Who is the first founder

Become self-employed: step by step to self-employment

Before you start: Tips for your individual start-up situation

1. Fast forward: 10 steps to self-employment

  1. Develop business idea
    The idea is the starting point when you start your own business. The following questions will help with brainstorming: What are you good at? What motivates you What do customers pay for? We help founders to develop their business idea further. If you don't have an idea yet, we have prepared 500+ business ideas for inspiration.
  2. Write a business plan
    The business plan helps founders in all important areas on the way to self-employment: Calculate prices correctly with a tool, analyze the competition and find out strengths and weaknesses. With our free template you can quickly and easily create a business plan.
  3. Obtain permits
    Depending on the activity or industry, permits, a trade license or a master craftsman's certificate are required. For example, gastro founders need a health certificate. Take care early is the motto here, because these certificates must be available to register your business - find out which permits you need.
  4. Find names & create a logo
    Now it's getting creative: In order for you and your product to stand out from the competition, you need a name with recognition value and a logo. You can do this with the 5 steps of finding a name.
  5. Set up website
    As a figurehead for customer acquisition, a website is the alpha and omega of starting your own business. We'll show you which website builder is best suited for setting up your website and what needs to be considered when creating a website - stylistically, content-wise and legally.
  6. Register business
    Before the self-employment officially begins, the practical establishment, including all formalities and administrative procedures, must be completed. Most founders have to stop by two offices: We explain how to fill out the business registration at the trade office and the questionnaire for tax registration at the tax office.
  7. Start marketing
    In order to win customers, you have to drum up for your business: advertise, place yourself in search engines, be present on social media, make phone calls and and and. We show how newly started founders can do social media marketing even without a budget.
  8. Open a business account
    Separate professional and private expenses right from the start - this way you can keep an overview and simplify the entire accounting process. You can easily find the right business account with our business account comparison.
  9. Writing invoices & accounting
    As a self-employed person there are many new tasks, including accounting. You can do this yourself with the help of smart tools or simply outsource it to your tax advisor. We show the best accounting tools in comparison. Once the first orders have been won, the self-employed also have to write invoices.
  10. Check insurance
    Most self-employed have questions about health insurance. We show you what to consider when choosing between private and statutory health insurance and which insurance is also relevant for start-ups - do the insurance check!

2. All the details for your independence

So that you can plan what is perhaps the most important phase of your life, we have prepared all the founding steps in detail.

  1. It starts with you: what are your strengths?
    No start-up without a founder: You are the key to success.

  2. Find & develop a business idea
    With a good idea you solve a customer problem and stand out clearly.

  3. Write business and financial plan
    Good planning is a prerequisite for a successful start.

  4. Financing & subsidies
    Many founders depend on money - there are numerous options for this.

  5. Legal form test: what suits me?
    The type of company determines liability, share capital and taxes.
  6. The perfect name for company & product
    A name that is recognizable helps to stand out from the competition.
  7. Formalities, permits & the practical establishment
    A few more visits to the authorities, then we can start!

Infographic: Self-employed in Germany

What is the start-up scene like in Germany? We have prepared the latest findings from the current KfW Start-up Monitor for you.

# 1 It starts with you: what are your strengths?

Self-employment is an exciting new phase in life, but it also involves risks. The risks are usually higher if there is insufficient planning. The first step in well-founded planning is a self-analysis. In thispersonal situation analysis record prospective self-employed qualifications, professional experience, knowledge of business administration as well as their motivation and passion to establish.

Our Start-up test. With the help of 30 questions, future founders receive specific tips for starting a business, based on the following factors:

  • Personality: Mindset, passion for the idea
  • Environment & stress: Resistance to stress, support from family and friends
  • Experience: Entrepreneurial or industry knowledge
  • Management: Experience as a leader or team leader
  • Finances: Equity, need for financing or subsidies
  • Market & Sales: Personality in terms of sales (salesperson type)

Storytelling: tell your story

Your story as the founder is what matters. The founding motivation should be in afascinating story packed: why are you the ideal person for this business idea? What makes the concept irresistible? What drives you to start your own business and why is now the right time? Storytelling works in the business plan, convinces lenders and customers. The more vivid and captivating the founder formulates, the higher the emotional connection with the reader.

Take advantage of ourFounder profiles as inspiration for your personal story. These are part of the business plan and perfectly summarize for the readers the motivation and the personal why of the founders.

Tips for every start-up situation

In addition to personality and motivation, founders need theirs current situation to find the starting point for self-employment: In which life situation are you currently? Are you employed, student or looking for a job? For every start-up situation there are various tips on how to best implement self-employment.

  • Becoming self-employed from existing employment:This path is suitable for people who are very sure of their idea, are already familiar with the industry and are willing to take risks.
  • Doing part-time self-employed: Founders who do not want to take any risks are probably best suited to part-time self-employment. In this way, without giving up your existing job, you can try out on a part-time basis whether your business idea is profitable or not, without taking a great risk.
  • Become self-employed from your studies: Here it is particularly important that founders gain some professional experience in advance before setting up a start-up. There are numerous funding opportunities for university founders that make self-employment a little easier.
  • Make self-employment out of unemployment:This project is supported by the Employment Agency under certain conditions with either the start-up grant (ALG I) or the entry fee (ALG II).

# 2 Find & develop a business idea

Now it's about the idea with which you want to go into business for yourself. Are you already sure which business idea it will be or do you still need a little inspiration? If you don't have an idea yet, there are three options:

What makes a good business idea?

A business idea, as new and good as it may appear, must first and foremost a need meet and solve a real problem of the target customers - because if there is no demand, the product or service will not sell. The target market should still be large enough to accommodate the Profitability of the business idea to guarantee. Therefore, market analysis is a central aspect in developing the idea into a workable business model. Third piece of the puzzle of any good business idea: a unique selling pointthat differentiates your idea from those of the competition.

Develop business idea further: use the Business Model Canvas

Once the business idea has been found, it is time to develop the business model - the preliminary stage of the business plan. Here it usually quickly becomes apparent whether the idea is really viable and suitable for self-employment - this way founders can quickly improve or pursue a different approach. With the help of the Business Model Canvas, you can shed light on several areas of detail of the idea in order to gain clarity regarding strengths and weaknesses:

  • Vision & idea
  • Founder or founding team
  • Target customers, market and competition
  • Strategy & positioning
  • Income, expenses & resources

The easiest way to create a business model canvas is digital - this way you can work together on the document and changes are always traceable.

To the Business Model Canvas Tool

Tips for the branch of your choice

Do you already know exactly in which industry you want to start your own business? Perfect! We have prepared extensive guides for a wide variety of industries and business ideas that cover and explain all the specifics. In this way, you can prepare yourself even more specifically for self-employment and have a direct view of all industry-relevant aspects.

# 3 Write a business and financial plan

No business start-up without planning: Even if it is advertised in many places to just get started, it always makes more sense to invest enough time in planning your own business. After all, this is about a very important period in your life!

It doesn't work without it: Create a business plan

A business plan is a detailed, written version of the idea in which all elements of the business model canvas can be found and which are now further deepened. The creation doesn't have to be difficult: we'll show you how to do it:

The business plan always follows the same structure that the future self-employed should always use. This also helps readers find the information they need right away. You can read in our guide what the structure of a business plan should look like and how founders can create their own business plan in relatively little time.

Financial planning: what does self-employment cost?

The core element in every business plan is financial planning, because this is where the economic viability of the idea becomes apparent: Is your business idea good enough that you not only recoup all the startup costs but also make a profit? As a starting point for any financial planning, two points are therefore central: the current and the start-up or start-up costs.

Important note: The actual costs for self-employment can vary enormously. The establishment of an online shop in the home office with existing equipment as a sole proprietorship is, for example, significantly cheaper than opening a restaurant with a corporation. We therefore estimate the costs in the following tables for

  • a foundation as a sole proprietorship (small business)
  • from the home office or a small office (e.g. for a small online shop or services offered)
  • conservative (existing equipment is used, e.g. computer) vs. low expenditure.
What are the costs of starting your own business?

Start-up costs & investments

Establishment costs
Business registration

15 – 50 €
Home office or office equipment
Desk, computer, other inventory and equipment
0 – 500 €
if necessary office equipment
Inventory, shelves
0 – 300 €
Marketing costs
Website structure / kit, logo, business cards, etc.
0 – 500 €

Running costs (monthly)

Cost of living
Rent, electricity / water / heating, food, leisure & vacation, etc.
1.000 – 2.000 €
possibly office
Rent, office supplies, electricity / water / heating, internet and telephone connections, etc.
200 – 1.000 €
possibly warehouse
Orders for goods
100 – 300 €
Health insurance, liability and disability insurance plus others depending on the industry and activity
100 – 300 €
Accounting software or accountants10 – 100 €
Depending on the industry: employers 'liability insurance associations, IHK / HWK, artists' social welfare fund
10 – 100 €
Marketing costs
Ongoing marketing measures, e.g. B. switched advertising
0 – 250 €


1.435 – 5.400 €

These two aspects are the first step in the budget. The start-up costs can be covered with equity or a bank loan, the running costs must also be included in the financing - because until the company is profitable, you must be able to keep the company and yourself afloat.Of course, this is rarely achieved within the first year - in practice it can take longer before self-employment is profitable.

After founders have considered the costs, the next step is to plan sales in order to get an impression of liquidity and profitability. It is important to go through different scenarios (pessimistic, neutral and optimistic), i.e. to think about it "How many customers buy how much and when?" Only with good financial planning can founders count on sufficient capital right from the start and request this in good time - regardless of whether it is ultimately the loan from the house bank or they apply for subsidies to finance self-employment.

Sounds more complex than it is - a financial plan tool does a lot of work and helps with the sometimes complicated calculations.

Get to know the financial plan tool

# 4 Financing & Subsidies

Many people with the desire to start their own business worry about the financing of the project. Of course, you don't have to manage the foundation entirely on your own - There are numerous grants, grants and loan models for start-upsthat help cover the capital requirements calculated in the financial plan.

When looking for subsidies or financing, it helps if the self-employed people think again about their start-up situation: this is how they can Students special support programs such as B. Use EXIST and job seekers with ALG I have the option of Start-up grant to apply. All other founders can choose between different financing models or combine them in order to cover their financing needs for starting their own business.

# 5 Legal form test: what suits me?

The legal form haunts many self-employed people from the very beginning and founders now have to decide when preparing a business plan: Which legal basis best suits your situation and business idea? Our legal form test can help with the decision.

Trade or freelance?

When choosing the legal form, you must first of all distinguish whether your chosen activity is one of the liberal professions - you are therefore a freelancer - or whether your activity is commercial:

  • Freelancers perform based on specific qualifications or creative and creative talents. You are responsible for this and work for several clients. The freelance professions include activities of a scientific, artistic, educational or literary nature. As a freelancer, you do not need a legal form to start your own business - a report to the tax office is sufficient.
  • Under the category Traders all others who are self-employed, want to make a profit and offer their products or services in return. These are, for example, production companies, dealers or restaurants that are often operated as small businesses.

Around 80% of founders in Germany start with a sole proprietorship, which can be set up easily and without major capital investment.The rest of the self-employed mostly opt for a GmbH or its little sister, the UG.

As a trader, you have to take various factors into account when choosing the legal form:

  • Number of founders: Do you start alone or in a team? Some legal forms can only be established alone, others only in a team.
  • Liability: Does your business idea pose a risk? If liability is limited, private assets are usually spared in liability cases.
  • Share capital: There are legal forms such as the GmbH, for which a share capital must be paid into the business account when they are founded. This can be a hurdle if you don't have a large investment need.

# 6 The perfect name for company & product

One aspect that the founder is better off taking care of too early than too late is that Your company name and / or product. Because without a special, creative name, you will probably find it difficult to stand out from the crowd of other self-employed - as good as the product may be. The name shouldas distinctive as possible However, the self-employed must also observe legal requirements for naming and any trademark claims of others:

  • Company name or company name? The entry in the commercial register makes the difference.
  • Research whether someone else is already using the name you want or a similar one and whether there is trademark protection.
  • Let off steam creatively! In the vast majority of cases, a creative name is better than a mere description of what you do.
  • Remember that the name should be pronounceable and easy to remember.

Once the desired name has been found and your research does not reveal any existing trademark protection of others, speed is required:Secure the trademark rights!

# 7 Formalities, permits & the practical establishment

After planning and theory, the next step is practice - the practical establishment of the company, including all the formalities. That doesn't sound particularly exciting at first, but it is elementary for the start of the company. However, the founding bureaucracy will soon come to an end: After this chapter you will be officially self-employed!

Have you thought of all permits?

Depending on the industry or profession your chosen activity will be in the course of the establishment Permits or certificates required, which usually have to be presented when registering a business. In order to be able to set up a catering business, founders must, for example, show a health certificate, in the craft a corresponding master's title. Therefore, find out in advance from your Chamber of Commerce and Industry whether a business license or special permits are required so that all the necessary documents are available when you register your business.

In the jungle of authorities: important contact points

Depending on which legal form the prospective self-employed have ultimately decided or whether they are working as a freelancer, the company must now be registered with various authorities:

A complete overview of which registrations are required for which legal form can be found in our guideRegister company.

Once all registrations have been completed, your company is considered to have been founded. Congratulation!

Other important topics during registration

Your company's registrations are not quite over with the authorities, because two other important topics are still waiting to be tackled:

  1. The Opening a business account and
  2. the Conclusion of relevant insurance for you.

It is essential to separate professional and private finances with a business account. This is worthwhile even for part-time start-ups, especially since there are now very cheap accounts for self-employed people. Read our business account comparison.

The situation is similar with insurance, which is often simply forgotten. Founders should find out about relevant insurance depending on the industry or activity. Online shops need z. B. other protection than a shop. However, you should always protect yourself, for example with disability insurance.

3. Help, advice & 100+ documents to get you started

You are not left to your own devices when setting up a business- Numerous nationwide and regional advisory services, networks or organizations support founders on their way to self-employment. A good first step is to approach the IHK responsible for you and ask about local advice offers. With us you getSupport offers for before, during and after the formation - these consultations are usually promoted or subsidized. Of all consultations, we particularly recommend the start-up consultation.

To our advisory services

Templates, templates & tools for your start-up

So that you don't have to start your own business unprepared, we have prepared more than 100 documents for your self-employment and the time afterwards - you can download and use them completely free of charge.

4. Founded? So it goes on!

Now that you have successfully started your own business, the next step is Management and growth Of your company. As an entrepreneur, you have a lot of new responsibilities and things like accounting and marketing fall to. It is important that you deal with these topics at an early stage. If you do not have the necessary know-how in these areas, these can also be outsourced.

We offer complete guidelines for numerous topics after the founding, which you take by the hand and support you in everyday entrepreneurship. A professional external appearance including logo and website as well as an overview of personnel are also relevant at the start. However, special attention should be paid to active customer acquisition, because what young companies lack at the beginning are customers.

We wish you much success!

FAQ for founders at a glance

It largely depends on the legal form and your business model. For example, if you start as a sole proprietorship, all you have to do is register a business (€ 30-40). It is already more expensive to establish a UG; here there are additional notary fees (depending on the number of shareholders and the share capital) and registration in the commercial register (€ 150 and up). For a GmbH you still have to pay in at least € 12,500 of the € 25,000 share capital immediately. In addition to the start-up costs, you should keep thinking of things like office equipment or machinery.

If you don't have equity, you have several options:

  • You decide on a business model that does not cost a lot to implement and operate (e.g. an online shop).
  • You revise your business idea so that it works with less capital.
  • You convince financiers of your business idea and use a loan for business start-ups.
  • You use grants or grants for business start-ups to finance your idea.

There are numerous funding programs and grants to promote your self-employment, and you must meet the relevant requirements in order to use them. Probably the best-known grant is the start-up grant for start-ups out of unemployment; KfW-Bank is known for subsidies. You can find an overview of the most important subsidies here.

The self-employed have the opportunity to top up their income with unemployment benefit II (Hartz IV) - provided that the activity does not cover the cost of living. Self-employment may also be continued while receiving ALG II if this activity has a chance of success. This must be proven to the clerk with facts and figures. Unemployment benefit I is only available after the end of self-employment, however, if an activity subject to social insurance was carried out prior to self-employment or if the self-employed person has taken out voluntary unemployment insurance.

  • Partnerships, sole proprietorships and freelancers pay on their profitsIncome tax.
  • For corporations, instead of income tax, the so-calledCorporation taxraised.
  • TheBusiness taxapplies to all commercial operations - freelancers are therefore excluded here. Partnerships and sole proprietorships can look forward to an exemption when collecting trade tax.
  • All self-employed and companies must be on supplies and servicesvalue added taxdissipate; VAT already paid (Input tax) can be offset against sales tax. (Input tax deduction). There is a special regulation that the self-employed and companies with low turnover can use for themselves: the small business regulation. With it, sales tax no longer has to be reported.
  • As soon as self-employed people employ employees, taxes must also be paid for these.

People who receive parental allowance are allowed to work for up to 30 hours per week - whether this is a job or whether you are self-employed is irrelevant, as the previous employment relationship is suspended during parental leave.

This depends heavily on the industry, but you should be familiar with the area in which you want to become self-employed, and ideally also have business administration skills - unless you can form a team and "split up" the know-how. It is also important to have a certain resistance to stress, perseverance and passion.

Author: Für-Gründer.de editors

As editor-in-chief, René Klein has been responsible for the content of the portal and all publications by Für-Gründer.de for over 10 years. He is a regular interlocutor in other media and writes numerous external specialist articles on start-up topics. Before his time as editor-in-chief and co-founder of Für-Gründer.de, he advised listed companies in the field of financial market communication.