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Entrepreneurial activities

What is a trade?

The preconditions for a business activity falling under trade law are activities carried out

  • for the entrepreneur’s own account and at the entrepreneur’s risk,
  • regularly and
  • with the intention of realising an economic benefit or profit.

The rules on how to obtain a trade business license are set out in the Trade Act (Gewerbeordnung – GewO). The lists for regulated and non-regulated business activities are available only in german, see below.

Categories of trades / list of trades

There are regulated trades and non-regulated ("free") trades (see the respective lists below, available only in german).

  • Regulated trades (reglementierte Gewerbe) require a certificate of qualification (Befähigungsnachweis); examples include joinery, metal engineering or engineering consultancy.
    Regulated trades include so-called associated trades (verbundene Gewerbe). Associated trades refer to trades where activities associated with another trade and may be carried out without the need for an additional certificate of qualification. These trades are closely related from a technical point of view and are expressly designated as such in the Trade Act (e.g. metalworking for metal and mechanical engineering; metalworking for blacksmiths and vehicle manufacturing, metalworking for agricultural machinery).
  • Non-regulated ("free") trades (freie Gewerbe) do not require any proof of qualification.
    The Bundeseinheitliche Liste der freien Gewerbe (federal list of “free trades”) comprehensively enumerates businesses that do not require a certificate of qualification but does not claim to list all conceivable occupations that fall within this definition. The list does not in any way limit the imagination of resourceful entrepreneurs. In “inventing” new free trades, they should nevertheless make sure that activities reserved to a regulated trade are out of bounds. The enumeration does not preclude administrative decisions to the contrary.

To carry out any kind of trade or business activity, you need a trade licence (Gewerbeberechtigung)!

Additional information


Division for Trade Law: