In America many people dream of being their own boss one day, right? Nothing could be better than being able to work for yourself, do something you enjoy, decide your own hours, and know that your livelihood doesn’t depend on anyone else but number one.  In the end you can make more money, as well — or at least what you make doesn’t have to go through several hands before you actually get a hold of it. So being self-employed is an all around win-win situation then, isn’t it? In the United States, one would certainly be inclined to say so, but as the saying goes “Spain is different…”

 Being Self-Employed in Spain

To be self-employed or not to be…

For better or worse, being self-employed in Spain is not necessarily the same as in the US; there are advantages and disadvantages that one has to weigh out before making the decision to do so. The vast majority of employees in Spain work for someone else — what’s referred to as trabajar por cuenta ajena. The obvious benefit of not owning your own company or being your own boss is, of course, not having to worry about anything: you go to work, do your job, and go home, if it´s possible. End of story. Many people prefer this employment situation just because it makes their lives easier; not everyone appreciates being in charge and having responsibility over themselves and perhaps others, and much less the stress that comes with it. The downside, though, is the lack of freedom that working for someone else entails. When you’re not the boss, you certainly cannot set your own hours or take the day off when you want. Also, you may not have the same liberty to think outside the box or innovate as you might if you were in charge. Nonetheless, for most people in Spain, this is the way to go.

Approximately three million people in Spain are self-employed or autónomo, which is referred to as trabajar por cuenta propia. This employment situation obviously allows for greater freedom when it comes to decision-making. It goes without saying, however, that the responsibilities are greater, both to patrons and the Agencia Tributaria, Spain’s tax bureau. The benefits are many, though, particularly the possibility of earning more money for doing the same amount of work; if your boss is the middle man between you and the client, cutting him/her out will certainly mean more cash in your pocket.


The red tape

Unfortunately, the paperwork associated with becoming and being autónomo is a bit of a nightmare. There are many different forms to fill out and government offices to go to at the start, and you’ll almost certainly need an accountant to keep your books. If you’re unfamiliar with the process, perhaps it’s better to pay someone to do everything for you, as doing things incorrectly could wind up costing more money in the long run. On the other hand, if you feel up for the challenge, there are many online resources on websites such as and where you can find the necessary information. Basically, in order to get registered as a self-employed worker (darse de alta como autónomo), there are four steps to follow:

  1. Register at the tax bureau
  2. Register with Social Security
  3. Obtain a license from the municipal government
  4. Register with the pertinent governing body at the regional level


Becoming self-employed as a foreigner

For those who are EU nationals, moving to Spain presents no problems at the administrative level, and if they decide to become autónomo they are well within their legal right. North Americans, on the other hand, have a whole host of issues when it comes to working in Spain, and unfortunately, being self-employed is initially more complicated than working for someone else. Obtaining a visa to come to Spain and work directly is almost impossible, and if the visa applied for is to be autónomo, even more so. Once you become a permanent resident, however, you can become autónomo without applying for any special documentation. Is being self-employed worth it, though? You’ll have to spend some time here and decide for yourself!