How to Become a Freelancer in Spain: Going Autónomo for Dummies

Going freelance definitely comes with its pros and cons. But if you’re set on making the jump to registering as an autónomo, then I applaud you. I just went through the process myself and it wasn’t as difficult as it may seem. Since all the steps are fresh in my mind, I’ve decided to make this simple guide on how to become a freelancer in Spain. Here goes!

How to become a Freelancer

Key Info & Definitions:

  • Spanish Tax Agency is called Hacienda or Agencia Tributaria. This agency collects money from taxes and fights against tax fraud. As a freelancer (autónomo in Spanish), you’ll use its website to pay taxes: IVA (Sales Tax) and IRPF (Income Tax).
  • Impuesto del Valor Añadido or IVA taxes every service or good that you consume and offer in Spain. It’s 21% of the total amount and you have to include it on every invoice that you make. There are a few exemptions (exenciones) such as: teaching English.
  • Impuesto de la Renta de las Personas Físicas or IRPF taxes every income that you have in a Fiscal Year. IRPF is included in your invoices when you add: Retención (retention in English). This retención means that you advance future taxes to Hacienda, deducing – 9% for the first three years to – 20% for the following years.
  • Seguridad Social is the Spanish Institution that collects and manages social benefits. As an autónomo you will have to pay a quota at the end of every month. This quota, also known as Cuota a la Seguridad Social, represents 29.90% of your total income; therefore, it will vary according to your earnings. As you can see in the following chart, new autónomos get a discount for the first 18 months.

Tarifas Autónomo

What you need before you start:

Before you continue reading this “Guide on How to Become a Freelancer in Spain,” please note that you must have the following documents:

How to become a freelancer in Spain:

A) Becoming autónomo in Hacienda’s eyes

Although you could do the process online, Spotahome recommends going to Hacienda’s office. Once you are there, the civil servant will fill out paperwork for you and it doesn’t take more than 15 minutes to finish the process (at least that’s the time it took me).

Hacienda office

There are two simple steps to become an autónomo in Hacienda: Getting an appointment and signing up for IAE.

1) Getting the appointment: Cita Previa. Here, the system will guide you through the following steps:

(You should click on the link to understand these steps better)

  • First they’ll ask you for identification – Identificación
    • NIE number – IE: X-1234567-D
    • Family Name – Primer Apellido (Spaniards have two)
  • Then they’ll ask you to select a procedure – Selección Procedimiento. You’ll have to choose the option of Economic Activity Tax or Impuesto de Actividades Económicas (IAE), first by clicking on: Gestión Censal y acreditación certificado digital; and then: 036/037. IAE. NIF. Etiquetas y cambio de domicilio
  • Now you have to choose your area – Selección ZonaYou only need to enter your ZIP Code number (5 digit code. For example, Madrid’s zip code is 28XXX).
  • Finally, confirm your appointment! To set up your appointment with Hacienda, you’ll have to follow three more easy steps:
    • Select a date – Selección Fecha
    • Select a time – Selección Horario
    • Click on: Confirmation – Confirmación

2) Signing up in Hacienda for Impuesto de Actividades Economicas (IAE)

Signing up for IAE used to be a tedious task. Today, but it’s surprisingly fast now to be honest. You just need to show up with your ID and tell the civil servant that you want to become an autónomo. During this step, you are letting Hacienda know that you would like to register as a freelancer by filling out Modelo 036 / 037.

The funcionario or civil servant will ask you two questions: when you would like to start your activity and what service you are going to offer. Then, he or she will provide you with an “Activity Code” (each profession has a category or code). If your Spanish is good enough, we suggest asking for specific information regarding your activity—IVA, specific retention, etc.

Here are the documents you must bring:

  1. NIE Document
  2. Social Security Number
  3. Bank Account Number

B) Obtaining your Electronic Certificate (Certificado Electrónico)

This will allow you to interact with Hacienda (pay taxes). Before we start, let me say that I couldn’t do this step with a Mac computer so I had to do it on a PC, and then I “moved” the Certificate (here you can find more info) to my computer.

CERES Certificate

What you need to do:

  • Install the FRMT certificates.
  • Then apply for your User Certificate. They will send a Code to your email.
  • Prove your identity. Once you receive your code in your email, present your ID card at a Seguridad Social office.
  • Finally, you will be able to download your User Certificate.

Click here for more info.

C) Becoming Autónomo in Seguridad Social’s eyes.

Last step — registering at Seguridad Social — isn’t as easier as it is with Hacienda. But not to worry; when it comes to getting paid, Spain is highly efficient.

By becoming autónomo in the Seguridad Social and starting to cotizar (‘to pay for social security’ in English), you will be covered by Social Security and you have access to the public health system.

What you need to do:

  • Find your closest offices here. They should have this symbol:

Logo Certificado

  • Fill out Modelo TA0521. There are workers at the info desk that will give you the form. Just let them know that you’d like to become an autónomo. They will also give you a piece of paper with a number.
  • Once you see this number on the screen, you only have to give them the following information:
    • Your Social Security Number
    • Your ID card
    • A copy of Modelo 036 / 037 (from Hacienda)
    • FNMT-RCM code to prove your identity (the code that you received in the previous step)

Et voilà, you are now a freelancer in Spain!

becoming freelance

And here are some other useful posts to help make your life easier in Spain:

Don’t forget!

If you’re looking for a new home in Spain, we can help! Spotahome offers hundreds of spacious and personally-checked rooms, studios and apartments all over Spain, so you can book your perfect home online before you even arrive in the city.

Find your new home in: Madrid, Barcelona, ValenciaSeville or Granada!

Terraza Barcelona

…this balcony could be yours 🙂

Stay tuned for our upcoming posts!

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19 Responses

  1. Robyn says:

    Thannnnkk youuu!!! I really needed this!

  2. Rhea Baliwala says:

    Hi James,

    I am currently living in Spain (Madrid) and am looking at my options to become a freelancer (To teach English).
    Your article was extremely helpful and a good starting point. But it has also raised a few questions in my head that I would like to ask you. I would prefer asking them to you over an email rather than an open comment on your article.

    Would it possible for you to share your email id with me? That would be very helpful.

    Thank you!


  3. Max says:

    How to receive the incoming newsletters from your site?

  4. Max says:

    If comparing tax as a freelancer between Spain and UK where do you pay more tax?

  5. chris says:

    Hey there! This was just the information I needed. One question however: I also read somewhere that you need a business plan with at least 4 client contracts in order to become autonomo. Is this correct?

  6. Christopher Garnett says:

    Are you Paul’s son? I am sure you are. I was an old friend of your father. Could you email me, please?

  7. Onur Yuce says:

    Dear Sir,
    I would like to learn that as a 34 years old Turkish citizen working in the performing arts (theatre music composing and teaching) sector can I benefit from Autonomo in Spain?
    Best wishes

  8. Bernard says:

    Hello, I would like to know, as an american, if I become ‘anautonomo’ or freelancer Q. Will that allow me to become or get residency at least temporary [>90 days] while being a legal freelancer in Spain?

    • Mandy Lutman Mandy Lutman says:

      Hey Bernard! Before you become an autonomo in Spain, you need to get a NIE, which allows you to reside in Spain (many rental agencies and banks require a NIE) and to get NIE you would need to have your visa and all other paperwork taken care of.

      • Bernard says:

        Hello Mandy, as an American all I need to enter any country in the EU is my American passport. So what visa would be required from me to have? Can I apply for an NIE while being or visiting in Spain? or Should I try doing it in the Spanish consulate here in the US? You are being a big help for me, I appreciate your time in answering my query.

  9. Ashwin says:


    Your article has been a helpful guide.

    However, I have a question concerning step C) Getting autónomo in Seg. Social’s Eyes

    You mention a code:
    “FNMT-RCM code to prove your identity (the code that you received in the previous step)”
    Are you referring to the “Codigo de Solicitud” when applying for the User Certificate (step 2)? If not, which code do you mean?


    Best regards,

    • Mandy Lutman Mandy Lutman says:

      Hey Ashwin,

      the FNMT-RCM is the electronic certificate from the second step, which you then use as an online signature for all your documents. This certificate needs to be downloaded and uploaded to your browser, but you will get documentation paperwork for it as a proof. Hope this helps – drop us an email if you need extra help!

      All the best,

  10. Hello

    I’m planning to move to Barcellona ad be Freelancer, so I will need to be Self Employer
    How long do you think can take me? can I do it as soonI arrive?

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