I’m a graphic designer who recently moved to sunny Spain, and let me tell you one thing: being a freelancer is great! Not only do you tend to make more money than if you were doing something similar in a salaried job, but you also get exposure to way more people, contacts, organizations, and job opportunities. What I really love about my freelance work is the immense freedom and flexibility that comes with it.
As a freelancer, you don’t usually need to come into an office every day, and most of the time you can work when and where you like. Of course, being your own boss can also have some downsides, particularly for people with a strong desire for security. Remember - you’re your own boss and you have to really work for your money. There’s no guaranteed monthly paycheck that will help you pay the rent, instead, you have to constantly be on the lookout for new opportunities and make sure you have enough money to pay your bills!
Nevertheless, I love my flexible freelance life and wouldn’t think about changing it for a minute. Today I’d like to share some tips with you from my recent experience of moving my business from the UK to Spain because while people’s freedom of movement generally allows us Europeans to live and work in other EU countries without a visa or authorization, there are still some hurdles and things to look out for when moving to another country.
1. Make sure you register with your local council
While in the UK we are generally not required to officially register our address, this is different in most other EU countries. In many cases you’ll have to go to the local council, such as the Camâra Municipal in Portugal or the Stadtverwaltung in Germany. Failure to do so can often result in fines, so make sure you abide by the law and get this sorted as soon as you have moved into your permanent residence in your new country.
Once you have sorted out your personal life and are ready to restart your business, you also need to ensure that you correctly apply for tax and social security numbers, as well as registering your business with the local authorities. Again, make sure to do this in good time to avoid unnecessary fines!
2. Get your healthcare sorted
It’s quite obvious - being able to visit a doctor or a hospital whenever you need is one of the most important things to take care of! Before you move it is best to apply for an EHIC card with the NHS so you’re covered during your first days and weeks abroad. This card gives you free health cover in all European Union countries.
However, once you really start living in a country, you need to register in the respective national health system - and these tend to differ by nature quite drastically. While the Spanish health system is governed regionally, the Serviço Nacional de Saúde in Portugal is a nationwide system just like the NHS in the UK. Some countries, like Germany, do not have a national health service as such, but rather private doctors and hospitals and a compulsory health insurance scheme. So you really need to check the regulations in the specific country you are headed to.
In any case, make sure to get registered in your new country’s healthcare system and, if applicable, also pay the relevant fees to make sure you’re covered should you get ill or require medical assistance.
3. Build up clients and reputation
In the beginning, particularly, it won’t be easy to rebuild and start up your business again in a new country. Maybe you don’t know the language very well yet - and remember, even if you do, you most likely won’t have a network nor a support system at your new destination. Basically, while references from your home country may and most likely will be very helpful, you will have to rebuild your name and reputation in a new environment.
A good way to start finding new clients is through online platforms for local service providers, such as Fixando. The platform makes it easy to access potential clients that are looking for services in your area of expertise. In addition to the UK, the platform is already available in Portugal, Spain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Ireland, however even if your destination country is not included in this list, you’ll most likely find similar platforms there.
I started using Fixando after my move to Spain and so far the experience has been great! Responding to customer requests on these platforms not only allowed me to build up my business quickly, but also allowed me to build a reputation as an expert in my field. It made scaling up my business easy, even without having any kind of existing network. Try it out for yourself!