Becoming a Self Employed or Freelance Photographer in Germany

Becoming a Self Employed or Freelance Photographer in Germany

As you finally have an agreement with your own self to be a self-employed Photographer or even a Freelance Photographer (freiberufler) , there are a series of steps that needs to be accomplished before you could officially launch your business or your artistry. Of course, we are in Germany.

Below is my personal experience, which might be different from the others when they started their own Photography business. You could have this as a macro guide on what lies ahead and what to expect.

Freelance Photographer or Commercial?

What is actually the difference between Self Employed or Freelance Photographer is just simple.

A freelance photographer is an artist in nature. You have your photoshoots without customers or without an order or contract but could sell your photos should others want to have it acquired. Photo Journalists is an example of this.
However, when your photoshoots have a corresponding contract or commissioned by others whereby profit is considered, then the photography is Commercial.

So in general, if you intend to make a profit from your photography, then it is not a freelance photography but a business.

For Commercial Photography

  • Make sure that you register your business in the Trade Office or Gewerbeamt in your locality. This takes roughly a week when you apply by Post or 30 minutes when you apply in Person. You will receive a Gewerbeschein after the process. Simple Email of Intent is not sufficient to register. You would need an Application Form and have it filled up and signed and submit to the Trade Office. Cost will probably not exceed 70€ but again it depends on the state where you will apply..
  • The Trade Office will inform the Tax Office or Finanzamt.
  • Apply for a Tax Number for your Business. To start this, it is advisable to fill up the Tax Questionnaire ( Fragebogen zur steuerlichen erfassung ). Filling up the form will be another separate topic of discussion.
  • The Trade Office will inform the Chamber of Commerce (IHK) or the Chamber of Crafts (Handwerkskammer) where Photography belongs.
  • You will have the option to decide whether to join the Chamber of Commerce or the Chamber of Crafts. Normally, if you would be commissioning Photographs, the Chamber of Crafts will be the association that you have to join to. This Body protects all of its members as well as provide seminars or continuing education support to further develop your skill in Photography.
  • The Trade Association (BG) will contact you in the following weeks. This is a compulsory Insurance, however should you be working less than 100 days in a year, then you might opt to skip this and apply for exemption.
  • Once you have completed these steps, you are ready to go and start your Photo shootings.

For Freelance Photography

  • You could start with applying for Tax Number from your local Tax Office / Finanzamt using the Fragebogen zur Steuerlichen Erfassung. The Tax Office will decide based on your application if you are an Artist or a Commercial Photographer. Should the Tax Office return and decide that you are an Artist or a Freelancer, then you will not have to do anything more except to start your Artistic Work. You would just have to report your Tax Income on a yearly basis. This is though very seldom as there are audits and checks performed to ensure that you are not commissioning work as a freelance photographer. If the Tax Office finds out otherwise, then you could lose your Freelance status.
  • Applying for Membership in The Chamber of Crafts is another thing in common.
  • No need to Apply for Business Registration from the Trade Office. This is where the difference lies between Freelance and Commercial Photography. You can start immediately when you have your Tax Number as a Freelance Photographer.
  • This sums up on becoming a Freelancer Photographer.

Again, the above accounts for my own experience and what I have gone through as I was starting my journey as a Photographer here in Germany. Others may have a different one.

Hope that this will give you at least an overview of what legal steps are ahead of you and could prepare yourself before finally endeavouring to enter the world of Photography as a Trade or as an Art here in our beloved Germany.

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