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Micro-entrepreneur: How to set up as a small business in France

In an attempt to boost new businesses and start-ups, France has a special status known as 'micro-entrepreneur'. Here's how it works, from someone who has experience in going through the process.

Micro-entrepreneur: How to set up as a small business in France
Photo: 1Tomm/Depositphotos

The micro-entrepreneur status (formerly known an auto-entrepreneur) is intended for people starting out a business in a small way or operating a freelancer. It gives you a simplified structure for taxes and employment rules, and if your business later takes off and you go over the earning threshold you can simply re-register the business.

But like everything in France, setting yourself up under this regime involves a fair amount of paperwork and patience.

We asked micro-entrepreneur Claire Trévien,  a freelance content marketer based in Quimper in Brittany, for her tips on the process:

Check that you are eligible

There are different rules depending on what your business is, and which Chamber you fall under (commercial/industrial, artisanal, or liberal profession).

Finance companies, hire companies and estate agents are some of the jobs excluded from micro-entrepreneur status.

Your yearly earning should not exceed €170,000 for those re-selling goods or materials (micro-BIC) and €70,000 for those offering services (micro-BNC).

READ ALSO How does France's auto entrepreneur system work?


Why would I want to be an micro entrepreneur?

It's still definitely better to be salaried in France, but if you're self-employed and starting out, being an micro-entrepreneur is the best option as it's simplified to the max.

There are fixed reductions for income taxes and it is also quick to set up and easy to close down or modify your business.

READ ALSO The drawbacks of France's auto entrepreneur system

Complete the declaration for micro-entrepreneur status

You can sign up to be a micro entrepreneur online with a declaration.

This can also be done in person at the Centre de Formalités des Entreprises (CFE) or by posting the Micro-entrepreneur Déclaration de Début d’Activité form to the CFE.

Make sure you can have a scanned copy of an approved piece of ID (carte de séjour residency card or passport) when completing the self-declaration via the internet.

Once the declaration has been processed, you will then receive your unique business registration number (SIREN and SIRET).

This number is important as it proves you are a legally registered French business, listed on the national business directory.

Claire Trévien is a freelance content marketer based in Quimper, France. Photo : Claire Trévien

Consider enlisting the services of a hand holder

I took a shortcut to signing up and enlisted the services of a hand-holder, a person who does the bureaucratic legwork for you to help you set up things.

I figured it’d save me a lot of time and hassle and it did, as she not only registered me but also set me up to receive my carte vitale for my healthcare.

You might also consider going with a portage company, where you pay a higher percentage of your earnings but also get a lot of support and resources, and the benefits of being treated like a salaried employee whilst developing your business.

Of course you do have to pay for this service.

Set up a separate bank account

I already had a French bank account but if you are a micro entrepreneur you need a separate one for your business (though it can still be a personal one).

Opening a new bank account was a bit of a struggle at first as they wanted me to have papers that I didn’t have – a French tax return for example.

That’s a pretty recurring theme, a lot of bureaucracy. It can be a lot less painful if you have a personal connection.

You’ll also have to decide whether you declare your earnings every month or every three months.

READ ALSO Is my work 'genuine and effective' enough for me to stay in France?

Network to help your business grow

Don’t underestimate the power of a network for everything. It’s particularly the case here in Brittany, perhaps less so in bigger towns.

The biggest challenge for me is that I’m an introverted digital person who hates talking on the phone and isn’t a great fan of networking. 

Unfortunately, the way to do business in my part of Brittany is completely dependent on phones and networking, so I’ve had to adapt!

The human connection is everything – so go out, meet people, support other freelancers!

It’s also really worth being a part of Facebook groups dedicated to being an auto entrepreneur (several exist for English speakers) as they give you advice.

Claire's work includes project managing new websites, creating social media strategies and helping businesses grow. Recently, she also opened up a coworking space called L’Atelier Corail.

Member comments

  1. Hi, do you need to register for entrepreneur status if your business is a side huddle? For example, a salaried employee with an Etsy shop? Thank you!

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France to roll out ID cards app

Technology is being rolled out to allow people to carry their French ID cards in an app form - and could be rolled out to other cards, including driving licences and cartes de séjour residency cards.

France to roll out ID cards app

Holders of French carte d’identité (ID cards) will soon be able to carry certified digital versions of them on their smartphone or other electronic devices, a decree published in the Journal Officiel has confirmed.

An official app is being developed for holders of the newer credit card-format ID cards that have information stored on a chip. A provisional test version of the app is expected at the end of May.

Users will be able to use the ID card app, when it becomes available, for a range of services “from checking in at the airport to renting a car”, according to Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market.

All French citizens have an ID card, which can be used for proving identity in a range of circumstances and for travel within the EU and Schengen zone – the new app will be in addition to the plastic card that holders already have.

Under the plans, after downloading the app, card holders will need merely to hold the card close to their phone to transfer the required information. According to officials, the holder then can decide what information is passed on – such as proof of age, or home address – according to the situation.

The government has not given any examples of situations in which the app would need to be used, but has set out the main principles and the ambition of the plan: to allow everyone to identify themselves and connect to certain public and private organisations, in particular those linked to the France Connect portal.

READ ALSO What is France Connect and how could it make your life simpler?

Cards will continue to be issued for the foreseeable future – this is merely an extension of the existing system.

Only French citizens have ID cards, but if successful the app is expected to be rolled out to include other cards, such as driving licences, cartes de séjour residency cards or even visas. A digital wallet is being developed at the European level – Member States have until September to agree what it could contain.

READ ALSO Eight smartphone apps that make life in France a bit easier