8 Best Countries to be Self-Employed

4th May 2020

Self-employment has been steadily growing in popularity all over the world in recent years, and it’s predicted only to become more prevalent. In 2019, financial services company Payoneer carried out research to produce the Global Gig Economy Index, in which they asked more than 300,000 freelancers about their success. They found that year-on-year, freelancers in a multitude of countries had experienced increased revenue growth, with those working in the US averaging a 78% increase.

UK B2B service Expert Market has looked into which countries around the world are the most self-employment-friendly, taking into account a wide range of metrics. These included everything from income tax rates to the price of coffee and commuting opportunities. We take a closer look at which countries fared the best in their analysis.

8. Estonia

A perhaps unexpected contender is Estonia, which is among the top countries to live and work in if you are self-employed because of its good transport network, low cost of living, and the fact that English is widely spoken. Estonia’s social security system is also among the best in the world, being the joint most generous country for parental leave (156 weeks).

Highlights of working in Estonia

  • Excellent social security benefits
  • Low cost of living
  • Extensive transport links

7. New Zealand

New Zealand is among the top countries for the self-employed owing to its fast internet, moderately priced coffee, and easy processes when it comes to starting your own business. While there are more ex-pats in neighbouring country Australia, it’s New Zealand that offers more favourable conditions for freelancers.

Highlights of working in New Zealand

  • Simple procedures for setting up a business
  • Fast internet speeds
  • High standard of living

6. Spain

The best EU country for self-employed people is Spain. In addition to the warm weather, other advantages of living and working in Spain as a freelancer are the good transport links, reasonable cost of living, and the high number of Wi-Fi hotspots.

Highlights of working in Spain

  • Reasonable cost of living – rent, food, and drink is all fairly low-cost in comparison to much of Europe
  • Plenty of Wi-Fi in public spaces
  • Good transport links – Bilboa in northern Spain was found to be the third best city for commuting in the world, according to Expert Market

5. United Kingdom

According to Expert Market’s research, the UK was among the top 10 countries for transport infrastructure, and the top 20 for internet speed and access to credit. There are a number of work opportunities available for self-employed workers, and the social benefits are generous. Learn more about doing business in the UK.

Highlights of working in the UK

  • Good transport links
  • Fast internet speed
  • Vast social security benefits

4. UAE

Destinations like Dubai and Abu Dhabi attract ex-pats from all over the world because of the tax-free lifestyle. While Arabic is the official language of Dubai, English is more widely spoken, making the country even more accessible to non-natives.

Highlights of working in the UAE

  • No-income tax to pay
  • Multi-cultural, English-speaking society
  • Quality infrastructure and high standard of living

3. South Korea

With a considerably low cost of living, South Korea is among the best places in the world for freelancers. The country offers many opportunities for accessing credit and has quick internet speeds. The people of South Korea are known to be helpful and welcoming too.

Highlights of working in Korea

  • Reasonable living costs
  • Fast internet
  • Access to credit

2. USA

According to the research, the US is the second-best country in the world for people who are self-employed. There are said to be plenty of opportunities, access to funding, and many free Wi-Fi spots for those looking for a cosy corner in which to work from a laptop. Find out more about setting up a business in the US.

Highlights of working in the US

  • Lots of freelancing opportunities
  • Good transport links
  • Free Wi-Fi hubs
  • Money available for funding

1. Hong Kong

The overall winner and best country to be self-employed was determined to be Hong Kong. This is for a number of reasons including their excellent public transport service, low income tax rates, and access to credit. Doing business in Hong Kong is a common goal for many entrepreneurs.

Highlights of working in Hong Kong:

  • The maximum income tax rate is 15%
  • Public transport is extensive and moderately priced. It includes ferries, buses, and the huge Mass Transit Railway (metro) system
  • It’s a multicultural society in which a huge array of languages are spoken. The predominant languages are Cantonese and English

As self-employment continues to grow in popularity, it’s likely that all the countries of the world will find new ways to accommodate this kind of lifestyle. Payoneer’s research found that the countries in which freelancers’ revenue grew most, year-on-year, were the US (78%), UK (59%), Brazil (48%), and Pakistan (47%). This indicates that no one region is particularly more lucrative for this type of work, as the countries span North and South America, Europe, and Asia.

If you’re thinking about setting up your own business abroad, make sure you know about your destination country’s local employment and tax laws – especially if you will be hiring any additional staff. See our in-country guides for more the information you need to ensure you stay compliant.