New Work
February 12, 2020

What is a Freelancer

This article is about freelancing and has tips about which online platforms freelancers can use to search for jobs.

In Germany, freelancing is known as “freier Mitarbeiter”, and in Austria, “freier Dienstnehmer”.

As a freelancer, you have more freedom than employees who are permanently employed in a company. This has many advantages, but also some disadvantages. For example, while you are free to set your own wage, your wage is not bound by a collective agreement which normally ensures a minimum wage. As a freelancer, however, you are not bound to a specific location and can work from anywhere, e.g. from home (“home office”) or in your favourite café.

The agreed upon work (content, deliverables, salary, location) is in your service contract.

What are classic freelancer fields of work?

The term “freelancer” refers to the employment relationship and does not say anything about the freelancer’s profession or the work being done. As a freelancer, you don’t need to be checked by the authorities to do a job, such as a painter or an architect.

Most freelancers and freelancer job platforms are focused on creative areas such as graphic design, social media marketing, or programming/developer. But the trend towards freelancers is rising. Many service professions (e.g. telephone customer service but also in gastronomy) are moving away from permanent employees and are using freelancers.

Your rights as a freelancer

The advantages mentioned come with a price. Freelancers only have limited protection under labour law. This can also be positive - you can leave a job faster if you don’t like it and if the employment contract allows it.

There is also no entitlement to a minimum wage as agreed upon in a collective agreement for the industry. There is also no automatic entitlement to holidays or vacation.

Income under the low income threshold

Freelancers who earn less than the monthly low income threshold are only insured against on the job accidents (accident insurance), but not against general illnesses which fall under health insurance. Your employer is legally required to register you for accident insurance prior to starting work. Freelancers earning below the low income threshold can also take out voluntary health insurance and make pension contributions.

Info: The low income threshold for 2020 is EUR 460,66.
Income over the low income threshold

Freelancers, whose monthly salary exceeds the low income threshold, must be registered as freelancers with the relevant insurance institution and are then also insured against accidents, illness, and make pension contributions. They are also subject to unemployment insurance and insolvency protection.

Tax liability

Freelancers are subject to income tax but not “wage tax” as they are self-employed.

Freelancers are responsible for paying their own income tax. The tax liability depends on the taxable annual income. If, in addition to income as a freelancer, there is other income subject to income tax (from non-independent work or a pension), the limit for tax-free annual income is 12,000 euros.

Online job platforms for freelancers

There are various online job platforms that operate internationally and are intended to help freelancers, especially those working in the creative sector, to find jobs. Unfortunately, these industries are often over-saturated, which is why the pressure on prices is enormous and pay is relatively low. This can also reduce the quality of the work being done.


Fiverr is one of the best-known freelancer platforms with a European background. Fiverr was founded in Tel Aviv in 2010 and now operates worldwide. Freelancers can create a profile and show their portfolio. The price for services often starts at five euros.


Upwork is a US-based platform for freelancers working in the fields of technology and design. According to Upwork, it is the largest freelancer network worldwide with 12 million registered freelancers offering their skills and 5 million customers.


Don’t grow older, grow wiser is the motto of this young and successful start-up from Vienna operating in Austria and Germany. The job platform for Senior Talents offers jobs in every industry: From full-time employment to low income gigs for retirees. There is no restriction on freelancer jobs. WisR is primarily about experience, and knowledge exchange between generations. Registration and use of the platform is free of charge for job-seeking Senior Talents aged 59 and over. Companies pay to post job advertisements and for the ability to search in the WisR Senior Talent Pool.