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Freelancer: 12 important tips + find platforms & jobs
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Freelancer is a collective term for various jobs as a freelancer. Freelancers are self-employed who work independently for various clients and projects. This makes the freelancer jobs varied and versatile compared to employees - but often also incalculable. We show you what to look out for as a freelancer; the best platforms on which you can find jobs as well as practical tips on acquisition and pricing ...
➠ Content: This is what awaits you
➠ Content: This is what awaits you
Definition: what are freelancers?
Who is a freelancer? It is not the job that decides, but the type of employment. Freelancers are independent service providers who work for their clients. They are not integrated into the company or bound by instructions. You usually decide for yourself about working hours and place of work. The collaboration is usually limited to a period of time or a project.
Freelancers do not receive a fixed, regular salary. They work on a fee basis: they are paid by the hour or on a flat rate for their work. For this, the independent self-employed have to pay trade tax, income tax and sales tax and take care of health insurance and pension provision independently.
Most freelancers work in the IT and media industries, in advertising and in consulting. Typical freelance jobs are programmer, web designer, graphic artist, designer, marketer, coach, trainer or consultant.
Freelancer or freelancer - the differences
Freelancers and freelancers - both work independently. Terms are therefore often used synonymously. But that is not correct. In fact, there are important differences:
- Freelancer denotes the employment relationship.
- freelancer describes the activity.
Who is a freelancer is defined in Section 18 of the Income Tax Act (EStG). These are so-called catalog professions. This includes:
- Doctors, dentists, veterinarians
- Lawyers, notaries, patent attorneys
- Surveyors, engineers, architects
- Commercial chemist
- CPA Tax Consultant
- Consulting economists and business economists
- Sworn accountants, tax agents
- Naturopaths, dentists, physiotherapists
- Journalists, photo reporters
- Interpreters, translators
Under certain circumstances lecturers, educators, midwives, teachers, speech therapists, child minders and social workers can also be freelancers. The decisive criterion is that they independently carry out an activity that is of a scientific, artistic, literary, teaching or educational nature. Another characteristic of the liberal professions is an academic degree. Many are also compulsory. That means: Doctors, architects, lawyers, notaries, tax advisors and consulting engineers have to register with a professional chamber.
While freelancers are limited to the catalog jobs mentioned, a freelancer can also work in other jobs. Around 1.45 million people work freelance in Germany.
What's freelancer in German?
The best way to translate the term “freelancer” into German is “freelancer”. The original meaning was that of a "free lance-bearer". That was the English name of a mercenary who placed his lance in the service of someone who paid him accordingly. Freelancer jobs are less martial these days. But even today a freelancer still works freely for others who pay him to do it.
More synonymous terms for freelancers are e-lancers, freelance workers or digital nomads.
Freelancer platforms: There are freelancer jobs here
A permanent challenge for freelancers: finding new clients, projects and jobs. This is the only way to make money. Most freelancers aim to build long-term customer relationships from which follow-up orders arise. That makes the income more regular and calculable. There are now some platforms on the Internet that offer and arrange freelance jobs. We present the most important ones here (in alphabetical order):
Anyone who is creative and artistically active cannot avoid “Das Auge”. There are jobs for designers, graphic artists, photographers or freelancers in multimedia and advertising. Likewise, a job market on which jobs are offered for permanent positions. The use of the freelancer platform is completely free of charge with all functions.
Bloggers and writing freelancers find numerous freelancer jobs on blogger jobs. Mostly it is about the creation of texts or content for websites. The platform also sees itself as a job exchange for vloggers, podcasters and webmasters.
Freelance offers jobs and assignments for IT, media, art, management, finance, languages or research. Freelancers create a profile there with their competencies and can then be found. Basic membership is free. The complete account costs 51 euros for three months (17 euros per month) or 150 euros for one year (12.50 euros per month).
Freelancer jobs on Freelancermap are free of agency fees. There are projects and orders here mainly in the IT industry. However, if you want to apply for all offers, you have to pay: 9.99 euros per month for the premium package. In the free basic membership, only 15 applications per month are possible.
With Gulp, the temporary employment agency Randstad has created its own freelancer platform. Gulp sees itself as an intermediary in the IT, engineering and finance sector. With a personal profile, freelancers can search for suitable vacancies there. An hourly rate calculator is also included.
On the Projektwerk platform, a free entry-level profile can be created and all projects for freelancers can be accessed. In the case of an interesting project, the client can be contacted directly. The 14-day trial membership is free, later costs depend on the type and duration of membership.
The freelancer platform Twago is one of Europe's largest freelancer marketplaces. Companies post projects and assignments there, for which the freelancers apply. Payment is made via an escrow account. The client pays the agreed fee on this. After the project is completed, it will be forwarded to the freelancer - with the deduction of a commission for Twago.
How do I become a freelancer in Germany?
If you want to work as a freelancer and become self-employed, you should first register with the tax office. There you will receive a questionnaire on tax registration. In it you describe your exact activity and how you will generate planned income and profits with it. This information is important because the tax office uses it to calculate the amount of the income tax prepayments. In addition, you have to decide on a profit calculation method - initially usually a simple income-excess calculation.
After successful registration you will receive a sales tax identification number (UID), which must be stated on every invoice. Likewise the tax number. Anyone who earns less than 17,500 euros in the first year and less than 50,000 euros in the following year falls under the small business regulation and does not have to pay sales tax.
What do freelancers have to look out for when it comes to taxes?
Freelancers are subject to trade tax if they use a trade license to account for their income. This applies to all self-employed who are active as sole proprietorships, partnerships or corporations. As soon as you set up a company under civil law (GbR) or a company with limited liability (GmbH), corresponding taxes are due.
There is a possibilityto offset the annual tax exemption of 24,500 euros against the trade tax. The trade tax is only due if your income exceeds this allowance. How high the trade tax is depends on the assessment rate of the respective municipality.
- Depending on the trade, registration with the IHK or HWK may also be mandatory. For this you have to pay regular contributions, which you cannot ignore.
- Artists, publicists and web designers also have to register with the Artists' Social Fund (KSK). The “health insurance company for freelancers” offers benefits for pension, health and long-term care insurance.
- Some freelancers have to become members of the responsible trade association (BG). The DGUV provides information on this.
Test: am I suitable for the freelance job?
Working as a freelancer has a number of advantages. For example, the freedom and flexibility to work when and where you want. It is precisely this self-determination that attracts many people about jobs. However, freelance work is not suitable for everyone. After all, free, “remote” work also harbors numerous risks and uncertainties.
To find out if you are suitable for a freelance job, you should carefully examine and consider the following points:
- Drive and motivation
What is it about freelance work that appeals to you? Self-employed work or do you want to escape a boring job? In the second case, the motivation will not be sufficient in the long term. If you want to work independently, you have to be willing to work more, harder and longer than as an employee. Make it clear to yourself: the responsibility for success then lies entirely with you.
- Network and contacts
Can you do marketing? Qualifications and skills are important. Without contacts and a large network, however, customers will be missing in the long run. These do not come to you, especially at the beginning, but have to be acquired. Means: a lot of cleaning of the handle. On the phone or on the internet. You have to be able and willing to do that. Those who are too shy for this are more likely to fail as a freelancer.
- Services and product
What do you offer? You should be able to clearly name your services and products and distinguish them from others. You can only assert yourself on the market with a clear profile, including a unique selling point, for which there is a relevant demand. If you have to first convince your customers that they have a problem you want to solve, it becomes difficult.
- Resilience and organization
What are you willing to forego? As a freelancer, you will initially work “yourself” and “constantly”. Instead of free time, there is stress, long working days and no vacation. You're just building a business. This does not work without the appropriate resilience. Also indispensable: good organization and self-management. Especially with multiple clients and parallel projects, you have to keep track of things, contain the flood of work and be able to work efficiently.
Download: The 8 best tips for freelancers
If the test didn't put you off, here are the eight most important tips for jobs and activities as a freelancer. You can download the PDF here for free:
Tips: become a freelancer
Success as a freelancer: 4 practical tips
If you want to become self-employed as a freelancer, you usually go through 9 classic steps to successfully complete the first order (see graphic).
So that freelance work remains successful, however, it takes a little more. Most freelance jobs are not scalable. Means: If there are no jobs, you get sick or you want to go on vacation, you have no income. Therefore, freelancers should create a stable foundation to secure their independence. How do you do that? Here are the tips:
Expand customer base
In the financial world one speaks of diversification: to minimize the risk of loss through diversification. For freelancers this means: Never make yourself dependent on ONE wealthy client. Even if you are busy at the moment, you should invest at least three hours every week in acquiring new customers and systematically expanding your customer base. Anyone who earns more than 5/6 of their income from a client is considered self-employed.
Mix order forms
You should also expand your service portfolio. By cleverly mixing your offerings, you can get jobs and projects from different sources and industries. This is important if an area is weak in terms of the economy. Then that can be compensated for by other jobs. However, the services should be complementary and complement each other so that the full spectrum is also interesting for regular customers.
Attend training courses
Continuous training is even more important for freelancers than for employees. Your current specialist knowledge is your livelihood. You can even receive financial support through the education bonus. So invest the money you earn in yourself on a regular basis.
Ideally, freelancers calculate with an annual budget, because income can fluctuate greatly from month to month. Tax prepayments and back payments are often overlooked. The tax authorities know no mercy. So build up regular reserves from all income in different accounts. Anyone who has problems with this can also pay a fictitious salary. Initially, that shouldn't be more than 30 percent of sales until you have an overview of how the business is developing.
The right pricing for freelancers
Especially at the beginning, many people ask themselves: “What can I ask for my work?” Don't sell below value! However, the pricing is always dependent on supply and demand. Means: What you believe, what your work is worth, doesn't count. What matters more is what customers are willing to pay and what (international) alternatives they have. So calculate your costs and prices in such a way that you remain competitive.
Freelancers have two options:
- Daily or hourly rates
Think of yourself like an employee: what would you get in gross salary in the industry and position? Rule of thumb: take the salary times two and calculate it down to your working hours. Please do not forget the social security contributions and private provision. Another cost factor: advance payments. Many clients expect sketches, drafts or concepts in advance that are not paid for at first, but do make work. These "advertising costs" are part of the entrepreneurial risk. Incidentally, the average hourly rate for freelancers is around 80 euros.
- Fixed prices
Alternatively, you can ask for fixed prices for a job or project. Most customers like so-called “flat-rate lists” because it makes the costs more predictable for them. So that this does not turn into negative business for you, you must describe the project and your services in advance and realistically estimate the time required. Anyone who miscalculates pays out of their own pocket. Even in the event that the customer has extra wishes or suddenly describes the job differently, you should clearly set boundaries and agree in advance that these services will also cost extra.
33 warning signs: Not with these customers!
There will always be customers who do more work than they bring in money. The problems range from outrageous additional requests and additional requests to legal action that some customers take against the freelancer. This can never be completely avoided, but there are warning signs for such problem customers. You should part with these as soon as possible.
Here you can download a PDF with 33 warning signs for problem customers free of charge:
Download 33 warning signs
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