What is selbstständig, Unternehmer, Honorar, Firma in Germany

Last Updated on September 27, 2023

What is selbstständig and how does it differ from Unternehmen? Selbstständig in Germany is an individual entrepreneur with a small business, as opposed to Unternehmen with a bunch of employees? Freiberufler is a freelancer or not only? And if I work for a Honorar – am I a Freiberufler? Let’s take a look at the statuses.

What is Öffentliche Dienst
Part time work in Germany. What does freiberuflich, nebenberuflich, ehrenamtlich, gewerblich, Minijob mean
Freiberufler in Germany: how to fill in Anlage S and Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung
Credit cards in Germany
German tax return. Anlage WA-Est
Home office tax deduction in German tax return
All tax deductions (in German income tax declaration)
How to calculate tax in Germany. What is written in Berechnung in Elster
Who should file a tax return in Germany

Who is employer. What is selbstständig, Unternehmer, Freiberufler

Workers in Germany are divided into two large groups according to who employs:

1.they employ themselves – and then they are Selbstständige, self-employed

Selbstständige for tax purposes are divided into:

  • self-employed in “free” professions — Freiberufler
  • entrepreneurs in commercial activities (not free profession, agrar, forest or mining) with the opening of Gewerbe. They are also called Gewerbetreibende.

Freiberufler have a number of tax releases, so they must avoid any commercial activity, otherwise it “infects” their “free” activity.

Any self-employed in activities related to their self-employed work will be entrepreneurs – Unternehmer and have an enterprise – Unternehmen. This is the legal status that distinguishes them in rights from the Verbraucher, the consumer.

The category of sole entrepreneurs Einzelunternehmer is not tax-relevant. The self-employed, including Freiberufler, may be the sole employee of themselves, or may have other employees. This is reflected in social contributions for employees, but not reflected in taxes.

If a self-employed person has a trading Gewerbe and is listed in the Handelsregister, then he will have Firma – a protected trade name is meant that distinguishes him from others.

Part time work in Germany. What does freiberuflich, nebenberuflich, ehrenamtlich, gewerblich, Minijob mean
Freiberufler in Germany: how to fill in Anlage S and Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung
About Gewerbe and how to fill in Anlage G

2. someone else employs them – and then they are Beschäftigter or Arbeitnehmer, workers

Arbeitnehmer may work for:

  • state — Beamter
  • state, but not as Beamter — Arbeitnehmer im öffentliche Dienst
  • an ordinary commercial firm

What is Öffentliche Dienst.

Unlike the self-employed, employees enjoy a range of social protections: guaranteed vacations, paid sick leave, protection from dismissal, employer participation in their social contributions.

So I am as a blogger:

  • Freiberufler – if I work in free profession, such as writting and sell a digital books
  • Gewerbetreibende – if I earn money with advertisements
  • Einzelunternehmer – because I have no employees
  • Kleinunternehmer – because I earn very little and don’t have to make an accounting
  • I have no Firma

Gewerbe or freiberuflich?

Let’s consider typical cases of “free work”.

photographer: classes, kindergartens, passports, stocks, advertising agencies


photographer: reporting, work for agencies (not advertising)


nanny (Tagesmutter)

freiberuflich, if the number of children does not exceed the limit established by the federal state

Blogger, Influencer, You-Tuber with advertising in money or other fee (for example, you receive products for free)


instructor in sport club

freiberuflich (often also ehrenamtlich)

teacher on Honorar in VHS, social club (Verein)


texter, redactor or similar as Freelancer


ingeniuer or similar as Freelancer, programmer, that makes new programms


programmer, that uses or rebuilds existing systems and does not create any individual applications or other digital products


translator, who does not offer any third-party or additional services


musicians as Street musician, musicians at events, music teacher

Freiberuflich. If musicians something sell (CD-discs, notes, shirts with groups logo), they should Gewerbe register

By type of payment. What is Honorarbasis

By type of payment, work can be

  • regular salary under a contract of employment
  • honorarium (Honorar) based

The Honorar assumes that you then have to calculate yourself taxes and social contributions from this amount.

To prevent a Honorar from being ““visibility”” when one worker works for the same employer, but on unfavorable terms of a Honorar rather than a normal contract, Honorar-workers usually work on different projects for different employers.

In terms of taxation, they are subject to general rules: as Freiberufler, or Gewerbe, or as a small part-time job in parallel with regular work (nebenberuflich).

In the social insurance plan, Honorar-employees (they are all self-employed), are subject to the rules for the self-employed, i.e. depending on the amount earned, the profession and the number of hours worked.

Self-employed on a Honorarbasis who work on behalf various of companies can also be called Freelancers or freie Mitarbeiter. But this term has no meaning for tax or rights.

By amount of work

Work can be

  • full time work Vollzeit
  • part-time work Teilzeit (fewer hours than full time)
  • part-time work as additional work — nebenberuflich

Nebenberuflich — this is a third of full-time work, which is expressed in figures as up to 15 hours a week if there is no other work, and up to 8 hours a week if there is 40-hour work (moreover, on weekends, since otherwise the border of a maximum of 8 hours may be violated in a day).

This usually includes the Minijob as the hourly pay is fixed and you can only work on a Minijob for a little over 40 hours a month.

Other posts about #work
Other posts about tax declaration #steuererklaerung

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