It’s not uncommon for foreigners to move to Spain and start up as freelancers. It can be difficult to find well-paying jobs, so many people simply opt to make money in their own way.
Of course, there are some rules that apply to freelancers, and you must get registered with the authorities before you start your activities. Here’s how to do it – we are sharing our best tips to become a freelancer in Spain.
How a freelancer is defined
A freelancer is a person who makes money completely on his or her own. A freelancer is not dependent on a job to make money. Instead, this person will make money by offering private services or products.
In Spain, a freelancer is called an autónomo. If you intend to work by yourself and sell services to other people or companies, you have to get registered first. You do this by visiting the local tax office and by telling social security that you are now an autónomo. Afterward, you will start reporting to the Hacienda (the tax system) and start making your payments to social security.
What you need before signing up
Before signing up as autónomo, there are some things you need. If you are a foreigner coming into Spain, you must take care of this first:
- Padrón – documentation of where you live
- Social security number
Here’s how to get your NIE if you don’t already have it. To get your padrón document, go to one of the city offices and mark an appointment for empadronamiento. Then, fill a paper and show your rental contract or home ownership documentation. You need to do this regardless of whether you want to become a freelancer or not.
The social security number is also something you’ll need to have ready. Go to the closest social security department in your city and tell them you want to get an assigned number. You need no previous appointment to do this.
Signing up as autónomo
When you have all the right documents, mark an appointment with the local tax office. Show up and fill either Modelo 036 or 037. If you are lucky, they will offer you assistance, but most likely in Spanish. After filling this out and them giving you the approval, you are officially an autónomo.
If you are a citizen of any European Union country, you have the right to start up as a freelancer any time you want. They cannot deny you the right to do this. If you are a citizen of a non-EU country, you’ll need to get Spanish work permission first.
A lot of foreigners are not working with Spanish companies when they are autónomos. Instead, they often send their invoices internationally. To be able to do this, you must also register in the ROI, a process that takes anywhere between a week and a month. You must give a good reason for them to accept this. If you do get accepted, you can work with international clients, and you get an EU VAT number (basically it will be the same number as your NIE).
Signing up with social security
After registering as autónomo, you need to tell social security that you are an autónomo. You have 30 days to do this. The reason is that you are obliged to pay monthly rates to the social security system. This is known as the fee for autónomos. Most people automatically pay to social security through their job, but as a freelancer, you have this responsibility yourself.
The lowest standard rate is around 280 euros. This is a monthly payment. However, new freelancers get a discount for the first two years. For the first six months, you only need to pay around 60 euros at the end of each month. But to get this discount there are some requirements: You must not have any debts to social security, and you must remain an autónomo for at least two years. If you stop being an autónomo after one year, for example, the social security will go back and charge you the full amount for the months that passed.
To tell social security that you are now an official autónomo, you need no prior appointment. You can either go to the office and inform them. Or you can get your online key and report it to them online.
After you are registered with social security, be absolutely sure that you have money enough on your account for them to take their payment each month. If you can’t pay, they will consider it as if you owe money to the state, and you will not be able to obtain any future social security discounts as an autónomo. So be absolutely sure you can pay every month.
Why you should hire an accountant
It is possible to go through the process yourself. But I hardly recommend finding an accountant to help you with it. It can be complicated, even if your Spanish is good. And you should also keep in mind that it is important to fill out everything right.
Almost all Spaniards use an accountant when they start a business and when they have to report VAT and tax each quarter. Many stubborn foreigners think they can do it all themselves without any issue. Overall, it’s just best to get an accountant. It will clear out any questions you have, it will make the process more smooth, and you will get advice on how to legally pay less in tax through expenses, subtractions, allowances and certain rules.
It’s normal to pay around 100 euros + VAT for an accountant to help you with your initial registration with the authorities. After that, expect to pay anywhere between 50 and 80 euros + VAT per month for a good accountant.
Look for a gestoría to help you – these are the accountants in Spain that help autónomos with everything. They will be the connection between you and the tax system. If you have a good gestoría to help you, everything will be much easier – trust me.
Got any questions about becoming a freelancer in Spain? Let us know in the comment section!