Start Freelancing in France: Step by Step Guide

From getting your French self-employment visa to registering as a freelancer, here’s all you need to know about freelancing in France.


6 minute read
Updated on 9 Feb 2024

Currently, more than 1 million people freelance in France, making up 3.3% of the working population. And this is not surprising: freelancers enjoy lower tax rates in France, earn about 40% more money than salaried employees, don’t pay rigorous amounts for forming their business, are protected from seizure, and benefit from social security. These factors play a huge role in why 85% of freelancers in France don’t want to return to regular employment.

If you want to join a thriving community of freelancers in France, there’re several things to keep in mind before you can begin your journey. From getting your French self-employment visa to registering as a freelancer, this guide will explain all you need to know to freelance in France.

Types of freelancing in France

There’re 2 common ways you can work as a freelancer in France:

  1. Micro-entrepreneur: if you want to open a small business and hire employees.
  2. Liberal profession: if you’re an independent contractor (e.g., hairdresser, translator, designer, architect, lawyer) offering your services to multiple clients as a non-employee.

Who can become a micro-entrepreneur in France?

Firstly, to register as a micro-entrepreneur in France, your turnover can’t exceed the threshold set by the French government.

The maximum turnover thresholds in 2022 are as follows:

  1. Maximum of €72,500 per year for providing services or professional activity (e.g., photography, teaching language, wedding planning, beauty salon).
  2. Maximum of €176,200 per year for selling and buying goods or materials, or running a cafe, bar, hotel, restaurant, furnished bed and breakfast.

Secondly, professions like real estate agents, financial consultants, health professionals, agriculture workers, artists, sports agents, etc. are excluded from micro-entrepreneur status. You can check if your profession is excluded on the Chambres du Commerce et de l’Industrie (The Chamber of Commerce and Industry) website.

Note: If you want to set up a business and have one of these professions, you can apply for a talent passport with a statement “business founder” visa.

How do I become a freelancer in France?

You can become a freelancer in France by following 3 steps. Here's a quick overview:

  1. Get the required authorization (if applicable)
  2. Apply for a visa and validate it in France (applicable for non-EU citizens)
  3. Register as a self-employed person

Step 1. Get the required authorization

In France, some professions (e.g., hairdresser, vet, architect) are regulated and require prior authorization from governmental bodies to practice. You can find the list of regulated businesses at the Bpifrance website and check what you need to do to get authorization.

Step 2. Apply for a self-employment visa

Non-EU/EEA citizens must apply for a self-employment visa called VLS/TS with “entrepreneur/liberal profession”. It’s a long-stay visa equivalent to a residence permit that is renewable and valid for 1 year.

You’ll need to meet the following conditions:

  1. You don’t exercise a salaried activity.
  2. You earn at least the minimum wage of France, which is €20,147.40 gross per year (as of 2022).
  3. You have educational and/or professional qualifications in the field of your activity.

If you meet these conditions, you’ll submit the following documents online:

  • Passport, valid until 3 months after your visa expires
  • 3 passport-sized photos
  • Filled long-stay visa application form
  • Any document justifying your professional capacity (diplomas, qualifications, professional experience, etc.)
  • If the activity is subject to a specific authorization (regulated professions), proof of authorization from the corresponding governmental body
  • Proof that your freelancing activity generates at least the minimum wage in France (e.g., receipt of previous client agreements)
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Payment of the application fee (€99)
  • Certificate of no criminal record

All these documents must be officially translated into French and legalized.

Once you submit your documents, it’ll take up to 2 months to receive an answer for your visa. If accepted, validate your visa online within 3 months of your arrival to receive your residence permit. You’ll need your visa number, arrival date, French home address, and a card for online payment.

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You can bring your immediate family to live with you under the general procedure. The general procedure requires you to hold your self-employment visa for at least 18 months before bringing your family to France, live in the same residence, and be financially responsible for them.

Step 3. Register as a self-employed person

Everyone who wants to freelance in France has to register. There’re 2 ways you can register as a self-employed person in France.

  1. Filling out the online application form and sending it to the suitable branch by post.

  2. By carrying out the whole process online via website

The 2nd option is the easiest and most convenient way to register as a self-employed person in France. The platform includes a step-by-step explanation of everything you need to do, from the application process to the documents you need.

Whichever option you choose, here’re the general stages of setting up a self-employed business in France.

  1. Declare your activity: Your personal information, description of your activity, and proof of its financial stability.
  2. Submit the required documents: Your visa (non-EU citizens), documentation for your qualification, certification of authorization from the governmental bodies (if you’ve got a regulated profession), and insurance.
  3. Within 8 to 15 days, receive your social security registration and your unique SIRET number; the first 9 digits correspond to the tax number SIREN and the last 5 to an internal classification number (NIC and APE). You can start invoicing clients after you receive this.

After registering as a self-employed person, you’ll receive an email from my Urssaf confirming your self-employment activity and account. You can access your self-employment certificate, start declaring your turnover, and pay your taxes and social security contributions.

Do freelancers pay taxes in France?

Every self-employed individual is responsible for reporting their income to the government and paying taxes. You’ll pay 3 types of taxes: 1. Self-employment taxes 2. Social security charges 3. VAT charges

You can start reporting your turnover and pay your taxes only 3 months after you begin your activity through your Urssaf account. You can choose to pay monthly or quarterly. As a micro-entrepreneur, you have the option to pay both individual income tax and social contributions at a flat rate applicable to the turnover. The flat rates range from 13.8% to 24.2%, depending on the activity.

Self-employment taxes for freelancers in France

There’re 2 types of tax contributions for self-employment: Income tax and Business Property Tax (CFE). Income tax — Freelancers benefit from tax deductions, which vary depending on your activity: 34% for private services, 50% for commercial and trading services, and 71% for sales and related activities.

After the allowance applies to your turnover, you pay standard (French income tax)[tax article], depending on your marital status, the number of children, and income.

Business Property Tax — CFE only applies for net income over €5,000. It changes depending on your income and the municipality in which your business is registered. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect to pay based on your revenue: 1. €223 to €531 for revenue of up to €10,000 2. €223 to €1,061 for revenue of €10,001 to €32,600 3. €223 to €2,229 for revenue of €32,601 to €100,000

You can be exempted from CFE tax in 1the st year and pay only 50% of it in the 2nd year by filling out the CFE declaration form.

Social security charges for freelancers in France

When you become a freelancer, you become your own boss. As a result, you must pay social charges that normally would’ve been deducted from your salary to cover healthcare, parental leave, disability, death, family allowances, basic and supplementary retirement, paid sick leave, etc. The difference is you pay social security contributions only if you’ve earned income. But remember that you lose your self-employment status if you declare no turnover for 2 consecutive years.

The social security contributions deducted for self-employment are as follows: 1. 12.8% for sales and related activities 2. 22% for trade, commercial, and professional services 3. 22.2% for regulated private-practice professions

Some freelancers, like registered job seekers or people under 25, can benefit from reduced rates of up to 75% for social contributions for the first 3 years. (1st year 75%, 2nd year 50%, 25% the third year.)Unlike for salaried employees, social contributions don’t cover workplace accidents or occupational illness for freelancers. They also cover unemployment only in certain conditions. If your activity is prone to these risks (e.g., construction worker), take out voluntary insurance.

VAT charges for freelancers in France

Under the regular tax regime, all businesses must charge VAT on goods or services. But self-employed businesses with a turnover under €34,400 or €85,800 (depending on business activity) are exempted from charging VAT. For turnovers higher than the threshold, VAT is chargeable at a rate of 20%, though reduced rates of 10%, 5.5%, and 2.1% are available for some products.

Exemption from VAT allows small self-employed businesses to benefit from competitive prices.

Opening a French bank account as a freelancer

Unless you have an account from another SEPA country, you need to open a French bank account to receive payment from your clients and pay your taxes. But if your turnover exceeds 10,000 for 2 consecutive years, you’re legally required to open a French business bank account in France.

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