'Almost half' of freelancers in Germany struggling to find assignments

Rachel Stern
Rachel Stern - [email protected]
'Almost half' of freelancers in Germany struggling to find assignments
A freelancer works on her laptop in a co-working space. Almost half of self-employed people in Germany are struggling to find new assignments, according to a new survey. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/CLARK | CLARK

Almost every second self-employed person in Germany is currently complaining about a lack of assignments, according to a new survey from the Munich-based Ifo Institute.


Freelancers or self-employed (Selbstständige) in Germany depend on these assignments or orders (Aufträge) from customers, whether an architect who designs buildings or a caterer looking to deliver food at events. 

As opposed to employees with an unlimited contract (Festangestellte), their livelihood depends on their clients and the income they receive from them. 

But the figures put a dampener over the current climate for freelancers: 47.9 percent of self-employed people reported struggling to get new orders from clients in January, up from 45.3 percent in October, according to the Munich-based Ifo Institute's quarterly survey published Monday. 

“The order books of the self-employed are plainly melting away,” said Ifo expert Katrin Demmelhuber in a statement about the survey. "The associated decline in revenue is a cause for concern."

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Not only did the 1,500 surveyed self-employed people - who ranged from individual freelancers to 'micro-enterprises' with less than nine employees - rate their current situation as worse than in the autumn, but they also had pessimistic expectations for the coming six months.

As a result, the ‘Jimdo-ifo Business Climate Index for the Self-Employed’ fell to minus 22.6 points in January, compared to minus 17.5 in December. 

Furthermore, just under a quarter of self-employed respondents stated that they were unable to offer their goods and services without restrictions, either due to labour shortages or a lack of capacity.

"The general economic environment is increasingly unsettling for the self-employed," said Demmelhuber.

Ifo Graphic

Graphic showing the overall economic situation and mood for freelancers, provided to The Local courtesy of Ifo.

Economic woes in Germany

The dip in work comes as Germany as a whole is struggling to emerge from a recession: Europe's largest economy shrank by 0.3 percent last year. According to the German government's draft annual economic report, the economy is only expected to grow by 0.2 percent in 2024. 

The situation is "dramatically bad", said Economics Minister Robert Habeck of the Greens in response to the figures. 


Expensive energy, high interest rates, a sluggish global economy and stubborn inflation are currently weighing on both companies and individuals.

READ ALSO: Why is Germany stuck in recession - and how long might it last?

The Ifo Institute has been calculating the business climate index for the self-employed since August 2021. Although they’ve been looking at all sectors, the focus has been on the service sector, Demmelhuber told The Local.

The barometer is based on a collaboration with Jimdo, a provider of online tools specifically for solo self-employed people and small businesses. 

"As with the coronavirus restrictions, self-employed people are feeling the effects of the economic climate the most. Economic fluctuations hit them directly," says Matthias Henze, CEO and founder of Jimdo.

"In times of economic challenges, large companies cut their spending on external services, which means that self-employed people and micro-businesses receive fewer orders."


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