Which field is best to freelance

Freelance vs. business: that's the difference

Anyone who decides to be "their own boss" has various options. The way to self-employment in connection with registering a business is probably the most common. In addition, certain professional groups also have the option of registering freelance work with the tax office. Freelancers and traders - is there any difference? Oh yes, and not just one!

1. Freelance and liberal professions
2. Various advantages for freelancers
3. Why is a distinction made between freelancers and traders?
4. Freelancers are not automatically freelancers
5. Freelance AND commercial - is that possible?

Freelance and liberal professions

If you intend to work as a freelancer, you can expect many advantages and at the same time hurdles that not a few fail. The decisive factor is that only a very small group of professions count as liberal professions. Your activity will only be recognized as a freelance profession if you belong to this group and your profession does not inseparably affect other, non-free fields (especially: trade, production and placement).

To be able to work as a freelancer, your work must be scientific, educational, literary, artistic or healing in nature. Classic liberal professions are among other:

  • doctor
  • midwife
  • Interpreter
  • Journalist / photo reporter
  • Lawyer
  • notary
  • architect
  • Engineers
  • Teacher / lecturer
  • educator

The criteria that speak for or against a liberal profession have not been clearly clarified. Therefore, it is usually checked on a case-by-case basis whether someone is allowed to work as a freelancer or not. Probably the best definition of the liberal professions can be found in "Law on Partnerships for Members of the Liberal Professions" §1. It says:

“The liberal professions in general haveon the basis of special professional qualifications or creative talentthe personal, responsible and professionally independent provision of services of a higher kind in the interests of the client and the general public. "

In short: A freelancer usually only offers services. For this he does not participate in free trade and does not have to produce any goods. In order to be able to demonstrate a “professional qualification”, a university degree or an extraordinarily great artistic talent is usually required.

By the way: In contrast to a trade, registering a freelance job is almost child's play - if you can prove that you are a member of a freelance profession. The future freelancer sends an informal letter requesting a tax number to the responsible tax office and then receives a questionnaire on tax registration. When this has been filled in and sent back, the freelance work is already official.

Various benefits for freelancers

Those who meet the criteria and can work as a self-employed freelancer enjoy various advantages that traders can only dream of.

The following overview illustrates the difference between freelance work and commercial self-employment.

  • Freelancers do not have to register a business
  • Freelancers do not pay any trade tax
  • Freelancers are not subject to any trade supervision
  • Freelancers are not subject to trade law
  • Freelancers are not subject to commercial law
  • Freelancers are not subject to any chamber membership obligation
  • Freelancers are not required to keep accounts (regardless of the level of income)
  • Freelancers only need to submit an income statement for the annual financial statements

Why is a distinction made between freelancers and traders?

Probably the most significant difference between freelancers and traders is the (no longer applicable) trade tax. What makes freelancers happy causes displeasure among tradespeople. Why does this seeming injustice even come about? Why is such a subdivision of self-employment even necessary?

The income generated by the trade tax goes to the cities and municipalities in which the trade is registered. There the money is used to maintain and expand the local infrastructure. While it is assumed that classic commercial occupations such as industry, trade and craft make extensive use of the infrastructure, this is not the case with freelancers (so the general tenor). A journalist doesn’t sit in a truck that weighs tons to get to his interview appointment. It should be obvious that this is a generalization that excludes exceptional cases on both sides.

Freelancers are not automatically freelancers

It happens again and again that the terms freelancer and freelancer are mixed up and used synonymously. Even if a similarity cannot be denied, it is important to be extremely careful here. Not every freelancer is automatically a freelancer. This becomes particularly clear when you look at the day-to-day work of doctors, architects and lawyers, classic and traditional liberal professions. These often have their own practice / architecture office / law firm and therefore do not work as freelancers for other companies (which of course can also be possible). In this case, it would be wrong to equate freelance work with freelance work.

The situation is different with journalists, for example. Often (and not always!) They work as freelancers for a medium. A freelancer or freelancer is a person who regularly offers their work for a company. But instead of being permanently employed here, the freelancer issues invoices for his services. Unlike permanent employees, freelance workers do not enjoy benefits such as paid vacation, protection against dismissal or payments in the event of illness.

Important: A freelancer can be both a freelancer and a trader.

Freelance AND commercial - is that possible?

As a rule, freelancers endeavor to clearly distinguish their activities from commercial ones in order to continue to benefit from the advantages mentioned above. But it also often happens that a new business idea is so tempting that a trade is unavoidable. Is it possible to be freelance and self-employed at the same time?

Absolutely. However, there is always a considerable amount of additional bureaucratic work involved if you decide to work both as a freelancer and in a commercial capacity. A basic distinction is made here between two types of working method:

Freelance and business can be clearly separated from each otherFreelance and trade cannot be clearly separated from one another
If a freelance midwife earns money on the side by selling slings, then the two components of your profession can be clearly separated from each other.

The fields are then treated separately according to the respective “rules of the game” for self-employment. This means that tissue tax is due for the income from the sale of the cloths, the trade has to be registered, etc. The midwifery activity is still carried out as a freelancer and enjoys all the advantages.

An architect who not only designs houses, but also sells them, is also both a freelance and a commercial self-employed person.

Here, unlike with the midwife, the fields cannot be separated so easily. As a result, the architect's entire income (including those from his freelance work) is understood as income from a commercial enterprise and must be taxed accordingly. The advantages of freelance work are completely eliminated here.


It is not that easy to keep track of all these terms and forms of independence. Often it is the little things that decide whether you are classified as a freelancer or a trader. How are your experiences with this topic? We look forward to your comments.


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