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How to survive as a freelancer in Austria

Freelancing in Austria has a reputation for being tough, with high taxes and an expensive cost of living.

How to survive as a freelancer in Austria
Photo by Joseph Frank on Unsplash

It doesn’t mean working as a freelancer in the Alpine republic is a bad idea though – it just means there might be a few more hoops to jump through.

Here’s what you need to know about how to survive as a freelancer in Austria.

Get an accountant

Navigating the world of tax is confusing at the best of times. Throw in a foreign language and a new country and it can be overwhelming.

This is why hiring a tax accountant (Steuerberater) is a good idea for freelancers – especially for international residents or people without a high-level of German language skills.

EXPLAINED: What can I deduct from my tax bill in Austria?

Toni Krainz, a self-employed Business Development Engineer from Ireland, told The Local: “A tax advisor can give you some smart tips about your entitlements as a business owner, which more than cover the cost of hiring a Steuerberater.”

A tax account can also help with setting up health insurance, which is compulsory in Austria.

James Tibbles, from the UK, spent four years working as a freelance web developer when he first moved to Tyrol in Austria.

He said: “My tax advisor explained it all to me and picked out the correct one for my circumstances, so whenever I received a letter from them I just immediately passed it on to her.”

The downside of hiring a tax accountant is the cost. But in most cases the fees are worth the peace of mind when it comes to submitting a tax return or dealing with Austrian bureaucracy.

Find a way to lower expenses

Austria is well known for expensive living costs and freelancing has a reputation for sporadic work and payment – especially for those just starting out.

Put the two together and it can be a recipe for financial instability, but finding a way to lower expenses can significantly reduce stress for freelancers.

READ MORE: Cost of living: Seven tips to save money in Austria

A good starting point for staying on top of finances is to be honest about your expenses (rent, health insurance, food, bills) and identify areas where costs can be cut.

For example, working from home can save money otherwise spent while working in cafes, and joining a coworking space is usually much cheaper than renting an office.

Another option is downsizing or moving to a cheaper area to reduce living costs.

Even making smaller changes, such as shopping at Hofer (Austria’s Aldi), can save money on grocery bills each week.

In the end, all the small savings can add up to make a big difference.

Consider income protection insurance

Income insurance protection is exactly what it sounds like – payments to cover part of your income if you cannot work due to sickness or an accident.

This is especially useful for self-employed people and, according to other freelancers, should be considered to provide some extra financial security. 

Toni, from Ireland, said: “As a freelancer, you’re not entitled to sick pay so I highly recommend getting income protection insurance. 

“The fees are tax deductible and there are varying levels of cover available, so it doesn’t have to be expensive.”

Austria can be a great place to freelance. Photo by Galymzhan Abdugalimov on Unsplash

Learn German

Although many people in Austria speak English at a high level, it is still a German-speaking country. 

This means having German-language skills can be a big advantage for a freelancer – even for people with clients in different parts of the world.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about becoming a freelancer in Austria

The reason for this is because bureaucracy and official communications in Austria are mostly conducted in German. 

So, even if all you can do is make a simple phone call or write an email in German, it will make life as a freelancer in Austria much easier. 

Network with other freelancers

In pre-corona times, freelancers could attend professional networking events to meet new people and scope out work opportunities.

However, the past 18 months has seen most events cancelled in the interests of public health, which means networking has moved online.

There are some advantages to this, such as the possibility to network with people from all over the world, not just in your region or country.

But the downside is it can be harder to forge strong professional relationships with others by only communicating online.

Despite the disadvantages to online networking, getting to know other freelancers in your industry is a great way to establish a local support network, and can even generate referrals for future business.

Essential websites for freelancers in Austria

Social insurance: sozialversicherung.at

Austrian Health Insurance Fund (ÖGK): gesundheitskasse.at

Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (WKO): wko.at

Self-employed information in English: self-employed.at

SVS (for self-employed insurance): svs.at

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WORKING IN AUSTRIA

Six official websites to know if you’re planning to work in Austria

If you are moving to Austria and planning to work once you're here, there are a few websites that you need to know.

Six official websites to know if you’re planning to work in Austria

Austria is certainly one of the best countries to work in, with strong labour laws that give employees access to public health insurance through their employers, a minimum five weeks of paid vacation and many rights for families.

The alpine country is also known for its high quality of living. Residents can enjoy cheap public transport, public schools and plenty of free or cheap cultural, sports and leisure options.

There are also many vacant jobs, and the country is aiming to make it easier for foreigners who have qualifications to come fill in those jobs – many in nursing and healthcare professions, but a lot in several other so-called “shortage occupations”.

READ ALSO: How Austria is making it easier for non-EU workers to get residence permits

If you are planning to work in Austria, here are a few government or government-linked websites to know.

Migration.gv.at

It may not look very modern, but this website will have most of the things you’ll need if you want to move to Austria – especially coming from countries outside of the European Union.

This is where you will find the infamous “point calculator” to see if you get the minimum amount of points based on specific criteria (such as age, education, and language knowledge) to be able to apply for certain work-based residence permits.

There are also many pages explaining the different visas, permits, and many other issues with migration to Austria. The website has a very extensive and complete English version.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The 2022 salary requirements for Austria’s EU Blue Card

ABA – Work in Austria

ABA – Work in Austria is a department of the Austrian Business Agency, which operates under the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs in Austria.

The website has plenty of information – in English – about Austria, living and working in the country, and its job market. ABA – Work in Austria also offers services, including relocation and recognition of qualifications.

Vienna Business Agency

Another site aimed at expats and immigrants but connected to the City of Vienna. The website is entirely in English (there is a German version, too), and most of it will have tips and services for businesses and startups settling in the Austrian capital.

However, there is also an extensive advice area for foreigners. 

People moving to Vienna can also schedule in-person and free appointments to receive advice on anything from setting up a company to paying taxes.

READ ALSO: The downsides of Vienna you should be aware of before moving there

Portal der Arbeiterkammern

This is the Chamber of Labour website, which is an organisation that represents the interests of 3 million Austrian employees and consumers.

Even if you are not a member, it still has plenty of valuable information on Austria’s working and labour market. The website, however, is only in German.

Der Wirtschaftskammer

Also, a local website, WKO is the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, and even though it is only in German, it holds a lot of information, especially on labour laws in the country.

Furthermore, it is possible to schedule a free appointment with an English-speaking representative to answer questions on employment, self-employment, and more.

READ ALSO: Which are the best companies to work for in Austria?

Public Employment Service Austria (AMS)

This is Austria’s official provider of labour-market related services. The government agency offers placement assistance and vocational counselling.

It is also the point of contact for those looking to register as employees, hire people or seek many of the benefits (including unemployment payments) that they are entitled to. It also has a job-looking platform.

Even though a part of the website is in English, most of the pages are in German only. It is also challenging to find people willing to speak English at the AMS offices.

Bonus website: The Local

Besides our news website, with pieces that will help you learn more about life in Austria and be up to date on the latest and most important information, The Local also has a job search platform where you can look for open positions which require only the English language.

Check out our jobs platform here. 

Do you know any other government or government-linked websites that might be useful for people working in Austria? Let us know: [email protected]

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