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Freelancing and Independent Contracting

Understand the distinctions and regulations for freelancers in Denmark

Difference employees and contractors

In Denmark, the distinction between employees and independent contractors is not defined by a single law but is shaped by several legal principles and court rulings. The key factors that differentiate the two are the level of control or subordination, remuneration, and benefits and entitlements.

Level of Control (Subordination)

The "relationship of authority" or "subordination" is a crucial factor. An employee works under an employer's direction and control, which includes the work schedule and location, task delegation, and work method. The employer dictates work hours, location (office or remote), and deadlines, assigns specific tasks and projects, and may outline preferred methods or tools for completing tasks.

On the other hand, independent contractors have greater autonomy. They decide their own work schedule and location, have more flexibility in choosing how to approach a project, and are free to use their preferred methods and tools to complete the agreed-upon work.


Employees receive a regular salary subject to income tax and social security contributions, with the employer deducting and paying these contributions on the employee's behalf. Independent contractors, however, invoice clients for their services and are responsible for managing their own finances, including taxes and social security contributions.

Benefits and Entitlements

Employees benefit from a wide range of protections under Danish labor law, including minimum wage requirements, paid vacation and sick leave, maternity and paternity leave, and protection against dismissal or company bankruptcy. Independent contractors do not receive the same benefits and protections as employees. They are responsible for their own social security contributions and do not have paid leave entitlements.

The Danish courts consider all three factors together to determine the legal classification of a worker. In some cases, the distinction can be blurry. If you're unsure about how to classify someone, it's advisable to consult with a Danish employment lawyer.

Independent contracting

Independent contracting, also known as freelancing, is a popular way to work in Denmark. It offers flexibility and autonomy but also comes with responsibilities.

Contract Structures

Unlike employment contracts with standardized terms, independent contractor agreements are more flexible. Here are common structures:

  • Fixed-fee Contracts: Specify a set fee for the entire project, regardless of the time taken.
  • Time-based Contracts: Outline an hourly or daily rate for the services provided.
  • Retainer Agreements: Secure a recurring fee for ongoing services over a specific period.

Additional considerations include:

  • Scope of Work: Clearly define the deliverables, project timeline, and milestones.
  • Payment Terms: Specify invoicing procedures, payment schedules, and late payment penalties.
  • Termination Clauses: Outline the conditions under which either party can terminate the agreement.

Negotiation Practices

Successful independent contractors in Denmark understand how to negotiate effectively. Here are some key practices:

  • Research Market Rates: Know your worth by researching typical rates for your skills and experience in the Danish market.
  • Start High, Negotiate Openly: Begin with a slightly higher rate than your target, allowing room for negotiation.
  • Focus on Value: Highlight the unique value you bring to the project and its impact on the client's business.
  • Consider Payment Terms and Scope: Be prepared to negotiate on aspects like payment schedule, project scope, and potential revisions.

Common Industries for Independent Contractors

Independent contracting thrives in industries that value flexibility and specialized skills. Here are some prominent sectors in Denmark:

  • IT and Technology: Web developers, programmers, software engineers.
  • Marketing and Communications: Content creators, copywriters, social media managers.
  • Design and Creative: Graphic designers, web designers, photographers, videographers.
  • Consulting: Business consultants, management consultants, financial consultants.
  • Construction and Trades: Skilled tradespeople like electricians, plumbers, carpenters (may require additional licensing).

Intellectual property rights

In Denmark, intellectual property (IP) rights play a significant role for freelancers and the companies they collaborate with. It's essential to understand who owns the creative output to protect both parties involved.

Default Ownership of Copyrighted Works

Under the Danish Copyright Act (Lov om ophavsret), the freelancer is the default owner of the copyright to any original work they create. This includes written content such as articles, reports, and code, artistic creations like graphics, designs, and photographs, and audiovisual works like videos and animations.

Contractual Transfer of Ownership

The ownership of copyright can be transferred to the client through a written agreement between the freelancer and the client. This agreement should explicitly state the specific works, the scope of transfer, and the territorial scope. It's recommended to consult with a Danish lawyer to ensure the agreement accurately reflects the transfer of IP rights.

Importance of Written Agreements

Clear contracts protect both freelancers and clients. Freelancers maintain ownership of other creative works not explicitly transferred in the agreement, while clients secure ownership of the commissioned work for their intended use.

Work Made for Hire Exception

There is one exception to the default ownership rule: "work made for hire." If the work is created by an employee within the scope of their employment, the copyright automatically belongs to the employer according to Danish law. However, this exception generally doesn't apply to independent contractors due to their autonomous working style. Freelancers should always have a clear written agreement regarding IP ownership, regardless of the type of work being done, to avoid any misunderstandings.

Tax and insurance

As a freelancer or independent contractor in Denmark, you're responsible for managing your own taxes and social security contributions. Here's a breakdown of your tax obligations and available insurance options:

Tax Obligations

  • Personal Income Tax: Freelancers pay income tax on their net profits after deducting business expenses. Tax rates are progressive, ranging from 12.10% to 52.07%, depending on your annual income.

  • Municipal Tax: An additional local tax levied by your municipality, averaging around 24.9% but varying slightly depending on your location.

  • Church Tax: A tax levied by the Church of Denmark, typically around 0.7%, but may vary by region or be absent altogether.

  • Early Retirement Savings (Tillægspension): While not mandatory, freelancers are encouraged to contribute to a private pension plan to supplement their retirement income.

Tax Filing: Freelancers must file annual tax returns with the Danish tax authorities (SKAT) and pay taxes in advance through preliminary tax payments based on estimated annual income. These estimates can be adjusted throughout the year.

Insurance Options

  • Public Health Insurance: All Danish residents, including freelancers, are covered by the national healthcare system. However, it may not cover all medical expenses. Consider private health insurance for additional coverage.

  • Accident Insurance: While not mandatory, accident insurance can provide financial compensation in case of work-related accidents or injuries.

  • Liability Insurance: Protects freelancers from financial losses if a client sues them for negligence or mistakes made during their work.

Important Note: This guide provides a general overview. Consulting a tax advisor and insurance professional is recommended to determine the specific tax obligations and insurance coverage best suited for your individual circumstances.

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