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Freelancing and Independent Contracting

Understand the distinctions and regulations for freelancers in Bulgaria

Difference employees and contractors

In Bulgaria, the classification of workers as employees or independent contractors is a critical aspect of compliance with labor laws and tax regulations. This classification is primarily based on the nature of the working relationship, as defined in the Obligations and Contracts Act (OCA).

Employee Characteristics

According to the OCA, Chapter Three, Section III, an employee is characterized by:

  • Subordination: The employee is under the employer's direction and control in terms of work tasks, schedule, and location.
  • Dependence on Employer's Resources: The employer usually provides the tools, equipment, and workspace necessary for the employee to perform their tasks.
  • Remuneration: Employees receive a fixed salary or wage, often accompanied by benefits such as paid leave and social security contributions.
  • Integration into the Organization: An employee is considered an integral part of the employer's business structure.

Contractor Characteristics

On the other hand, an independent contractor, as defined by the OCA, Chapter Three, Section II, is characterized by:

  • Autonomy: Independent contractors have the freedom to determine their work schedule, location, and methods for accomplishing the agreed-upon tasks.
  • Independent Resources: Contractors typically use their own tools and equipment to carry out the contracted work.
  • Payment for Results: Contractors are paid a predetermined fee for the completed project or service, without benefits.
  • Business for Themselves: Independent contractors run their own business and may work for multiple clients at the same time.

It's important to note that the Bulgarian Labor Inspectorate has the power to investigate potential misclassification and can reclassify a worker as an employee if the working relationship more closely aligns with employee characteristics, even if the contract is presented as a service agreement.

Misclassification Consequences

Misclassification of workers can result in legal and financial consequences for both employers and contractors. Employers may be subject to fines for unpaid social security contributions, taxes, and employee benefits. On the other hand, misclassified contractors may lose access to employee benefits and protections.

Independent contracting

Independent contracting, also known as freelancing, is a growing trend in Bulgaria. Many businesses are seeking skilled professionals for specific projects without the commitment of a full-time employee. This guide explores the key aspects of independent contracting in Bulgaria, including contract structures, negotiation practices, and common industries where freelance work thrives.

Contract Structures

There are two main legal structures for independent contractors in Bulgaria:

  • Sole Trader (Едноличен търговец, or ET): This is a simple setup ideal for individual contractors. It offers full control of the business but comes with unlimited liability, meaning you are personally responsible for all debts and liabilities.
  • Sole Owner Limited Liability Company (EOOD): This establishes a separate legal entity from the individual, offering limited liability protection. However, it involves more complex registration and administrative processes.

The choice between these structures depends on factors like your income level, risk tolerance, and the complexity of your business operations. Consulting a lawyer or accountant can help you determine the most suitable structure for your situation.

Negotiation Practices

Negotiation is a crucial aspect of securing favorable terms as an independent contractor in Bulgaria. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Rates: Daily, hourly, or project-based rates are common. Research your industry standards and experience level to set a competitive rate. Be prepared to justify your rate based on your skills and expertise.
  • Payment Terms: Negotiate clear terms for payment schedules, milestones, and methods (bank transfer, cash, etc.). Consider requesting an upfront deposit or progress payments for larger projects.
  • Scope of Work: Clearly define the project deliverables, timelines, and revision policies in the contract. This protects both you and the client from misunderstandings.
  • Termination Clauses: Include provisions for early termination by either party, outlining any associated fees or notice periods.

It's advisable to have a written contract outlining all agreed terms to avoid potential disputes in the future.

Common Industries for Independent Contracting

Several industries in Bulgaria are well-suited for independent contractors:

  • Information Technology (IT): Web developers, programmers, software engineers, and other IT professionals are in high demand for freelance work.
  • Creative Industries: Graphic designers, writers, translators, photographers, and videographers often find freelance opportunities.
  • Marketing and Communications: Social media managers, content creators, copywriters, and marketing consultants can leverage their skills in freelance projects.

These are just a few examples, and many other industries utilize independent contractors for specialized expertise or project-based work.

Intellectual property rights

Freelancing in Bulgaria provides numerous opportunities, but it's crucial to protect your intellectual property (IP) as an independent contractor. This guide will delve into the key aspects of IP rights for freelancers in Bulgaria, with references to relevant legal sources.

Types of Intellectual Property Relevant to Freelancers


Copyright safeguards original creative works such as writing, code, design, and artistic expression. As the author, you automatically hold the copyright unless you explicitly transfer it in a contract.


Trademarks protect distinctive signs like logos, slogans, and brand names used to identify your services. Registering a trademark grants exclusive rights to prevent others from using similar marks that could cause confusion.


Patents provide exclusive rights for inventions that offer a new, inventive, and industrially applicable solution to a technical problem. Patenting is relevant for freelancers in fields like engineering or product design.

Ownership and Transfer of IP Rights

Default Ownership

By default, you, the freelancer, own the IP you create unless a written agreement states otherwise.

Contractual Agreements

Freelancing contracts should clearly address IP ownership. You can retain ownership while granting the client a license to use your work for specific purposes.

Work Made for Hire

In some cases, Bulgarian law might consider the work "made for hire" if it falls within the scope of the client's business and is created at their direction. In such scenarios, the client might be considered the initial owner.

It's recommended to consult a lawyer specializing in IP law for complex situations or high-value projects to ensure a well-drafted contract that protects your rights.

Tax and insurance

Freelancing in Bulgaria comes with its own set of tax and insurance obligations. Understanding these requirements is crucial for financial responsibility and navigating the Bulgarian system.

Tax Obligations for Freelancers

Freelancers in Bulgaria have two main tax registration options:

  • Sole Trader (ET): This option is ideal for general freelance activities. Sole traders are required to pay a flat 15% income tax on their annual net profit, which is the income after deducting expenses. This is based on the Corporate Income Tax Act of the Republic of Bulgaria. Some professions might also require a local "patent tax" depending on municipal regulations.

  • Freelancer: This option is suited for specific professions outlined in the Individual Income Tax Act of the Republic of Bulgaria. These professions often have varying tax rates, ranging from 10% to 18% on their gross income, which is the income before expenses.

Regardless of the registration type, freelancers are required to submit annual tax returns between specific deadlines to avoid penalties. For Sole Traders, the deadline is between March 1 and June 30, and for Freelancers, it's between January 10 and April 30.

Social Security Options for Freelancers

Freelancers in Bulgaria are responsible for their own social security contributions, which cover healthcare, pensions, and unemployment benefits. These contributions are outlined in the Social Security Code of the Republic of Bulgaria.

Mandatory Self-Insurance: Freelancers are required to register for mandatory social security contributions. The minimum and maximum monthly thresholds for these contributions are set annually. As of 2024, these range from BGN 710 to BGN 3,400, with contributions calculated as a percentage of this chosen amount. This offers some flexibility in managing social security costs.

Voluntary Insurance: Freelancers also have the option to opt for voluntary insurance schemes to increase their social security coverage. This could potentially lead to higher pensions and unemployment benefits.

It's important to note that consulting a Bulgarian tax advisor can help determine the most suitable registration and social security options based on your specific circumstances and profession.

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