Becoming Self-Employed: Step by Step to Self-Employment

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Start a business and finally be your own boss. Almost every employee has thought about this dream. But starting your own business requires good preparation. Read here which professions are suitable and how you can successfully start your own business step by step.

How Do I Become Self-Employed?

Becoming self-employed sounds easy, but it's not. How and with what business do you become self-employed, you might ask yourself? You can start with an idea. However, you should first ask yourself whether you are suitable for self-employment at all.

You should bring the following criteria with you if you want to become self-employed:

Personal responsibility: You want to take responsibility for yourself and your future? Instead of relying on bosses to tell you what to do, as a self-employed person you take full responsibility for your business.

Decisiveness: As a self-employed person, important decisions must be made all the time. Which legal form is the right one, which investments must be made and when is the right time to hire employees? As a new entrepreneur, you can get in touch with our experts in the fields of law, taxes and marketing with the help of our packages, e.g. to get competent advice on setting up a start-up.

Organisational talent: A certain talent for structured organisation is important if you want to manage your day-to-day business, keep an eye on the company's goals and make decisions for the future of your company. In order not to get bogged down, various tools will help you, for example an online diary, clever project management software or other organisational aids, such as our "liquidity planning" package, in which you create a customised liquidity plan with the help of our experts.

Perseverance and courage: Starting a business is not for insecure and hesitant people. It takes a bit of courage to take the first step towards self-employment. Don't be afraid of setbacks, small failures are part of the game and give you important experience for your future entrepreneurial activity.

What Can You Do as a Self-Employed Person?

If you ask yourself what you can do as a self-employed person, there are many possibilities. It should preferably be something you are passionate about. Maybe you have expertise in a certain field or a special hobby?

If you start your own business with something that you have a great personal interest in, this will strengthen your motivation to do it. There are many professions for self-employment, not all of them are suitable for everyone and the personal and legal requirements you have to fulfil are different.

Become Self-Employed, but With What? - Examples:

You ask yourself: "Become self-employed with what?" There are many different professions in which you can become self-employed. In many craft businesses (“Handwerk”) you can become a journeyman (“Geselle”) or master craftsman (“Handwerksmeister”), or you can study alongside your job to further your education and become fit for self-employment. There are numerous professions that you can practise as your own master on your own account.

The legal requirements you have to fulfil to become self-employed vary from branch to branch. Particularly in the field of crafts, there is usually still a master craftsman's obligation, so that, apart from a few exceptions, you cannot become self-employed in this field without a master craftsman's title. However, such an obligation does not exist in all areas, so that in certain sectors you can also become self-employed without a master craftsman's title. You must first clarify the respective requirements in your case with the competent authority, e.g. the Chamber of Crafts (“Handwerkskammer”) or the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK). It may even be possible to become self-employed without training in certain professions and sectors if you have specialist knowledge in a particular field. However, many entrepreneurs often only win new customers if they have skills and references in their field. A well-founded education or proof of existing skills would therefore be useful.

Here are a few examples of self-employed professions:

  • self-employed craftsman,
  • estate agent,
  • specialist retailer for a special niche range (e.g. comics, records, wine),
  • own catering business,
  • various services (e.g. personal trainer, coach).

When setting up your own business, especially if you have no training, you can get help from start-up advisors, coaches, further training and qualification measures offered by industry associations. Start-up seminars at the IHK or HWK are also generally helpful if you want to become self-employed.

Become Self-Employed With an Online Business Model

You want to start your own business with an online business model? There are numerous ways to earn money with it. For example, as an operator of an online shop or as a provider of online services such as consulting. It is also possible to work online in the fields of graphic design, IT and copywriting.

If you have acquired comprehensive expertise due to private interests or several years of professional experience in this area, it is best to start with the creation of a concept and the implementation of your online presence. In addition to setting up a website, shop and other tools, online advertising measures are also important. Even at this early stage, you should protect yourself legally in this regard, as expensive legal risks lurk in this area in particular, which can result in a warning letter. In this respect, a legal review of your online shop, a website check or the creation of a correct imprint can be helpful and save you from unpleasant surprises.

The biggest advantage of online self-employment is that you can work from anywhere you have a computer and an internet connection. Many digital nomads are self-employed online and work from locations all over the world or even from their own home office.

How to Become Self-Employed - Step by Step

You want to become self-employed? Depending on the industry, setting up a business is very simple and does not require a lot of money.

Create your concept including the name of your company. As a sole proprietorship, this can also be just your first and last name. Even in company naming, legal pitfalls can lurk in individual cases, especially if the name of your company is already used by another company and this company is active in the same industry. To prevent a violation of trademark law, you can already carry out a trademark search at this stage or have it carried out by our experts.

Depending on which self-employed profession you want to pursue, the legal requirements, especially regarding the question of where you have to register your activity, are different. In principle, yourbusiness must be registered with the competent trade office (“Gewerbeamt”) and the tax office (“Finanzamt”). Depending on the sector, however, there may be additional registrations or even authorisation or licensing procedures with other institutions e.g., Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Chamber of Crafts. You should clarify these requirements at a very early stage of planning so that there are no unpleasant surprises. You can read more about this in our article series "The Checklist for Founders".

If you set up a corporation e.g., a limited liability company in the form of a “Unternehmergesellschaft (UG) haftungsbeschränkt” or a “GmbH”, further steps are necessary (e.g., drawing up the shareholders' agreement, entry in the commercial register, etc.).

Under certain circumstances, you may be granted certain relief at the beginning of your self-employment e.g., in terms of taxation e.g., in the form of the small business regulation; in some cases, the step into self-employment is also financially supported by various institutions.

Once you have received your tax number, you can start your business if the other requirements are met. In the case of a corporation, you still have to wait for the entry in the commercial register.

Start marketing your business activity and try to win your first customers.

Self-Employment as a Sideline

Instead of jumping straight into the deep end, you can also become self-employed as a sideline. In this case, you start your business alongside your main job and don't take any big risks at first. If you are successful in starting your own business on the side, you may then have the opportunity to quit your main job and make the side job your main job. In any case, you should inform your employer about your part-time job before you start it.

If you want to become self-employed as a second job, you can also get support and guidance from start-up consultancies.

Costs of Self-Employment

Although you can start your own business without equity capital, most entrepreneurs start with a certain amount of start-up capital. Instead of investing private assets, you can also take advantage of funding. There are various options for start-up funding in Germany that are designed to help self-employed people with innovative ideas to start a business without capital.

If you have a question like: "How can I become self-employed?" you can get advice from business start-up assistance. Many municipalities and professional associations as well as chambers of commerce offer appropriate start-up seminars and referrals to capital providers.


Becoming self-employed with what? There are many professions for starting your own business. From an economic point of view, the most suitable business fields are those with little competition, but much demand. Whether and how much you will have to pay when becoming self-employed depends, among other things, on the type of business idea you have. As a sole proprietor, you can generally get started without start-up capital. However, funding is always helpful if you want to gain customers as quickly as possible.

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