In order to understand the fiscal and other regulatory framework relating to your business activity, you need to know the sector into which it falls. An artisan is one of the four main professional business groups in France, the others being commerçants, professions libérales and agriculteur.
Many people associate an artisan as a building trade professional, but in fact it encompasses a broad range of business activities.
The current legal definition dates from 1996, and covers a person or company employing less than 10 people engaged in 'une activité professionnelle indépendante de production, de transformation, de réparation ou de prestation de service' - a professional activity related to production, transformation, repair or delivery of a service. Agricultural activities and services are specifically excluded.
There are around 250 artisanale activities, which can be divided into four main categories:
i. Food Processing - As well as the manufacture of food and drink products, this category includes the retail sale of meat and fish in specialist stores and on market stalls.
ii. Building and Construction - As might be expected all building trades are covered here, but it also includes alarm installation, civil engineering, mining and quarrying.
iii. Manufacturing - The whole range of small scale manufacturing activites, other than food, are contained within this category, eg textiles, furniture, clothes, machinery, printing.
iv. Services - Finally, there is the category of 'services', which includes repair and maintenance of vehicles, florist, removals, taxi, hairdressing, antique restoration, cleaning, and beauty care.
You can find a more complete list of the activities at Artisan Professions in France.
Entry into some of these activities is regulated, either by qualification or appropriate experience. All the building trades are regulated, as well as hairdressing, car repairs, chimney sweep, butcher, baker and fishmonger and beautician.
You can find out more details about the regulatory framework at Becoming an Artisan in France.
Finding out whether you will be classified as an artisan is not without significance for it will determine the registration formalities and the level of social security contributions you will pay.
In practice, it is possible to carry out activities in more than one professional group.
Thus, an artisan who sells products they do not themselves produce will be carrying out a commercial activity, but provided their main sales are their own products then they remain classed as an artisan.
For those registered as a micro-entreprise/autoentrepreneur, there are particular rules governing the turnover and the level of cotisations for each activity, explained in more detail in our guide below.
We will take a look at the other professional groups in later articles.