Becoming a Freelance English Writer in Berlin
So, you want to become an English Freelance Writer in Berlin and don't know where to start? This is how you can easily transition from an office job to writing freelance in English for Berlin companies. English freelance writers are always in demand, especially in Berlin, because the start up culture knows English as the international language. And in Europe, that is a top priority. Becoming a native English freelance writer in Berlin is easier than you think, even if you don't live there yet.
In this Article:
The Competition: Doesn't Everyone Speak English in Berlin?
The Market: Isn't Berlin Swimming in Freelance Writers?
Finding Clients: How Can I Find Jobs When I Don't Speak German?
Location: How Can I Move to Berlin Without a Job or a Visa?
Bureaucracy: How do I Register as a Freelance Writer in Berlin?
Taxes: What's with VAT?
Navigating the Competition of English Freelance Writers in Berlin
It's true, a lot of Berliners and internationals can speak English but it is no comparison to a native speaker for cultural references, perfect grammar and easy-to-read content. Most companies want a native English speaker to writer their content because even the smallest mistake looks unprofessional. Even the most advanced second language English speakers make mistakes with pronouns but biggest of all, they usually lack a wide range of vocabulary. To be fluent in English, it is said that you only need 1,000 words, and the average native English-speaking adult knows 20,000 words.
OK, but there are still a lot of native English speakers living in Berlin. This is true, though you will only be competing with a small fraction of this population for English freelance writer jobs. And as the startup culture grows, as well as the international cultural importance, English content is necessary for a wider reach, but also quite important for the city of Berlin. Berlin has become such an international hub where various different people of different cultures flock to for the job opportunities and low cost of living. It is one of the only places where you can live and not need to speak the official language: even the government offices provide services in English now.
This should be enough to convince you that Berlin is in need of native English writers even if they have plenty of fluent English-speakers. But what about the market for native English freelance writers in Berlin? Surely, there must be a ton of Americans and British writers taking up that space (like there are back home), right?
Finding a Niche as an English Freelance Writer
Now more than ever you should be able to find jobs as a native English freelance writer in Berlin. Since Brexit, British people can't live here as easily which makes the pool of native English speakers just a bit smaller. Add that too the increasing need for native English writers in the business world, especially in Berlin, and you have found a job that is in high demand. Just think, being a writer in you homeland is overly saturated, but in Berlin, you will be sought out! But not so fast... you should have some experience and be able to show off a portfolio of sample work. And, most importantly, you should find your niche - the industries that you have a good amount of background knowledge in and enjoy researching and writing about.
The best way to land a job as an English freelance writer in Berlin is to nail down your niche. It's easy to pick a few of the general industries out there like finance, travel or health. To narrow down your applications and stand out among the applicants, narrow your niche to something specific within those larger industry categories. For example, more specific niche topics within the three larger categories of finance, travel and health could be: stock investments, budget hotels or herbal remedies.
Finding Clients as a Freelance Writer Without German
Finding clients as a freelancer is always the biggest bottleneck at first. Networking can be a huge part of this and if you don't speak the official local language, you could feel that you are missing out on potential opportunities. Remember, native English writers are needed in Berlin businesses and English is the international business language, so you are bound to find companies that don't mind speaking English with you.
You can start by searching the job ads on Linkedin, indeed, tbd, among others. Reach out to companies that you are interested in to see if they are hiring. Many companies are keen on hiring you as a paid intern, in a position called a "Mini-job" which is a a contract of 10 hours per week for 450€ per month. Now, that seems very little but keep in mind that you won't be taxed on that if it is all you earn and living cost is pretty low in Berlin (though rental prices do tend to rise). This could be temporary in order to transition to another job, but a lot of the time, the company will want to keep you and hire you on more permanently.
Here are more tips on how to find clients and become a freelance writer
Moving to Berlin is Possible, Even for Americans
Moving to Berlin is much easier than other places, even for Americans. I'm American and I live here. There are multiple ways that you can obtain a residency visa, some may require more creativity than others.
One way is to get a company to sponsor your work visa, but it isn't so easy in the content industry and if you want to be a freelance writer, then you don't want to be tied down to one company. The best way is to apply for one yourself. Berlin grants a large amount of residency permits to freelancers, artists and students. All you have to do is have the courage to try!
If you are American, you can move to Berlin on your 90-day travel visa and then start the residency application process. This requires some logistics beforehand like finances, where to stay, etc. But it is easier than you think! There are some great coaches who help you step by step to create your plan towards moving abroad and getting a job like Vanessa from Wander Onwards.
Registering as a Freelance Writer in Berlin
There are a few bureaucratic things to be aware of when deciding to become a native English freelance writer in Berlin. If you want to live in Germany and work as a freelancer, you will have to register as a freelancer. This will give you a tax number (Steuernummer) which you use when filing taxes and the ability to charge VAT which is service tax.
Registering as a freelance writer in Berlin is easy. You fill out a form and send it in to your local Bundesampt. They will then send you back an official letter with all the information you will need, including your tax ID (Steuer ID), tax number (Steuernummer) and VAT tax information. The betahaus gives more detailed information on this subject here.
What's that VAT Tax?
VAT is service tax. Everywhere in Europe, you will see that VAT is included in your bill on your receipt. Usually, you don't even notice it because vendors include it in the price you see. As a freelancer, you operate as your own entity (but not quite like a business) so you will be required to also include VAT in your prices. Make sure to incorporate it in your hourly or project price that you present to your clients.
But before you do all that, check your invoices. You only need to charge VAT if you are making over 17,000€ per year (subject to change). This means, if you are a freelancer and making 16,999€ per year, you do not need to file and charge VAT. Chances are, if you are serious about making a living as a freelance writer in Berlin, you will want to make more than 17,000€ but it is important to note in the beginning as you may not make that much in your first year or two.
It is also important to note that you don't have to pay taxes on your income if it is under 450€ per month, but please consult a tax consultant about this as I am not a tax advisor.
It is always important to talk to a tax consultant especially as an expat in Berlin. Especially on the topic of being a freelancer in Berlin. The tax bracket for a freelancer plus paying the full price of insurance can become pricey and one needs to weigh all the cons with the pros of the freedom to work wherever and whenever.