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Freelancing and Independent Contracting

Understand the distinctions and regulations for freelancers in Cameroon

Difference employees and contractors

In Cameroon, the Labour Code (Law No. 92/007 of 14 August 1992) provides the framework for distinguishing between employees and contractors.

Control and Integration

Employees are under the control of their employers who dictate their working hours, schedules, and location. The manner and means of performing the work are also under the employer's control. Being integrated into the company structure with set work schedules is a characteristic of an employee.

On the other hand, contractors have autonomy in managing their work, including schedules and methods. They are not integrated into the company structure and may offer similar services to other clients.

Benefits and Social Security

Employees are entitled to social security benefits like health insurance, paid leave, and unemployment benefits as mandated by the Labour Code. Employers withhold social security contributions from employee salaries.

Contrarily, contractors are responsible for their own social security arrangements and are not entitled to employee benefits as mandated by the Labour Code.

Contractual Relationship

An employment contract, which may be written or verbal, outlines the terms of employment for employees, including salary, benefits, and job duties.

For contractors, a service contract outlines the specific project or service to be delivered, with a fixed fee or payment terms.

Risk and Investment

The employer assumes most of the work-related risks for employees, providing equipment and materials.

Contractors, however, typically use their own tools and equipment and bear the financial risks associated with completing the project.


Specific procedures govern the termination of employees, including notice periods and potential severance pay depending on the reason for dismissal.

The contract terms dictate the termination of contractors, often with less formality required compared to employee termination.

Independent contracting

Independent contracting is a flexible work arrangement that is beneficial for both businesses and skilled individuals in Cameroon.

Contract Structures for Independent Contractors

There are three main types of contract structures for independent contractors:

  • Fixed-Fee Contracts: These are the most common type of contracts. They outline a specific project or service with a predetermined fee. The contract should detail deliverables, timelines, payment terms, and termination clauses.

  • Time-Based Contracts: In this type of contract, payment is based on the time spent working, often at hourly or daily rates. This is common for short-term projects that require specific expertise but do not have a clearly defined outcome.

  • Performance-Based Contracts: Payment in these contracts hinges on achieving specific milestones or results. This incentivizes independent contractors to deliver successful outcomes but requires clear performance metrics in the contract.

Negotiation Practices for Independent Contractors

When negotiating contracts, independent contractors should:

  • Set Rates with Confidence: Research the prevailing rates for similar services in Cameroon. Be prepared to justify your rates by highlighting your skills and experience.

  • Protect Against Scope Creep: Clearly define the project scope in the contract to avoid additional work that exceeds the agreed-upon fee.

  • Establish Payment Terms: Negotiate secure payment terms, including milestones for fixed-fee contracts and clear invoicing procedures. Consider requesting upfront deposits or partial payments.

Common Industries for Independent Contractors in Cameroon

Independent contractors are in high demand in several industries in Cameroon:

  • Information Technology (IT): Software developers, web designers, and IT security specialists often work as independent contractors.

  • Creative Industries: Graphic designers, writers, translators, and videographers often find freelance opportunities.

  • Consulting: Businesses frequently engage independent consultants in marketing, finance, and human resources.

  • Construction: Skilled tradespeople like electricians, plumbers, and carpenters often operate as independent contractors.

Intellectual property rights

Freelancers and independent contractors in Cameroon often generate valuable intellectual property (IP) during their work. It's crucial to understand the ownership and usage rights to safeguard their creations.

Cameroon is a signatory to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, which generally assigns copyright ownership to the original creator of the work. However, the situation becomes more complex when it comes to commissioned work. The Cameroonian Intellectual Property Law (Law No. 2004/003 of 22 April 2004) introduces the concept of "work made for hire". If a contract explicitly states that the work is created "for hire" for the client, the copyright ownership may be transferred to the client.

Key Point: A written contract is crucial in determining copyright ownership. In the absence of a "work made for hire" clause, the freelancer retains copyright ownership by default.

Strategies for Protecting Your Work as a Freelancer

Explicit Contracts: Clearly define ownership and usage rights for any IP created in the contract. If you plan to retain ownership, avoid "work made for hire" clauses.

Copyright Registration: Although not mandatory in Cameroon, registering your copyright with the Ministry of Culture offers stronger legal protection in the event of infringement.

Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs): If you disclose confidential information to the client during the project, an NDA can protect your trade secrets or sensitive information.

Tax and insurance

As a freelancer or independent contractor in Cameroon, managing your tax obligations and securing your own social safety nets is your responsibility.

Tax Obligations for Freelancers

Freelancers may choose to register with the National Agency for Taxation (Direction Générale des Impôts - DGI) to formalize their business and simplify tax filing. This registration can be done under the Simplified Regime for Non-Commercial Professions (RSNPC).

Freelancers are required to file income tax returns annually with the DGI. The tax rate applied is progressive, which means it increases as your income rises.

If your annual turnover exceeds a specific threshold set by the DGI, you may be required to register for and collect Value Added Tax (VAT) on your services.

Insurance Options for Freelancers

In Cameroon, the social security system primarily covers salaried employees, leaving freelancers to obtain their own health insurance, disability insurance, and pension plans.

Several private insurance companies offer health insurance plans for individuals, with premiums typically based on your age and chosen coverage level.

Disability insurance options can be explored with the help of independent insurance brokers or financial advisors. This type of insurance protects your income in case of illness or injury.

Consider setting up a private pension plan to save for retirement. Various options are available, including mutual funds and long-term investment plans.

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