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How to start a freelance business in France

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

When you frequently relocate to follow your significant other around the world, it can be hard to maintain a career and some financial independence.


You arrive in countries where you don’t have a network, you don’t speak the language, and the companies are reluctant to hire you, afraid you’ll just stay for a while, then move to your next destination.

So… How can you get a job, that you can keep wherever you go? By being location independent, obviously, but also by having a job with which your timezone won’t be an issue. Starting your own business is a way of doing that!

One of the fastest ways to create a profitable business with flexible hours, and with no need to rent an office or hire a team, is to become a freelancer. Let’s see, step by step, how to become a freelancer in France! - guest writer Marion Giroudon.

1. Define your offer

First, you need to think: what kind of services can you offer? The easier skills to sell as a freelancer are :

- digital skills: web development, webdesign, digital marketing, content creation, content writing, community management, etc

- virtual assistance: helping companies by doing their daily tasks, such as replying to their emails, updating their databases, handling their paperwork, etc

- translation: can be smart for you, since now, you are familiar with different cultures

- coaching: in many areas of expertise

If you already have some of these skills, that’s perfect: you can just start with that!

If you don’t, you are going to have to find one that matches both of these criteria: you need to find it interesting, and you have to be able to learn/sell it. There are a lot of skills you can learn online, in any language, with e-learning platforms such as Udemy.

So this first step is achieved when you know:

- what kind of services you offer

- which customers you are gonna go after (maybe you’ll only address some industries)

2. Create your company

If you want to be able to bill your customers, you definitely need to create some sort of company. In France, we have a status that you can use, called “micro-entreprise”. To create it, you only need a few days, and it’s totally free. (I know, you’re not used to this in France 😉)

To create your micro-entreprise, you need to follow the steps on the Urssaf website.

The company is in your name, so you don’t need to torture yourself to find an inspired name before you do it. Within 2 weeks, you will receive your SIREN number by post: you have a company, and you’re allowed to bill companies based in any country. Until you stay below 33 200€/year as income from your service you are free of VAT.

Caution: I’m recommending to use this status if you are just going to sell your services to your customers and don’t have a lot of expenses. If you are going to subcontract some of your work to another freelancer or company; or if your business is going to cost you a lot in equipment, rent, etc. maybe micro-enterprise is not the best choice for you. You need to consider creating a “société”.

3. Find customers

Now you have an offer, you have a legit business status, you can start working! Your first assignment is to find customers.

You need to figure out what’s best for you :

- finding customers in your home country

- working with companies in France (it would probably require a decent level of French)

Once you are clear with this matter, you can start implementing actions, to attract potential customers to you :

- update your LinkedIn profile to make sure people in your network, know about your current work situation, and optimize it as much as possible, to rank high in freelancer researches

- create your local network: attend business events, related to the skills you’re selling or the markets you want to work with / identity partners who can send customers to you (for example: other freelancers with different skills) / go to coworking spaces to meet people (freelancers, startuppers, etc)

- create profiles on freelancers platforms: it will allow you to be seen by people who need to hire freelancers (if you want to save time, you should know I listed about 20 freelancers platforms in a document that you can download for free from my website)

- start a content strategy: you can help people find out about what you do and how great you are at this by regularly publishing content, on a blog, a podcast, a YouTube channel, on even just by posting frequently on social media

4. Do your accounting work

I’m sorry, I did not keep the best part for the end 😉. When you run a micro-entreprise, you still have a some accounting to do.

First, you need to have a dedicated bank account. Your customers can’t pay you directly on your personal bank account, this is forbidden. Have a look around there are many online ne-banks with very low costs, for example Shine. For this pro bank account, you are going to need to have a book (paper or digital) and carefully note everything that goes out (everything you need to pay so your business keeps running) and comes in (the bills paid by your customers).

Every month, or every three months (you decide that when you create the micro-entreprise), you have to declare your turnover (how much your customers paid). You will have to pay a percentage (around 22%) of this turnover, as a tax and as social security contributions.

You should also be aware of 2 things, regarding billing :

- you must edit your bills with a certified tool

- you need to make sure the customers pay the bills on time: in France, lots of companies pay late and need constant reminders.

And if you leave France and need to close the micro-entreprise, it’s very easy and fast to do so.

I hope these steps will help you create a profitable freelancing business and enjoy your time in France. 😀

Thank you for the article to our contributor: Marion Giroudon

About Marion

With years of professional experience as a freelancer, she’s a consultant in digital strategy and helps freelancers prepare to their adventure and succeed. Check out her blog.

We have created Sojoourn Club to offer expats a safe space to connect because we know you deserve more than just a Facebook group. We even moved to a special platform on Mighty Networks dedicated only for us. The best part is, we have a special offer in the Sojoourn Club for entrepreneurs who are launching their business: RING. With our regular and members-only events (physical or online) you can start building meaningful connections, get answers from guest experts and benefit from our resources and tools.

Hope to see you around,

The Sojoourn Team


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