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How to survive as a freelancer in Austria

Freelancing in Austria has a reputation for being tough, with high taxes and an expensive cost of living.

How to survive as a freelancer in Austria
Photo by Joseph Frank on Unsplash

It doesn’t mean working as a freelancer in the Alpine republic is a bad idea though – it just means there might be a few more hoops to jump through.

Here’s what you need to know about how to survive as a freelancer in Austria.

Get an accountant

Navigating the world of tax is confusing at the best of times. Throw in a foreign language and a new country and it can be overwhelming.

This is why hiring a tax accountant (Steuerberater) is a good idea for freelancers – especially for international residents or people without a high-level of German language skills.

EXPLAINED: What can I deduct from my tax bill in Austria?

Toni Krainz, a self-employed Business Development Engineer from Ireland, told The Local: “A tax advisor can give you some smart tips about your entitlements as a business owner, which more than cover the cost of hiring a Steuerberater.”

A tax account can also help with setting up health insurance, which is compulsory in Austria.

James Tibbles, from the UK, spent four years working as a freelance web developer when he first moved to Tyrol in Austria.

He said: “My tax advisor explained it all to me and picked out the correct one for my circumstances, so whenever I received a letter from them I just immediately passed it on to her.”

The downside of hiring a tax accountant is the cost. But in most cases the fees are worth the peace of mind when it comes to submitting a tax return or dealing with Austrian bureaucracy.

Find a way to lower expenses

Austria is well known for expensive living costs and freelancing has a reputation for sporadic work and payment – especially for those just starting out.

Put the two together and it can be a recipe for financial instability, but finding a way to lower expenses can significantly reduce stress for freelancers.

READ MORE: Cost of living: Seven tips to save money in Austria

A good starting point for staying on top of finances is to be honest about your expenses (rent, health insurance, food, bills) and identify areas where costs can be cut.

For example, working from home can save money otherwise spent while working in cafes, and joining a coworking space is usually much cheaper than renting an office.

Another option is downsizing or moving to a cheaper area to reduce living costs.

Even making smaller changes, such as shopping at Hofer (Austria’s Aldi), can save money on grocery bills each week.

In the end, all the small savings can add up to make a big difference.

Consider income protection insurance

Income insurance protection is exactly what it sounds like – payments to cover part of your income if you cannot work due to sickness or an accident.

This is especially useful for self-employed people and, according to other freelancers, should be considered to provide some extra financial security. 

Toni, from Ireland, said: “As a freelancer, you’re not entitled to sick pay so I highly recommend getting income protection insurance. 

“The fees are tax deductible and there are varying levels of cover available, so it doesn’t have to be expensive.”

Austria can be a great place to freelance. Photo by Galymzhan Abdugalimov on Unsplash

Learn German

Although many people in Austria speak English at a high level, it is still a German-speaking country. 

This means having German-language skills can be a big advantage for a freelancer – even for people with clients in different parts of the world.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about becoming a freelancer in Austria

The reason for this is because bureaucracy and official communications in Austria are mostly conducted in German. 

So, even if all you can do is make a simple phone call or write an email in German, it will make life as a freelancer in Austria much easier. 

Network with other freelancers

In pre-corona times, freelancers could attend professional networking events to meet new people and scope out work opportunities.

However, the past 18 months has seen most events cancelled in the interests of public health, which means networking has moved online.

There are some advantages to this, such as the possibility to network with people from all over the world, not just in your region or country.

But the downside is it can be harder to forge strong professional relationships with others by only communicating online.

Despite the disadvantages to online networking, getting to know other freelancers in your industry is a great way to establish a local support network, and can even generate referrals for future business.

Essential websites for freelancers in Austria

Social insurance: sozialversicherung.at

Austrian Health Insurance Fund (ÖGK): gesundheitskasse.at

Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (WKO): wko.at

Self-employed information in English: self-employed.at

SVS (for self-employed insurance): svs.at

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WEATHER

Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms

With violent storms becoming increasingly common in Austria, here’s how to protect yourself (and your home) this summer.

Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms

Storms are a regular occurrence in Austria during the summer months, but the strength and frequency seems to be increasing.

Overnight on Tuesday, June 28th, both the Pöllinger and the Treffner rivers in Carinthia burst their banks causing widespread flooding, mudslides and damage across the region.

Reports on Wednesday morning said the villages of Treffen am Ossiacher See and Arriach (Villach-Land district) were still metres under water and several people had been rescued from the deluge.

READ ALSO: Who to call and what to say in an emergency in Austria

According to ORF, emergency services were still struggling to reach some areas and there were unconfirmed reports of missing people.

A Tweet from Unwetter-Freaks said: “Bad pictures from #Arriach in #Kärnten , which was hit by several storm cells last night. According to ORF, the place is currently cut off from the outside world and cannot be reached by the emergency services.”

Earlier this week, rural areas in Upper Austria were also hit by storms (overnight, June 27th) bringing torrential rain and hail the size of golf balls, which caused extensive damage to crops and grassland in the key agricultural state.

READ ALSO: 23 essential articles to help you navigate life in Austria

The Klaus reservoir had to be drained of 200 cubic metres of water to avoid flooding and trees were brought down across the province by wind gusts – some up to 91 km/h.

The Kronen Zeitung reports the storm caused damage to around 16,000 hectares of agriculture land, with insurers estimating the cost to be up to €6.5 million.

One Tweet showed the size of the hail on Monday night and read: “In the night we had ‘light’ hail.”

Storms then hit the region again on Tuesday night leading to a lightning strike on a hay barn in the Mühlviertel and the flooding of an underground car park in Linz.

With the summer season far from over and the possibility of more wild weather in the coming months, here’s how to stay safe during storms in Austria.

FOR MEMBERS: When and where to avoid driving in Austria this summer

Check the weather report

It might sound obvious, but checking the weather forecast should be at the top of the list of summer storm preparations.

Unlike in the past, weather reports are now typically reliable, and apps like Bergfex and Accuweather are well-known for providing detailed forecasts and weather warnings.

However, long-range forecasts can change quickly, so if you’re planning a camping or hiking trip, be sure to check the weather between 24 and 48 hours before to avoid being caught out.

Additionally, the Österreichischen Unwetterzentrale (Austrian Severe Weather Centre) has regular updates about storms and weather forecasts for Austria and users can sign up for email and SMS notifications.

Stay indoors

According to the organisation, Die Helfer Wiens (The Helpers of Vienna) one of the biggest risks during a storm is being hit by a fallen tree or flying debris.

For this reason, they advise people (and pets) to stay indoors during a storm and close all windows and doors. 

If staying in a tent or campervan, it’s also a good idea to seek shelter in a building (if possible) until the storm has passed.

However, if you are outside during lightning, the Austrian Red Cross says the best approach is to crouch down into a ball to reduce the amount of contact you have with the floor.

READ MORE: How to keep your apartment cool in Austria this summer amid rising energy prices

Stay away from the cellar

Cellars and underground car parks can quickly become flooded during heavy rain – as seen in recent storms in Upper Austria and Carinthia, and last year during violent storms across Austria.

Flash flooding can happen quickly (the clue is in the name), so stay away from cellars and underground spaces during a storm and call the emergency services if you suspect a flood in your home.

Remove plants and furniture from balconies

Having plants and flowers on a balcony is a lovely way to brighten up an outside space, but they risk being damaged during a storm.

To safeguard your pots and lovingly-planted flora, move them inside – especially during a thunderstorm with strong wind gusts and lightning.

The same applies to any outdoor furniture that could be damaged by wind or hail, like cushions, decorative objects and sun umbrellas.

Park cars under shelter

Hail is one of the leading causes of dents to bodywork on cars and damage to windscreens, both of which can be costly to repair.

If hail is forecast during a storm, park a car in a garage or under shelter, if possible. 

If strong wind is expected, then avoid parking a car under trees as debris, or even the tree itself, could end up landing on the vehicle.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: How Austria banned everyone from the forest for 123 years

Don’t go into the forest

Whether walking or driving, the best advice is to stay from the forest or areas with lots of trees during a storm.

While sheltering under a tree can protect from rain or hail, lightning or strong wind can bring down trees. This makes the forest a dangerous place to be in a storm.

But if you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of being in a forest when a thunderstorm hits, stay away from low branches and tree trunks and crouch down low. Place any walking sticks or metal poles away from you and stay away from metal fences.

Avoid risky activities

Certain outdoor activities are especially hazardous if there’s a lightning storm. 

Any activity in an open area or that puts you into contact with water or metal is strongly advised against. So that means fishing, swimming, boating, cycling and golfing are out until the storm is over. 

Keep torches and candles ready

Power cuts are common during storms, so keep a stock of candles and torches ready in case you end up without electricity for several hours.

It’s also a good idea to have a portable USB charger to make sure your phone doesn’t run out of battery during an emergency.

Who to call in an emergency

These are the numbers to call if you need help from the Austrian emergency services during a storm.

122 – fire service (Feuerwehr).

133 – police (Polizei).

144 – ambulance (Krankenwagen or Rettungswagen).

120 – ÖAMTC emergency breakdown service.

123 – ARBÖ emergency breakdown service.

140 – mountain rescue.

Finally, 112 is the single European emergency number, whose operators will direct you to the relevant services. This number can even be called on a locked mobile phone without needing the pin.

Find out more with The Local’s guide on who to call and what to say in an emergency.

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