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Before getting started as a self-employed in Austria

Updated: Mar 20, 2023

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If you ask someone about self-employment or do a little research on this topic, you might come across some pessimistic comments and detailed descriptions of bad experiences. It might be quite discouraging, especially if you’re just at the beginning of this journey.

The truth is that self-employment surely isn’t for everybody, but consider not asking others or “googling” for opinions. Here is why: regardless of what you read and heard about self-employment in Austria, your ability to work for yourself is not related to others’ opinions at all, but to your mindset, skills, and personality traits, and we will get to the bottom of this in the following article.

Why are there many bad opinions about self-employment in Austria out there, and why is this the first thing you see online? Here are two possible theories:

  1. Some were not well prepared for what was coming and lacked essential information and resources.

  2. Some were lacking important personality traits - their personality type was not well suited for self-employment or they failed to acquire the right skills.

Before you get to the part where we explain the rules and laws of owning a business licence as a self-employed person in Austria, let’s first focus on you and whether this way of earning money is right for you in the first place. Doing this might save you a lot of time.

What exactly is self-employment and how is it different from regular employment?

The term “freelancer” was first used between the XVIII and XIX centuries to describe a warrior who wasn't committed to one specific Lord. These days, a self-employed person is an individual who’s not employed but works for himself/herself. One of the main differences between employment and self-employment is that while an employer takes care of your insurance, taxes, and legal compliance, self-employed people have to organize and take care of all those aspects by themselves. Another difference is related to the responsibility for providing valuable service and to the sense of stability. If you’re employed there is some amount of work to be done and salary prepared for you every month, you have to work at regular times every day, the employer provides your regular monthly income, while when you’re a freelancer all those things depend on whether you handle them yourself. Problems with getting customers and projects lead to problems with income - both of which result in instability. The other differences are:

  • Flexibility

It’s difficult to achieve that while being employed - even the best and the most tolerant employer who allows you to work at a convenient time and location will still require you to be present and available at some specific times and meetings. Only self-employment allows complete flexibility - you can plan your own schedule and working time. The prospect of working at any location and comfortable time of the day surely sounds fantastic, but it’s important to understand that being self-employed might sometimes also mean working longer than 9 to 17, working on weekends and holidays, as well as still thinking about work after completing all of the day’s tasks. You might experience both: working in cosy cafes or in nature while everyone else is stuck in four walls of their offices but also working on Saturdays and Sundays while all your friends are relaxing and having fun.

  • Control over ideas and projects

When you’re employed, not everything might go your way. Some ideas might seem great but could be impossible to push through to your boss or supervisors. Additionally, some managers might want to structure and plan your work in detail. This is not the case with self-employment and here your entire business relies on your ideas and projects. Not being told what to do every single day might become problematic though, especially at the beginning when you don’t yet feel that watching Netflix series instead of working on a project is not the best use of your working time.

  • Customers and colleagues

People you cooperate with when you're self-employed might be constantly changing, while during employment you mostly stay in contact with the same people /team. It might happen that while working on your own you’ll be coming across different people every week or month. Making friends and bonding with people is therefore much harder than while being employed.

  • Taking care of a wide variety of tasks

As an employee, you might have some very specific tasks assigned to you that repeat every day. When self-employed, you will have to manage your regular work, financial flow, paperwork, and legal matters as well as marketing, to find customers and sell your work. You will need to maintain contact with your customers and provide a customer-friendly environment. All of those tasks vary and require different skills and normally don't need all of them while being employed in a company.

Desired character traits of a self-employed person

No matter how much theoretical and practical knowledge about self-employment you gain after reading this article, it will be useless if you do not have or develop some specific character traits. Working as a self-employed without some of those traits might even be impossible. Of course, you don't need the whole list of the following traits in order to succeed, but acquiring at least a few of them will make everything much easier.

What kind of personality traits are we talking about? For many people self-employment is many things, but mostly it’s independence, taking control, and responsibility for your own life. You have to be able to take control of the situation and your income. You have to be independent and responsible in some ways already before starting and be fully aware of the fact that there will be no one “above you” to take responsibility for your mistakes and failures. It’s going to be you, yourself, and no one else. If you break the law or go bankrupt, there will be no employer having your back to compensate or protect you from trouble. This is the exact opposite of regular employment which grants protection, support, and compensation when needed. In the case of self-employment, you take full responsibility for acting according to the law, representing your business in the best possible way, building a good reputation, and finding the right customers.

It’s solely up to you how you cooperate and maintain relationships with your future customers and how you achieve financial liquidity. All of this requires some good organizational and strategic skills.

Additionally, you should have some drive, motivation, focus, and especially the passion, for what you are doing. If you engage in something you don’t enjoy, if you don’t have a certain level of passion for your project, it might be difficult to convince your potential customers to rely on you. Without a certain amount of passion, your work might become a dull chore, a boring routine, something that you probably wanted to avoid by starting self-employment in the first place.

For many people, the idea of their ”own thing” and creating something from scratch might be very exciting, but a more important consideration should be choosing the right activity. Is there a big chance that it could become boring for you soon?

Drive and determination are necessary for getting up in the morning and dealing with the upcoming bumps.

You will come across many problems that will test you in different ways. In order to build a successful business, you will have to solve all of them, so a strong sense of commitment and desire will surely help.

Being rather spontaneous and flexible as well as enjoying new situations aligns with self-employment. Being the decision-maker and your own boss, being comfortable taking risks will work well for you too. The ability to handle different tasks is going to be very useful because, as your own boss, you’re responsible for many different topics like sales, financial liquidity, taxes, and problem-solving - of all sorts.

The ability to adapt to customers’ requirements and different conditions correlates with the quality of relationships with your customers.

Discipline plays a huge role. Being able to plan your work and stick to your plan by choosing the right way to spend your working time will influence the results of your work. Nobody will be there to tell you how much and when to work so you will have to take the initiative. Effective time management skills are therefore very beneficial.

Will you mind attending events alone? Whether professional workshops, conferences, or networking events, you will be representing yourself by yourself so there won’t be a team of good colleagues to join you there.

Being strict will be a huge asset as well. Separating your private and business life brings a lot of benefits and it’s good to disconnect from your business for a while, so family life and relationships don’t get damaged by you spending too much time working. Not checking emails on some specific days will help you take some distance and regain focus and your customers will learn that being available 24/7 for them is not the case.

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