Self-employed as a student: This is how it works
Become self-employed as a student – but with what? We’ll show you why it’s worth starting your own business while you’re still at university, and what you should bear in mind.
Becoming self-employed as a student: still atypical
For most students, the path is still: first complete your studies and then take a job. In fact, there is another way – to become self-employed as a student.
Often, however, panic arises at the mere thought of self-employment as a student. Questions arise like:
- What should I do as a self-employed person?
- How and where do I register my self-employment?
- Will my self-employment affect my BAföG entitlement?
It’s a good thing you came across this article, because it tells you how to become self-employed as a student.
Please note: As soon as you earn money with your activities, you must be registered as self-employed with the tax office. In step #2 you will learn how to do that.
Instructions: Step by step self-employment as a student
With the following instructions you can become self-employed as a student – at your own pace.
Step 1: Try out different activities
Self-employment is always about trying things out and experimenting. This is how you find out which activities suit you and which do not. One of the biggest challenges of self-employment as a student is the question of what you want to start your own business with. Many students are overwhelmed by this question and the numerous possibilities that present themselves.
That’s why it’s a good idea to try out different activities. Ask family or friends if you can help out or get a taste of their work. Also check out web portals that offer student jobs. Search specifically for self-employed activities for students.
- Work in the office
- Writing / translating text
- Promotion Jobs
- Social Work (e.g. Nursing)
If you don’t know your way around an area yet, ask for assistance. This will help you learn and figure out what you want to be self-employed with as a student.
Step 2: Register for self-employment
Once you have figured out what you want to be self-employed with as a student, you need to register your self-employment.
- Tip small business regulation: If you become self-employed as a student, it is worthwhile to take advantage of the small business regulation. This exempts you from VAT if your annual turnover does not exceed 50,000 euros and your previous year’s turnover was less than 22,000 euros. You must register for the small business regulation in the questionnaire for tax registration.
Let’s move on to the registration of your self-employment. In Germany, there are two types of self-employed persons:
The category of Freiberufler includes all persons whose self-employed activities fall under the so-called catalog professions and the catalog-like professions.
Examples of Freiberufler:
- Yoga Teacher
A detailed list of Freiberufler professions can be found here, for example. Freiberufler have several advantages over other self-employed persons, among other things they are exempt from trade tax, have simplified accounting with the EÜR and do not have to become a member of the IHK.
Apply for Freiberufler status: Complete the tax registration questionnaire. You will then receive a tax number in the mail, which you will use for your freelance activity. You can find the questionnaire in digital form in the ELSTER portal, for which you must register.
Excursus: Is a Freiberufler the same as a freelancer?
Sometimes both terms are used synonymously, but this is not correct.
The difference between freelancer and Freiberufler is that freelance activities do not belong to catalog or catalog-like professions. This therefore includes all other activities, for example consultants or coaches. Freelancers do not benefit from the advantages of Freiberuflichkeit, but must register their self-employment as a business. You can find out how to do this in the next section.
In short, Gewerbetreibende are self-employed persons who carry out a trade. Or to put it another way: any economic activity that does not belong to the liberal professions (Freiberufler) is classified as a Gewerbetreibender.
Examples of Gewerbetreibender:
Another classic case for a trade is also when you start a business.
As a Gewerbetreibender, you are obliged to fill out the questionnaire for tax registration, just like the freelancer. In addition, you must register your business at the trade office in your city/region. Search the web for “register a trade online” and click through to the registration page of your local trade office.
As a trader, you also pay trade tax, which is based on the so-called trade tax rate, which varies from municipality to municipality.
Step 3: Find clients/customers
Once you have fought your way through the bureaucratic hurdles, the next challenge awaits you: You want to find clients or customers for your self-employment as a student. But where? There are several ways to do this:
Online job boards
Freelancing platforms are excellent places to apply for jobs. For this purpose, there are established and grown job boards like Freelance.de (DE), Jobruf (DE), Junico (DE), Upwork or Fiverr. Also check out comparatively young platforms like Freelancermap.
Inform your circle of relatives and friends that you are self-employed and want to do jobs. It is important that your friends know what exactly you do, so that they can recommend you or approach you with an inquiry. Acquiring clients through personal relationships is one of the most promising ways of all to build long-term clients or customers.
Networking events are held regularly in every major and minor city where entrepreneurs, decision makers and other self-employed people meet. As a self-employed person, it is immensely important to build a strong network and to be present at such events. The more business people know your name, the higher the chances of generating orders from contacts. You can find networking events on the website of your local Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as on social networks such as LinkedIn, Xing and Facebook.
Step 4: Developing independence
Improving your own offer, customer service, taxes: As a self-employed person, there is always something to learn and improve.
You have two major advantages when you start your own business as a student:
- You can already take important learning steps as a young person
- You have a lot of energy and therefore also the power to push forward your self-employment.
Maybe you will become completely self-employed when your studies end? Or maybe you will become self-employed as a student in order to have an attractive sideline?
Whatever you decide: The paths to self-employment are diverse, exciting and a real adventure in which you must always develop yourself further!
Can I receive BAföG while being self-employed?
In principle, yes.
The extent to which your self-employment affects your entitlement to BAföG depends on how much you earn. There is a monthly allowance of € 290 as well as an allowance for income-related expenses of € 1,200 (for the year 2022, in 2023 it is even € 1,230), which you deduct from your annual income.
Advertising costs are costs that you incur in order to gain customers in the course of your self-employment as a student. Advertising costs can include the maintenance of your own business website, printing of business cards, etc.
In addition, there is the social security lump sum of 21.3%. of 21.3%, which you also deduct from your annual income. If the income calculated from this exceeds the tax-free amount, the excess amount is deducted from your income based on the calculation.
In 2022, you earned a total of 7,000 euros from your self-employment as a student (earnings = income). From this, you can deduct the lump sum for advertising expenses of 1,230 euros, leaving 5,770 euros for the BAföG calculation. From the 5,770 euros, you deduct the social security lump sum of 21.3%. H. v. 21.3 % from the 5,770 euros.
You divide the result, €4,540.99, by 12 to determine the average monthly earnings, which is €378.42 rounded to the decimal place. You thus exceed the tax-free amount of € 290 by € 88.42, which will be deducted from your BAföG.
Self-employed as a student and with health insurance: This is what you should keep in mind
In addition to the tax office and the BAföG office, there is another important institution: health insurance. As a student, you are usually covered by your parents’ health insurance until the age of 25. Or you pay into a student health insurance. Whichever case applies to you: If you become self-employed as a student, you must inform your health insurance company.
The health insurance company will then check the extent of your self-employment. If they come to the conclusion that your self-employment is part-time, the so-called working student privilege applies: You are then exempt from health insurance, unemployment insurance and nursing care insurance. The requirement for this is that you spend a maximum of 20 hours on your self-employment alongside your studies. If you invest more time and/or your income is significantly higher than with a traditional part-time job, you should consult with your health insurance company about what to do.
Inspiration: Ideas for self-employment alongside your studies
Tip: There are coaches who specialize in the topic of self-employment during studies or self-employment alongside studies. They can help you find the right idea for you.
If you want to become self-employed as a student, in many cases you can do this from the comfort of your own home, so you can work flexibly alongside your studies. We present the most popular business ideas for self-employment:
- Social Media Manager
- Web Developer
- Virtual Assistant
- Computer Trainer
You will certainly find something that interests you among the ideas mentioned. We wish you good luck for your self-employment!
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