Why you should choose Spain as a freelance destination

James McKenna
Written by James McKenna
on mayo 22, 2023 8 min of reading

We all know why tourists flock to Spain every year — and that’s partly what makes freelancers attracted to Spain as a freelance destination too. 

It’s fair to say the sandwiches are disappointing, but who cares when you’re sitting in the morning sun, sipping freshly squeezed orange juice, and wondering what you did to deserve this luxury?

Of course, the benefits of freelancing in Spain extend past breakfast time. So in this article, we’ll break down the exciting and not-so-exciting parts of being self-employed, look at some off-the-beaten-track destinations, and compare freelancing in Spain with other EU countries.

An overview of the Spanish freelance situation

Of Spain’s 47.42 million people, there are just under 20.5 million workers keeping the economy going. At the end of April 2023, 3,335,194 of those were registered freelancers in Spain, with 417,335 (12.5%) coming from abroad. 

As a percentage of the overall workforce, this puts freelancers at a massive 16.3% of the working population

Over the past decade, the freelance economy has continuously risen in Spain, and is predicted to continue growing throughout this year at least. But not all freelancers do the digital jobs that come to mind when you think of freelance life. While there are plenty of photographers, content creators, and machine learning specialists, a large chunk of the freelance market consists of delivery drivers, construction laborers, and agricultural workers.

That said, Spain has a well-established tech sector. Hosts of the Mobile World Congress and South Summit, the government’s efforts to promote Spain as a freelance destination for digital minds has really paid off. Which is a natural segue onto our next point.

The Digital Nomad Visa — 2023

Due to the freedom of movement of persons, it’s incredibly easy for European Union citizens to start living and working in Spain. Until very recently, the same could not be said for foreign freelancers outside the EU, who had a labyrinth of visa meetings and often shady deals to work their way through. 

But good news! At the start of 2023, Spain introduced the Digital Nomad Visa. Aimed at increasing investment and digital talent in the country, it fast-tracks the process of setting up a freelance business in Spain for non-EU nationals. 

The Digital Nomad Visa offers three key advantages to tech freelancers:

  • An easy path to legal living and working in Spain
  • Reduced taxes to encourage investment
  • Easy travel around the Schengen Area

Incentives for new freelancers in Spain

Among the best benefits of freelancing in Spain are the financial incentives to get your business off the ground.

The flat-rate freelance quota reduces the amount of your social security contributions for the first year at least. Some autonomous regions, including Madrid, Andalusia, the Balearic Islands, Murcia, and La Rioja, take this one step further and offer a zero quota, reducing your contributions to… well… zero.

Reduced personal income tax retentions allow you to set your income tax (IRPF) at just 7% for the first year of work. But don’t get too comfortable! You’ll still have to make up the real amount you owe in your annual tax returns.

Shifting attitudes to work

During the quarantines of COVID pandemic, there was a marked shift away from office work and toward remote work. Parents had more time to spend with their kids, the grim stress of the commute disappeared completely, and a large chunk of the population realized that life away from the office was a possibility. 

And the trend hasn’t reversed. Despite Elon Musk’s tantrums, a study by Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom found that around a third of workers still want to work fully remotely.

In the midst of these shifting attitudes to work, a great number of free thinkers like you started considering Spain as a freelance destination. 

If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably got a rough idea of what you want out of freelance work in Spain. Whether it’s to explore a new market, learn the local lingo, or simply spend your free time as a beach bum, there are myriad reasons for upping sticks and moving to the Mediterranean. 

But to give you a full picture based on the experience of Xolo clients, we’ll run through 6 reasons why Spain should be your freelancing hub. 

6 reasons to choose Spain as a freelance destination

1. Unbeatable quality of life

Spain's magnificent landscapes, warm weather, and rich history form a spectacular backdrop for work and leisure. Spain as a freelance destination promises tapas lunches, flamenco nights, and over 300 days of sunshine. The great weather isn’t just for sunbathing though. Spaniards love being outside and keeping fit which is great for both your health and social life. 

Freelancers moving from the English-speaking world to Spain are always startled by the cost of living too. Even if the salaries aren’t as high as elsewhere, your purchasing power is still impressive. Alternatively, plenty of expat freelancers live in Spain and work for a foreign company, getting the best of both worlds.

2. Vibrant freelance market

Spain's diverse freelance market is brimming with opportunities. From the thriving tech startup scene in Barcelona to the tourism industry of the Balearic Islands, freelancers can find a wide variety of projects that cater to their unique skills and interests. 

Freelance communities thrive throughout the country too, offering support and guidance, as well as job offers. The same applies to social circles, as a young, dynamic international community also see Spain as a freelance destination. If you aren’t quite ready to immerse yourself in Spanish culture, or just need a friendly face who understands you better, cities like Barcelona, Madrid, and Valencia are awash with expat groups.

3. Ease of doing business

It’s fair to say that the country isn’t renowned for easy admin, but recently, the government has attempted to simplify bureaucratic processes and make it easier for expats to start freelancing in Spain. But while some paperwork is inevitable, Xolo can take care of all that for you, ensuring a smoother transition to your new working lifestyle.

4. Enthralling local culture

Embrace the vibrant Spanish culture! Learning the language, taking part in local festivals, and soaking up the sun on beautiful beaches aren't just leisure activities — they also offer excellent networking opportunities. It’s amazing how often meeting new people leads to new gigs and business collaborations.

5. Cost of living

Compared to countries like France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK, the cost of living in Spain is significantly lower. You get more bang for your buck, whether it's housing, dining, or entertainment. This affordability can translate into higher profitability for your freelance business, but also a comfortable, central place to live so you can truly soak up the local culture.

Many people value Spain as a freelance destination as they can combine a low cost of living with a more comfortable salary that comes from international clients. That way, you aren’t competing with the local population for jobs and you’re giving back to their economy every time you head out for a tapa or two.

6. Impressive work-life balance

Few countries do work-life balance as well as Spain. With its laid-back culture and appreciation for leisure time, Spain trumps other European nations that are more rigid in their work structures. As a freelancer, this means more time to relax, recharge, and enjoy your surroundings. 

Most coworkings and offices are close to a bar, so you can pop in for a tapa or two once the working day is done, rather than heading home straight away. 

Spain's diverse tapestry: Five inspiring freelancing destinations

If you’re already this far down the rabbit hole, we’re going to assume you know about some of the best cities for freelancers in Spain. Madrid and Barcelona need no introduction. As two of the top cultural hotspots in all of Europe, their reputation precedes them. So instead of covering the most popular places for self-employed workers, we’re going to take a look at some of the more intriguing destinations for freelancers in Spain. 

Spain is far more than football, tapas, and flamenco. It is a remarkably diverse country of strong identities, cultures, cuisines, and weather. 

Here's a spotlight on five such diverse destinations:

1. San Sebastián: The culinary capital

This seaside city, said to have more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita than any other place on Earth, is the perfect freelancing base for food lovers. Although you can easily get by in Spanish, Donostia, as it’s known in the local Basque language, is more linguistically challenging than other areas. Similarly, transport links are a little complex, but with the picturesque Old Town, La Concha beach, and delicious pintxos, where else would you want to go?

2. Canary Islands: The year-round paradise

Sick of cold, dark winters and disappointing summers? For northern expat freelancers who want a year-round spring-like climate, the Canary Islands are a dream come true. These Atlantic gems offer a rich mix of cultures, stunning landscapes, and a relaxed pace of life. Tourism is the main industry by far, meaning there are plenty of flights in and out. And while that means there’s not much in the way of career diversity on the Islands, remote workers can still feel at home.

3. Valencia: The innovation hub

As Spain’s third city, Valencia is known for being at the forefront of technological and digital industries and hosting the Valencia Digital Summit. The opportunities for tech-focused freelancers and beautiful beaches without Barcelona-style crowds make Valencia ideal for those looking for a great standard of living. Add in authentic paella, the expansive Turia Gardens, and a solid expat social scene, and you’ve got a recipe for a great working and living environment.

4. Granada: The historic jewel

Nestled at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Granada is a city steeped in history. For those who prefer a slower pace of life with a vibrant sense of community, Granada offers a unique backdrop. Located in Andalusia, the cost of living is low, and expat freelancers can take advantage of the region’s zero quota, meaning you can recoup your social security payments for your first year at least if you live and work in Granada. Free tapas with every drink, the grandeur of the Alhambra looming over the city, and the winding streets of the Albaicín make it a true pearl in the south of Spain.

5. Mallorca: The Mediterranean idyll

Mallorca, the largest of the Balearic Islands, offers a captivating mix of sun, sea, and culture. From the bustling city life of Palma to the tranquil mountain villages, Mallorca is full of opportunities for freelancers seeking a balanced lifestyle. The Balearic Islands are in the process of promoting digital innovation, offering the zero quota to any freelancers under 35 and female entrepreneurs.

Spain vs other EU countries: A head-to-head comparison for freelancers

Choosing where to base your business is a big decision. But when you compare Spain with other EU countries, it becomes clear that there are some unique advantages for expat freelancers.

  Spain 🇪🇸 Germany 🇩🇪 France 🇫🇷 Netherlands 🇳🇱 Italy 🇮🇹
Cost of Living 💸 Lower than the EU average, making it attractive for freelancers. Higher, especially in cities like Munich and Frankfurt. Higher, especially in cities like Paris and Lyon. High, especially in cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht. Varies greatly; higher in cities like Milan and Rome, lower in the countryside.
Quality of Life 😎 High quality of life, with a great work-life balance and cultural experiences. High quality of life, but a more structured and formal society. High, with emphasis on food, culture, and work-life balance. High, with a balance of work, recreation, and family time. Good, with a strong emphasis on family, food, and local traditions.
Business Environment 🤝 Business-friendly, with initiatives to support self-employed workers and startups. Strong economy with a supportive environment for businesses, but bureaucracy can be challenging. Supportive of startups, but bureaucratic processes can be complex. Very business-friendly, known for its startup scene. Bureaucracy can be a challenge, but efforts are being made to improve.
Expat Community
Thriving expat communities, especially in major cities. Large expat communities, but integration can be challenging due to the language barrier. Growing expat communities, with Paris as a major hub. Large and well-integrated expat communities, especially in Amsterdam. Expat communities are more common in major cities and tourist areas.

Infrastructure for Remote Work

Robust digital infrastructure, supportive of remote work. Solid infrastructure and widespread availability of co-working spaces. Good infrastructure, with an increasing number of co-working spaces. Excellent digital infrastructure, leading in remote work adaptability. Decent, but varies significantly across regions.

Xolo: Simplifying freelance life in Spain

With breathtaking cities, incentives for new arrivals, and an unbeatable quality of life, isn’t it obvious why so many people choose Spain as a freelance destination?

Any while you’ll need no encouragement imagining the life you have ahead of yourself, you might not have taken too much time to consider the administrative side of things.

But with Xolo, you don’t have to. 

If you’ve got a business idea, we’ll register you as a freelancer FOR FREE in less than 24 hours.

With our all-in-one freelance service, you can:

✅ Talk to our local experts with any questions you may have

✅ Automate and send compliant, professional invoices

✅ Leave your quarterly tax returns to us!

Sign up to Xolo today to save yourself hours of work every month and like that dreamy freelance life.

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About James

James McKenna has been a freelancer since 2017, working in subtitling, translation, and his main passion — writing. He loves nothing more than falling down a rabbit hole, a habit that has helped him specialize in areas as diverse as biotech, climate change, higher education, and business strategy.

Based in Barcelona, James learned the ropes the hard way, making mistakes that turned into valuable learning experiences. After working hard to establish himself, he is now working smart, and is always on the lookout for ways to streamline his business.

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