There are many ways to work as a freelancer

Freelancers generally work on the basis of a freelance tax card, business name or through a cooperative. Each person chooses the system that works best for his/her own situation.


About four years ago, Tiina Häkkinen established a cooperative with several translators and technical writers. The members of the cooperative had worked together for years in international companies and decided to establish their own company. Häkkinen is satisfied with the cooperative form of freelance work.

Freelancer Tiina Hakkinen
Tiina Häkkinen is worried about the current situation for freelance AV translators. Translators have been set up to compete against one another, and without a collective agreement in the field, they are vulnerable to exploitation. Häkkinen would like the establishment of a generally binding collective agreement for freelance work. Photo: Kalle Parkkinen


Nothing attracts me about the idea of working on the basis of a tax card or through my own business name. We have a really great community spirit within the cooperative. We formed the cooperative because we all suddenly found ourselves unemployed from the same company, and we thought it would be a waste to let a good team go, explains Häkkinen. 

–The cooperative share seemed like a relatively small expense, and the members of the cooperative gain all the possible profit.


Häkkinen’s employer is her cooperative. The persons in a cooperative can be viewed as employees, if there are a minimum of seven members. Häkkinen sees that as one of the benefits of the cooperative.


– In terms of any possible unemployment security, it is better to be an employee than an entrepreneur. Additionally, the personal property of the members of the cooperative will not be used as securities for any of the debts of the cooperative, as is often the case for entrepreneurs.


– A cooperative seems like a more risk-free option than being an entrepreneur or working simply on the basis of a tax card.

Productizing’ oneself is important

Eila Aalto runs a communications agency that specialises in communications training and consulting. She is not a so-called forced entrepreneur.


–I like having the entrepreneur status. I think that the process of founding a company gives you the chance to build your own image and profile, which is a big benefit. I have thought carefully, for example, about the visual image of my company, which I then carry through to my work clothes, the business cards and the website, Aalto states.


Tiina Häkkinen and her cooperative also have an impressive website. On the website, she clearly presents, for example, the pricing policies to which she adheres.


–The members of the cooperative are, in a way, both employees and entrepreneurs. The members have to have a bit of an entrepreneurial drive and be able to market themselves. The cooperative serves as a sort of nerve centre, but all of the members are independent actors, explains Häkkinen.

Working on the basis of a freelance tax card reduces bureaucracy

Maj Lönnroth, who specialises in interpretation, works on the basis of a freelance tax card, but she also has her own business name.  She uses her business name when working for foreign, mostly Nordic, employers.


–Using the tax card seemed like an easy way to operate as a freelancer. It allows me to handle my own bookkeeping, and the employers are responsible for the withholding of taxes. The profit that goes into my pocket can be greater than if I were to pay the fees related to a business name or cooperative, Lönnroth believes.


Lönnroth does not have her own website, but she doesn’t see that as a problem. She feels that her skills speak for themselves.


–There is no vagueness about the content of the services I offer; I am an interpreter and I interpret. I have quite an established client portfolio, since there are not many interpreters of the Nordic languages. We even recommend one another if a job comes up that we are unable to take ourselves.


Lönnroth moved back to Finland from Sweden a little over ten years ago and began working as a freelancer using a tax card. In Sweden, she worked using a business name, since, according to her, the country doesn’t have a similar tax card practice for freelancers.


–I almost always found myself paying back taxes despite a monthly advance tax payment and the fact that an accountant prepared my tax forms each year. All in all, the practical issues seemed to be more complex when working using my business name rather than a tax card. I wasn’t familiar with the Finnish market situation, so working on the basis of a tax card felt like an easier way to try working in Finland, Lönnroth remembers.

An entrepreneur has to learn to juggle many balls at once

About three years ago, at the start of her freelance career, Eila Aalto spent time considering which system for freelance work would be best for her. An acquaintance served as a good example of what it’s like to work under a business name, and Aalto felt too much like a lone wolf to think about joining a cooperative.


–Furthermore, I already had established a couple of regular customers, since I had been permitted to work on the side as a copywriter and journalist during my previous fixed-term employment. All of these issues supported the idea of establishing my own business name. One condition for the start-up grants awarded to new entrepreneurs was a course for entrepreneurs, which I completed in the form of a vocational qualification in entrepreneurship within the creative industries. I received a start-up grant for about nine months, Aalto states.


Aalto has a one-person communications agency. She describes her work as being occasionally lonely and admits that, from time to time, she misses the social aspects of having colleagues.


– Sometimes, the pension contributions seem like a burden, but they may become more of a problem during retirement, since I haven’t bothered to pay them enough. As regards bookkeeping, it is, of course, an item of expenditure, but, on the other hand, the credit for the good tax returns I have received goes to my accountants. Additionally, I have to pay value-added taxes on certain services. I have to remember to keep that money separate from my other funds.


Well-employed freelancers would never trade freelance work for a salaried job. Aalto enjoys the diversity of freelance work. Maj Lönnroth likes the freedom of choice in terms of which jobs she takes. Tiina Häkkinen likes working at home.


–I appreciate the freedom and flexibility of freelance work. Having endured four employer-employee cooperative negotiations, I think I have seen quite enough of the dark side of salaried work, Häkkinen explains.


  • Text: Mia Hemming



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