How to become a Freelancer in France

By Valérie Aston on 12 March 2020 · Viewed 371 times · Questions

What is the best way to start freelancing in France?

You have moved to France or are travelling/studying in France and fancy staying longer while freelancing. What is the best way to do this? Can you just start working and declare your income next year in your French income tax form or in your country? Here is my short guide on how to start freelancing in France.

With the current lockdown in France, many people are also turning to online or remote training to learn new skills and keep busy. If you are a language teacher or a fitness, yoga, pilates teacher or coach, this could be an opportunity for you to start freelancing.

How long do you plan to stay in France?

The French tax office applies 3 rules to decide whether you should register your freelancing activity in France.

  • Are you staying more than 6 months per year in France?
  • Are you working from France (either home-based or at customers sites)?
  • Where are your main residence and family interests? For instance, if you own a property here and your children go to local schools, France will be considered as your country of residence.

So if you are working remotely from home, with customers all over the world and you spend more than 6 months per year in France, your freelancing activity should be declared in France.

Do you need a business visa to freelance in France?

If you are a European citizen, you can register as a freelancer straight away. You will be registered as a profession libérale with URSSAF and will only need a copy of your passport to register your activity as a micro entrepreneur for instance. If you register a trading activity or for manual services, you will register with Chambre de Commerce for trade and Chambre de Métiers for manual services. You will need more documents to register, get in touch if you need help.

If you are from outside Europe and have a student APS visa, visa Talents or visa vie privée et famille, you can register as a freelancer. Otherwise, you will need to start by requesting a business visa before you can register your activity.  You will need to get in touch with the French consulate in your country and prepare a business and financial plan.

When should you register as a freelancer in France?

There is a misconception, especially amongst American citizens, that you can declare your freelancing income directly onto your French income tax form the following year. So, for instance, work as a Freelancer in Paris in 2020 and declare this in January 2021. Unfortunately, this is not the case and could land you in trouble with the French tax office for undeclared work “travail au noir”.

The principle applicable in France is that you have to register as a freelancer before you start working or invoicing your first euro. You will need to register with URSSAF, Chambre de Métiers or Chambre de Commerce and get your official business number called SIRET before you can start trading. Get in touch if you want help to register your freelancing activity. 

Which kind of business should I register as a freelancer in France?

As a newcomer to France, I tend to recommend to start small and then move up to a bigger business, as and when trade develops. I often recommend starting with a micro entrepreneur, which is a simple pay-as-you-earn self-employed system.

Characteristics of the micro entrepreneur regime for freelancers in France

  • Maximum yearly sales of 72,500€ for services
  • Not VAT registered below 34,400€ for services
  • Maximum yearly sales of 176,200€ for trade
  • Not VAT registered below 85,500€ for trade
  • Social charges of 22.2% of your sales for services
  • Social charges of 12.8% of your sales for trade
  • Health cover activated from day one (although it takes a few months to get the health card called - carte vitale)
  • Pay-as-you-earn on a monthly or quarterly basis
  • No sales = no taxes
  • Option to pay the income tax at source with an extra 2.2% of your sales, 1.7% for manual services and 1% for trade.

Advantages of the micro entrepreneur for freelancers in France

The micro entrepreneur regime works well for first-time freelancers in France. Here are the main advantages of this regime:

  • Easiest regime to manage in France.
  • Gets you in the French system (French social security number created, affiliation for health cover, tax office).
  • Gives you time to understand who does what for your business.
  • No need for an accountant.
  • No sales = no taxes.

The main downside of the micro entrepreneur is that you cannot deduct expenses. You have to keep track of them in your bookkeeping, but don’t deduct them before you calculate your social charges. Just be aware that the tax office took into account the average expenses for profession liberale, trade and manual activities before they came up with the fixed-rate percentage of social charges. They assume that a profession liberale has 34% expenses, trade 71% and manual activities 50%. So, if you look at your expenses and they are lower than this, then the micro entrepreneur is a good fit for you.

If you already know that your yearly turnover is likely to be over 100,000€  per year for services and 180,000€  for trade, then you may consider starting an incorporated business such as EURL/SASU. These legal structures are more rigid and will require the help of an accountant to set up and manage the bookkeeping. Get in touch with me to discuss this option for you. 

How do I register as a freelancer in France

You want to get the ball rolling and start freelancing quickly? Here is how I can help you:

  • Business call to discuss your situation, explain your options, taxation and next steps. Email me to organise a one-hour Skype call.
  • Micro entrepreneur registration services.

Online course on How to Freelance in France as a Micro Entrepreneur

You want to freelance and wonder if the micro entrepreneur is right for you? You want to know how it works and how much taxes you will be paying, before jumping in? The “How to freelance in France as a Micro Entrepreneur” course will answer all your questions and help you decide, if it is the right fit for your business idea. More info…


Valerie Lemiere: Start Business in France

About the author: Valérie Aston

I've been helping people who want to start or already have a small business set up in France since 2009. After graduating from a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, I worked as a senior marketing consultant in the UK and France for various International companies. I worked as a conseillère en création d'entreprises (senior business advisor) for BGE here in France and run this independent business on a daily basis.