Realize your dream of having your own company – it’s really not that complicated to do. What do you need to take into account when becoming self-employed? We have compiled the most important tasks and helpful tips for starting a company in Switzerland for you here.
From the business idea and selecting the right legal form, to insurance and pensions – we go through the most important steps in founding a company together with you. Let’s get started!
Founding a company in Switzerland is comparatively easy. Special permits are only required for industries that are regulated by the federal government (professions in healthcare, education, or the social sector) or the cantons (e.g. professions in architecture, transportation, or the law). This guide will lead you step by step through the various phases of becoming self-employed.
A good business idea is the basis for founding a successful company. Despite this, you don’t necessarily have to have a new business idea that is uniquely your own to start your own company. The majority of founders start with products and services that are known.
The big advantage here is that if you have worked successfully for many years in a certain field, then you know the central needs and problems of the market. Close contact with customers is a revealing source of information when it comes to improvements, product innovations, and gaps in the market. Industry insiders also have the right network and know potential customers and suppliers personally. Ideally, you also work in an ambitious team which supports you in growing your company.
Should you choose an innovative idea or not? A market analysis is a good first step to estimate the potential of your business idea.
Do you already have some initial ideas for a company name? Does the company name you have in mind breach any copyrights? You should also check whether the corresponding domain is available (for example, www.axa.ch). Depending on the marketing concept, you should also check whether you can create social media profiles with the name. It’s important to remember: Depending on the legal form you choose, you may have to include certain elements and observe certain requirements for the company name.
The most important rules for creating a company (name of the owner of the company) can be found in the following provisions:
If your company name violates the rules on company founding, then it cannot be entered in the commercial register. Want to check that your company’s name complies with the law before you start trading? Submit your proposal to the responsible cantonal commercial registry office for a preliminary review. An overview of all cantonal commercial registry offices in Switzerland can be found here.
How is it going with the financing of your company? Have you considered money from investors or business angels? Would you like to take out a loan from a bank? Are you starting your company with equity, for example through a withdrawal of assets from your pension fund?
Start-up founders have lots of options when it comes to funding their business model. Work out how much capital you need and ask an expert for advice. You can get professional advice from business coaches, start-up platforms like startups.ch, your preferred bank, or the AXA pension experts. The Swiss government does not grant any direct financial support for the founding of new companies. The only exception is unemployment insurance. It provides support measures for unemployed persons who would like to start their own company.
Is your financial cushion sufficient if orders dry up? Since you cannot rely on any unemployment benefits, it is advisable to budget a bridging reserve for at least six months. Too scarcely planned finances can be devastating – in the case of bankruptcy, self-employed persons are liable with their total assets.
Here, there is a range of options to choose from – whether it be a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation. If an individual is managing a business in the commercial sense under his or her own name and on his or her own behalf, this constitutes a sole proprietorship. This legal form is popular in Switzerland and the gateway to self-employment for many start-ups. It can be changed to a corporation at any time.
Sole proprietors and partners in a partnership are considered to be self-employed:
The alternative: You found a corporation and are an employee of your own company.
The legal form of the company determines your position under social insurance law.
Have you chosen to establish a sole proprietorship or partnership? You have taken the first step! Under social insurance law, you have thus chosen the path of self-employment. This is because in Switzerland you are considered to be self-employed once the compensation fund of your place of work has reviewed your application and approved your self-employment. Various criteria apply depending on the industry. An entry in the commercial register is not enough for approval of self-employment.
Registration of your self-employment is free of charge and can be done online. Depending on the legal form, it takes around 20-30 minutes, or a little longer if you already have employees.
To review an application, the compensation fund requires documentation of your self-employment, which is why the application is made retroactively. Include documents with your application that prove you are self-employed. These may comprise, for example, offers and invoices, advertising materials, or a description of your activity.
From the perspective of the compensation fund, self-employment has the following four features:
For the self-employed, the duty to pay contributions starts in the first January following the founder’s 17th birthday. If there is gainful activity, contributions must be paid. If you work beyond retirement age, then you remain subject to contributions.
The next step – social insurance: We recommend calculating the costs as normal expenses in your budget. The self-employed pay contributions for Federal Old Age and Survivors’ Insurance (AHV), disability insurance (IV), and Loss of Earnings benefits (EO) entirely themselves. On top of this are a percentage of the family allowance amount and administrative costs.
Once you register with the compensation fund, you have already dealt with another important matter of the founding phase – insurance. Regardless of whether it relates to work absences, technical errors, or cyber attacks: Insurance kicks in whenever something happens that could throw you and your self-employment off course. It offers protection against risks that could endanger your dream of self-employment. For this reason, you should ask the following questions when choosing the right insurance: Which risks does my new company face? And what can I or do I want to bear on my own?
The good news is that there are few types of insurance that are mandatory for start-ups and the self-employed. Most of these relate to coverage for employees. Other types of insurance coverage can be freely chosen by the founders. Find out more about what you need to consider on our self-employment page and in the insurance check:
An important step for founders is planning occupational benefits (BVG). Occupational benefits insurance (Pillar 2) is voluntary for self-employed persons. Thanks to a large number of professional and industry associations, it shouldn’t be hard to find an occupational pension that suits your needs. As an alternative, you can also join an industry-specific pension fund or the National Substitute Pension Plan BVG.
One option that is particularly popular among the self-employed is private retirement provision with Pillar 3a. In addition to long-term security, you also benefit from attractive tax advantages. The article “Pensions for the self-employed: What do you really need?” will show you: Are you making the best possible provision for your retirement?
In the AXA blog article “AXA answers your questions on self-employment,” we asked experts the most frequent questions about insurance, pensions, pension funds, and tax advantages.
The time after founding a company also creates questions. The AXA team will be happy to provide impartial advice and valuable tips, even after you start your company. Send us your questions, and we’ll contact you shortly.