Hans-Torsten Richter gives you advice on surviving and thriving in Berlin. Send your questions to [email protected]
Q Dear Hans-Torsten: I have worked in journalism as an editor with employee status for the past six years. Now I’m considering going freelance so that I can focus more on my writing and music. Hence, I would like to apply for insurance with the Künstlersozialkasse. I know it’s pretty tricky and that you have to prove that you’re earning money with artistic or journalistic work. Would my career history as an employee of a publisher count towards that? — Aishah
A Dear Aishah: Short answer? No, that’s not enough to fulfil the requirements of the Künstlersozialkasse (KSK). What counts is whether you have any income from freelance artistic and/or journalistic work. If you can prove that you’ve made some money that way – with invoices, contracts, bank statements, etc. – and studied a relevant subject at uni (send them a copy of your diploma) – you stand a good chance of getting into the KSK as a so-called Berufsanfänger (“career entrant”). The KSK will insure you for three years during your “beginner” phase, after which you’ll have to earn at least €3900 per year through your self-employed activities to qualify for their insurance scheme. So, what is the KSK exactly? Contrary to what many think, the KSK is not exactly health insurance for artists. Rather, it’s a state organisation that coordinates health insurance, nursing care insurance and pension insurance for its members (self-employed artists, writers, musicians, journalists, etc) as if it were an employer. The members pay half of their required premiums; the KSK pays the other half. Artists in the KSK pay 9.3 percent of their income for pension insurance, 7.3 percent for health insurance and 1.4 percent (or a tiny bit less if they have children) for nursing care insurance. The artist can choose their own state insurance provider (gesetzliche Krankenkasse). Once a year, the artist’s monthly payments are recalculated according to how much they earned in the previous year. The KSK is a great scheme, at least when you compare it to what else is available in terms of social protection for non-artist selfemployed people in Germany. It’s also worth mentioning that the KSK’s definition of “artist” is pretty strict. Tattoo artists are “craftspeople” in their eyes, so they don’t qualify. A translator of literary texts qualifies, but not a translator of software manuals. As you can imagine, there are plenty of grey areas. For non-German speakers, understanding all of this, let alone filling out the required paperwork, is quite a challenge. There is currently no information in English on the KSK website. Thankfully, agencies in Berlin like Inbound in Neukölln will help English speakers out for a few hundred euros.
Q Dear Hans-Torsten: I want to start a small catering business in Berlin. How do I certify my kitchen? — Moshe
A Dear Moshe: As you can imagine, the rules for running a commercial kitchen (Gewerbeküche) are pretty strict in Germany, even if the reality of hygiene in Berlin restaurant kitchens leaves a lot to be desired. Before you start selling those homemade vegan power balls or catering your friends’ weddings, please read through the Merkblatt – Einrichtung gewerblicher Küchen (“guidelines to setting up a commerical kitchen”) on berlin.de. You’ll quickly realise it’s impossible to run a legal catering business in your own apartment without making huge renovations or investing in special equipment to fulfil the sanitary requirements – for example, making sure all surfaces are smooth, water-resistant and easy to clean to prevent mould and infections. You’re much better off renting a Gewerbeküche or Mietküche by the hour. It would be probably cheaper to befriend a restaurant owner and rent their kitchen in their off hours. We also heard that regulations for mobile restaurants are much less strict, so get yourself a food truck! And don’t forget, even if you use someone else’s kitchen to prepare food you’ll still have to take the one-hour hygiene course (Erstbelehrung nach dem Infektionsschutzgesetz) at a Gesundheitsamt (health office).