Doing business in Italy, as we have established, has several perks, particularly if you elect a place of residence that will encourage you to keep a healthy work-life balance. But what if your specific expertise and current budget were more suited to a freelance position, rather than starting your own company? Isfreelancing in Italy a viable option? What will your precious work-life balance look like, once your income is directly tied to your own, individual productivity rather than teamwork? And what of taxes and social security? Is it worth trading the safety of a company position for the reckless freedom of the freelance? The latter is a moot point. However, if freelancing in Italy is your goal, there are a few regulations you should be aware of. This post should probably come with a caveat: freelancing in Italy is no picnic, as any Italian freelancer will be happy to confirm. It’s not just about finding the right cafe to set down your laptop. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Freelancing in Italy: do you need a VISA?
The answer to this first, pressing question is: if you are a European national from the Schengen area, things are quite straightforward and you have a right to live and work in Italy as in any other European Country. If, on the other hand, you are not from the Schengen area, you probably do need a VISA. The best way of knowing for sure, of course, is to visit the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. If you should discover that you do, in fact, need a VISA to work in Italy, do not despair: getting a work permit as a freelancer is still going to be easier and less expensive than starting your own company. As well as your entry VISA, you will need to provide proof of sufficient resources available to start your activity and, crucially, proof that your earnings over the past year have exceeded the Italian annual minimum wage and that your earnings as a freelancer in Italy will exceed that figure over the following year. This means that you need to have worked as a freelancer, in the same line of job, for at least one year before applying for this type of VISA in Italy. If it all seems like a lot, keep reading: there’s good news too.
2. How long will your VISA last?
The good news is: fow as long as you have work. And if your next question is “and how is that good news, exactly?”, I urge you to look at it this way: you will have much more control on the duration of your VISA than any aspiring employee. If your profession allows it, it would be ideal to contact and secure as many potential clients as you can before moving, so that you can ensure a certain level of income for a prolonged period of time. It is generally easier for freelancers to secure positions online, which means you should be able to stack up a reasonable number of potential employer before ever setting foot in the Country. This is particularly useful since the levels of contribution for freelancing in Italy have caused headaches to many an Italian professional too.
3. Is it worth it?
The definitive answer is: it depends. Many Italian freelancers will argue that having to pay a considerable advance on taxes plus your own (mandatory) social security contribution, the overall balance of freelancing in Italy might be in the negative, more often than not. As it happens, there are professions for which this seems the most viable option, if not the only available one. Photographers and translators, for instance, tend to thrive as freelancers, as do personal trainers and tax advisors. The place you elect as your long-term residence can and will make a difference in that respect. At the very beginning of your freelancing career in Italy, for instance, it is reasonable to assume that you will have a relatively small client portfolio, which will result in fixed expenses (such as social security or phone bills) will take away a larger percentage of your earning. If this is the case, moving to a large metropolitan city might not be a smart move, since the cost of living tends to be higher in the Country’s major cities than elsewhere. Particularly if your work interaction can be completed online, you should consider moving to a small town and staying away from regional capitals, at least at the onset of your career. It is also worth looking into special policies for freelancers. In March 2017, for instance, Tuscany formally allowed freelancers to access the same kind of EU funds as SMBs.