Are you from an EU country, from a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) or from Switzerland? Are you living in Germany and studying for a degree or post-doctorate at a German university?
As an EU/EEA citizen or a Swiss national, you are free to become self-employed or to run a business alongside your studies or post-doctorate. This also applies to citizens of the new EU member states. You all have so-called "freedom of establishment" in Germany.
People from an EU member state can settle anywhere within the European Union and become self-employed. This includes the founding and managing of companies, agencies, branch offices and subsidiaries. However, the founder must fulfil the requirements concerning the specific profession that apply in the chosen country of establishment. Source: www.eu-info.de
You are permitted to set up a company that is to be your sole or main source of income. This is a full-time business start-up. You can also be self-employed on a part-time basis; perhaps because you wish to prioritise your degree or post-doctorate. In Germany there are no limitations concerning when a part-time role becomes a full-time role. However, in order to ensure that you do not lose your status as a student with health insurance companies, you must not work more than 20 hours per week in your self-employed role. Otherwise you will lose your student status and your health insurance will become considerably more expensive!
In order to begin your self-employment in Germany, you must register the business (Gewerbeanmeldung) or register as self-employed at the local tax office (Finanzamt). The latter applies to freelance professions.
Registering a trade
In order to register your trade, go to your local trade office (Gewerbeamt) – the office in the town, district or region in which you want to become self-employed. You can find the contact details for the trade office in your local citizen's support office (Bürgerbüro), or search online at: www.bmwi-wegweiser.de/suche/behoerden/. Select "Gewerbeamt" and enter the postcode of the town in which you wish to found your company. The contact information and opening hours for your local trade office will appear on screen. The trade offices' websites often feature forms for registering a business: Some offices expect you to have already completed these forms before coming to the office in person.
In order to register a business, you need:
Registering a freelance profession
If you want to become self-employed as a freelancer, you must register at your local tax office (Finanzamt). There is no form to be completed for the registration; instead, you must write a letter with a short description of the business that you intend to set up. The tax office will send you a tax registration questionnaire (Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung) and will issue you with a tax number. Aside from registering with the tax office, most freelance professions require the fulfilment of certain qualifications, financial requirements and/or other conditions. You can find out which ones here.
We recommend that you draw up a business plan for your business in Germany, so that it is set up correctly from the very beginning. Business plans do not just help to give you a better overview of the various steps and requirements required to set up your business, and to help you reflect on these; they are often a necessity should you require external financial support, for example a bank loan. The main aspects addressed in a business plan are: Why your idea is a good one. Who your customers are and how you will reach them. Why you are better than the competition. How you will earn money with your business. How you will finance your business.