English Copywriter in Paris: surviving as a freelancer in France

It’s been a while. I had angelic intentions about writing regularly, but they were slowly washed away by waves of work and long weekends with friends and family.

However, now that August is on the horizon and my clients are heading off to the beach, I can finally stop, take some deep breaths and find time for the tasks on my long-neglected to-do list.

As I started brainstorming ideas for my next blog topics, my mind was still buzzing with all the administrative mess I needed to sort out for my not-so-new freelance status. In October, I had moved up in the French freelancing world from the lowly “starter” status of Auto-Entrepreneur – with strict limits about how much you can earn – to the slightly more ambitious (& administration heavy) status of Entreprise Individuelle.

And, I decided to collect together some of the things I’d learnt over the last year to help any budding, or existing, freelancers in France.

1.)  Expect an administrative rollercoaster

From experience, I can tell you that things will never run as smoothly as you’d like given that as a freelancer in France you are managed by 3 organisms – which don’t seem to communicate with each other – and you need do their own accounts (or hire an accountant) – unless, of course, you’re an auto-entrepreneur, in which case, life is a comparative breeze.

I have far too many things to say on this subject and I’ll write another blog post about the administrative pitfalls of being a freelancer in France, but in the meantime I’ll just say that you’ll need to choose your accountant carefully and be patient if it takes time to set everything up. This is perfectly normal, especially if you change statuses.

2.)  Prepare for a rainy day/month/year

It is very difficult to predict when and how much you will work in any given week, month or year – this is why banks are notoriously unwilling to lend you money if aren’t a “classic” employee. I know it can be difficult, but make sure you keep plenty of money aside for work-less periods (including any holiday you take) and to pay for social contributions that are readjusted two years later. I’ve been told to consider that I’ll give 50% of what I earn back in the form of taxes or social contributions – in reality, it may be less, but at least this means you’re completely covered.

3.)  Don’t do it alone

It can be a lonely life being a freelancer. I’ve already looked at this topic in some detail, but I can’t emphasise enough the importance of getting out there, meeting other freelancers, co-working or generally building a network. This not only makes life a lot more enjoyable, but can also create new work opportunities and potential collaborations.

4.)  Time is money

Remember that the more you procrastinate, the more time you spend working without making any extra cash. It can be tempting to use your “freedom” to browse the web or catch up on the latest Facebook news, but don’t forget that you are running a business that needs to be profitable. If necessary, block email notifications and only check your inbox every hour (I’m very bad at this) or try a time management tool like the Pomodoro Technique.

5.)  Add some structure

It is exhilarating to know that you can do what you want when you want (within reason) as a freelancer. But, a little structure can go a long way. For example, I’ve found it helps to get up, dressed and go for a short walk in the morning before getting down to work. Set aside a couple of hours each week for administrative tasks, so they don’t pile up, and make sure you have a proper lunch break.

Do you have any advice about freelancing in France? Questions you’d like to ask? Don’t hesitate; I’d love to hear from you.

Best of luck and keep enjoying the privilege of being your own boss!

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