You might be transitioning from employment to freelance or have just finished your studies -- So, how do you start working as a freelance dance artist? Besides the artistic work and searching for jobs, you need to make sure you have all your paperwork in order. First, if you are not an EU citizen you will have to get a valid residence permit, if you don’t already have one (see Visa & Residence Permit Resource Guide). This is its own process, but many of the steps for freelancers listed below are needed for both EU and non-EU citizens.
Next, you need to:
Register your address (Anmeldung)
If you have not already registered your address, make an appointment at your local municipal office (Bürgeramt) online and bring the following documents to the appointment:
Valid passport or national ID
Rental confirmation from your landlord (Wohnungsgeberbestätigung)
Registration form, either called Meldeschein or Anmeldung
Register for health & social insurance
You will need health, pension and care insurance to live and work in Germany.
As a freelancer you have to enroll yourself in a health insurance of your choice. You have the option to choose between public health insurance (gesetzliche Krankenversicherung) and private health insurance (private Krankenversicherung).
Pension and care insurance are provided by the state. The KSK (Künstlersozialkasse) supports self-employed artists financially with their contributions for social insurance. You must apply for the KSK separately after you are enrolled in one of the two types of regular health & social insurance (see KSK Q&A).
There are a number of different insurances that are not mandatory but could support you further on your way as a freelancer. We have made a list of insurances that could interest you (link to list)
Register for a Steuernummer (tax number for freelancers)
To start your career as a freelancer, a Steuernummer is crucial. Based on the tax number, the responsible, local tax office can assign the income tax return to the taxpayer. The tax number is composed of information about your federal state, the responsible tax office and a personal number.
To obtain your Steuernummer (tax number) from your nearest Finanzamt (tax office) you have to fill in the “Fragebogen zur steuerliche Erfassung” (Questionnaire for Taxation) and submit it to your local tax office. You should receive your tax number per mail in a few weeks
Once you have a Steuernummer, this number needs to be included every time you make an invoice.
Important: every time you change your address, either to another region or city in Germany, even within the same city, you must inform the nearest Finanzamt, because your Steuernummer may change (not your Steuer ID, this always stays the same).
Clarification: The Steuer-ID is your Tax Identification number. In the German tax authority’s system (Finanzamt) you, as a person, are this number. It remains your personal Tax ID number for the rest of your life. It must be mentioned in all letters to the Finanzamt, and is used to process everything relating to Einkommensteuer (Income Tax).
And finally, each year you will need to:
Declare your taxes
Once you start earning money as a freelancer you will have to declare your taxes. The tax declaration can be submitted with the help of a tax advisor (Steuerberater) or through online tax portals like ELSTER, Taxfix or Steuergo. You will need your tax identification number (Steuer-ID) and your tax number (Steuernummer).
The Sozialversicherungsnummer, Rentenversicherungsnummer or RVNR is the German pension insurance number. It's also called a social insurance number. It is also a unique number, it does not change over the course of your life.
In order to find out your number, please get in contact with the Deutsche Rentenversicherung.
The KSK, or Künstlersozialkasse, is the Artists' Social Security Fund. It ensures that self-employed artists enjoy similar protection under the statutory social insurance system as employed artists. The KSK coordinates the payment of contributions of its members to health, pension and care insurances. More information about the topic can be found on https://www.kuenstlersozialkasse.de/.
What are the advantages of a KSK membership?
As an employed artist the contributions you pay for social insurance are partially covered by the employer. Self-employed artists have to pay the full amount of contributions out of their own pocket. With a KSK membership freelance artists only pay half of the required amount and the rest is financed by the Künstlersozialkasse. Membership is also beneficial as you apply for funding or other organizationational support, where you may be asked to show proof of your KSK Mitgliedschaft as evidence that you are a working, professional artist.
What are the joining requirements?
You have to be a self-employed artist and earn at least 3.900,00 EURO per year / 325,00 EURO per month.
For the first three years of your self-employed career you can be supported by the KSK, even though your income is lower than the minimum earning requirement.
Within a six year time frame, your yearly income may be under the minimum earning requirement (3.900,00 Euro/year) twice.
How do I get in?
You will need to fill out an application, provide details and documents that prove you are working as a self-employed artist (contracts, invoices, flyers, newspaper reports, any evidence from your last year of work and the upcoming months). Your application needs to be approved in order to become a member. If you are accepted, you will be covered from the date of your application. The application form and more detailed information are available for download on the KSK website.
Once you get in,
It’s a dance agency connected to the Arbeitsagentur.
You have to audition to get into ZAV.
They help you find auditions and jobs for you regarding what ‘’kind of dancer’’ you are.
But being into ZAV helps to get into KSK.
Wir arbeiten dran!
"Thank you for this incredible chance!" In the eyes of us as dancers, a job offer or being cast in a production is usually a gift and an opportunity for which we are deeply grateful. What many people often don't think about is how we earned that opportunity through dedication, willpower and hard physical work. A lack of self-confidence and feeling of security often makes us forget what an essential contribution we make to the bigger picture. We deserve, not only the opportunities on-stage and the applause of the audience, but we also have a legally and collectively agreed entitlement to decent employment. This includes a fulfilling and healthy career during which we are allowed, as employees, to have a voice in the discussion of many matters.
Dance as a professional field has undergone a huge transformation in the last 25 years, the standard of companies overall has risen significantly, also decreasing the differences in quality between smaller and larger ensembles. Dancers from all over the world know about the internationally unique diversity and density of professional companies and independent projects available in Germany. As a result of this, since the fall of the wall and globalization, competition in our job market has increased exponentially, meaning that more and more dancers are fighting for a decreasing number of jobs.
These developments in our job market have created an increase in the pressure dancers face, however, there has been no profound or comprehensive change to the structures and self-conception of our industry. Short-term employment contracts, low pay, the inadequately regulated working conditions of our NV Bühne Solo contract, occasionally obsolete leadership or teaching methods and above all our love for our art form have placed many dancers in a position of financial and emotional dependency towards their superiors. This prevents them from taking responsibility for themselves as artists, employees and general members of society.
Difficulties inherent to the dance profession are only being made worse by these structural problems: high physical performance demands, lack of an independent voice during daily rehearsals, mostly following orders, permanent feeling of being in a "test" situation, dealing with the social and cultural differences of living in another country as well as not having the normal support network of family and friends. But these issues are often not dealt with properly and dancers are not receiving sufficient compensation to help them overcome temporary or long-term problems mentally and physically.
Translation by Amelia Seth / Theater Krefeld Mönchengladbach
What does the insurance system look like for dancers?
Health insurance in Germany is not free of charge, yet mandatory. Most dancers can only get public health insurance, which is through AOK, DAK, KKH, Barmer, IKK and more. This covers everything that is not a work injury.If you make over 60,750€ per year or you become a freelancer you can choose a private insurance, PKV.
All employees of a theater are also insured through the working accident system (Unfallkasse), which is a state funded insurance. This insurance also deals with workplace safety and anything relating to health in the workplace. They can be contacted to do inspections of a workplace if there is concern that working conditions are not up to standard. For more information about accident insurance please visit: https://www.dguv.de/en/index.jsp If you are a freelancer you have to make your own accident insurance (Unfallversicherung). Here you can find Tipps for choosing one https://www.kuenstler-fairsicherung.de/unfallversicherung/ or go direct to https://www.vbg.de/DE/0_Home/home_node.html (unfortunately the website is only available in German)
I am in pain! What shall I do?
If it isn’t a specific working accident case (read further for definition and explanation) and you need help with pain management or physiotherapy, go to your Hausarzt (or preferably a specialized orthopedic) and request a receipt for some form of physical therapy. In the receipt the doctor can specify the type of treatment you need, the length and the frequency of the treatments. You can always go back to your doctor to get another receipt for physiotherapy if it runs out. Treatments prescribed by a doctor will be covered by your individual insurance, either partially or fully.
Your Hausarzt and physiotherapist should be able to help taking care of the pain. If you need to see a specialist for something more serious, your Hausarzt can refer you to one. If you need additional help or advice, get in contact with TA.MED- a German organization specified for dancers’ health in Germany- for further help and advice (please visit: https://www.tamed.eu/)
I got injured at work! What are the first things I shall do?
A work injury (Arbeitsunfall) is any traumatic injury that occurs on the way from home to work, at work, during a show, or on the way from work to home.
As soon as the accident happens, fill out a form for a work injury with the ballett direction (Unfallanzeige). Go to see a doctor immediately or the following day at the latest. Work injuries must be treated by a D-Arzt and only D-Arzts (Durchgangsarzt, specially certified doctors from the Unfallkasse of your specific region of Germany), whether it is a hospital visit or not. The D-Arzt gives the accident insurance fund a prompt report on the accident, the injury and the measures taken. At the same time, the employer informs the accident insurance fund about the reportable accident at work.
Only call an ambulance if you are severely injured and cannot reach the doctor independently (with public transport/ private vehicle). Any travel costs regarding the injury will be fully refunded by the Unfallkasse, once they are provided with the receipts. The ballet direction or human resources (Personalabteilung) in your house should have a list of D-Arzt in your city (you can also search for them through their website: https://www.dguv.de/de/bg-uk-lv/unfallkassen/index.jsp).
Once you get to the Hospital / Doctor, most importantly, inform them clearly that you had a working accident, an “Arbeitsunfall”, and you are covered with the Unfallkasse of your respective region. This part is extremely crucial. Then present your private health insurance card (Barmer GEK, TK, DAK, AOK…) for identification in the health system. You will need to tell them specifics about the injury (what caused it, your current symptoms, the time and place of injury etc.) so make sure that you have a basic ability to articulate it, or have a German speaking person accompany you.
As soon as possible afterwards, make sure the Opera House has a full accident report (the Unfallanzeige). This report should be filed as soon as possible through the ballet direktion, no later than one week after the injury. Even if it is something small, it is very important to put any injury on file with them for future reference with the health insurance.
If the Injury happens in the Studio, call a certified First Aid employee. Each house should have a First Aid certified employee on staff at all times. List can be obtained from the ballet direction or Personalabteilung. This list can be printed and displayed near the working spaces.
If the injury happens on Stage, inform the Chefdisponent of the performance first, either directly or via the stage manager. The Chefdisponent MUST be aware of any injuries that occur shortly before or during a performance. The Chefdisponent will further notify the Ballet masters if quick changes need to be made and help to organize getting care for the injured dancer.
If the injury happens on tours within Germany, please follow the same course of actions written above.
If the injury happens on tours outside of Germany, this is dependent on Company policy. If the company has travel insurance, that should cover treatment in foreign countries. This is a topic to discuss with your tour manager or directly with the ballet direction.
How can I manage my injury in the most efficient way?
When you are dealing with any sort of work injury, you will be assigned a rehab manager through your region's Unfallkasse, who will use the information on the doctor’s report to identify any specific need for additional action or support in the form of rehabilitation management.
The rehab managers first contact the injured person, clarify any questions regarding occupation and the need for support and give individual advice. The rehab managers meet in person with the injured dancer, a medical rehabilitation specialist and other experts in order to plan an individually tailored programme of rehabilitation and reintegration. Other specialists who are particularly knowledgeable about the physical requirements for work are also involved in rehabilitation planning. They also know what life is like in the theatre. Muscle wastage and the resulting delay in subsequent reintegration into theatre training are prevented by using a special exercise plan for the parts of the body not affected by injury.
The results are recorded in a rehabilitation plan.
In order to find the most suitable form of rehab for you:
You can speak with your rehab manager at the Unfallkasse to help choose the best rehab center and physio near you.
You can also consult with TAMED (https://www.tamed.eu/) to find local dance physios.
You can contact Medicos auf Schalke - A rehab center specifically for dancers for information and advice on your rehab program. https://www.medicos-aufschalke.de/gesundheit-medizin/tanzmedizin/kompetenzzentrum-tanzmedizin/kompetenzzentrum-tanzmedizin
Will I keep getting paid while I am injured?
Once declared sick by a medical authority, you will be provided with three copies of a certificate of incapacity for work (Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung/ Krankenschein)- one for you to keep, one for your employer and one for the health insurance. It is important to send this certificate to the health insurance company within one week of your doctor visit. In specific circumstances in which a dancer is unable to work, the health insurance will be covering a portion of the dancer’s salary (Krankengeld). In most cases, this consists of 70 percent of the brutto monthly salary (you can calculate the exact amount you will receive here: https://www.finanztip.de/gkv/krankengeld/). If the insurance is not provided with the issued Krankenschein, your requirement on sick pay rests and the insurance will not pay (§49 exp. 1 No. 5 SGB V). Here are the circumstances in which you are entitled to get payed by the insurance (Krankengeld):
In cases of a working accident, you are entitled to apply for injury payment (Verletzengeld) from the Unfallkasse. Normally, injury payment is 80 percent of the brutto monthly salary, and will not be paid if Krankengeld is already provided by the health insurance. For more information, please contact your Unfallkasse and visit: https://www.arbeitsrechte.de/verletztengeld/#Was_ist_Verletztengeld
Once you are healthy and fit enough to return to work, your employer will pay your full salary again and the insurance will no longer participate.
If you are a freelancer and paying for accident insurance, your injury payment (Kranken-/Verletztengeld) will be calculated according to the salary you claimed to the KSK.
Once I am fit and healthy, how am I expected to transition back into work?
Every Opera House should have a ‘return-to-work program’ (Betriebliches Eingliederungsmanagement/ BEM) set up. You can work with them to properly manage your return to work after a long sickness or injury. Contact your Personalabteilung or Personalrat (work council) for more information.
For more information please visit: https://www.kus.uni-hamburg.de/en/themen/gesundheit-familie-soziales-gleichstellung/soziale-beratungsangebote/bem.html
This section aims to lay out key information about the German pension agency for stage and theatre artists. This is a puzzling subject for all of us not so familiar with the world of pension and insurance policies, but we have tried to make it as comprehensive and accessible as possible.The majority of the information found in this segment originates in files and documents from the Bayerische Versorgungskammer website so for more information, documents and contact details please visit: https://www.buehnenversorgung.de/ (unfortunately, the website is mostly available in German, with only select documents in English language which can be found in the ‘Downloadcenter’).
What is the Bayerische Versorgungskammer/ BVK?
The Bavarian Chamber for Social Benefits and Pensions is an agency, based in Munich, that manages the German Theatrical Pension Fund (Versorgungsanstalt der deutschen Bühnen - VddB).
What is the Versorgungsanstalt der deutschen Bühnen/ VddB?
The German Theatrical Pension Fund is a compulsory benefit and pension policy. By means of an extra insurance, its main purpose is to provide all members of the theatrical professions employed in all German theatres with supplementary old-age pension. It also involves occupational disability and surviving dependents' benefits and the special option for dancers to take funds early to support their career transition after finishing a professional stage career.
Who is insured by BVK and how?
All professional stage artists who are at least 17 years old, permanent and guest employees alike. (The period of compulsory insurance begins at the same time as employment starts and includes the rehearsal and pre-rehearsal period.)
The artists’ right to insurance is unaffected by his or her nationality: foreign artists are eligible for the same rights and responsibilities as German artists.
Retirement funds are paid out worldwide; The insured artist does not have to live in Germany during retirement to take advantage of his/her benefits.
Every artist will receive services or funds in proportion to the investment they have made.
Freelance artists are also entitled to be insured by the BVK, you will need to register yourself independently through the following link: https://www.buehnenversorgung.de/downloadcenter#5870. (You will be asked to send in a proof of your annual income or your KSK membership number, accompanied by a layout of your artistic activity of the last 2-3 years.)
If you finish a contract with a theater but continue to work as a freelancer you can continue your payments (more info about minimum requirement below) and membership with the BVK.
If you finish working in Germany but continue working as a dancer in another country you can continue your payments and membership with the BVK.
If you finish working as a professional stage dancer and do not want to take the money for a career transition you have the option to continue your payments into the BVK so your insurance continues to grow until retirement age.
Insurance with the Artists’ Social Security (KSK) does not affect insurance with the BVK.
What will be your contributions?
The contributions to your fund are paid equally by you and your employer- half is paid by you every month and the same amount is also paid in by your employer.
You can contact the BVK about options to increase this payment and about continuing minimum payments if your employment with a theater ends.
What is Riester?
Riester is the possibility for you to receive additional state subsidy towards this pension and declare taxes for them. The state pays supplementary allowances for your compulsory contributions and the amounts can be deducted from income tax as special expenditure.
For more information about the conditions and procedure of application, please visit: https://www.buehnenversorgung.de/Downloadcenter#5851 (Riester- Informationsmaterial- ‘Explanatory Note 15- Riester support measures’).
If you are a freelance artist, you will need to contribute at least 4% of your netto yearly income in order to apply for ’Riester’.
What can I use the money on my fund for?
You may use the money on your fund for the following benefits:
Old-age pension- You may continue your insurance after you have given up your onstage activities by keeping on paying the minimum contribution, which is 12,50 euros monthly. If you continue your insurance until the legal age limit, you may attain the qualifying period for old-age pension (60 months of contribution payments) and secure your entitlement to a flexible old-age pension upon reaching the age of 62. If you have not paid at least 60 months of contributions before 31 December 2000, you will qualify for an old-age pension upon reaching the statutory age limit (67) if you have attained the qualifying period of 120 months of contributions.
Upon your death, your surviving dependents will be entitled to a pension (death allowance, widow(er)’s allowance, surviving dependents' annuity for registered partners and orphan’s allowance).
Transition (indemnity)- Among onstage professions, dancers occupy a particular position, since they are generally able to exercise their profession for a limited time only. The indemnity paid by the VddB aims to facilitate your career change and the set-up of your own business. You will qualify for the indemnity if you have reached the age of 32 and have not given up your onstage profession by then (this includes all types of stage work, not only dancing) or no later than the end of the season when you turned 44. You are required to provide evidence of retraining, further training or establishment of your own business. You must have paid contributions for at least 60 months without claiming benefits (disability pension), and prove that you will no longer work as a dancer and will not take up any activity in the future which would require you to be insured with the VddB. The indemnity amount equals the total of all paid contributions, i.e. including the employer’s contribution, and will be paid once on request in one lump-sum amount. The application form is available from administration or online at www.buehnenversorgung.de in the section „Versicherung und Versorgung - Formulare“ (Insurance and Pension forms). You must apply within two years of giving up your onstage profession.
Please note: Full payment of your indemnity settles all your expectancies from the VddB. If you have attained the qualifying period of 60 months for old-age pension, you should consider carefully whether you will still have sufficient old-age pension benefits. The amount of expectancies for a disability pension until that time will be communicated on request.
Disability pension- Dancers are entitled to claim disability pension for a limited period of time, if their disability has occurred prior to reaching the age of 35 due to an accident at work, or if they have paid contributions for at least 60 months. If you claim a disability pension, you are no longer entitled to claim the indemnity for dancers, however, entitlements to old-age pension and to survivor’s dependant annuities are unaffected.
Medical treatment (non compulsory medical benefits)- The VddB may grant supplementary medical benefits on certain treatments upon request, provided the cost of treatment is not reimbursed by any other body. A recipient of a pension for professional or occupational disability may be granted non-compulsory medical benefits before reaching his/her retirement age provided the treatment is likely to restore his/her earning capacity.
Non-compulsory medical benefits are granted for artificial dentition (Prostheses and implants, Dental crowns, three-dimensional dental inlays for performing stage artists); outpatient and spa treatments (occupational rehab, inpatient treatment in exceptional cases); performance aids (contact lenses, hearing aids) and Cosmetic operations and laser interventions improving the visual acuity of performing stage artists.
In individual cases and in combination with previously granted benefits, non-compulsory medical benefits are not to exceed 10% of contributions paid until the end of the last fiscal year prior to treatment.
For more information, please refer to https://www.buehnenversorgung.de/Downloadcenter#5851
(Nebenleistungen- Tänzerabfindung- ‘Explanatory Note `23- Special regulations for dancers and members of dance ensembles’)
Are there any further retirement plans available for me?
Everyone living in Germany has a fund in the Statutory Pension Insurance, Public Retirement Insurance System. Participation is mandatory for employees- each worker is assessed for a sum based on annual earnings. Premiums are deducted directly by the employer, with the employee paying half and the employer half. English language information about the German Public Retirement System can be found at www.deutsche-rentenversicherung.de. For more information about the different contributions to these pension funds, please contact the deutsche rentenversicherung or refer to this website: https://www.howtogermany.com/pages/german-retirement.html.
There are additional Private Plans that are available to everyone living in Germany. You may contact people through your bank for additional information about these plans. For more information about Riester (Förder) Rente and Rürup (Basis) Rente please visit: https://www.howtogermany.com/pages/private-pension-plans.html
Bis sind dran!
Bis sind dran!