Starting a business in Spain, how easy is it?

Valencia has been crowned number #1 city for expats in the world last year, in a research done by InterNations. I am biast, of course, but I agree. Valencia is great. My husband asked me the other day:”Why do you love it here so much?” It’s everything. It’s the perfect mix of beaches, parks, culture, history and a vibrant big city atmosphere. Oh, and a fantastic climate with plenty of sunshine. I felt almost immediately at home, when we moved here in 2018, exactly three years ago tomorrow. The thing was, I didn’t even have a job went we came here. But I quickly managed to generate an income in Spain, as self-employed. How?

First a disclaimer right here; we had our savings sorted when we moved, so we did not have the pressure to frantically look for work on arrival. My biggest bit of advice to anyone considering moving to Spain is to make sure you bring enough money, or a remote work contract. Financial stress will not be worth the move, no matter how sunny it is here! Spain still suffers from high unemployment, and after the pandemic of 2020/21, this is not going to improve very soon. That doesn’t mean you cannot earn money here though. Don’t believe all those miserable keyboard warriors on expat Facebook groups who immediately shut you down when you post a question about finding work in Valencia. Yes, they are right to say it is hard, especially if you don’t speak Spanish, but there are so many opportunities. You just have to know where to look, and think outside the box.

living in valencia spain

Buy my Guide to Moving to Valencia, Spain. 30 pages of info on housing, neighbourhoods, healthcare, finding work, cost of living and settling in.


Bring your own job or remote contract

If you can find a job in employment, great! This means that you will automatically get the right to use the (free) public health service, and you no longer need to pay for private health insurance (which costs you anything from around 60 euros for an individual, up to 250 euro a month for a family of four, depending on your package and situation). Jobs expats are most likely to find in Valencia vary. Often they end up teaching English, or working in tourism. I worked as tour guide for Dutch tourists for a while, for example, and my husband offers private English tutoring. Many also end up teaching English at one of the many private academies, or international schools.

You also find plenty of expats who have their own online business, or have a remote work contract with their employer overseas. This, of course, is ideal, as you can pretty much live anywhere as a ‘digital nomad’. Especially Americans often have this construction set up when moving to Spain, as with a ‘non-lucrative visa’ you are allowed to live here longer than three months, as long as you don’t take a job in Spain. So if you are contracted in the US, this is a good solution if you are planning to live here for more than a year. Remember, even if your business is registered overseas, or you have a work contract abroad, you still have to declare your annual income to the taxman in Spain – this is law, when you live here for more than 183 days a year.


jobs in valencia spain

Starting a business in Spain, how to register

What you see most, however, is that expats are starting up a business in Spain. It is not easy to make your way into the Spanish working world if you don’t have the contacts (it’s very much a ‘who you know’ kind of system), but there are thousands of expats living here, who could well be your ideal client. Just see in the Facebook expat groups how many people are asking for an ‘English-speaking’ (fill in the blank: builder, carpenter, taxi-driver, babysitter, cleaner, hairdresser, teacher, fitness instructor, doctor, psychologist, accountant…). The options are endless. If you have a skill, monetise it! Most people start out working for cash only, to avoid having to register officially as self-employed, and to see if there is a market for their services. Once the business is growing, or when customers need invoices, you can register as ‘autónomo’, self-employed, with the tax office.

To register as autónomo, I recommend you contact a relocation agency, or someone else who knows about this kind of thing, as it’s a bit complicated. They can accompany you to the tax office, help with the language and documents required, and it just takes the headache out of things. To be honest, I find all things to do with taxes in Spain complicated, and would also advise anyone to hire an accountant (‘gestor’) to do the quarterly VAT returns for you, as well as the income tax. The VAT rate is 21%. The income withholding tax (or IRPF) is 20%.


starting a business in spain
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What are the fees for an autónomo?

If you are starting a business in Spain, there is a “flat fee” for new autónomos for the first two years, which makes it much more accessible for new entrepreneurs to get started and grow their business. Paying this fee gives you access to Spain’s public health service, you start building up a government pension, and you have the right to maternity pay and benefits when you somehow become incapable of working. The fee is normally €50 a month for the first year. For the next six months, the fee goes up to €137.97; and the last six months of the second year, the fee will increase again to €192. Self-employed workers in Spain who have been registered for a period of more than two years pay a minimum monthly fee of €286.10 euro.

These fees are the same as in 2020 and are not subject to review/change until 1 June 2021. The general autónomo fee in Spain will then be set at €289. When you register as an autónomo, you can choose to pay the minimum fee or pay more than what you owe to slightly increase your government pension in the long term. Most people opt for the minimum fee and start a private pension scheme under their own conditions.

How to get clients in Spain for your business

If your ideal client is local, then find out where they hang out – online and offline. The expat groups on Facebook are a good way to promote your business, in any of the weekly ‘promo threads’, or do some ‘bread crumbing’, which means replying to other people’s comments by being helpful and more subtly mentioning your business. Also, when possible, try and attend networking events around town. There are a lot of coworking spaces in Valencia, and some of them organise events where it’s great to mingle with other entrepreneurs.

If your business is completely online, then it’s a different matter. Depending on where your ideal client hangs out, tell your story, and share your message consistently on social media, your blog, and through email lists. For freelancers, there are also very useful platforms out there to offer your services, including Upwork and Fiverr. Other ideas are selling online, setting up an online store, or writing e-books, designing online courses and selling those. I know plenty of expats here in Valencia who have found their niche, and offer their services online, such as yoga teachers, nutrition experts, life coaches, and psychologists. With the internet, the possibilities are really endless, and the world is your oyster – while working from your laptop in sunny Valencia.

If you are a small business and need marketing help, feel free to hop over to my other website thecreativemarketing.coach (I offer 1-to-1 coaching and group courses). You can also join my Facebook community for free daily marketing and business tips and support, and regular live training.


marketing support valencia
Nina Eggens, The Creative Busines Coach, Valencia

www.thecreativebusiness.coach

How 2020 made me realise that I had gone in the wrong direction

Creativity runs through my veins. It is my life fuel, my elixir to go back to when I need a boost. Once I have an idea in my head, I am unstoppable. It’s like the energy just keeps flowing, and I feel so alive. Do you know that feeling, when you’ve found something you are passionate about? Whatever you may say about 2020, it’s been a year of transformation for many. The lockdowns, the changes, they have made many of us stop and think, and adapt. 2020 made it clear to me that I had gone in the wrong direction. And something had to give.

It’s coming up to three years now, since we left Scotland and moved to Spain. Moving to a sunny country sounds dreamy and amazing, and it is in many ways, but it also throws you into complete turmoil. It shakes the ground under your feet, makes you wonder who you actually are in this new country, and what you are going to do with your life, now you’re here. You really start from scratch. No friends, no family, no job. Just your husband, kids, a fluffy old cat and a truck full of furniture. And even for me, someone who is, in general, pretty resilient and flexible, it’s been a heck of a process to figure it all out.

Making money, doing the wrong thing

When we left, I felt all eyes on us from afar. “Will they make it? What are they going to do? How are they going to earn money?” I made it my job to set up a business as soon as possible, in fact, even before we moved. I know you shouldn’t care about what other people think, but you still do, and I wanted to show the home front that we were doing great! As Spain is not an easy place to find work, I decided to set up as a freelance copywriter. I thought, that’ll be a good bet, every business needs copy, and I am a good writer. And I wasn’t wrong.

Within a year, I found clients, mainly remote, and started to make a reasonable income as a startup business. It felt good to make money, while living in the sun! I mean, working on your laptop in a café on a Valencian beach…versus sitting in a freezing Scottish office, watching the rain lash against your window? You get the picture!

You can’t beat the blue of the Valencian sky.

But then last year, the Covid-19 lockdowns hit, and I lost some big clients. I felt stressed, and frantically promoted myself online as a copywriter, and luckily, by September, things got better. I had upped my income again, and even earned more than before. The thing was, I started to hate it. Writing web copy for a plastic cosmetic jar factory, an About page for a drone rental company…blog posts for a lease car business. Product descriptions for posh sinks and bath tubs! It was becoming soulless. The money was coming in, but the fire was going out.

On a journey back to my values

In October, while my husband decided to go away for a month to walk the famous 800km Camino the Santiago, I went on my own journey. An internal one, just here at home, in my office. I don’t know where this pull came from all of a sudden, but one thing led to another, and before I knew it, I signed up for an online business course. I started to follow money mindset coaches and business mentors, for goodness’s sake. That was a first! I bought new notebooks, did lots of journaling. I was changing. And you know where it brought me, in the end? Back to my passion.

In three months time, I rediscovered the thing that I really want to do, and what I have done nearly all of my adult life: working with creative entrepreneurs. Writing about shiny bogs and taps just ain’t cutting it when you are an artist at heart. I was missing my quirky, creative tribe! I had made ‘Soulful Living’ the tag line of this blog, but was I doing it? Nope, I had drifted away from my own values.

Photo by Alex Baker images

Marketing help for creative entrepreneurs and artists

So here I am, three months on, and I am very excited to share my new venture with you all: The Creative Business Coach. I am going to coach and train up creative entrepreneurs on how to become more visible online. In my 20+ years of working in the cultural sector as arts marketeer and audience development consultant, I met many artists, and one thing was always very clear: they find it hard to promote themselves. The lack of marketing skills, confidence and sales techniques is holding many creatives back, and I believe there is a need for change. Art is work? Well, you bet it is.

So what about the copywriting? I love writing, I love blogging, I love creating content – and storytelling is part of what I teach my clients. I am a writer at heart! So I am not giving that up. But staying true to your values also means choosing to only work with clients who you love working with. Being selective, and saying yes to clients when you feel a real connection, and the project excites you.

Have you gone through a similar transformation recently?

Want to know more?

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From grandma’s stuffy cupboard to statement designer piece. Meet Roc.

Mid-century modern furniture is often so beautiful and timeless, that it needs very little more than a clean and a polish. Sleek lines, minimalist looks and striking features, even after so many decades, those Scandinavian style sideboards, coffee tables and armchairs from the 1950s and 60s still look gorgeous. But some pieces become even better when someone with a good eye gets their hands on them. Caroline George of Roc Studio in Edinburgh, is one of those people. Her signature style includes strong geometric patterns to enhance the shape of the furniture. Today I am interviewing Caroline to find out more about her creative business.

Caroline, tell us more about yourself! What is your business and what do you offer?

I am the founder of Roc Studio and I bring unloved pieces of furniture back to life with my surface pattern designs. I source furniture myself, often mid-century classics like G-plan or Ercol, or customers can bring in their own pieces for a contemporary update. My business is in Edinburgh, which is also my home, where I live with my husband and two children.

What made you want to start this type of business?

I started my own business upcycling furniture already 11 years ago. First it was called Trash furniture, but it has since evolved into Roc. My degree is originally in fashion and textiles, but after working fashion for a bit I fell into interiors. I worked as a visual merchandiser at Habitat which fuelled my love for all things decor. After that I worked in property, staging and designing show homes for an upmarket developer. In 2009, I decided to turn my passion for vintage furniture into a business and I still love it. I am passionate about using what we have, being sustainable and creating an eclectic home and this is very much in the spirit of Roc as well.

What do you love most about your work?

The freedom of working for yourself is great, I kind of make it up as I go along, but it means I can pick my kids up from school and be there for them. It is not always easy juggling everything, but I wouldn’t change it.

How do you choose pieces and what is your creative process with them?

Most of the pieces I work on are a bit battered and in need of some TLC. A client might come to me with a piece of furniture or sometimes I already have a piece in my workshop, which needs an update. I don’t like to overdo the furniture and am quite minimalist in a way. I tend to work with the lines of the furniture, so if it has round handles for instance, then the design might feature circles. I always try and use colours for my designs that really bring out the beautiful warm tones in the Mid-century teak wood. Often, the client will also have an idea of the designs they like, a colour scheme in the room it sits in, or sometimes it’s just a piece of art work that they like that I can take some inspiration from.

It is quite a process from start to finish and can take many weeks. It’s not just a lick of paint and a few new drawer knobs. Usually I strip the piece of all the old varnish and if anything needs fixed then that gets done too. The doors might come off for painting, or the drawers stripped for new felt. There is always more work than you think, but the end result always makes me happy and my customers, which is the most important thing.

How has the 2020 lockdown affected your business?

At first, it was all such a shock for everyone. But I tried to keep going and then suspected I had the virus, which put me out of action for a couple of months, as I was very ill. I recovered though and still had a couple of commissions to do, so I have just continued working. Luckily my clients keep asking for furniture, so I am still surviving! I just need to keep my fingers crossed that it continues into 2021, but I stay positive.

upcycling business uk

How do customers find you, and what are your business challenges?

During lockdown, I built my new website, and I was really proud of myself that I got it done. I have an online shop on there now too, which is a new thing for me, and something I would like to build on next year. I am on all the usual social media channels, and I am trying to get better at PR and putting myself out there! Time is also always an issue. There’s never enough of it to fit everything in, so that is definitely an ongoing challenge for me. And knowing my value. Creatives are notorious for undercharging and over delivering!

What is the next step for Roc?

My goal is a bigger workshop next year with space to make my life easier. I would also like to take a holiday, haha! And I have been saying it for a long time now, but I would love to design some new products that are not quite as big as the furniture. And although most of my clients are in the UK, and especially in Edinburgh and London, I recently shipped furniture to the Netherlands, and I am now looking into shipping to Italy.

You may spot some Roc pieces where you are soon. If you are interested in seeing more of Caroline’s designs, have a look at the Roc website.


Aligning your values and business to find the ideal client

Running a business is great but sometimes you find yourself wondering where to take it next. You are doing what you have always been doing, which may work fine. If that is still giving you joy and it pays the bills, then keep going! Or maybe you have drifted away from your original concept over the months or even years. Maybe you wanted to try out different things, offer more services or just changed things to earn more money. And then you suddenly ask yourself:”Hold on, what is it that I am actually offering and to whom?” You may even find yourself feeling a little bit lost. How do you get your business back on track, or even on a different, much better track? It is all about aligning your own core values with those of your business and finding your ideal client.

Find the ideal client for your business

Separate identities

For years I felt I had two separate work identities. Sometimes they overlapped, but mostly they existed parallel. On one hand I worked as a marketing and communications manager for arts organisations, writing, editing and creating all their promotional material. On the other, I started my blog and business Nina’s Apartment, first as a hobby, then also as a shop. This work was all about vintage furniture and interior design. Sure, I used my arts and marketing knowledge to promote Nina’s Apartment. But they were two totally different jobs.

Adapting and changing

Right now, after a period of moves and changes, growing a little older and developing different interests, my blog is changing. I no longer want to only write about vintage, I want to write about life and the things that matter to me. That still includes vintage and design (because I love it), but it also includes everything else that adds to a ‘soulful life’: being mindful, being creative, eating healthily, conscious buying, caring for the planet and each other.

Selling to the wrong client

At the same time I have started a new life abroad as a freelance copy and content writer, mainly with online clients. I needed the work, so I first just accepted every job I was offered and found myself writing web pages for commercial outfits selling things I was not even interested in. I got myself onto freelancer platform Fiverr, but I constantly got haggled down or sent enquiries and then nothing. Clients were not valuing my expertise and clearly just needed “to get a job done” by any copywriter who could do it for the lowest price and as quickly as possible. It felt like you got handed a wet napkin after all the time and effort you put into the work. Do you know that feeling?

Bridging the gap between your values and your work

Then recently, I was speaking to an online business coach who held up a mirror. “Your whole face lights up when you talk about a certain client”, she said. “It looks like that is the sort of person you want to work for”. She was right. I enjoy writing for passionate people who have heart centered businesses, such as creative practitioners, life coaches, mindfulness and yoga teachers, eco friendly businesses and others who just love making the world more beautiful and help others.

I realised that I needed to bridge the gap between my two business identities. The gap also between my personal values and the work I do. Become one. Align everything. My soulful living blog can become my soulful writing business. No more identity crisis.

finding the ideal client and aligning your values

So how do you make everything flow better?

Define your values

Once everything is aligned, a business can flow much more easily, attracting better clients. But in order to get there, you need to define your values first. Secondly you need to decide who your ‘ideal client’ is, so you can create a niche, fine tune your message and attract this person.

Values can be anything from ‘friendly’, ‘hard working’, ‘efficient’, to ‘high quality’, ‘exclusive’ and ‘approachable’. Whatever defines you as a person and your business. Values are the things that we find important and are a basis for our behaviour, our principals and influence of character. It is best to choose a maximum of six values to focus on in your business.

The ideal client

Once you know what your values are, it’s time to have a good think about who your ideal client is. If you could choose the perfect client, who would you want to work for? What does he or she look like? If you say, I work for “small businesses”, or “anyone interested in art”, you are keeping it way too general. You make it much harder for yourself to attract customers this way. After all, you’ll have a lot of competition if you don’t make yourself stand out a bit more. It is scary to let go and make yourself only focus on one or two types of client, but it will pay off.

What is your message and who are you speaking to? Come up with one or two imaginary clients who you ideally want to work for and write down everything about them you can possibly think of. What they look like, where they live, what work they do, their family situation, their lifestyle, where they hang out online. If you have a clear picture in your mind of your ideal client, it is so much easier to promote yourself effectively to them with the right message – in the right location.

finding the ideal client by creating a niche

Creating a niche: what problem are you solving?

Your ideal client has a problem (a need) and you can solve it for them. This is your niche. Don’t solve a hundred different problems for a hundred different clients. Zoom in on one or two things you do really well, which your ideal client will be looking for. What is it that your ideal client needs and how do you solve this problem? This will be your key message in all of your marketing.


Example 1: health coach

If you are a health coach who offers coaching help with diet and lifestyle, your ideal client may be someone dealing with weight issues or health problems. Your values could be ‘health’, ‘motivation’, ‘achievement’, ‘commitment’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘life changing’. You will be helping them solve their problem by offering expert advice on diet and lifestyle, so their health – and life – improves, long term.

Example 2: A designer

Another example can be a designer creating unique, personalised wedding invitations. Your values could be ‘unique’, ‘creative’, ‘high quality’, ‘fast working’, ‘beautiful’ or ‘good communication’. The ideal client will be young couples who are engaged and value a creative take on traditional invites. And they need them on time to be able to invite their guests. The ‘problem’ you are solving for your ideal client is to offer beautiful personalised wedding invitations that arrive on time.

It may feel a little scary to let go of certain clients and not aim at a broad audience anymore. I feel it too! But the more you fine-tune your values, your niche, your services and your ideal client…the easier everything gets. Your marketing message writes itself, as you will know exactly what you do and for who. You will be able to write your web copy much more easily, because you have already defined so well what you’re about. And as you now know who your ideal client is, it will be much easier to find them – and sell to them.

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