Portugal is quite a popular destination for people who want to move and work abroad. There are plenty of opportunities available in this Southern European country, and freelancers who move there often do so due to its warm and moderate climate, quality health care, and general safety. Discover how you can get started with freelancing in Portugal!
- Freelancing trends in Portugal
- Most in-demand freelance profiles in Portugal
- How much does a freelancer in Portugal make?
- Becoming a freelancer in Portugal
- Recibos verdes – Green receipt in Portugal
- Fees and taxes for freelancers in Portugal
- How are freelancers in Portugal getting paid?
- How to look for freelance jobs in Portugal
- Tips for freelancing in Portugal
Freelancing trends and current freelance market situation in Portugal
For many professionals, freelancing is becoming increasingly appealing. Whether as an alternative to traditional employment or as a solution to economic and situational challenges, becoming a freelancer can be highly rewarding and open up new opportunities.
In this context, the revolution of remote working also adds to the equation. While it may have lost momentum in some sectors, remote work remains a successful practice for many growing companies. Additionally, the flexibility of remote work is highly valued by both employees and freelancers.
Right now, technical profiles are in high demand, not only as full-time employees but also as freelancers. With flexible schedules and the potential for higher earnings, freelance contracts allow professionals to gain independence and maximise their income-generating capacity.
Our latest freelancer study 2023 highlights that 73% of freelancers pointed out the importance of independence. Additionally, 52% cited better income as a motivating factor for becoming independent workers. And, no less important, schedule flexibility was valued as a positive trait of freelancing life by 51% of the participants who responded.
Although it may sound unbelievable, only 15% of freelancers started a self-employed career due to unemployment.
Perhaps in Portugal, the reasons might be slightly different, but it’s undeniable that the opportunity for higher income, working with companies you might not be able to work with otherwise, and having a more flexible lifestyle are very appealing.
Portugal is often viewed as an amazing holiday destination, thanks to its glorious sites, attractions, food and people. It should come as no surprise then that more and more freelancers are looking into the possibility of moving there. Many freelancers also move to Portugal because of its low cost of living. Almost everything, from rent to groceries to utilities, is affordable.
Moreover, the talent in Portugal is highly attractive to the world. European companies especially are turning to the country when seeking high-level talent at a competitive operational cost. According to statistics from Cedefop, the share of self-employed people in Portugal in 2021 was 12.9% – only 0.2% less than that in Europe.
What’s more, in 2022, the number of freelancers in Portugal registering on freelancermap to secure new projects increased by 20%.
This goes to show that Portugal’s plans to improve its labour market while also lowering the unemployment rate of the country is slowly but surely progressing. Insights from Cedefop also state that by 2030, new jobs will be created in industries such as administrative, ICT and energy supply services, giving the employment rate a further boost.
The most in-demand freelance profiles in Portugal
Freelancing in Portugal will give you access to many different options and industries that are available.
However, it’s a reality that there is a scarcity of talent in Portugal where employers are finding it hard to attract the people they need with the right blend of skills and soft skills. In fact, according to a report published by ManpowerGroup, 85% of employees state that there is a talent shortage – with IT and Manufacturing being the most sought-after industries.
A freelancer with technological skills and technical profiles, such as web developers, programmers, and systems analysts, has a better chance of securing projects and freelance contracts.
Professionals in the software field, particularly those involved in project and digital product management, also have a considerable advantage.
Positions with a technical profile are usually more in demand by companies and therefore better paid. Software developers often have better opportunities, but there are other technological opportunities worth exploring.
In fact, in our latest freelancer study, the areas our freelancers mentioned as most relevant were:
- Artificial Intelligence (78%)
- Cybersecurity (65%)
- Cloud Services and Cloud Computing (52%)
- Big Data (40%)
- Internet of Things or IoT (37%)
However, it’s not only technical professionals who have freelancing opportunities; there are also abundant opportunities for copywriters, content creators, and graphic designers.
Which profiles are in higher demand in Portugal?
- IT profiles (web developers, cloud consultant, AI experts, IT architects, etc.)
- Community Managers
- Content Creators
How much does a freelancer in Portugal make?
The rates of independent workers in Portugal (or any other country) are influenced by factors such as specialisation, experience, and the demand for that specific profile.
Platforms like freelancermap allow you to see the average rates charged by freelancers in Portugal. In September 2023, the hourly rate for freelancers in Portugal is around $33/hour.
The majority of freelancers in Portugal have rates ranging between $15 and $75 per hour.
The final rate that a professional charges will also be influenced by the nature of the specific project. In general, for longer-term projects, many freelancers are able to offer a more competitive rate. For example, if the project is urgent, it’s common for the freelancer to charge an additional fee for that urgency.
The area of expertise also plays a role in freelancers’ rates. Here’s an industry-specific analysis for your reference:
|Average hourly rate in Portugal||Rate range in Portugal||Average hourly rate worldwide|
|SAP||$44||$30 – $80||$78|
|Consulting and Management||$38||$20 – $90||$87|
|Engineering||$38||$20 – $74||$63|
|IT Infrastructure||$37||$15 – $74||$76|
|Development||$33||$15 – $76||$65|
|Graphics, content and media||$22||$10 – $60||$44|
Steps to becoming a freelancer in Portugal
If you’re planning on working in Portugal as a freelancer, you’ll need to take into account the following:
#1 Portugal freelance visa
If you’re planning on living in Portugal for a good long while and you are not a European citizen, you’ll need to apply for a self-employment residence visa. All visa applications are carried out by SEF and you can now apply for visas online as well as schedule appointments to handle processes for residence permits.
Once your Visa is approved, you can enter Portugal and request a temporary residence permit within 4 months. Once issued, this permit will be valid for 1 year and can then be renewed every 2 years up to a total of 5 years of residence. After that, you can apply for permanent residency.
Freelance visa requirements for Portugal
In order to obtain the Portugal freelance visa, also called the Portugal self employed visa, you will need to meet certain requirements. But before that, you will need to figure out the type of freelance visa that is best suited for you.
There are a few different types of freelance visas in Portugal that will allow you to stay and work in the country as a freelancer. The most popular ones however are the Temporary Stay Visa, the D7 Visa and the D2 Visa.
#1 Temporary Stay Visa
The Temporary Stay visa is specifically targeted towards digital nomads and allows workers to work in Portugal for up to one year, with an option to extend their stay four times for one year, totaling to a maximum of 5 years. This visa also requires you to pay only 15% of tax – considerably lower than the 25% standard tax in the country.
The requirements for the Temporary Stay Visa are as follows:
- Valid passport
- Should be a non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizen
- Monthly income of at least €2,800
- Proof of accommodation
- Portuguese NIF number
- A Portuguese bank account
- Proof of clean criminal record
#2 Portugal D7 Visa
The D7 Visa is another type of visa that freelancers in Portugal can take advantage of. Although initially targeted towards retirees, this visa is a good option for anyone looking to appeal for a residency permit. The D7 Portuguese Visa is valid for up to 120 days, after which you can submit your application at SEF for a residency permit. The process of obtaining a D7 visa is more or less as that of getting a Temporary Stay Visa apart from a few other requirements.
The requirements for a Portugal D7 Visa are:
- Valid passport
- Should be a non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizen
- Annual Income of at least €8,460 (plus an extra €4,230 for spouse and €2,538 for each dependent child)
- Proof of accommodation
- Residency in Portugal for at least 16 months
- Portuguese NIF number
- A Portuguese bank account
- Proof of clean criminal record
#3 Portugal D2 Visa
The D2 visa is specifically targeted towards entrepreneurs in order to get them to invest in Portugal. To qualify for this visa, you must be able to invest in either an existing business in Portugal or prove that you have enough income to start a new one. The best part about this visa is that it offers you the advantage of a residency permit while also allowing you to visit other Schengen countries without requiring a visa.
Plus, there is no minimum investment that you need to make in order to be eligible for this visa. However, we recommend having at least €5,000 available to invest in a business.
The following are what you’ll need to apply for the Portugal D2 visa:
- Proof of resources
- A solid business plan
- Proof of clean criminal record
- Health insurance
Just like the D7 visa, the Portugal D2 visa is valid for 120 days after which you can submit an application to SEF for a residency permit. This permit will let you stay in the country for 5 years. After that, you can apply for citizenship.
#2 Declaration of entry
Freelancers entering Portugal by way of a border not subject to control are required to declare themselves to the SEF (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras, Portugal Immigration and Border Service) by filling out the Declaration of Entry. You can schedule an appointment at the nearest SEF office within 3 working days after your arrival.
However, you’re not required to declare yourself if you’re entering Portugal by way of a border subject to control, hold a valid visa or resident permit that allows you stay in the country for more than 6 months.
If you are a EU citizen and you enter Portugal by way of a border subject to control, you do not need to declare yourself but you have to hold a valid document or passport.
Looking for projects in Portugal?
You’re eligible to become a freelancer in Portugal after you register as being self-employed or a freelancer with the Portuguese taxation & finance department. Before you do that, you’ll have to follow these steps:
Obtain a NIF
You will need to obtain a NIF (Número de Identificação Fiscal, also called Número de Contribuinte). It’s a 9-digit unique and a personal taxpayer identification number used for tax purposes. It’s necessary for both individual and collective persons/companies, but for companies it is actually called Número de Identificação de Pessoa Coletiva (Collective Person ID Number) or NIPC, instead of NIF.
Where and how can I apply for a NIF?
If you are a resident/EU citizen you can request a NIF by presenting your ID or passport at:
- Any serviço de finanças (tax office)
- Loja do cidadão (citizen shop)
- Other dedicated offices or counters
If you are a non-resident and non-EU/EEA citizen, you can apply for a NIF through a Portuguese lawyer or a tax representative in Portugal (representante fiscal) who agrees to act on your behalf. In this case you’ll need a valid passport (and not your ID!).
✋ The only requisite to be a tax representative is having a fixed residence in Portugal. So ask a friend already living there to become your tax representative and help you with the bureaucracy.
How long does it take to get a NIF in Portugal?
The process of obtaining a NIF in Portugal usually takes a short period, often a matter of minutes or hours, as it can often be done online. In-person applications at a tax office might take a bit longer due to potential wait times. Keep in mind that processing times could vary, and it’s advisable to check with the relevant authorities or sources for the most up-to-date and accurate information.
Open a bank account
You will need to open a bank account in Portugal under your name.
Opening an activity
Once you have a NIF and a bank account, you will need to inform the tax authority office about your intentions to work as a freelancer, declaring personal details and information about the activity you’re going to start. This process is generally known as ‘opening an activity’ (abrir uma atividade independente).
- EU/Schengen member state citizens can apply for the registration within 3 days after 3 months in the country, at the city hall (câmara municipal);
- Non-EU/Schengen member state citizens should possess a valid visa first and then apply for the residency at SEF.
#4 Health insurance
Health care in Portugal is considered pretty cheap by international standards. If you’re a resident, you’re entitled to the free national health service provided. You can even opt to get additional private health insurance to meet your specific needs.
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People registered for social security coverage are also entitled to receive healthcare coverage. You can get your social security number (NISS, Número de Identificação de Segurança Social) once you have a valid residency permit.
Recibo verde: Green receipt in Portugal
Green receipts (recibos verdes) are invoices that registered freelancers in Portugal can use to formally invoice clients and declare their income to the tax authorities.
Once you receive the confirmation that you have been successfully registered as a freelancer in Portugal, you can issue recibos verdes:
- Online on the official Portuguese tax platform
- In person at any tax office (serviço de finanças) or citizen shop (loja do cidadão).
💡 Ask someone speaking Portuguese to help you fill out the registration form for the green receipts.
Fees and taxes for freelancers in Portugal
As a freelancer in Portugal, you’ll need to pay the Portugal freelance tax. Whether you have to pay income tax or corporate tax depends mostly on the type of business you run. Generally though, the majority of freelancers in Portugal are subject to income taxes.
Self-employed individuals can set up single-member limited companies (Sociedade Unipessoal por Quotas) which are then subject to a flat tax rate of 25% for non-residents. Note that there is a tax-free allowance of €4,104, so if you earn less than this, you won’t need to pay.
Self-employed Portugal tax rates for the year 2023 are as follows:
|Portuguese income tax brackets||Portuguese tax rate|
|up to €7,479||14.5%|
If you have a partnership with another freelancer, you are taxed in the same way as sole workers. Each partner will have to then pay taxes on their share of the profits.
Tax deductions in Portugal
As a freelancer in Portugal, you can deduct any business expenses as long as they were incurred when running your business. However, there are some limits. For example, you can deduct travel expenses so long as they’re less than 10% of your total income.
If you’re working from home in Portugal, you can claim expenses only up to a limit of 25%.
There are various accounting methods you can use to declare your income tax liability in Portugal.
- For example, you can use the direct method by filing your full account on an annual basis and paying income tax at the standard rates on your profits.
- You can also make use of Portugal’s simplified tax regime which involves paying taxes at the standard rates on 75% of your overall income and providing expense receipts to offset the remaining 25%.
Note that freelance businesses with an annual turnover of more than €200,000 aren’t eligible for this regime. This is, however, a good option for those with lower incomes.
- There is also a third method called the NHR tax regime method. Freelancers living and working in Portugal can apply for this and pay income tax on all Portuguese earnings at a flat rate of 20%. Keep in mind that you can only gain NHR status if your business activities are considered high-value and are of a scientific, artistic, or technical nature.
💡 The best way to know which accounting method works for you for your Portugal freelance tax is to seek the help of a professional accountant.
Corporate tax in Portugal
If your company has been set up as an individual limited liability establishment (Estabelicimento Individual de Responsabilidade Limitada), any business assets separate from personal earnings are subject to corporate tax. Corporate tax in Portugal is a flat rate of 21% of a company’s taxable profits. If your business is small or medium-sized, you have the benefit of paying a reduced Portuguese corporate tax rate of 17% on your first €50,000 of taxable profit.
Keep in mind that it is extremely rare for corporate tax to apply to self-employed workers and freelancers in Portugal.
VAT in Portugal
VAT (Imposto Sobre o Valor Agregado, or IVA for short) is payable by all businesses who have a turnover of more than €13,500 on taxable goods and services. This number is said to rise further to €14,500 in 2024 and €15,000 in 2025.
There are three VAT rates in Portugal:
- The general rate, which is 23% on taxable goods and services
- The intermediate rate, which is 13% on food and drink, and
- The reduced rate, which is 6% on essential necessities including certain foods.
VAT or IVA has to be paid seven days after the reporting deadline, either on a monthly or on a quarterly basis.
Social security contributions
Freelancers in Portugal are responsible for making their own social security contributions. How much you need to pay varies but generally, the rate for self-employed workers is 21.4%. In return for this, you’ll be eligible for benefits such as allowance for sickness, family allowance, pensions, etc.
It goes without saying but it’s crucial to not miss a tax payment deadline. The fees for filing late or filing incomplete tax returns ranges from €200 to €2,500.
Late payments can also be penalised from 10% of the outstanding tax to almost double its value up to a maximum of €55,000!
Corporate taxes have different late fees that can range from €45,000 to €165,000.
How are freelancers in Portugal getting paid?
There are different payment methods for freelancers in Portugal to get paid.
If your clients are domestic or European companies, direct bank transfers are always available. In this case, you only need to issue an invoice with the corresponding information to receive the payment directly into your bank account.
If you work with non-European clients, Wise offers a solution that allows the freelancer to receive payments in EUR, USD, or other currencies as if they were locals of the client’s country.
In other words, you can get paid for your freelance work as if you had an account in Europe (if you work with clients in Europe) or in the USA (if you work with clients there).
We recommend the Wise multi-currency account, but there are other options for receiving payments as a freelancer in Portugal. However, pay attention to the transaction fees and exchange rates of these options.
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PayPal is one of the most popular payment alternatives internationally and one of the most commonly used payment methods among freelancers because it allows payments to be automatically converted into any other currency.
A good alternative to PayPal is Payoneer, a virtual wallet where you can receive payments in different currencies without fees (when the client also has a Payoneer account), or the client will pay a 3% fee for card payments. Additionally, as a user, you have the option to send a payment request to your clients. This simplifies payments as the client can pay with just a click.
Cryptocurrency payments have also gained ground and grown popular in the past few years.
There are also tools designed for freelancers that can help you with administrative tasks and make invoicing easier.
Tools like Bonsai allow you to digitally sign contracts with your clients, issue invoices, send automatic payment reminders, or receive client payments with a single click. Bonsai offers a 7-day free trial to test the product.
How to look for freelance jobs in Portugal
In addition to freelance platforms and websites, there are other alternatives you can use to find freelance jobs from Portugal.
#1 Freelance platforms
If there are specific platforms for your area of expertise, we recommend that you register on them as the competition will be lower.
For example, freelancermap is an excellent option to find technology projects with clients in Europe and the United States. The main categories of the platform are:
- Software Development
- IT Architecture
- Consulting and Project Management
It’s an open platform that allows you to create a profile and apply for projects at no cost. Additionally, there are no commissions charged on the project. The freelancer receives the full payment agreed upon with the client.
Other more general and well-known platforms include Upwork, Fiverr, freelancer.com, or Workana.
#2 Social Media
Social media can be a powerful tool for finding freelance work. These platforms allow you to connect with individuals interested in your services or those who could potentially benefit from them.
To achieve the best results, it’s crucial to manage your personal brand and take your online presence seriously.
Ensure you have complete and updated profiles on platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook so that potential clients can easily learn about your areas of expertise and skills. Just like your profile on freelance platforms, your presence here should be optimised to capture the attention of potential clients.
Another way to leverage social media for freelance work is by joining relevant groups where users share job opportunities, questions, and valuable content.
Social media serves as your portfolio. After completing a project, request a testimonial from your client and share it on your social media channels to build credibility among professional contacts and potentially attract more appealing job offers.
#3 Personal website
If you want to maximise opportunities, a personal website is an excellent way to get started. It allows potential clients to gain a better understanding of the skills and services offered, and gives you a chance to showcase your portfolio of work.
For instance, developers can use platforms like GitHub as their portfolio. On your own website, you can also work on SEO and position yourself as an expert in your niche to attract projects.
#4 Fairs, webinars, and events
As a freelancer, you’ll need to tap into your network, which is why it’s essential to continually work on it. Being proficient in the services you offer, whether it’s web design, graphic design, or web programming, is not enough, you also need to be a marketer.
Connect with other professionals in online events or attend gatherings happening in your city. These opportunities can help you connect with companies or fellow freelancers who might assist you in finding interesting freelance projects.
#5 Share your knowledge
While it’s true that many professionals already share their expertise through blogs or YouTube videos, there are still opportunities to position yourself as a leader in your niche.
By providing the community with small solutions in which you are an expert, they will likely remember you if a project becomes larger and they need to hire an expert.
You can engage by answering questions on platforms like Quora, on social media, and, if you’re up for it, starting a YouTube channel. Here too, a well-executed SEO strategy can help you position yourself effectively.
Tips for freelancing in Portugal
Perhaps this article has already convinced you to take the leap into freelancing in Portugal. Great!
Here’s a list of some final tips that can help you:
#1 Choose the right freelance status
In Portugal, you can choose between “Recibos Verdes” (Green Receipts) or forming a sole proprietorship. Research which status aligns better with your needs and consult with a legal professional if necessary.
#2 Inquire about the VAT exemption
Keep in mind that if your turnover was 10,000 euros or less in the previous year, you’ll be exempt from VAT. Remember to provide your projected first-year turnover during registration, prorated based on your start date.
#3 Transmit recibos verdes correctly
When using green recibos, ensure they are correctly filled out. Self-employed individuals are VAT exempt when using recibo verde, but it’s crucial to include the appropriate VAT code article that pertains to your exemption. Failing to do so is a common mistake that could lead to fines.
#4 Optimise your social security contributions
Many self-employed workers in Portugal, especially those using recibos verdes, lack awareness about optimising their Social Security contributions. Self-entrepreneurs have the option to request a reduction in their contribution base. By doing so, they can lower their social security payments, resulting in significant savings over 12 months that could be used to cover various expenses.
#5 Send the VAT periodic return
Don’t forget to submit the periodic VAT return, even if you haven’t issued receipts. This requirement informs the tax administration about invoiced amounts for services provided. Even if you keep your business open without sending receipts, you still need to file the VAT return. Non-compliance can result in significant fines, potentially jeopardising your business.
#6 Collect bills only if necessary
In Portugal, many self-employed individuals under the simplified scheme collect bills throughout the year, assuming they can deduct them from their IRS statement. However, this is a misconception. Only self-employed individuals under the organised accounting system can deduct activity-related expenses.
#7 English is fine, but Portuguese is even better
While many clients might communicate in English, having a good command of the Portuguese language can open up more opportunities, especially for local clients.
In conclusion, working as a freelancer in Portugal offers numerous advantages for professionals from various specialties. To make the most of this type of work, it’s important to consider available opportunities, tools, recommendations, and freelancer obligations.
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