New rules for freelancers and small businesses make it easier to set up shop in France as a self-employed or freelance worker.

If working in France is not for you, new French regulations have made it easier for foreigners to set up and start a small business in France.

A new micro-enterprise regime allows you to start a small business, work for yourself, or freelance in France. It combines the old auto-entrepreneur and micro-business systems. In France, some freelancers can also work via a portage “salarial” or become a part of a workers’ cooperative.

In Short

Becoming a freelancer in France is very simple: declare a micro-entrepreneur activity (auto-entrepreneur). This is the best option for beginners because it is inexpensive and simple to manage.

If your freelance activity grows or you believe you will surpass the revenue cap in the first year, ask about the status of Entreprise Individuelle: like the microenterprise. In that case, it allows you to pay fees only in proportion to your earnings.

The option of a single-member business company (EURL, SASU) should be considered for a certain scenario. So it’s for you if you want to launch a more complex project with collaborators such as partners, freelancers, or other businesses.

Becoming A Self-Employed Worker Or Freelancer In France

Being a freelancer means being able to work in your pajamas or in a cafĂ©, not having to deal with unreasonable boss orders, and not having to get up in the morning at 7 am on Monday. However, before you can start enjoying your new life as a freelancer, you must first register to invoice legally. And, no, it’s not that difficult. We explain how to register under French law for various statutes and the benefits and drawbacks of each. Follow these steps, and you’ll be up and running in no time!

Auto-Entrepreneur Status

In France, the simplest options for becoming a freelancer are “auto-entrepreneur” status (self-employment or micro-enterprise scheme) and individual company (EI). With names like auto-entrepreneur, micro-enterprise, and individual company, it’s easy to get confused.

This section will discuss the two most basic statuses to create and manage. The self-enterprise (also known as the micro-enterprise) and the individual company are two options for freelancing in France.

Micro-Entrepreneur: The Simplest Option To Start Freelancing

First, let me clarify the distinction between auto-entrepreneurs and microentrepreneurs: none. Indeed, the social status of auto-entrepreneurs was renamed micro-entrepreneur in 2015. But auto-entrepreneur is still used frequently, so that you can hear both.

A micro-entrepreneur (= self-entrepreneur) has formed an individual company (EI) and chosen the micro-enterprise tax system.

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How Do You Start Your Own Business (Become A Micro-Entrepreneur) As A Freelancer?

It’s very simple: declare your activity on the official micro-entrepreneur portal or the business counter, or if you prefer the offline option, go directly to a CFE (Centre de FormalitĂ© des Entreprises). It is a Business Formality Center.

The form will specifically ask you:

  • The type of activity (artisanal, commercial, or service) 
  • If you want to pay the tax in full, discharge. This option allows you to benefit from a lower and more straightforward tax rate: you pay all your taxes and dues once a month or once a quarter, which is calculated based on your turnover. In most cases, it is thus an advantageous option because it allows you to pay nothing if you have not earned anything. More information about payment in full discharge may be found on the official website of the Union des auto-entrepreneurs.
  • Suppose you want to apply for the ACCRE. In that case, it is a program that is available to all people under the age of 27 (as well as unemployed and people in recovery), and it allows you to pay lower expenses for the first three years of your activity. Remember to check the box and complete the corresponding form (you can obtain it by completing the statement or contacting the CFE.).

You have to attach a few supporting documents (scanned ID or smartphone photo, ACCRE form) to your file, send it, and wait for your SIRET number to be mailed to you: and voilĂ , you are a freelancer!

It’s worth noting that you can begin billing as soon as you submit the form! Then mention “SIRET being awarded” on your invoices and quotes. Even if you have yet to receive the letter, your SIRET may have already been assigned: go to the Infogreffe website and type your name into the search bar to find out.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Micro-Entrepreneurship

The main advantage is simplicity: it is simple to create and manage. 

  • You will not have VAT to pay, but very few charges. There is not a lot to do at the accounting level.
  • Make a bank account specifically for your activity. There is no need to open a professional account for this.
  • Keep a receipts-expenses book (or an Excel file) in which you will record all of your receipts.

It is a status open to all (or nearly all): for example, even if you are already employed, you can become a freelance micro-entrepreneur.

There are some disadvantages:

  • The annual revenue cap for services activities was €33.100 in 2017, 2018, and 2019. You will be compelled to leave the micro-entrepreneur scheme if you earn more.
  • You cannot recover VAT because you do not pay it.
  • If you have many expenses to pay, you should avoid applying for micro-entrepreneur status (e.g., buying a lot of equipment).

So, this is THE status that we recommend you to start freelancing in France. It is very simple to set up and requires little time and money management.

For advanced freelancers, EI and EIRL are without a micro-social system.

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The Individual Company (‘Entreprise Individuelle’ – EI)

The second and more straightforward option for becoming a freelancer in France is to establish an individual company that operates outside of the micro-social regime (that of self-employment).

The business remains simple to establish (either online or at a CFE counter), and it is always free if your activity is service-based.

The main advantage of this regime over the micro-entrepreneur regime is the lack of a revenue cap and the ability to recover VAT (it must also be paid).

However, management is slightly more complicated than that of a micro-enterprise.

  • You will need to manage real accounts, such as annual accounts and accounting books.
  • Contributions must be paid in advance and adjusted based on your revenue.

Individuals With Limited Liability (‘Entreprise Individuelle A ResponsabilitĂ© limitĂ©e’ – EIRL)

As an entrepreneur, you have the option of claiming limited liability. It enables you to:

  • Limit the liability to the affected assets (those are compulsory to declare) rather than all of your assets, as with the EI.
  • Selecting to pay taxes on corporate revenues rather than personal income allows you to pay yourself income and dividends.

In short, this is an intriguing status if you wish to avoid having a revenue cap. In exchange, you’ll have to pay more fees (including VAT), and management will be a little more complicated.

Single-Member Companies (EURL, SASU)

Some complex options for becoming a freelancer in France are single-member companies (EURL, SASU). The following options are better suited if your freelance activity gets off to a strong start (for example, if you sign a large contract) or if your business changes. Single-member companies are real, and the formalities that go with them are quite complex.

Creating A EURL Or A SASU

This time, it’s a little more complicated: if you want to work as a freelancer as a EURL or SASU, we recommend consulting with a chartered accountant. You must write articles of incorporation, fill out forms for company formation, publish a notice in the legal notices journal, and file a file with the CFE. Furthermore, even if you do not earn anything, you will have to pay frequent and substantial expenses: there are better options for freelancers who are just starting out! We shall look into these types in more detail further below.

Similarities And Differences Between The Two Statuses

SASU and EURL are the two statuses available in France for forming a single-member company: they are thus appropriate for those who form a company on their own.

The main distinction between them is their affiliation status. If you establish a SASU, you must comply with the salaried employees’ scheme (Social Security). In contrast, the EURL will be associated with the non-salary workers’ plan (and, therefore, at the RSI).

Furthermore, EURL is subject to income tax (IR), whereas SASU is subject to corporation tax (IS). However, IR in SASU and IS in EURL are both options.

The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Each Status

Because there are fewer expenses, EURL allows for easier management and higher remuneration. But social protection is slightly worse.

SASU provides better social protection, but management is more complicated, and you will incur additional costs.

Becoming A French Micro-Enterprise

Now let us jump into more detail about Freelancing in France. It is relatively simple to set up and run a micro-enterprise. Tax and accounting requirements have been simplified, and you can pay your taxes and social charges online. However, you must pay tax and social charges on all expenses that you invoice, so if you anticipate incurring high costs of this nature, you should look into other business structures.

Details and applications of the new law, known as the Loi Pinel, are still emerging and coming up, so keep an eye out for new developments.

Working as a microenterprise (previously micro-enterprise or auto-entrepreneur) is not defined as a legal business structure but a tax status. So, the legal structure is an Entreprise Individuelle (EI), which is a sole proprietorship. Taxes do not apply if you establish a EURL or SARL under this system.

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What’s The Best Way To Start Freelancing In France?

Before starting your own business in France, consider what it takes to get started. Do you already have experience in the work activities you plan to do? Do you have the necessary certifications or education? If not, now is the time to gather all the credentials you’ll need to succeed as a freelancer in France.

You should also consider how much money you will need to start your business. There may be start-up costs as well as ongoing operational costs. For example, as your business grows, you may have to pay for your website, marketing, and other expenses before you can earn a full income.

You should prepare a business plan whether you are a foreigner or a long-term resident of France. All of these factors will be addressed in your business plan. It will also address other issues, such as how much you intend to charge for your freelancing activities, who your competitors are, and so on. When you have all of the facts, you can proceed with complete confidence through the setup process.

Who Can Work Under The New Micro-Enterprise Regime?

If your annual revenue is less than a certain amount, you can register your company as a micro-enterprise or auto-entrepreneur. The threshold is less than €82,200 if your business involves buying and reselling goods or materials or establishing a restaurant, bar, or furnished accommodation. If you are offering services or a ‘professional’, the threshold cannot exceed €32,900 a year. You can continue to participate in the micro-enterprise scheme if you do not exceed the thresholds over two years. If you do, you have an obligation to adhere to the standard business structure. Once you are at 50% of the turnover ceiling, the new law will provide optional support to help you decide whether you should switch to a different business structure.

Some businesses are not eligible for this status (for example, estate agents, finance companies, lawyers, and those who receive royalties). So, check with your local CCI (Chambres du Commerce et de l’Industrie) or CMA (Chambres de MĂ©tiers et de l’Artisanat).

Liability And Insurance To Freelance In France

Because you have unlimited liability, you must file a declaration d’insaisissabilitĂ© to prevent creditors from seizing your home and other assets. There is also the EIRL scheme, which grants sole proprietorship with limited liability. More information can be found at www.eirl.fr.

In France, all businesses must have liability insurance, known as assurance responsabilité professionnelle. If you work in the construction business, you must obtain an assurance décennal, a 10-year warranty, and include information about the insurance on your invoices.

How To Register To Freelance In France

There are three methods to register your business:

1. You can visit the relevant CFE (Centre de Formalités des Entreprises). There are different types of CFE for each type of business activity, so find the one that is right for you. As an example:

  • CCI (Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie) – Use this to open a shop or a commercial enterprise without a ‘craft, trades, or artisan’ component.
  • CMA (Chambre de MĂ©tiers et de l’Artisanat)  – Use this for manual/trades and craftspeople.
  • URSSAF – Use this for the professions and intellectual services like translators or website designers

Click on the appropriate CFE for your type of business from the list.

2. Use this form and send it to the appropriate CFE.

3. Online via a series of forms on the official auto-entrepreneur portal.

When registering, you must send a photocopy or upload a scanned version of your ID or passport. You may also be required to show proof of professional insurance, such as the assurance décennale for builders.

If you run a trade, you must also register with the RM (Répertoire des Métiers) using this form. To sell goods, you must register with the RSAC (Registre Spécial des Agents Commerciaux) via the form of Greffe de Tribunal de Commerce.

Mandatory Business Administration Course

If you wish to start a business as a tradesperson, you must first complete a four to a five-day training course. It is also known as stage de prĂ©alable Ă  l’installation or SPI. You can do this from the Chambres de MĂ©tiers et de l’Artisanat. Those starting commercial and industrial businesses can take similar optional courses. You must pay for this training; check with your Chamber of Commerce.

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Regulated Businesses

Accountants, veterinarians, hairdressers, builders, and even wine dealers are among the occupations regulated in France. If your work nature is one of these regulated professions, you must be registered with the appropriate organization. You may have to provide proof that you have the right experience, qualifications, and insurance liability before you can work.

Check the APCE website to see if the business you want to start is regulated. Click on the appropriate alphabet letter to find the sector you’re looking for.

SIREN, SIRET, And APE Numbers

After completing the registration and completing your declaration, you will be provided a unique, nine-digit identification SIREN number. So, this official business number is proof that your firm is registered, and it will be used when referring to your company by any government and official bodies.

You will also receive a SIRET number, consisting of a SIREN number and a five-digit number identifying your business’s location. If you wish to learn about your competitors, enter their SIREN numbers here to learn a variety of general facts about them, like:

  • when they started their business
  • how many employees do they have
  • Financial information such as loss, turnover, and profit can be useful research tools.
  • If they are a limited company

You also get a NAP or APE code that identifies the primary activity of your business. APE means ActivitĂ© Principale de l’Entreprise. These codes are made up of four digits and a letter and are used by every business in France.

Preparing Freelance Invoices (Factures) In France

A devis is a rough estimate, and a fracture is a bill. In France, you must include the following information on your invoices:

  • Date of the invoice.
  • Date of service or sale.
  • Description of service or sale.
  • Price, any discounts.
  • SIREN number.
  • Total amount.
  • Your company name and your professional qualifications, if relevant.
  • Because VAT (TVA) cannot be charged, all invoices must include the words’ TVA non-applicable, article 293 B du CGI’.
  • Client name and address.
  • If you are a tradesperson, include information about the mandatory 10-year insurance (dates of geographical area, validity, insurer).

The legal payment terms are 30 days after receiving the goods or services.

Closing Your Business

If you want to stop trading, fill out the online form available on the official auto-entrepreneur portal.

Freelance Work Through A Portage Salarial

It is possible to legally work in France as a freelancer without registration as a business. As you learned before, it can only be done by working through a portage salarial. In this system, you sign a contract with a portage company (an umbrella company), which acts as your employer and handles the majority of the paperwork. You continue to find clients and agree on payment terms on your own, but invoices and payments (via payslip) are handled by the portage company for which you are an employee (salarié).

An umbrella company hires you for the period of your assignment, provides insurance, and bills either the end client or your recruitment agency. Your portage company deducts social charges on your behalf as your employer. After deducting their fee, they will pay you a net monthly income. The portage company charges you a fee of 7-10% of your total monthly invoices.

Unlike a micro-enterprise, you can claim a portion of each invoice as an expense, depending on your operational costs.

You are entitled to the same retirement, healthcare, and unemployment benefits as any other employee in France because you pay social charges.

You do not have set working hours and can leave at any time. Typically, you only pay social costs on earned money. If employment is limited or you take a break, you cease paying social costs briefly as well.

You must still pay your personal income tax (ImpÎt sur le Revenue) through a form called Déclaration de revenus pré-remplie. Every spring, the French tax authorities send this. However, the income tax return is generally less detailed.

This system is excellent if you perform intellectual services such as writing, business consulting, translating, telemarketing, and IT.

The portage system is advantageous to your clients or recruitment agencies because it allows them to purchase your services without committing to hiring staff. This also allows you to have clients from outside of France.

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Self-Employed Workers’ Cooperative (SCOP)

Another option for starting a freelance business is to become a part of a workers’ cooperative or sociĂ©tĂ© cooperative et participative (SCOP). These operate similarly to portage companies. So, you sign a contract with the SCOP, and they will handle your accounting, pay you, and chase down late payers. The SCOP receives approximately 10% of your earnings.

See SCOP for more information.

Legal Status To Choose To Become A Freelancer In France

When establishing your freelance business in France, there are three major legal types to consider. A sole proprietor is a self-employed person who does not employ others. This is the simplest entity to consider, and it does not necessitate filing a separate business tax return. This type of business and the others that will be discussed must meet the SSI requirements. This includes registering with the Securite Social des Independants, declaring income annually, and making regular contributions. This allows you to benefit from family allowances, health and maternity coverage, and a pension.

The other two legal types to consider are societies a responsabilité limitée (SARL) and unipersonnelle a responsabilité limitée (EURL) (EURL). SARL is a limited liability company with several directors. EURL is a limited liability company with a single director. You must file separate business tax returns for these entities.

How To Pay Taxes When You Freelance In France

You must pay taxes on your earnings in addition to your social security contributions. If you make a choice to work as a sole proprietor, you must report your freelance income on your personal tax return. This means you’ll have to pay the personal income tax rate. The tax system is progressive, with the highest tax rate set at 45%. Remember that while you can receive some tax credits, you cannot deduct your expenses.

Do you want to incorporate your company as a SARL? If this is the case, you can claim your income on your personal tax return for the first five years. Following that, you must file a corporate tax return which will be taxed at the corporate rate. If, on the other hand, you choose to start your business as a EURL, you must file a corporate tax return and pay the corporate tax rate. The rate of corporate taxation is 26.5%. When filing a corporate tax return, you can deduct business expenses.

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How To Invoice Your Clients As A Freelancer In France

It is critical to comply with France’s rules and regulations, which include preparing invoices for each sale. An invoice, also known as a fracture, must include several details. These are the date of the sale and the date the invoice was issued. The price per item, the total amount charged, the VAT amount and rate, the customer’s name and address, your company name and qualifications, the SIREN number, and information about your insurance policy are also included in the details. Because all invoices in France are payable within 30 days, you should be paid immediately.

Do you want to run your French freelance business from abroad? These same details must appear on your invoices. They can be provided to the client digitally for your convenience.

How To Get Paid For Freelance Work In France

The term “independent” refers to a person who does not work for the government. To accept credit card payments for business purposes, you must open a separate account with a credit card processing company.

Useful Links

  • APCE is a French business start-up agency that provides information on all elements of starting a business in France, from market analysis to growth control.
  • www.lautoentrepreneur.fr is the official platform for single proprietors and small firms, where you can get information and assistance, as well as register, declare, and pay online.
  • Le Guide du Portage for all the in-depth information on the portage system.
  • SCOP for information on workers’ cooperatives.
  • PEPS covers 90 percent of the portage salarial enterprises in France. You may discover a local portage firm on their webpage.

Final Words

Opening a freelance business in France may be one of the best moves you have made. We wish to make it as simple as possible for you to get your business up and running. More than that, we want to provide you with all the required information to start your freelance career. Become a freelancer or start your own self-employed business in France today.