Starting a business in Germany - 10 things you should know as an expat
March • 8th, 2021
by Birgit Heidenreich
Tips to avoid making mistakes as a new expat entrepreneur in Germany
1. Don't forget to check your German visa-status
In Germany, not every visa allows you to start a self-employed career, so check whether you have to convert your visa and which requirements you have. Here you need to distinguish if you would like to become a freelancer or found a start-up. Depending on this you will need to prove several things to the authorities.
2. No business without a business model
A business model is your rock-solid foundation for your soon to-be business! Even if you don't need funding, the business model is your roadmap for your success as an entrepreneur! By creating your business model, you clarify questions about your added value, your target group, several key-factors but also your revenue stream and your cost structure.
3. Don’t mix up your culture with German culture!
You think your business idea solves a huge problem or covers a need, but make sure, that this is also valuable for the German audience. To discover if it can be successful start a market analysis. This is an analysis of the economic opportunities for selling a specific product in a given market. You could start with a survey followed by deeper researches.
4. Choose the legal form wisely and check which legal requirements you have to follow
Don’t pick the legal form only by criteria such as costs or bureaucracy! The legal form you choose needs to be trustworthy for your clients. To figure out which legal form fulfills the demand you need to know who your target group is. Depending on your trade and your target group the most common legal forms in Germany for example are the GmbH or the Einzelunternehmen.
Depending on your business you need to obey several legal requirements. If you disregard them you can get problems and you may also need to pay a fine. Legal requirements are for example special licenses for business, but also mandatory information on invoices, information you need to show on your homepage and more.
5. Find yourself some experts
Depending on your business you will need some experts to give you professional advice. As the tax-system in Germany is not that simple getting yourself a good tax advisor is highly recommend. There are many different taxes, and also a lot of rules with exceptions and constellations. Maybe you also will need a lawyer to set up your contracts. This is a case by case decision, and depends on your business model.
6. Your product price or your hourly rate is not defined by estimation
Sure, you know that you need to cover your costs and also would like to make some profit, but don't forget to calculate expenses such as taxes and other fees but also consider that you will have days-off and don't work 24/7. Especially when you start as a sidepreneur because the income of your business affects also the tax of your salary!
7. Choose your partners wisely
Choose your key-partners by similar visions, value, characteristic qualities, and capabilities and not by nationality or language skills! Finding reliable partners is one of the most important tasks when founding a company. With the wrong partners, the best business idea will fail. Hence take decisions wisely!
8. Don’t be timid … shout out loud
Shout out loud! We know, in the beginning, you don't want to share your business idea with the world, but how should people get to know you and your offer, if you don't talk about it? How should others recommend you to their community? And also, don't forget to talk about your vision and the “why”!
9. Don’t wait with networking
Depending on your business you need different partners. Start as soon as possible with building up your network! Community building is a process you can't implement from one day to another – but only a strong community will bring you success! New to Germany and don’t have a business network yet? There are many online communities where you can join, for example
10. Don't be afraid of failing
Even if you already took wrong decisions, and now realize this, in almost all cases there is a way to adjust them. Being an entrepreneur means making decisions and also taking the risk of taking wrong decisions, but every decision is better than standstill! Hence, don't be afraid, you will do great as long as long as you learn from your mistakes!
In a nutshell, plan ahead, get all the information around the German bureaucracy, decide wisely, and last but not least be excited about your future as a successful entrepreneur!
Do you need help with starting your own business in Germany?
Birgit offers a range of online courses that will help you to overcome the hurdles of turning your idea into a successful business in Germany. In addition to the courses she offers personal consulting to answer any question you have about your personal situation.
Birgit is a Business Coach and Consultant for Freelancers, Start-ups, and those who want to become one! She loves to support people in setting up a rock-solid business in Germany. “To see how my clients turn their dream into reality is way more than just a job!”