As many organizations working in the German social or sustainability sector don’t have enough budget to hire permanent staff and instead outsource contracts on a project-by-project basis, freelance work can offer a great potential springboard into these sectors. A freelancer can be anyone and everyone - as long as you are ready and willing to sell your services to other people, companies, and organizations. One of the greatest benefits of freelance work is the flexibility it offers. Plus, it can be very satisfying to work on a wide range of projects, getting a chance to make your mark on each of them.
It does, however, require great courage to begin working for yourself and to find stability in an ever-changing work environment. That’s why we have compiled some practical tips to help you on your way to working as a freelancer in Germany.
Getting started as freelancer:
- Understand if your skillset is marketable
- Realize what you are giving up if you’re leaving an office setting
- Create a high-level business plan
- Be flexible
- Market yourself well
- Use discounts or giveaways to attract early customers
- Build a presence on social media
- Ask for feedback from early clients
- Manage your work-life balance
- Build a strong network
- Be personal-- reward loyal customers, make each customer feel important
- Keep your finances tidy
- Learn to enjoy the small successes!
The (Dreaded!) Bureaucracy
It may not come as a big surprise that doing freelance work in Germany involves plenty of bureaucracy. So before you get started it is useful to wrap your head around a few key points. First things first, you will need to figure out whether you should be registered as a freelancer or self-employed, as the process for each is quite different and has various tax implications. One you’ve decided, you’ll need to register accordingly and make sure you’re set up properly for invoicing and taxes. (When it comes time to file your taxes, the services of a ‘Steuerberater’ - an accountant and tax advisor - might be helpful here). Lastly, don’t forget that you’ll need to set up a health insurance policy for yourself as a freelancer, as this is mandatory in Germany.
Full-Time Freelancing vs On the Side
The flexibility of freelancing means that it can either be your main means of employment or simply something to supplement other work. Dedicating yourself exclusively to freelance work has its benefits as it makes it possible to focus all your attention on your active projects and attracting new clients. However, dropping everything to do full-time freelancing may not be for everyone as it requires a fair amount of hussle and uncertainty early on - and it is important to not become overloaded by taking on too many projects at once.
How you choose to accept payments and the conditions under which you will be paid are quite important to nail down. Some freelancers struggle with getting paid in a timely manner and sometimes wait long periods before finally seeing the money. To encourage timely payment it could be beneficial to offer a discount reward for firms or individuals who pay within a certain time after invoicing. For many freelancers it is better to accept slightly less money but get paid immediately instead of waiting for months and making many follow up calls begging for payment from clients.