Paperwork journey as a wannabe-freelancer in Germany

I’ve been officially Arbeitslos (unemployed) since November 1st.

And I can’t say I miss my old job. ūüėÄ

I actually did go to one big year-end meeting in early November, where I reconnected with my colleagues.¬† Since I wasn’t planning to bill them for it, I decided to only show up for the fun parts. Meaning no day-long strategy/goals/blah blah meetings for me, but I did attend the laid back social bits. I had a blast!

If this is what freelancing is like, I’m game. Except for the not getting paid part. ūüėē

It looks like my original plan to start freelancing in early December was too ambitious. Because I have barely made a dent in the paperwork. It’s been a lot of running from office to office to ask questions, and trying to organize that info to make it actionable. Plus we moved, so needed to hold back on/transfer paperwork flow to our new city’s office (even though everything is Federal!). So now I’m hoping for a February 2016 start date.

I had a small idea of what the paperwork would be like, but didn’t know it would be this confusing. So I’ve been slowly trudging through it with Martin’s help, and hopefully everything will work out soon.

The first place I went to was the Arbeitsamt (unemployment office), and that was the most confusing place I’ve ever been to! I was trying to get help with freelancing advice, but they were focussed on trying to find me a job and updating my resume. They really didn’t know what to do with me because I wasn’t applying for Arbeitslosengeld 1 (unemployment subsidy). It’s funny because were I to apply for ALG1, it would be so easy. Everyone at the Arbeitsamt was focussed on ALG1 but only 1 person (who was on vacation) knew a smidge about the freelancing process. And when I finally spoke with that person after 2 weeks, she recommended that I apply for ALG1, and to find an accountant and talk to the Finanzamt. GAHHH!!!!

I’ve decided not to apply for ALG1. Actually I’ve applied already, but won’t follow through with the application. It’s too much effort that I could pour into setting up my Umsatzsteuernummer (freelancing tax number & registry) instead. Plus I feel really uncomfortable receiving handouts when I don’t need it.

What would be helpful is if there were a German office like the Arbeitsamt, but to help with setting up freelancing in a centralized way!

Through all of this, I was really tempted to register as a freelancer in Canada and approach my client that way. At least I could do all my paperwork in English! But I think this doesn’t solve much. It just brings Canadian rules and tax issues into the mix, which I don’t need right now.

At the same time, I’m grateful to have this down time. Martin’s job is stable, and we are not stressed with money (only good stress). We’re able to focus on healing and health, which was the point to all of this. So the freelancing is really secondary, even though it takes up a lot of my energy. I just have to keep reminding myself this!

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New era, big dreams

dreambig

Today was my last day at work!

I left my laptop and iPhone on the shelf in my office. I’ll be getting the laptop back as a freelancer, but not the iPhone. ūüė¶

So how does it feel?

It hasn’t really sunken in yet.

I have to unwind from the stress of the past few weeks, which were hectic both at work and in my personal life.

But I feel good. This feels like the right decision.

All of my fellow co-worker employees are sad to see me go, but all the consultants I work with are really excited for me.

I’ve now left the employee-of-a-big-company club, and am now part of the freelancer-entrepreneur club.

It’s a good club! Very supportive and resourceful.

I have some big dreams for my upcoming freelancing career.

I’m not going to put any numbers on it now, but my goal is to earn enough to support us both.

Then, I would like it if Martin would consider quitting his job so that we could be location independent.

We could keep a Germany-base, but I also want to be able to live wherever we want. For months.

Let’s try Toronto and Paris for starters. Berlin and Hamburg too. Then – Thailand. I’ve never been to Thailand, but it seems like my dream place.

I also like the idea of house sitting and have been drooling over researching that. There are location independent people without a fixed address, who float around the world house sitting whenever they can. What an awesome way to live!

I’m starting to feel nervous now, because when I was an employee, this type of lifestyle was just a pipe dream that I would read about. But as a location independent freelancer, I know slow travel is very much within reach – and that’s jarring. Sometimes it’s scary to know you’re close to fulfilling your dreams.

Out of all the lifestyles I consider, being a traveller is what I’d most like to do. Or at least try. And freelancing will be able to lend us that.

Still have to see how it goes, but I’m excited for the possibilities!

An introverted freelancer

introvert

I’m an introvert. But when I tell people that, they are often¬†shocked.

Even my Mom, childhood best friend, and husband find it funny that I identify as an introvert. Apparently I talk a lot, or something!

But being an introvert doesn’t mean I’m shy, or socially nervous (I’m neither). It means I¬†recharge¬†by being alone, and I prefer¬†low-key, mellow social activities rather than loud, high sensory stuff. I¬†also process my thoughts through writing, while extraverts tend to¬†think out loud.

Since¬†I’ve¬†quit my job in July, I’ve been working down my 3-month notice period. At first I thought these 3-months would be¬†a drag, but it’s giving me time to recuperate from the shock of having quit so suddenly, plus a chance to get my upcoming freelancing business off the ground.

I didn’t think I would be cut out for freelancing, but surprisingly,¬†I’m finding that¬†freelancing¬†suits¬†my introverted¬†personality type afterall!

While I’m not a freelancer yet,¬†I’ve been networking with freelancers and actively laying the foundation for my ‘break’ into the freelancing world. Things are going well, and I’m feeling very positive about everything.

It helps that I have strong connections in a niche industry, and the people around me tend to be really, really nice [and helpful]. But this doesn’t guarantee¬†that I will be able to land jobs. Maybe at the beginning, but time will tell whether I can sustain myself¬†through freelancing or not.

What I’ve learned is that there is a whole network of freelancers who are introverts like me! And networking with them is just as important (if not more important) than networking with big companies. Freelancers in this circle pass jobs to each other regularly, and one in particular¬†will become my 2nd big client that will make up at least 20% of my yearly income. In Germany, I’ll¬†need at least 2 clients to comply with¬†tax and labour laws as a freelancer.

The type of freelancing I’ll do is¬†scientific consulting (to be broad), so the people who choose to freelance in this field¬†tend to be more reserved¬†science¬†nerd types¬†rather than slick-talking¬†business types (who are also science nerds). From what I can see, the latter¬†are more likely to¬†stay in a big company to move up the ladder (because they are good at it), or would break off to start an agency (bigger than freelancing).

So basically,¬†I feel like I’ve found ‘my people’. Hardworking types, but not focused on gaining power or recognition. We just want to do good work. The work we do, whether it’s as¬†employees within¬†a company or through freelancing, will be absorbed¬†as someone else’s¬†work. This doesn’t bother me, because I don’t need the recognition. I just want to get paid!

I still have a lot of paperwork to sort through, and to find a Steuerberater (Accountant). It’s a little overwhelming, but¬†very soon¬†I’ll work my last day at the office and will have more time to fumble in wrong/broken/English sounding¬†German¬†at the Finanzamt! FUN! :mrgreen: