I got an offers as a freelancer to work from Germany (the company is not German but I will live in Germany when I'll work for them). Since I'll be a freelancer in need to give them an hourly rate for my work, for that I'd like to estimate the net salary programmers here get. I found this calculatror https://www.brutto-netto-rechner.info/gehalt/gross_net_calculator_germany.php it has few options though that I don't how to fill, all in the insurance section. I'd like to know what is the common case in Germany, do employees usually get a compulsory insurance in all sections (health/ pesnsion/ unemployment) ? Also I'd be happy if people share their percentage of Net income from the gross salary so I can have a rough estimation.

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    This is very broad, and vary based on personal opinion.
    – Sourav Ghosh
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 10:05
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    You can find some salaries in Glassdoor for example. As a contractor, the rule of thumb around here is to invoice 3 times the brutto salary you would get as a regular employee, so that you can cover all the taxes, insurances, pension, etc.
    – Juha Untinen
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 10:07
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    It is actually totally irrelevant. See, as freelancer you want an hourly rate that is COMPETITIVE. You do not care - like at all - what employed programmers (whatever this is - it is a WIDE field) earn, you want to earn the same (btw., SIGNIFICANTLY higher net income) than other freelance programmers.
    – TomTom
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 13:47
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    The typical freelancer rates for programmers in Europe would vary between about 50-150 EUR / hour; it very much depends on experience and how in-demand your skills are.
    – jpa
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 14:53
  • No one has mentioned quality of life. Just using the exchange rate of euro to dollar doesn't seem like a complete method of comparison of taking a job in Germany vs USA (or anywhere else).
    – moodboom
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 17:24

2 Answers 2


There are a lot of differences between being a regular employee ("Unselbstständig") and being a freelancer ("Selbstständig") in Germany.

With regular employees, the insurances for health, care, pension and unemployment are all compulsory and are shared between employee and employer. They are handled similar to income tax: as percentual deduction from your wage. A rule of thumb is that with an average full-time employee wage, you can usually expect that about 2/3 of the negotiated wage actually arrive in your bank account.

This is not the case with freelancers! As a freelancer you are your own employee, so you need to also pay the part which would usually be paid by the employer all by yourself. But most of these social security insurances are voluntary for freelancers, so you can go without them if you feel that you don't need them. The only insurance which is compulsory is health insurance. You can choose between the "private health insurance" and the "compulsorily insured voluntarily" model, depending on which one has the better cost/benefit ratio for you. Ask a health insurance provider of your choice for what you need to pay in which scenario (they are all very similar).

When it comes to income taxes: Freelancers and employees pay the same tax, but in a different way. Employees get their income tax subtracted directly from their salary. You do your taxes every year, and depending on what you can deduct you usually get a few hundred € back. Freelancers, on the other hand, do not pay any income taxes throughout the year. If you are a freelancer, then you must do your taxes every year, declare your income from freelancing activity ("Einkünfte aus selbstständiger Tätigkeit" and/or "Ausländische Einkünfte und Steuern") and then receive a large tax bill for that income. But on the plus side, there are a lot of things you can deduct when you are a freelancer (ask a licensed tax consultant for details).

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    About health insurance: While it may be tempting to go to private health insurance, as soon as you are above a certain age, they will charge a horribe amount.
    – glglgl
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 12:03
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    and you can't go back to the public insurance anymore.
    – Mehdi
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 12:39
  • @Mehdi at least not so easily. If you manage to be unemployed for a while, there might be a chance… but maybe that's knowledge from several years ago.
    – glglgl
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 12:58
  • Or you move out of germany for a year or two an then back ;) And there you go, back into public health care. It is more an intelligence test and test of not being broke than anything else because "other country" can mean "right across the border".
    – TomTom
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 13:45
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    It might be helpful mentioning Scheinselbständigkeit: if someone handles social security and taxes like a freelancer but actually works like a regular employee, that is illegal. The impression of Scheinselbständigkeit can be avoided by having multiple clients, not just working for one company. Alternatively (but with higher overhead) they could incorporate their own company that hires them as a regular employee.
    – amon
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 18:00

Basically as a freelancer, you need to charge a significant percentage over the hourly rate of a regular employee.

If a regular employee doing your kind of work gets paid 120,000 Euro a year. 10,000 Euro a month, you should be charging at least 18,000 a month (as that higher number needs to cover all kinds of "benefits" a normal employer would). Remember, they also need to pay a premium for the freedom to let you go at any moment. And they also need to pay for your down time, as a freelancer needs to find his next job on his own.

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    120,000 € is quite a lot for a software developer in Germany. The average is about half of that. handelsblatt.com/unternehmen/beruf-und-buero/buero-special/…
    – Philipp
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 14:16
  • @Philipp: it is a widely known open secret that the internet salary numbers are the low ball employer number.... Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 17:21
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    @sofageneral As a software developer from Germany I can confirm that your numbers are quite high and probably unrealistic in this scenario. The numbers Phillip quoted from the linked articles are in fact realistic. Devs just aren't as well paid over here as they would be in the US.
    – IDarkCoder
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 19:26
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 8:32

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