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 Megan Coney 14/09/2020 at 12:39

    Hi there!

    I came across this page whilst trying to find out about becoming a freelance English Teacher in Berlin. I wonder if you know anything about online teaching while working in Berlin?

    I currently teach online and was wondering if this could be counted as freelance work in Berlin? Perhaps I could continue with my online lessons, as well as doing freelance work for language schools in Berlin?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/09/2020 at 13:16

      Hey Megan. Not sure i understand the context. What difference does it make if it’s online or offline in your case? Is it to secure a freelance visa?

  • Reply Nicolás 09/09/2020 at 15:42

    Hello Bastien,

    I really want to thank you for all this incredible information! Thank you so much!
    I’m planning to become a freelancer because there is a Praktikum that lasts 1 month (shooting a series)… But because of Corona, they do not know if the shooting will be canceled or remains the same.
    As for the health insurance, once I become a freelancer I have to pay it by myself (actually I’m in the family plan that my wife owns due to her full-time work)… I have a big dilemma of changing my status and become a freelancer or not…
    My question is: Do you know how long does it take to change the status in the system? For example if my shooting is in October and everything remains the same, can I start all this process (health, documentation to the Finanz) the last week of September? Once I give all the documents, can I start working immediately as a freelancer?
    Thank you! I hope I could explain myself 🙂
    Because I don’t want to become a Freelancer just for this Shooting and then if it’s canceled I just did everything for nothing and get out of the health family plan.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 11/09/2020 at 14:32

      Hey Nicolas. I don’t think that would work as it usually takes 2-3 weeks for the Finanzamt to process your documents. And then you’d need to switch with the health insurance and so on.

      • Reply Nicolas 14/09/2020 at 09:41

        Hi Bastien,
        Thank you so so much for the information! I wish you a very nice week!

  • Reply Fabiola 09/09/2020 at 09:58

    Hi there!
    Your information was really helpful. Maybe someone can give an advice on this: I will make an internship for only 6 months, but since that I am NOT student, the company offered me a Frelance contract. I tried to figured out how much of taxes, social security and insurance should I pay.
    The salary will be 1000 eur per month.
    I am currently insuranced for my husband with TK.
    I have a residence permit
    How do you see this scenario?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 09/09/2020 at 12:57

      Hey Fabiola. As mentioned here, this is would be a pretty good case for Scheinselbständigkeit. They want to employ you but don’t want to bear the costs of employment, so instead ask you to go freelance and work for them. In my opinion, this is morally dubious at best. Unless you really need this job right here, right now., i’d try to look for opportunities elsewhere.

  • Reply Jonathan Green 02/09/2020 at 22:10


    I want to start an independent film company but I will be the only person in the company, will i be a freelancer or what would it make me?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/09/2020 at 10:13

      Hey John. If you are starting a production company, then you can do it in different ways. Most likely Gewerbe would be the way to go.

  • Reply Amina 27/08/2020 at 13:15

    Hi there,
    Thanks for the very helpful article! I have just submitted to be a freelancer with the Finanzamt and waiting for documents. I know about the contributions for just health insurance but are there other mandatory/recommended contributions I will need to make for sozialversicherung? I can’t find any information on this.
    Thanks a lot!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/08/2020 at 17:42

      Hey Amina. I’m not sure what you mean by Sozialverischerung here?

  • Reply Alice 18/08/2020 at 09:24

    Hi ! Thank you so much for this helpful article. If I work as a freelance event manager for a company, do you think it would be considered as Freiberuflich or Gewerbetreibende ? I’m also confused on a certain point: It is a non-German company but it does have a branch located in Germany for which I will be working. Would I then charge VAT for the services ? Any source to find the answer to this question would also be appreciated.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/08/2020 at 14:26

      Hey Alice. I don’t think it would qualify for Freiberuflich in my opinion. If you are billing the German branch, then you can bill VAT. Aren’t they properly registered with VAT number and all?

      • Reply Alice 19/08/2020 at 10:26

        Thanks a lot for the answer. Turns out even though I will be working in Germany there isn’t a German branch after all. So if I understood well, that would mean I would not be billing this (foreign) company VAT.

  • Reply Olga 16/08/2020 at 13:15

    Amazing, amazing website! I am using it to educate myself since I moved to berline two years ago, and still find valuable information.
    Very helpful post, thank you for this. In comments, I saw that you are also a full-time employee as well as me. Maybe you will be able to answer some of my questions here. I want to register as a freelancer for one small side hustle.
    1. How long after registration as a freelancer is it take to receive your tax number? Because I will need to sent the client an invoice.
    2. If in the next year I will not earn any money as a freelancer, what happened? Do I need to pay some additional taxes or fees?
    3. Can I take in my main company unpaid leave, and work on this side mini job during the normal workday? It will not be more than 18h a week, bet it is in a middle of the day and usually I am working the 9 to 5 desk job. Furthermore, I will not be able to do both of the jobs at the same time.

    Thank you very much for your help. You are doing an amazing job!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/08/2020 at 13:52

      Hey Olga. 1. Can’t remember precisely. 3 to 6 weeks in general. 2. can’t really answer this for fees, as it depends on a few things. in general for taxes, you won’t pay income tax, or trade tax if you haven’t earned anything. 3. This needs to be agreed upon with your employer.

  • Reply Natalia 05/08/2020 at 19:46

    Hello! I really like your blog! Thank you very much for the great help to all non-german speakers 😀
    I have a question, I already have a Steuernummer for Freelance activity but now I want to sell physical items (I’m already registered at the Gewerbeamt).
    Do I have to apply to the Finzanzamt for another Steuernummer for that activity?
    Thank you!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/08/2020 at 22:41

      Hey Natalia. If you are a Freiberufler already and opening a Gewerbe for this other thing, it’s quite likely you are going to get another Steuernummer for that part yes. If you are already a Gewerbe, probably not.

  • Reply Laurence Whelehan 14/07/2020 at 12:19

    Hi. Thanks very much for this work.

    small point: in English “I” is always capitalised.

  • Reply Marta 08/07/2020 at 11:11

    Hi Bastien,

    Your article is amazing, thank you so much for your effort. I am totally new in this world and I am sorry in advance if some of the questions are repeated. I got a new job as a customer service in a company but they want me to work from home and get the Gewerbeschein.
    -Which is better to be in my situation: a “Gewerbetreibende” or a “Freiberuflich”? I am just gonna work on this and I am not planing to build up a company or anything big.

    I also have another job but as a normal commercial (not selbständig), so they are paying my health insurance. ( I read that there’s no problem to combine two different jobs).
    -Even if I become Gewerbetreibende or a Freiberuflich I don’t have to worry about this health insurance right? But do I really need their approval to become a Gewerbetreibende or a Freiberuflich?

    You explained that the VAT is paid monthly or quarterly to the Finanzamt.
    -Could you explain exactly HOW to pay it to them? And WHICH amount?
    -And when you make a bill which % of VAT do I need to charge them?
    -In case I can do the “Kleinunternehmerregelung” then the company I am working for will not pay me any VAT? So I will have to charge them 0% VAT right?

    Thank you so much in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/07/2020 at 09:59

      No problem to be employed and to be a freelancer on the side yes. Most likely in your situation, you will need to open a Gewerbe. Your employer needs to be aware of your side gig, yes. They will pay for your Krankenkasse.

      VAT: You transfer to the bank account of the Finanzamt. You dont bill vat as a Kleinunternehmer yes.

  • Reply TINA BODALIKAR 05/07/2020 at 17:14

    Hi Bastien
    Great info, thank you for doing this article!….. I apologise in advance if this is repetitive though I didn’t find the answers in the other comments so far;
    I have a job, (though furloughed at home currently). I’m also a jewellery designer, and want to start selling my pieces online. I’ve set up a Shopify store (was about to go live until I got confused with the legality side of it all).
    I need some clarification please, since it can vary for online store businesses somewhat. Plus I don’t want to create unnecessary paperwork and costs, when I don’t even know whether I’ll sell anything or not yet;
    -Do I still need to register as a “Freelancer”?
    -Do I need a Tax No to operate a Shopify store?
    -I have a tax accountant that does my tax return for my normal job already. Should I get her to do it all for me, or can I do it myself following the links in yr article?
    Lastly, do you have any knowledge about Terms of Service, Privacy/Data Protection, Cancellation/Withdrawal agreement documents for online shops specially, and where I might be able to access them to have them on my shop? I don’t want to get fined by lawyers trawling small businesses to find a tiny oversight.
    Thank you so much….. such a minefield, once you get started!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/07/2020 at 10:33

      Hey Tina. You’d need to open a Gewerbe for your online shop, with tax number. Regarding terms & conditions, i believe Shopify provides ample guidance on that topic, so you may look there in their resources. Do you need an accountant for that? Up to you really, if you feel like you can’t manage on your own.

      • Reply TINA BODALIKAR 06/07/2020 at 13:42

        Hi Bastian
        Thx! Unfortunately, Shopify doesn’t provide T&C, Privacy, etc templates for Germany, everything is US specific. They only tell you general points that German sites may need to include (Shipping, T&C, Privacy, etc) which I know. What I need is the actual legal text for these policies, which besides using costly lawyers, or paying monthly subscriptions, I’m struggling to find.
        Re: Gewerbe, what is that?, can I do that myself online? Where do I take care of that please?
        Sorry, thx a million!

        • Reply TINA BODALIKAR 06/07/2020 at 13:47

          Update: Sorry, ignore the Gewerbe ?’s…. re read yr article! 😛

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/07/2020 at 09:48

          You also have such generators for policies in German too, if you search for 2AGB Generator” or “Datenschutz generator online shop”.

  • Reply Natalie 04/07/2020 at 13:57

    Hi – great blog article, thanks so much for posting!

    I recently applied for a Steuernummer, and received a letter from the Finanzamt with the number. However, I’m still unclear if I’m classified by them as a Freiberufler or Gewerbetreibende? The letter is not clear (to me), and defines the type of activity as:

    Bezeichnung des Betriebes bzw. Art der Tätigkeit:

    Any insight would be greatly appreciated


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/07/2020 at 10:17

      Hey Natalie. You are a Freiberufler. Extra source.

  • Reply Dan 28/06/2020 at 10:55

    Thanks for the information that you provide on this site I think a learn a some new thinks today. That’s great!!! I’m currently employed on a logistic company and I want to get a van and do some extra work(self employed) ďo I need to apply for specials permits to do that? What do I have to do to start a small business?i will love to get a small delivery company! Thanks a lot

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/07/2020 at 09:49

      Hey Dan. You’d need to open a Gewerbe yes. More details on the rest this way.

  • Reply CalumH 21/06/2020 at 13:38


    Thanks for all the great information on this website! I’ve been working in Germany for just over a year and i lost my job so I am on Arbeitslosengeld. I’ve been offered a job in Luxembourg but I would like to try and do this work remotely while living in Germany. I understand this means giving up my arbeitslosengeld.

    However, I’ve read on many forms that if I am ’employed’ by a company outside of Germany then I am considered as a freelancer by the German government – that is, i am responsible to pay my taxes, health insurance etc.

    I’ve also read that it is illegal to freelance for one company (Scheinselbstständigkeit or so-called “bogus employment” ->

    This appears to make it impossible for me to do any work for *one* company abroad while living in Germany? Is this correct? Is there any way around this that you know of?

    Any help is greatly appreciated.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/06/2020 at 10:01

      Hey Calum. Yes, i talked about that in the post too. In my opinion, it would arguably be harder to detect by the Finanzamt, since the company is based abroad. But since it’s a proper job, why not being employed there instead of freelancing?

      • Reply Nicol 30/06/2020 at 11:18

        I also have similar situation. Working in Germany for other EU company. I can’t move, and they don’t have any entity in Germany. So, what are the other options for this?

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/07/2020 at 10:02

          Hey Nicol. I couldn#t find other answers on this. Sorry.

  • Reply Jussi P 12/06/2020 at 12:08

    Thanks for the site!
    I’ve received my freelance Steuernummer, and shortly afterwords another letter saying it also now applies to Umsatzsteuer? I’ll be earning a low amount annually (under £10,000) and thought I had indicated this in my application. Do I need to apply for “Kleinunternehmerregelung” separately now? Thanks

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/06/2020 at 14:18

      Hey Jussi. If you said you applied for Kleinunternehmerregelung, then you don’t need to worry about this. It may simply be a simple “Bescheid”. In doubt, you can always give the Finanzamt a call.

  • Reply Marte 11/06/2020 at 00:30

    Hi Bastien,

    Thanks for the article and information!

    I am still struggling to understand what steps I should take if I am already a full-time employee in Berlin and would like to have a part-time side freelance job at the same time. I am not sure whether a VAT application should be done in these case or there are other options based on the foreseen income threshold.

    Would you be able to recommend any resources for this?

    Thanks in advance,


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/06/2020 at 14:05

      Hey Marte. The steps are the same, whether or not you have employment somewhere else. The two are not connected, as far as registration and bookkeeping is concerned.

  • Reply Mo 09/06/2020 at 16:45

    Hi Bastien, A company in Switzerland wants to hire me as soon as possible, but I live in Germany. They do not have a business address in Germany as of yet, but they want to open a branch in Germany in a few months. How can I go about working with them in the meantime? What are my options?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 09/06/2020 at 17:21

      Hey Mo. If you landed on this post, then it means you already know it should probably be through some freelancing. What’s holding you back?

  • Reply Khan 07/06/2020 at 18:54

    Hey Bastien,

    Thank you sooooo much for this post and the entire platform! I am reading it right now and informing myself.

    But I have a question which I would appreciate your input on. Of course, I understand you are only sharing from your experience.

    A little background: I (non-EU citizen) graduated from a German uni in Oct 2019 but couldn’t apply for job search visa because I didn’t have all the academic documents. So my student visa/residence permit was extended till March 2020. I had my appointment in March to apply for job search visa but it was cancelled due to Coronavirus lockdown and I was issued a Fiktionbecheinigung (sent via post) with the same student status which expires in Sept 2020.

    Now, I have a ‘job’ offer with six months contract from a company based outside EU. This is a remote job, irrespective of corona lockdown. I can be paid monthly, twice in six-month time or once at the end of six-month contract (payment is flexible).

    My question is: can I start working for this company before I register with the Finanzamt?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 09/06/2020 at 17:18

      Hey Khan. If you current visa allows a sidegig, you can become a freelancer. In theory, you need to be registered before of course. But if it’s a matter of days, you can start to work for this company, and bill them first after you are registered. Up to you to decide.

  • Reply Veronika 04/06/2020 at 00:21

    Hey Bastien,

    thank you very much for your article. I have a question and if you have answered it before I apologize. I am a student in Germany and I am a freelancer in Germany. I work mainly for the company from Germany. Could I also work for clients from abroad from time to time? Are there some rules?

    Thank you.


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/06/2020 at 15:58

      Hey Veronika. Nothing prevents you from working with clients based abroad. You won’t be billing VAT to those clients and make sure to do a “Zusammenfassende Meldung” via Elster for the relevant time frame. This is basically you declaring how much you billed that client abroad.

  • Reply Hosna Talebian 27/05/2020 at 13:42

    Thank you for great information, so I have a question; how can I have a health insurance without being employed? I have a travel insurance for my period of stay in Germany as a job seeker, but now that I only have invitations from companies to work on micro-projects as freelancer, how can I have health insurance to register myself as a freelancer and be able to work as a freelancer on thses small projects?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 01/06/2020 at 10:13

      Hey Hosna. You’d need to have a freelancer visa then before you can even start this whole process. See this post with info about health insurance too.

  • Reply mahmoud hassan 20/05/2020 at 12:23

    Hi Bastien,
    Firstly, thanks a lot for this information and compilation of resources on how to register a company in Germany – it is for sure a complicated process…

    Context: my wife will start a new business as a seller on amazon she will register for Gewerbetreibende ( einzelunternehmen) but she wants to do it as kleinunternehmer nebenberuflich to avoid pay the health insurance and remain with me in family health insurance till she starts to earn money from amazon because the first 3 months she should finish amazon`s paper, so to register for this is it the same process and same application to register for normal kleinunternehmer ? can she later change it from nebenberuflich to normal kleinunternehmer?…..many thanks Bastien for your effort really. <3

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/05/2020 at 13:32

      Hey Mahmoud. As soon as your wife starts her business, she will have to start to pay her own health insurance as well. Registration process is the same yes. The concept of “nebenberuflich” only points out situation where somebody is a freelancer and an employee at the same time, where the freelancing remains small in terms of hours and revenue. It’s not a status that grants particular rights. If your wife were to be employed somewhere as well (and be covered by a Krankenkasse there), then she would probably not need to pay health inusnrace out of her own pocket. Hope this helps.

    • Reply hanieh 01/07/2020 at 17:21

      Hey Mahmood,

      My situation is similar to your wife’s, and I also want to start working on Amazon. Can you share your experiences with me?
      If it’s possible for you, it could be amazing…
      here is my email address
      [email protected]

  • Reply Nazmus Sakib 20/05/2020 at 04:10

    Hi Bastien,

    I am an international student and want to start freelancing. My first question is can I do freelancing as a part-time job while being a student? Secondly, as a student do I have to pay the taxes as well?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 20/05/2020 at 10:04

      Hey Nazmus. If your residence permit allows it, then yes, you can also be freelancing as a student, and you will need to pay taxes too.

  • Reply Zoran 19/05/2020 at 15:48

    Hi Bastien, great article. I am planning to quit my full time job and become a freelancer working for a same company. Now I am wondering is it possible to outsource part of my work to other company to another country in EU?
    Thanks for your help!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 20/05/2020 at 10:01

      Hey Zoran. Yes, you can use any service provider you like but watch out: make sure your former employer is not your only client. That would be illegal.

  • Reply Tomi 13/05/2020 at 11:53

    Hi… short question… can i have family health insurance through my wife if i am kleinunternehmen… or it is mandatory to pay it? cuse 350€ seems a lot in start….

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/05/2020 at 15:30

      Hey Tomi. No, that would not be possible, you need to pay your own insurance unfortunately.

  • Reply Augusto 12/05/2020 at 13:56

    Thank you for the article. I have some questions:
    1. Can I, as a non EU citizen with a permanent resident visa (Niederlassungserlaubnis) become a freelancer?
    2. Can it be as Freiberuflich?
    3. What if I work for a non German company? What does this mean for taxes?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/05/2020 at 15:44

      Hey. 1. yes. 2.yes 3. This means that you would not bill this company VAT, but all the rest stays the same.

  • Reply Kairetu 06/05/2020 at 18:04

    Hi Bastien, I recently moved to Germany on a family reunion visa, I worked for 5 months full time as this was a short contract, I have been out of employment for 3 months now, last week an American company interviewed me for a job here in Germany to oversee some of their clients work, in EMEA and ASIA, However while I knew the job was homebased, I only got the information that it was more of a contract-and I have to pay for the insurances by myself, in this case where does this fall as freelancer or self-employed? do you have to apply for a different steuer number?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/05/2020 at 15:52

      Hey Kairetu. Not sure about the question here. If this is not a employment offer, then you’d need to register as a freelancer. I cant tell you if you would fall under Gewerbe or Freiberuflich on so little infos. Depends on the job you will do.

      • Reply Kairetu 10/05/2020 at 10:12

        It sounded like employment but they want me to register as a freelancer, there is an annual salary, benefits, but they mentioned that I have to do the taxes myself, so I was confused, whether this would fall under falseselfemployment. I am also curious how I should go about it so that i dont have problems with the tax office.

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 11/05/2020 at 09:22

          Yup. Definitely looks like that, i’d stay away or renegotiate if i were you.

  • Reply Anna A 05/05/2020 at 17:17

    Dear Bastien,

    Thank you so much for sharing all this valuable information on your page. You’ve saved many lives. 🙂
    I have a question about starting to be a freelancer when doing art jobs.
    I need to make a freelance tax number for receiving money for:
    1) Doing small gigs for film projects, social media services, art direction, art services for parties, and so on.
    But also
    2) sell my art prints online through my website and probably webshops.
    Until now I have asked all bills to be sent to my friend who has a proper tax number for this…
    Which freelance form should I go for? Is it even possible to register as a freelancer atm in the corona time?

    Thank you very much, A

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/05/2020 at 15:49

      Hey Anna. The way i see it you could either 1- be Freiberuflich for some of the stuff, and then open a Gewerbe for the rest that doesn’t qualify, or 2- simply be Gewerbe for everything. The Finanzamt should be open for registration, check your local Finanzamt’s website for more info.

  • Reply Jordan 02/05/2020 at 14:14

    Hi Bastien,
    Thanks for this amazing website and making us tackle the language barrier.
    I’ve read many documents and I have one question left: I have a full time employment and I’m doing teach programming on the side, for this I’ll register as Freiberufler no problem. I’ll be also planning to sell apps (software/digital products) on App Store and Play Store.
    Do I need to register a Gewerbe for that? As a Gewerbetreibende ?

    Thanks a lot for all answers you gave to comments here.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/05/2020 at 15:30

      Hey Jordan. I’m glad you could find some answers here. Yes, you’d need to have a Gewerbe as well to be able to sell digital products.

  • Reply Jacob 22/04/2020 at 13:55

    Hey Bastien,

    Thank you for the nice article, very informative.
    I am currently working as Full-time employee and receiving a salary in my only bank account.
    I want to move to freelancing and my question is : Can I open a second business bank account, apply for freelancing tax number and VAT number while I am employed as a full-time employee and receiving a salary in my first Bank account ?
    I want to quit my current work in three months, so will it be possible legally to start the procedure from now, having two bank accounts and two tax numbers ?
    Thank you 🙂

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/04/2020 at 21:29

      Hey Jacob. In short, yes. As a freelancer, you don’t need to own a business/corporate bank account to operate. You can use any bank account you wish and you don’t even need to have separate ones. You can still do that if you want to of course, it’s just not a requirement. Also, you can be registered as a freelancer and still work as an employee (Like i do). And lastly, your Steuernummer may not change at all after becoming a freelancer.

  • Reply Karim 15/04/2020 at 16:23

    I just want to share that I managed to fill my “Fragebogen zur steuerliche Erfassung” online using the website, you will also need an account on this website if you want to do the monthly VAT reporting with the Finanzamt

  • Reply Shree 14/04/2020 at 14:57

    Hi Bastien
    I am a non-EU citizen but spouse of a Bluecard holder and also holds the dependent BlueCard.
    Currently I am waiting for my work contract to start and in the meantime I am planning to take up some project in the field of Online Marketing with a German client. This freelancing work wont be a long term thing(2-3 months) and I will be earning way lesser than 17.5K/year.
    Do I still need to register myself as a freelancer? What will happen if I dont register as a freelancer as this is a temporary thing?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/04/2020 at 13:47

      Hey Shree. Yes, you need register yourself as a freelancer to make it legit, even if total income is low.

  • Reply Nirmala 13/04/2020 at 19:34


    Thanks for this article. I would like to register a room in my home as my studio and claim it in my tax. Do you know if i need to register it officially somehow? Or do i just claim that part of my rent in my tax return?


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/04/2020 at 13:51

      Hey Nirmala. No, you don’t need to register it as such but if you get audited, you still need to show/prove that this room is used for work, and work only, clearly separated from the rest of the flat.

  • Reply Hu 13/04/2020 at 17:42

    Hi Batien,

    I’m living in China and I want to hold a online-shop on Shopify and sell products in German. Should I apply for the VAT No.? Or what should I regist?
    I’ve no company and I deliver the products to my friend’s warehause and he will help me to deliver them to the clients in German.
    Thanks in advance for your reply.


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/04/2020 at 13:54

      Hey Hu. May i suggest this post about incorporating a company?. Most likely, you won’t need a German VAT number unless you reach a certain threshold in sales.

  • Reply Shane Starling 31/03/2020 at 19:11

    Hi Bastien,

    I’ve been freelancing in Berlin since November 2018 but didn’t register as a freelancer. I’m completing my Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung now before I complete my tax declaration. It asks when I started freelancing. What should I say?

    Love your site btw.



    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/04/2020 at 20:54

      Hey Shane. That’s for you to answer. In my opinion, you don’t exist in the eyes of the Finanzamt as a freelancer unless you have registered as such. So in theory, you havent started yet.

  • Reply Joe 29/03/2020 at 20:12

    Hi Bastien, do you know how the situation works with public HI for freelancers who also have a mini job on the side? I make most of my earnings freelancing but I also have a mini job on the side. WiIl I have to pay the same insurance on my mini job (ie 14.6% HI and 3.3% care insurance)? These percentages are taken from my total earnings, right? The mini job isn’t exempt?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/03/2020 at 21:11

      Hey Joe. That is a great question, i think that would not be the case, if i understood this post correctly.

      • Reply Joe 30/03/2020 at 00:23

        Thanks for getting back to me My German’s not great but the translation seemed to say that the minijob income would be exempt from HI etc: “The mini job is also insurance-free with regard to health, nursing and unemployment insurance”. This is at odds with what TK told me over the phone, however.

  • Reply Alex 22/02/2020 at 17:15

    Hey Bastien,

    Thanks for all the amazing content.

    I am EU citizen registered in Berlin and want to rent a space and teach yoga.

    Would I just need to become a freelancer, or do you think it’s more complicated given my activity?

    Couldn’t really figure this out online until now.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/02/2020 at 18:20

      Hey Alex. There aren’t any safety or hygiene certifications required to be able to rent a room as a yoga teacher. Probably make sure you have the right kind of insurance in case you or one of your pupils damage something in the said space.

    • Reply Joe 29/03/2020 at 22:40

      Thanks for getting back to me 🙂 My German’s not great but the translation seemed to say that the minijob income would be exempt from HI etc: “The mini job is also insurance-free with regard to health, nursing and unemployment insurance”. This is at odds with what TK told me over the phone, however.

    • Reply Joe 30/03/2020 at 00:23

      Whoops, commented on the wrong post

  • Reply Tammy Kovacs 20/02/2020 at 10:26

    Wondering if I could use a few of your references on my personal blog as I have found the information immensely helpful in my freelance endevours. All references will be specified to your site.



    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/02/2020 at 17:56

      Hey Tammy. Sure. Please use the full URL and name of the post when referencing it.

  • Reply aiden 10/02/2020 at 03:09

    If I work full time for a company in the US can I apply for the freelance visa in Berlin to work remotely? Then one in Berlin try to also find freelance work?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/02/2020 at 09:42

      Hey Aiden. Applying for a freelance visa in Germany usually requires to work for local clients, with letters of intent to prove it. Full guide this way.

    • Reply Claire Geiger 28/02/2020 at 08:53

      Hi Aiden, I’m in a similar situation, working full time for a company in the US, but from Germany since my husband has a German contract. I want to set it up so I’m paying taxes in Germany. How did you go about doing this? Any insight?
      Thanks so much!

  • Reply Claire 05/02/2020 at 19:12

    Hi Bastien,
    Firstly thank you very much for this helpful and very complete post!
    I have two questions:
    1. If I understand correctly, as a Graphic Designer selling services (logos, website design etc), I would register as Freiberuflich (or freelancer) not Gewerbetreibende?
    2. I am currently receiving Arbeitslosengeld 1, and while I want, and am looking for, a permanent position, I have the opportunity of doing a bit of freelance work here and there in the meantime (quite irregular, small sums, but I don’t want to go freelance full-time).
    Is registering as a freelancer compatible with receiving the Arbeitslosengeld? Arbeitslosengeld is obviously not for ‘setting-up your business’ so I don’t want to give the impression that I am launching my freelancing business, when in fact I am just taking advantage of the opportunity of making a bit of money with freelancing once in a while.
    Thanks for your help!

  • Reply Ike Muna 05/02/2020 at 19:07

    Thanks for this article it was very thorough. My question is I applied for my freelance visa as artist mgmt, event coordinator and social media but my freelance contract with my past employee ended in January. I am currently looking for a new job but I am curious if I need to look in the Freelance field or I can apply for anything? Also, can I work at places like a bar or cafe? just to make some side money?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/02/2020 at 09:33

      Hey Ike, i can’t really help on visa related matters because it’s almost on a case by case basis. You have to look at what your visa permits or not.

  • Reply Corey 04/02/2020 at 22:44

    Hi Bastien, great article. I already own a small business (single-proprietor LLC) in the US. Do I need to register a new business in Germany or can I just claim foreign income? Right now I don’t have any EU clients, just US clients. Or would it make more sense to register as a freelancer and claim my US business income as freelance income?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/02/2020 at 09:32

      Hey Corey. I can’t really tell because this touches many other aspects like income tax or corporation tax, and it’s always extra complicated with the US. You have to investigate what makes most sense from that perspective. My humble opinion is that if you are going to be a German resident indefinitely, probably best open a company here.

  • Reply Borbala 04/02/2020 at 12:41


    Your website has saved my life many times. Thank you so much for helping us.
    I would like to ask you about the EU VAT-ID. I would need one, but I don’t know this part of your article is about to obtain online a EU VAT-ID or the German VAT-ID.

    “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 …”

    Many thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/02/2020 at 09:28

      Hey Borbala. Glad i can be of help. Yes, you will get an EU one via this form.

  • Reply Viktoria 30/01/2020 at 12:09

    Hi Bastien,

    Firstly, thanks a lot for this compilation of resources on how to get started as a freelancer in Germany – it is for sure a complicated process… I’ve been using it as a guide & support for the past 4 months as I’ve gone through the process myself.

    Context: I’ve registered as a freelancer (kleine unternehmen) beginning of 2020 to be able to invoice project work I do sporadically/side-business. I don’t plan to earn more than 17.5k/year hence (most probably less than 8k as well) so I’m applying the VAT exemption rule on my services (Kleinunternehmer rule § 19 UStG Paragraph 1). My clients are located in Germany and other EU countries.

    Question: do I need to acquire an EU VAT to invoice the clients outside of Germany?

    Thank you so so much for putting all this content up!

    All good vibes,

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/02/2020 at 21:18

      Hey Viktoria. Glad it could be helpful. The sad answer is: it depends. Check this article out for more info, and use Gtranslate if needed.

  • Reply Alekhya Narravula 28/01/2020 at 09:29

    I registered as a freelancer and got a tax Id but I did not have a single client and did not make any money. Would I still need to pay a tax based on the estimate I submitted when I filled out the form to get a new ID? Now I actually got a new job and will go back to working for an employer.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/01/2020 at 15:21

      Hey Alekhya. You still need to submit a tax declaration at the end of the year but you probably won’t need to pay anything no.

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