France 11 min

How to set up as an independent contractor in France

Written by Pedro Barros
Pedro Barros


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Are you ready to say bon chance to the 9-to-5 grind — and experience the joie de vivre of being your own boss?

If so, France is an ideal location to go it alone. French business laws offer unusually high levels of protection and incentives for independent contractors and small business owners, while the standard of living is high. Whether you want to set up shop in the hustle and bustle of metropolitan Paris, the sun-kissed elegance of the French riviera, or the rolling vineyards of Bordeaux, France offers the perfect balance of culture, heritage, and economic stability.

Before you start living la vie en rose, though, you’ll need to navigate the complex bureaucracy of the French legal landscape. Specifically, you’ll want to know how to:

  • Register your business in France

  • Avoid misclassification as an employee

  • Create compliant contracts that protect you

  • Invoice and collect payments from around the world

In this article, we’ll cover all these things. We’ll also help you navigate your tax obligations as a self-employed worker, and discuss some of the other risks and liabilities you should be aware of.

First, it’s important to clarify how France defines independent contractors.

What is an independent contractor according to French law?

Independent contractors are workers who provide paid services (or products) to another party. However, they are classified differently to employees, and are usually not entitled to the same benefits, such as paid leave, sick days, and minimum wage. On the flip side, contractors have more freedom and flexibility in the way they work.

See also: Why businesses hire contractors vs. international employees

In France, the defining factor of an independent contractor-client relationship is the absence of subordination. In simple terms, this means that, as a contractor, you:

  • Determine your own work schedule and location

  • Work without direction or supervision

  • Supply and use your own tools, materials, and equipment

  • Are able to perform work for other companies simultaneously

  • Set your own pay rate

  • Are able to delegate or subcontract work

When you work with clients, it’s important to be correctly classified to avoid penalties and fines.

Business registration in France

To begin working as an independent contractor in France, you’ll first need to choose a legal structure for your business. Some of the most popular models include:

  • Individual entrepreneur (EI): A simple structure that is ideal for independent, individual contractors. Unlike the sole trader or sole proprietorship models in most countries, you are only liable for your professional assets — not your personal assets. This means that you retain full control over the business, and are protected if something goes wrong.

  • General partnership (SNC): A simple partnership agreement. In this instance, there is no legal separation between the individual and the business; you and your partners are personally responsible for any debts and liabilities.

  • Private limited liability company (SARL): A formal, legal entity that is separate from you, the individual. In most cases, all income and losses are attributed to the company as opposed to you personally (i.e. you are only liable for the capital you invest in the company).

There are pros and cons to each of these structures, but most independent contractors choose the individual entrepreneur model, as it is fairly simple to set up and operate.

If you do opt for this structure, you need to declare your business with the National Industrial Property Institute (Institut national de la propriété industrielle, or INPI). You can do this quickly and easily online.

Once you submit your declaration, the INPI will then inform the following authorities:

  • The National Register of Companies (Répertoire national des établissements, or RNE) if you are classed as a craftsperson or artisan

  • The Trade and Companies Register (Registre du commerce et des sociétés, or RCS) if you are classed as a merchant

  • The relevant tax authority for your business activity. Note that, in France, there are different tax regimes depending on your business activity: the BIC for merchants and craftspeople, and the BNC for liberal professionals. We will expand on this in the taxes section of this article.

If your business activity requires you to hold specific qualifications, permits, or licenses, you will need to present these during the registration process.

How do I get paid as an independent contractor in France?

As an independent contractor, it’s down to you to handle your invoices and payment collection. Unfortunately, this means billing each client individually and collecting payment through their preferred payment method — which can be inefficient and time-consuming.

Some of the most common ways to collect payments include:

  • Bank transfers

  • Direct deposits

  • Paper checks

  • Money orders

  • Virtual wallets

  • Digital transfer services like PayPal and Wise

These methods all have their own pros and cons. For instance, bank and digital transfers can be pretty quick, but often come with hefty service fees. And if you have clients in other countries besides France, the payment collection process can be even more complicated. 

Alternatively, you can use a trusted solution like Remote. Our platform is a simple, secure, and reliable way to get paid quickly in euros — and with no hidden fees. Learn more about how our platform can help.

Independent contractor taxes in France

As an independent contractor, you’re also responsible for paying your own taxes and social security contributions. France has a progressive income tax rate of 0% to 45% depending on your level of income.

As an individual entrepreneur, you pay personal income tax (impôt sur le revenue) on your business profits. Therefore, you do not need to fill out a separate tax return, or pay corporate taxes.

In France, there are multiple tax regimes based on your business activity and level of income. For example, craftspeople and merchants that provide a service are subject to the Industrial and commercial profits (Bénéfices industriels et commerciaux, or BIC) system. This system taxes turnover under one of three regimes:

  • Micro-BIC: If your annual turnover is less than €77,700 (note that you are only taxed on a certain percentage of your turnover, depending on your business activity)

  • Simplified real regime: If your annual turnover is between €77,700 and €254,000

  • Normal real regime: If your annual turnover exceeds €254,000

These regimes also determine which tax credits and deductions you qualify for.

French tax laws are highly complex, and there are a multitude of factors that affect how much you declare, owe, and pay. Therefore, it’s recommended that you consult with a tax professional when starting your business.

You must also make social security contributions. These contributions are based on your taxable profits (or on your turnover if you earn less than €77,700). The INPI will automatically register you in the Social Security for the Self-Employed (Sécurité sociale des indépendants) system when you start your business; you will then need to create an account on the Urssaf website to manage and pay your contributions. You may be eligible for a relief of 50% in your first year of business.

You can see a full breakdown of social contribution rates here.

VAT information for independent contractors in France

If you provide services and earn more than €34,600 annually, or are a commercial business and earn more than €86,900 annually, you must register for — and charge your French clients — VAT.

In France, the standard VAT rate is 20%, although some goods and services are charged at lower rates of 10%, 5.5%, and 2.1%. Some goods and services are exempt from VAT altogether.

You can learn more about your VAT obligations as an individual entrepreneur here.

Liability considerations for independent contractors in France

As an individual entrepreneur, your personal assets are not at risk if something goes wrong with your business. However, it’s still a good idea to consider which types of insurance you may need to mitigate other business risks, such as professional indemnity or liability insurance.

It’s also important to cover yourself when drafting and signing agreements with clients. Our legal experts can provide you with fully compliant contract templates, for both French and international clients.

Accounting requirements for independent contractors in France

As an independent entrepreneur, you do not need to publish financial statements each year. However, it’s a good idea to keep organized records of your accounts — including all your client invoices and business purchases — to track your revenue and manage your taxes. A simple, single-entry accounting system should be sufficient.

You can either manage these records yourself using an accounting or bookkeeping tool, or hire a professional bookkeeper or accountant.

It is generally advised to keep a separate bank account for your business expenses (this does not necessarily have to be a business account). Once your turnover exceeds €10,000, some French banks may require you to open a business bank account.

The dangers of contractor misclassification in France

As we’ve mentioned, independent contractors are classified differently to employees in France. Many of the protections and benefits employees enjoy do not typically apply to contractors.

As a result, companies may deliberately misclassify you to circumvent their legal obligations, while at other times, it may happen accidentally. Whether it’s intentional or not, misclassification can result in penalties and fines for both you and your client.

As an independent contractor, you can work with your clients to ensure this doesn’t happen. Discuss your role and responsibilities with them, and review the working arrangement regularly.

If your working relationship changes over time and you become more integrated into a client’s company, you can ask to be converted into an employee.

Use our Contractor Compliance Checklist to avoid misclassification

Work through this checklist to help determine if a new hire should have a contractor or employee relationship.

A tablet with the title contractor compliance checklist.

How do I ask the company I’m working with to convert me to an employee in France?

Open a dialogue with your client and carefully discuss the risks and benefits of moving to an employer-employee relationship. In particular, be clear about how it can benefit both parties — not just you.

You can even suggest the help of a third-party solution, such as Remote, to ease the transition. Our global employment services help both parties stay compliant by taking care of key HR functions (like payroll management and benefits administration) in line with French law.

4 ways Remote makes life easier for contractors and their clients

As you can see, there’s a lot to take on board when setting up as an independent contractor. Remote can help you with many of these challenges, allowing you to focus on growing your business and delivering to your clients. Here’s how:

1. International payments in countries around the world

Navigating all of your clients’ different invoicing, approvals, and payments systems can be complicated and time-consuming. And manual methods of invoicing and collecting payments can increase the risk of fees, errors, and delays.

Remote gives you access to a highly secure, streamlined dashboard that makes invoice management and international payments cost-effective and efficient. You can use our platform to get paid in euros hassle-free, without any hidden fees.

2. Localized in-app contracts and advice

When you draft agreements and contracts for your clients, you run the risk of non-compliance with local labor laws — especially when working with international clients. Remote offers localized contracts tailored to French laws, ensuring that you stay compliant. Our legal experts can also provide guidance on complex issues, such as local classification and intellectual property protections.

3. Invoicing automation

With Remote, you no longer need to rely on spreadsheets and other manual tools to invoice for payments; we remove many of the inaccuracies and delays caused by archaic processes and manual management. Our platform lets you create invoices, submit them for approval, and subsequently get paid in your local currency without needing to switch to any other tool or software.

4. Tax management

Tax management is notoriously complex work. Remote helps you quickly and efficiently deal with tax management by compiling data about your income based on your invoices and payments received.

Setting up as an independent contractor in France

Having the freedom and flexibility to work on your own terms is liberating. But your administrative responsibilities can distract from what you really want to be doing: helping your clients, delivering great work, and collecting invoices.

By using a stable, trusted platform like Remote, you can manage these obligations quickly and efficiently, allowing you to focus on your business goals. Specifically, we can help you:

  • Avoid intermediary fees and delays with international client payments

  • Draft compliant contracts for French and foreign clients

  • Enhance your invoice management and avoid manual processes

  • Comply with local labor laws regarding work practices

Our platform makes it quick, simple, and seamless to get started as an independent contractor. Learn more about how our expertise can save you time and resources today.

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