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A Quick Introduction to Spanish Freelance Cooperatives (Part 1)

How freelance cooperatives help autonomos say on top of taxes, save money and keep invoicing legal

Residing in Spain as a freelancer (AKA autonomo) can be an incredible way to achieve true work-life balance. However, how do you navigate making the right business decisions when you’re just learning the legal and tax basics? Not to mention having to understand all of the options available in a language that you may not be your native one.

In the first of our two-part series, guest contributor Mayya Husseini highlights her experience working with an autonoma here in Spain and shares some tips for helping freelancers set themselves up for success abroad.

Freelancing in Spain: A Tough Reality

So you’ve moved for the sunny weather, laid-back lifestyle and delicious food… Welcome to Barcelona, the city that seduces everyone who visits and quickly convinces you to come live here.

Socially, you may have everything set up, and have all your legal working papers (Congratulations! Getting here legally can be a challenge, to say the least), but professionally you’re probably still in transition and working through your options. Maybe you’ve even decided to freelance or work remotely, but one thing is for sure: you need to figure out how to invoice legally for all of that cash that you’re making (or will be making).

When you first hear that the country’s monthly Social Security fee is a standard rate of about €300, you may think it’s just bad joke. Unfortunately, it is the reality here no matter how much money you make, and this doesn’t include your quarterly taxes either. Your first thoughts may be:

“Wasn’t this the land of the mileuristas? How are these people surviving?! Rent and food is not cheap here either!”.

Then, you ask other experienced freelancers, and they usually take a deep breath before confessing that they have tried everything from getting paid in cash (i.e. illegally, ‘en negro’), or have grouped their invoices and only registered with Social Security (SS) during certain months to declare their income legally. With a dark sense of humor, the term “autonomo/a de mierda” was born, to refer to this complicated situation most freelancers in Spain are in. Others may tell you that they working with a cooperative through which they invoice for their projects.

What exactly is a “cooperative”?

The worker’s cooperative model has been around for many years, and is basically a group of professionals uniting under one legal entity to share their resources and services. This means that while they may work on individual projects, members invoice through the same cooperative. This has quite a few benefits, when compared with simply being self-employed:

  • paying a slightly lower tax on their income (also known as ‘IRPF’);
  • only making social security payments for the days you work, rather than for the whole month.

 

What is the typical procedure to join a cooperative?

In the last 5 years, the cooperative movement has experienced a huge boom, due mostly to the rise in online jobs. Here are the steps you normally have to take to join a cooperative in Spain:

  1. You first send an application with your legal paperwork and professional CV.
  2. Upon approval, you are required to bring social capital (usually around €100) and accept the terms of joining the cooperative (e.g. commission fees for administrative tasks like invoicing and attending a minimum of training sessions or member assemblies).
  3. Start invoicing your professional activities through the cooperative to receive your share of the income as a monthly salary.

Mayya Husseini is a freelance content strategist based in Barcelona, and a sustainable food activist making waves around the world through foodisms.co.

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