Forms of gainful activity – Overview

In Germany, we speak of gainful activity (Erwerbstätigkeit) with regard to engaging in work in return for remuneration. Artists, creatives and people engaged in the cultural sector do not have a specific status, but may be employed (Arbeitnehmer*in/Angestellte*r) or self-employed. In addition, there are a number of other forms of gainful activity, such as internships (Praktikum) or voluntary service (Freiwilligendienst).

An employee (Arbeitnehmer*in/Angestellte*r) is someone who is in an employment relationship, who performs work that is dependent on an employer and who is bound by instructions. Bound by instructions means that the person cannot determine themselves what, when, where and how they work, but rather that this is specified by the employer. The employee is integrated into the employer's company organisation. In the cultural sector, this applies to orchestra musicians and actors employed by an ensemble, for example.  
An employment relationship has consequences with regard to the insurance obligations in Germany, i.e. health insurance, pension insurance, accident insurance and unemployment insurance. Social security is organised via the employer.

Individual aspects are explained in more detail in the Employment section. This section also outlines which residence title or document allows for employment.

A person is considered to be self-employed (selbstständig tätig) if he/she works with his/her own equipment on his/her own premises and usually has several clients and/or customers. The self-employed person (Selbstständige) decides which orders to accept and when and where to work. In the case of self-employment, the person in question is contractually obligated to perform a certain service or to deliver a specific piece of work. In the cultural and creative sector, this is often the case for designers, authors or visual artists.
Self-employment has consequences with regard to social security as well as taxation. For example, it is necessary to provide for retirement/old age or for periods of illness.
If an artistic activity is carried out independently, a distinction is made between freelance activity (freiberufliche Tätigkeit) and a business enterprise (Gewerbebetrieb). The distinction has an effect on the registration of the activity with the tax office and the trade office (Gewerbeamt) and also with regard to taxation. In general, self-employed artistic activities fall into the category of freelance activities. In principle, this applies to all sectors.

Individual aspects are explained in more detail in the Self-employment section. This section explains which residence title or document enables a person to take up self-employment in Germany.

A number of other forms of activity are also common in the cultural sector. These are usually temporary and meant for vocational orientation, getting to know an organisation or company or for acquiring certain vocational skills. The following forms of work will be explained here: internship (Praktikum), job shadowing (Hospitanz) and voluntary service (Freiwilligendienst).

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