.

  • Reply louie cha 29/03/2019 at 05:44

    Hi Bastien,

    I am currently a student (non-EU) in Germany and recently got a job as a consultant in another country for 6 months. I will be working remotely. My question here would be can I still be a student and register myself as a freelancer or is there anything else that I need to do or is it okay for me to do nothing and continue being a student?

    Also, I was wondering if I can still be a student in Germany and work in another country in a working visa for certain months?

    Thank you in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 31/03/2019 at 20:25

      Hey Louie. You need to look at what your permit says but in theory, a student visa allows 20h working hours per week. For the rest, you’d need to ask a immigration expert.

      • Reply Kiki 09/06/2019 at 22:51

        Hello Bastien,

        Brilliant and informative article! Thanks for your article I feel less stressed.
        My question is a bit different different with Louie, I am also a student (studying Master) too but instead of having an offer I want to start freelancing, should I apply for a freelancing tax number instead of getting a freelance visa?

        Thank you very much.

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/06/2019 at 15:52

          Hey Kiki. There is no differencs to the local authorities. He has clients, and you don’t have any (yet), which is just a business difference. Immigration-wise; my answer stays the same. Good luck with it all!

  • Reply salah 26/03/2019 at 11:46

    Hey Bastien, such worthful post mate, I am an employee as an architect, and i have got a small project from a friend which i would like to do as a freelance architect. this will be a one-time thing, how should i take care of the tax for this situation? any suggestions?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/03/2019 at 20:34

      Hey Salah. No half-way solution i’m afraid. You’d need to register and everything if you want this to be done by the books.

  • Reply Marcos Conde 21/03/2019 at 19:16

    Hey, Bastien, first of all congrats for all Info above. I have a situation here and dont know what to do. I have a midi Job and now i have a opportunity for one Job as a free lancer, but is just one invoice, one month. Can i still with my midi Job , and my Public insurance paid by the actual job?
    Many thanks for your help

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/03/2019 at 20:06

      Hey Marcos. Not sure i understand your situation? Both minijobs and freelancing arent paying for health insurance…?

  • Reply Vini 12/03/2019 at 15:41

    Hey Bastien!
    You rock, mate. I can’t believe that such a valuable information is available for free. Thank you!!
    My name is Vini.

    So, after reading this post, and applying it to my situation, I need to take following steps. Please be kind and take a look. Thanks in advance.

    Brief background: I am a full time employee here in IT field (in Munich) and currently my VISA states NOT to do freelancing

    1) Go to Finanzamt and get a permit for Freelancing (Actually, I am also eligible for niederlassung, so this should be done fairly easily)
    2) Once I get my permit for freelancing, I resign from my full time job and complete the notice period
    3) I already know who would be my client once I start freelancing. So, I go to them and start working.
    4) I invoice them every month and then I go party 🙂

    Now, my questions are:
    a) Do you think the steps I listed above or correct and in order?
    b) Do I need any contract from the client before I go to work for him?
    c) Considering an annual income in excess of 80,000€ gross, what is the approximate tax I end up paying (tax class 4)?
    I know you have already explained a bit of tax, but I couldn’t get my mind around on the exact % of deduction.
    d) Once I get my freelance permit, am I legally not allowed to do full time job at all? For ex, if i change my mind after getting a freelance permit and want to continue my regular job.

    Thanks a ton!

  • Reply P W B 07/03/2019 at 14:29

    Hi Bastien – are the Freelancer forms here still the same for 2019? I noticed a lot of forms on the Finanzamt website looked a little different. Also I got my spousal visa in late December 2018 for Berlin, will I be fined by the Finanzamt for only registering as a freelancer now?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/03/2019 at 16:27

      The forms are changing from time to time. The ones for 2019 are not out yet. You won’t have any issues with the Finanzamt if you didn’t do any freelancing without registering as such first.

  • Reply NQG 28/02/2019 at 23:41

    Hi, I live in Germany for 6 months now and I have a work permit related to a company. Do you know if it is possible to change to a freelancer visa, but working for a company outside Germany?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 02/03/2019 at 20:12

      Hey NQG. You should check if your residence permit allows you a freelance activity under your current visa. Look for “”Selbständige Tätigkeit gestattet”. If that’s not the case, it is possible to apply for it but then you lose your current visa the moment it is granted to you, and you can no longer work for this company. Giving it a go with only a foreign company as client is probably not going to work though. Refer to the post about freelance visa application for Germany.

      • Reply sandeep 25/03/2019 at 17:52

        Hello Bastien,
        Firsts things first, i cant believe all this content isfree. thank you for that.

        i have a question regarding visa type too,
        1. if my visa allows to do freelance, do i still need to change it to complete “freiberufler” or i can just quit my job , inform foreigners office and continue with freelancing work on my current visa?

        2. considering if the visa type has to be changed, what would be the duraiton of my new visa, since current visa still has 2 years validity, will that be considered?

        thank you for your response!!!

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/03/2019 at 20:27

          Hey Sandeep. 1- Hard to say on such little details. Better call this official hotline to check. 2- No idea. again call that hotline.

  • Reply Katie Bree 28/02/2019 at 15:02

    Hi Bastien,
    If i plan to apply for the freelancer ID as a second job, is it the same process as you describe above? I have a letter from my first employer approving this. And if in the future a few years down the line, I want to become a fulltime freelancer I can still keep the same ID right?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 02/03/2019 at 19:55

      Hey Katie. Yes it’s exactly the same process. The Finanzamt doesn’t care whether it’s only a sid gig or not.

  • Reply Enrique Quintero 25/02/2019 at 02:46

    Great Job Bastien. I’m a US citizen and I thinking to travel to Germany as a tourist, however one friend of mine has a maintenance company in Frankfurt and I would like to work for him for a couple months. Once I get my residence permit, which could be the best way to do it ? As a freelancer or as his employee ?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/02/2019 at 20:39

      Hey Enrique. You may not work here on a tourist visa. You’d need to either apply for freelancer visa or work visa. It’s usually easier to get a work visa. But it is worth the trouble for just 2 months?

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