Overseas Success: How to Launch Your Freelance Business in Berlin

Image source: Julia Solonina from Unsplash

Working as a freelancer gives many a feeling of freedom and being able to control and organize your time. It can also be the first step to testing a new business idea.

In recent decades, the German city of Berlin has attracted many people and is only becoming more popular.

The city has been called the unofficial capital of culture of our time because here you will find perhaps Europe’s largest stage for popular culture and art, filled with great creative spontaneity. 

This is why a lot of young people have chosen to live and work as freelancers in Berlin.

It sounds like the simplest thing in the world in theory, but there are some factors that you should keep in mind for your move to Berlin as a freelancer to be as painless as possible.

Freelance visa application

Before starting to work as a freelancer in Germany you’ll have to face the German bureaucratic maze of completing certain formal procedures and filling in some forms.

To obtain your freelance visa Berlin-based, it is important to know the difference between the terms “self-employed” and “freelancer” because according to the law in Germany, unlike many other countries, these are two different categories describing self-employment. 

You are a freelancer if you work in so-called “liberal” or “free” professions (Freie Berufe), which include: advisory, creative, teaching, technical, and medical occupations.

If your line of work does not belong to the mentioned occupations, then you are likely to belong to the self-employed category (Gewerbetreibender). 

This could be quite challenging and tiresome for you but the visa is one of the first steps you’ll need to sort out. In general, EU-citizens don’t need a work visa while those who come from non-EU countries must apply for a visa in their home country or at the embassy.

Image source: Glenn Carstens-Peters from Unsplash

Do your research

Before you pack up your life and decide to start your freelance career in Germany’s capital, you need to do some research on the freelance opportunities that the city offers. Is there an interest in your business, and is there an opportunity for a thriving business? 

Researching supply and demand is an important part of planning so that you do not invest everything and then get disappointed.

Use the internet to research vacancies and see which industries are looking for freelancers and what jobs are in demand on the market.

Get your health insurance

Once you figure out whether you are classified as self-employed or freelancer, the next step as a freelancer is to look at the health insurance (Krankenkasse), which is mandatory in Germany. You can choose between private and public health insurance. 

Public health insurance (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung) is the most common coverage whose cost is a percentage taken out of your income. Most Germans opt for public health insurance. 

On the other hand, private health insurance (Private Krankenversicherung) is intended for those who do not qualify for the public system or those who choose it as an option if they earn more.

Either way, you need to check your health insurance plan and make a decision, because this is an obligatory duty for you as a future freelancer living in Berlin.

Complete your registrations

  • Register your living address: The moment you find your permanent living address in Berlin, you have to go through a procedure called (Anmeldung) in Germany, which means that you must register your fixed home address.

    The process is conducted through the Resident’s Registration Office (Bürgeramt). After this, you’ll receive the certificate on the living address registration called (Meldebescheinigung).
  • Open a bank account: Naturally, once you start working as a freelancer, you will have to open a bank account to receive client payments and pay for your rent and bills. There is plenty of information and online options on how to do this.

    The bank you choose depends entirely on your personal needs. But make sure you only need to pay low-interest rates on overdrafts and that you can withdraw cash from as many ATMs as possible.
  • Registration at the tax office: Your freelance activity must be registered with the local tax office (Finanzamt) by submitting the completed Tax Number Registration Form (Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung).

    Afterward, you will be receiving the Tax ID (Steuernummer). You will use this unique number to charge your clients and collect taxes from the tax office from your freelance projects.

    The taxes you’ll need to pay as a  freelancer in Germany are income tax (Einkommensteuer), VAT (Umsatzsteuer), and trade tax (Gewerbesteuer). The trade tax is only paid by trade businesses and not by those who work in the free professions.

Source image: Pixabay from Pexels

Consider Your Budget

If you are a freelancer who can work from home, you probably wouldn’t need access to an office or a workplace.

But if you’re in an industry that requires you to sometimes work outside and have, for example, customer meeting rooms – it may be a good idea to check how much you have to pay in rent for a room. 

In addition to these costs, there are also expenses for your private home and necessities such as food and clothes. To make sure you can meet these expenses, it is a good idea to make a budget for yourself.

Expect that you will have to make some expenses during your first days in the new country to make ends meet before you can count on a stable income.

Getting more jobs

It can be difficult to succeed as a freelancer, especially when you are in a city like Berlin and there are so many skilled people on the market. It may sound obvious, but for potential clients and customers to be able to hire you, you must show that you are available. 

The first thing you should do is create a web presence where you showcase your skills and your portfolio. Now that you have a web presence, you should market yourself. Refresh your marketing skills and use your creativity to give your name as a freelancer a status on various social networks. 

However, clients will not always come to you even though you have a web presence and have marketed yourself. Sometimes you just have to take things into your own hands and make direct contacts with potential clients.

Use the various professional online platforms and try to establish communication with people of the sector you work in.

Another crucial thing for acquiring new clients is that you might want to learn the German language as networking with top professionals must be harder if you have limited language skills. 

Final thoughts

Working as a freelancer is a clear trend. The flexibility and freedom to decide what you want to work with, who you want to work for, and where, appeals to more and more people.

Many young people are choosing Germany’s capital as a place to pursue new freelance projects as the city offers plenty of opportunities. This can be both exciting but also confusing as there is a lot of paperwork to do before getting settled.

Therefore, we have listed several steps to help you understand the German system better and guide you in the right direction.