A freelancer is a person that works for multiple companies at the same time while retaining their independence. Freelance work is characterised by multiple employers and highly flexible working hours that allow you to tailor the ideal work-life balance for your needs. Becoming a freelancer gives you the freedom and opportunity to explore working for multiple partners on commission and can be a good stop-gap while looking for a job in Switzerland.
The rules that apply to freelancers are strict to ensure that the freelancer is benefiting from social security while paying the adequate amount of business taxes.
What jobs can freelancers do?
In Switzerland, freelancers are able to operate any role within an organisation, provided they have the qualifications to do so and the agreement of the organisation. In theory, this means that freelancers are able to perform all manner of different tasks. The most typical job sectors where freelancing is popular in Switzerland are:
- Creative industries
How to become a freelancer in Switzerland
The steps to becoming a freelancer in Switzerland depend on the amount of time you expect to be a freelancer and how much responsibility you would like regarding your social security and financial contributions. Switzerland does not allow individuals to operate as freelancers without certain protections, most of which involve starting your own company.
Short-term freelancing in Switzerland
If you are new to Switzerland and are only expecting to work in the country for a year, you are able to continue operating as a freelancer without any special provision. EU / EEA and United Kingdom residents are able to continue operating as independent freelancers while possessing a short-term residence permit.
While applying for your permit you must include:
- Substantial evidence of your work as a freelancer or a business work contract
- Proof of financial stability through a bank statement
- Proof of health insurance
Be advised that this system is not designed for stays of more than a year in Switzerland, typically it is used to employ overseas workers to do temporary construction work without having to set up significant social security programmes and contributions to pensions. If you plan to stay longer than a year, we highly recommend following the steps below.
Non EU / EEA and UK citizens cannot come to Switzerland without a work contract and therefore cannot become freelancers immediately.
Long-term freelancing in Switzerland
The majority of those who seek to freelance in Switzerland must plan to do so long term. This allows you to continue freelancing indefinitely in Switzerland with the same protections given to full- and part-time workers. There are two methods of becoming a freelancer, starting your own company or enlisting the help of a subsidiary employer.
Eligibility for Swiss freelancing
In order to become a full-time freelancer in Switzerland, you must fit specific criteria, these are:
- Possess a Swiss B-residence permit (for non EU / EEA and UK citizens this means you must have worked in the country for over three years).
- Have health insurance for yourself and your dependents.
- It is also important to consider whether you salary generated by freelancing will be enough to financially support yourself and your family.
Becoming a freelancer via a subsidiary company in Switzerland
One of the fastest ways to become a freelancer in Switzerland is to freelance through another company. There are several human resources companies in Switzerland that will handle the official financial contributions that need to be made for a flat fee. This allows you to continue working as a freelancer but be legally protected by having your social security and pension managed for you. Please bear in mind that any invoices must be sent to your HR company who will then pay you using the relevant deductions. Some of the most well-known subsidiaries are:
Setting up your own Swiss business to freelance
If you wish to remain fully independent as a freelancer in Switzerland, you must set up a sole proprietary company. Unlike other legal forms of business, this type of company requires no capital investment and can be set up via EasyGov. A sole proprietary company will allow you to pay any outstanding payments to social security and to pension funds. Check out our guide to setting up a company in Switzerland for more information.
Record keeping while freelancing in Switzerland
In theory, the Swiss tax authorities can authorise an audit for any company at any time. Therefore, it is important to make sure that all receipts, expenses, invoices, payments and social security payments are compiled into annual report folders. The tax authorities may request files from any year, so it is recommended to have all financial documents printed, compiled and digitised to avoid any fines.
Common questions about freelancing in Switzerland
It is important to know the key aspects involved in freelancing in Switzerland in order to remain financially secure and protected. Freelancers are in a unique position in Switzerland due to the nature of their employment and it is important to know what is involved before choosing to become one.
How is Swiss social security paid by freelancers?
The way that freelancers pay for social security in Switzerland is dependent on the method they chose to become a freelancer. Owners of sole proprietary companies must devote a section of their freelance salary towards social security payments and mandatory pension contributions. This combines both personal contributions to social security and company contributions. Freelancers working through a subsidiary will have social security contributions deducted by the subsidiary.
How do freelancers pay taxes?
To avoid being taxed twice, Switzerland makes sure that freelancers pay their taxes through their company or personally. If you are the owner of a sole proprietary company, you pay business taxes only. If you are employed through a subsidiary company, you will be charged regular taxes as detailed in the guide to the taxation system in Switzerland and will have to fill out a tax return.
Who is commercially and civilly liable for freelancers in Switzerland?
Freelancers who operate their own company have full commercial and civil liability for any actions affecting other people. This means that any adverse actions caused will be answerable to the owner of the sole proprietary company, which in a freelancer’s case is themselves. Freelancers who work for a subsidiary company will have a set agreement that will determine liability which will be agreed upon when joining.
How to write an invoice in Switzerland
As a freelancer, it is important to know how to write an invoice for work you have completed. Switzerland does not have a specific convention to writing invoices, although HR managers appreciate simplistic formats. Some of the elements you should include are:
- Full name
- Address of your company
- Date of invoice
- Details of work completed including hourly rate for work
- Total cost of work
- Details from your bank
- Value-added tax if applicable
- AHV number if applicable