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Freelancing in Norway

David on the mountain

Becoming self-employed in Norway is a popular choice for expats, especially the partners of oil industry workers or citizens of EEA countries for whom residency is a relatively simple process.

I've been working for myself for two years now and am frequently contacted by people considering a move to Norway who want to know more about working for yourself, so here we go…

Why freelance in Norway?

In the UK or USA, people are encouraged to work for themeslves by the prospect of earning more money or more freedom, but being an employee in Norway has so many benefits. You're unlikely to be fired, wages for simple jobs are relatively high, and working conditions are some of the most generous and flexible in the world.

Unlike the buoyant freelance market in the UK or USA, Norwegian companies of all sizes are much more used to hiring employees. Sharing the wealth by creating jobs is part of the culture here, which makes job creation something that many fledgling companies aspire to and consider a success factor. Don't underestimate the impact this has. Many times I've approached companies to work on a project only for them to propose to “hire” me on a temporary basis. Paying an individual as a supplier rather than an employee is an alien concept to many.

I work for myself for a number of reasons, but primarily I don't like having a boss, I want to work when I want to work, and I love to travel. I love to push myself, constantly learn new things and help as many different people and companies as I can. All of that is very difficult to achieve in a traditional employment relationship.

Look up, look down

This brings me nicely onto problem number two. For those companies that do hire freelance talent, they tend to look to the extremes: the price-sensitive bottom end of the market or the premium consultancy end.

In the last few years, Norwegian companies have cottoned on to geo-arbitrage. Why pay a Norwegian graduate graphic designer 400.000 kr a year when you can pay 100.000 kr for someone in the South East Asia or Eastern Europe with far greater skills and experience? Competing at this low end of the market is impossible if you are to achieve a reasonable standard of living in Norway.

At the other end of the market come the premium consultants. Lawyers and tax advisors fall into this category, but also other professionals who for one reason or another have made a name for themselves. They are usually Norwegian citizens with published books or regular media appearances and are able to command fees of 25.000 kr per day or more.

I've found in trying to compete in the middle ground, I'm met with clients that either want the job done for the cheapest possible price or they want the very best and are willing to pay for it.

The mini-agency

Although there aren't so many solo businesses doing well in Norway, I do see a startling number of mini-agencies. Typically these are formed when a number of freelancers get together and combine their skills. For example, put a copywriter, graphic designer and web developer together for long enough and you have a web design agency.

Fees charged by these agencies tend to be high, even though some of them outsource a lot of the work.

Practicalities

It's very easy to register an enkeltpersonforetak (sole proprietorship) and start billing clients for work, but be aware you must pay tax in advance, once per quarter. Even so, it's the route I would recommend for almost everyone who wants to try out self-employment. Register with the Brønnøysund Register Centre.

Once successful, you may consider forming an AS, or aksjeselskap (limited company) especially if you are targeting bigger businesses, intend on growing your business and/or employing people, or you travel extensively. This isn't the place to discuss the pros and cons of business structure, so consult an expert for advice.

Whichever business form you choose, it's important to understand and abide by the rules of doing business in Norway. For example, you must keep proper bookkeeping records and invoices must be auto-numbered (no creating invoices in Word!)

Needless to say, hiring an accountant is highly recommended. Use this free service to find an accountant that is best suited to your unique requirements: Finn den rette regnskaps­fører enkelt og gratis

Advice for expats considering self-employment

Are you considering self-employment in Norway? Here are some things to consider before taking the plunge:

1. Take a part-time job

Taking a part-time job is a great way to keep earning at least a baseline income while you build up your freelance business. Bonus points if it's in a related field, although be very careful with competing with your employer! Also be wary of your employment contract, as I've seen some that specifically forbid you running any kind of enterprise alongside your employment.

If you can, working part-time removes the stress of paying your bills and relieves the cash-flow pressures suffered by all small businesses. If you are currently employed full-time, consider asking your employer if they are willing to reduce your hours to 40% or 60%.

2. Find a mentor

As Dave Smith wrote in his excellent article about how to find a job in Trondheim, networking is essential to business success in Norway. There is a definite culture of “paying it forward” here and many senior people are willing to meet for coffee and dispense advice. Find two or three people relevant to what you do and get networking.

3. Find a community

Even before I went freelance, I was a member of a co-working space. After finishing at my full-time job, I would rock up at MESH, open my laptop and start working. The connections I made through just being in the building are still valuable to this day. The very first thing I did after quitting my job and moving to Trondheim was to seek out a coworking space, and I've been a part of the DIGS community ever since.

I cannot underestimate how important having a community is. Very few people at DIGS work in fields related to what I do, but as a writer who writes about Norway and Norwegians, it's very fertile ground for inspiration. I won my first major client through a connection made there, and I've since been able to make similar introductions for other people. But perhaps the most important benefit of all is when I have a question about the administrative side of running a business, there's always someone who knows the answer.

4. Can you serve foreign clients?

Just because you live in Norway and run a business registered here does not mean you have to restrict yourself to such a small client base. Over 75% of my business income now comes from clients in Sweden, Finland, the UK and even the USA. Depending on what you do, serving clients in other countries can keep you busy and in some cases, earn you more than you could from Norwegian clients.

5. Put in 100% but be patient

You wont succeed as a freelancer in Norway without maximum effort, but even then you shouldn't expect to see overnight success. It takes time to hone your craft and become known for your skills, abilities and achievements. If the circumstances are right, for example if your partner is willing to support you during the lean months (there will be lean months) and you are willing to play the long game, then freelancing could be for you. But if you're considering self employment just because you're struggling to find a job, you may be better off continuing your job search.

6. Take advice from a professional

Since writing this article, I've been contacted by so many people planning to set up a business in Norway. But I am absolutely not an expert, so I can't provide individual advice when it comes to your finances, tax, expenses, and so on. I have used several accountants during my time in Norway and it took a while to find the right one. They are not cheap, but their advice is invaluable.

There is now a free service that helps you find an accountant that's right for you. Simply fill in your requirements (e.g. what industry, and do you need help setting up the business, with bookkeeping, questions about what expenses you can claim, ongoing monthly support, etc) and you will receive a couple of offers from the accountants that are best able to meet your requirements. Simply use this link to get started: Finn den rette regnskaps­fører enkelt og gratis

Good luck!

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About the Author: David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a freelance writer for technology companies in Scandinavia.

19 Comments

  1. Hi,

    I am working full-time in Oslo, Norway. I want to do some kind of freelancing work from USA. Currently, I am in work permit. Is it ok if I do this kind of online work and earn money OR company can get fired me or it creates problem while government checks my banking record. I am confused. Please send me answer with proper guidence.

  2. Thank you for your very interesting article.
    I have to move to Norway because of family reasons, and I have started freelancing in france just one year ago. I fell it has been a quite good starting compared to my expactation but, it is still not stable income of project.
    I think I will continue it but from norway. I hope it will not be to difficult to find new customers from france, because my english is still poor and my norwegian does not exist yet.
    Just one question please. Do we have like a “company number” in norway that we could give to our customer to show them that we are really professional ?
    Thank you veyr much again for this huge presentation and share.
    Good continuation

  3. Hi, I am from Singapore and I have negotiated a full-time contract with my current company in Singapore to be able to work remotely from any place around the world. I want to move to Norway to live with my boyfriend who is living there.

    Would you be able to advise if it is possible to set up a sole-proprietorship in order to apply for a residence permit to live in Norway and to work in Norway as a freelancer based on the work contract I have with my current company? My current company also have offices in UK and in Spain, which could provide the contract I need if it helps to facilitate the process.

    1. It is possible to move to Norway and operate as a sole proprietor, but there are fairly strict rules (such as a minimum income) for those coming from outside the EEA. I know a few Americans who have done this but they engaged the services of an immigration lawyer to help with the process. You can check the requirements for your individual circumstances at UDI, the Immigration Department.

      1. Thank you for the information. May I ask if you had applied for the residence permit first, before creating the company, or did you have to create a company first before applying for the residence permit?

  4. Hi Guys,

    I’m living in Dominican Republic, so I’d like to move to Norway , I’m Fluent in French, Spanish and English what should I do to be there ASAP ? I’ve more than 5 years of Call Center Experiences but I’ll take any available job until things get better for me .

    Can you please advise for the process ?

    Thanks in advance,

  5. Hi there!

    I was reading this blog and found it really encouraging.
    I moved to Oslo from Berlin in January because of my boyfriend. He is Norwegian and living/working here.
    I am a freelance photographer and also in Berlin i have started a pet accessories label. I have a dog and i really hope that the business could get better by time.
    I am so used to be free and arrange my workflow by myself. But this city is really expensive to live in and i feel pressure that i should get any kind of job to be able to continue.
    I hope you can give me some tips about how to find companies, artists, people who would need a freelance photographer.
    Thank you so much for this blog and taking time to help everyone!

  6. Hi, thanks for the interesting article. I have just established a sole-proprietorship in Norway. I was hoping you could advise on a good, possibly cheap, bookkeeping software> I will need to invoice in more than once currency. I was also hoping you could suggest where I could find info on what I can claim back as expenses. Thank you very much. Fabio

    1. Hi Fabio, I highly recommend you contact an accountant to ask about expenses and the best way to approach bookkeeping. There are many things you’ll need to know about VAT/MVA, and whether you can make deductions will depend a lot on what it is you are doing. You can use the following service to describe your requirements and receive contact from relevant accountants: Finn den rette regnskaps­fører enkelt og gratis

  7. Dear sir,
    i want to know about my below work opportunity and know something about that, please guide me:
    one company in Norway send to me the work opportunity as skill worker (they have sole proprietorship company). they want me to work in IRAN but they pay tax and other things for me in Norway according to employer roles). i want to know that can i work in Iran for their company and they pay tax for me and after 3 years i give permanent resident of Norway or no?

    1. Hi Saeed, I am not an expert on immigration policy. However, to get permanent residence in Norway you generally have to have been living in Norway – I don’t think there are any/many exceptions to that as a basic rule.

  8. Hi Mr. Nikel,
    I work very regulary with freelancers from Central and Southern Europe. A customer asked to expand our services to their Northern departments. So my question, where can I place advertissements to find freelancers. We are looking for freelancers on a higher education level, native speaking one of the language of the Northern countries.
    Thank you very much for your help.

  9. I am a norwegian, self emplyed as spesialist Engineer. Germany company wanted me to hire as freelancer as working in germany.
    Questions:
    1. Since i registered here in norway, can i work in germany and pay taxes in norway or pay taxes in germany, i am confused.
    2. How long i can work in germany without germany registeratio?
    3. Do i charge VAT for the billings?
    4. Do i need to report in germany goverment for any purposes?

  10. Hi David,

    It’s so good to see you helping people with their queries 🙂 Great work!

    I also had a question for you. I recently moved to Oslo with my husband to live here for some time now.My husband works with Posten as an IT COnsultant. I have a work experience of being a Project Manager for 3 years at my previous organization in India. I resigned in June 2017.Currently, I am looking for a job in Olso. I recently got an offer to work as a freelancer in Oslo. The recruitment agency asks me to have my own company in oslo and VAT number. I have the following:
    1) Work Permit in Oslo
    2) Resident Permit
    3) MinID
    4)D-number
    5) I have registered myself on Brønnøysund also.

    Could you please help me with the next steps as to how to have my own company and a vat number. Really appreciate your response 🙂

  11. Hi, I have a question! ( I hope this thread are still active)

    I am from Norway myself, I am a freelance animator, and have asked a friend in the UK to help me out on the project. I am helping her to find something similar to the Norwegian ( enkelmansforetak number) but it does not seem like England have a similar system, do they?

    The project I am working on is through an organization but they say that they need a number for her to be paid if not then I they will pay me and I pay her, but that might have tax complications for us both, yes?

    Thank you
    Mads

  12. Thank you David, great article!

    I’m a freelance motion designer and have clients in the Nordics, I’m thinking of contacting Norwegian companies, but I don’t know how much the Norwegian motion designers usually get paid. Do you know any Facebook groups or something that I could get contact to some local freelancers to know how much the usually charge clients? Thank you again! 🙂

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