Starting a business in Spain

Secret weapons to starting a business in Spain

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Writer and expat Nick Snelling shares his top tips on what you should know before considering starting a business in Spain, from the offers to the helpers.

Spain is not, of course, somewhere just for the retired. Increasingly, over the past few years, it has become somewhere that many people of working age look upon as somewhere favourable in which to work – whilst raising their families.

Needless to say, the appeal of being able to move to Spain and make a living is considerable. It means that you can live an al fresco life within a superb climate, whilst enjoying an overall quality of life in Spain that can be superior, in some ways, to Northern European countries.

Certainly, Spain’s inherent culture is seductive, private education is cheap, daily life inexpensive and good housing (now) affordable. But how do you start a business in Spain – and is this possible now?

Of course, there is no denying that Spain is suffering from an economic crisis and one that is likely to last for some time. The collapse of the construction industry and the Spanish property crash has had a huge impact upon any businesses related to or associated with property. Traditionally, these were areas in which many expatriots found work easily but those days, sadly, have gone.

Indeed, finding viable work in Spain, for reasonable pay and with some security, is no longer easy. That does not mean that you cannot work in Spain but that you can no longer ‘carelessly’ move to the country and expect to ‘fall into’ a job.

Starting a business in Spain

The Internet of opportunity

Ideally, you should bring to Spain a specific skill and one that you know (before you move) has value and applicability within Spain. Alternatively, you should try to develop an Internet-related business. The latter, of course, enables you to work anywhere in the world, as long as you have a decent ADSL connection.

Indeed, knowledge of how to use the Internet to make an income is one of the most strategically sound moves anyone can make when seeking to work abroad -- and is far more accessible than you may realise.

It hardly needs saying that Spain is little different from most of the rest of Europe when it comes to the fundamentals involved in starting up and running a business. You need to be properly registered and insured, pay your IVA (VAT) and provide tax returns. Equally, you have the choice of being employed or self-employed (autonomo), or to work within a partnership (CB). Alternatively, you may set up a limited company (an SL or SLU) or a public company.

Leave the gestures to the gestors

Trying to ‘fight’ your way through another country’s buraucracy (and in another language) is, of course, everyone’s idea of a nightmare -- and this is as true for Spain as anywhere else in the world. However, in Spain salvation comes from having a good gestor. Indeed, they are the ‘secret’ weapon anyone thinking of working in Spain needs.

Gestors are something of an anomaly in North European terms because they act as an interface between the state and private sector, whilst undertaking a bewildering array of buraucratic activities.

They will set up your company, register you as autonomo (or as a CB), do your IVA returns, employee salaries and tax returns -- and generally help you with all aspects to setting up and running your business.

They will also, incidentally, do your paperwork when buying a car, change your driving licence, register you on the health system and solve many other ‘awkward’ buraucratic issues.

So, if you are thinking of working or starting a business in Spain make sure that you get a first class, English speaking gestor to help you through the set-up process. There are gestors in most towns across Spain but, as always, it is worth trying to find one that is recommended by someone you trust. This may, of course, be your lawyer -- who will certainly know of a suitable local gestor.

In reality, the technical setting up of a business in Spain (or becoming registered for work) is not difficult. Indeed, it is not something that should ever stand as an obstacle in your mind, if you are planning to work in Spain.

Far more important, is that you ensure that you bring into Spain a valuable (and valid) skill that will guarantee you well paid work.


Nick Snelling / Expatica

Nick Snelling is the web master of Culture Spain and the co-writer of ‘The Secrets to Working and Making a Living in Spain’.


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3 Comments To This Article

  • Viviana posted:

    on 7th March 2017, 12:35:42 - Reply

    My advice is that before you close any business here in Spain make sure you are doing business with the right people!

    As you'll not live here, make sure you gathered all the information you can. It's important to confirm the due diligence of your customers, to ensure the capability of your suppliers and to verify the financial status of your competitors.

    Like this, you will not end in a critical business or caught up in a fraud. Here in Spain are a lot of websites that give you this kind of information (financial, commercial, credit risk,economic analysis, etc.) I personally recommend infoempresa because it shows everything super clear with an infographic look. But that's up to you :)

    Hope everything goes well and let us know about your experience in Spain!

  • Carmen posted:

    on 8th February 2016, 23:12:57 - Reply

    We tried opening a business in Spain. I have dual citizenship and we were going to buy a home and live there half there year, the US the other half. Trying to set up a business was so difficult. It would have been easier to become the President of the United States. The taxation and guarantee of having an employee sitting at a desk when we are a virtual internet business was ridiculous. We had an attorney and I cannot believe the red tape involved.

    Very sad to say, we never opened our business.
  • iya posted:

    on 15th December 2015, 21:08:04 - Reply

    Hi, I am happy to have found your input about opening up a business in Spain. I am a foreign and now had my spanish citizenship and trying to open up a business. I attended both food and non food business %uFFFDformacion%uFFFDin getafe free by communidad de madrid. Sad to say but both formation seemed to discourage all entrepreneurs from opening up businesses much more in food business in madrid as they said that they are not issuing food business license anymore. You can try %uFFFDtraspaso%uFFFD or buying the business of other person who wants to cease their business.