In this situation, could I work as a freelancer in the future, staying in France, but doing work for clients who are abroad?
I think so: I'm doing that.
Would I need any special permission from the French government to do this?
I think so, well some ordinary permission anyway: because I think you're expected to pay taxes, e.g. income tax if you're earning income and are resident?
And apart from income tax there's also pension/retirement benefit payment, health insurance, and family-and-unemployment-etc insurance.
Actually I think that the income tax is relatively tiny compared to the various social security payments.
You might (I don't know) have to fuss with VAT as well.
If yes, could you give me a few general pointers on where I can learn more about this, preferably in English?
If you earn less than about 30,000 euros per year you can work under a simplified scheme called autoentrepreneur. Otherwise I think you're required to have an accountant who prepares your returns.
In either case I think you might start by registering at your nearest https://www.urssaf.fr office. They have brochures and/or you can read their web sites.
Plus you need to register elsewhere for health insurance, and elsewhere again for pension ... I can't tell you where because which organization it is will vary depending on what type of work you do (in my case I'm a programmer which is a profession libérale so for me it's the RSI and CIPAV).
Will it be a severe hindrance that I do not speak French?
Maybe you can find someone bilingual to guide you? An accountant for example, who will also prepare your taxes?
The Chrome (web browser) is quite good at translating French web pages?
There may be someone in an office who speaks some English, even if not everyone does?
I can't answer that from much experience though because I can speak French. I suppose there are English-language publications and/or communities and/or professionals (as a random and maybe suboptimal example http://www.connexionfrance.com/index.php has advertisements in the paper) but I can't recommend one.
The finances of self-employment are quite complicated to understand, I found (e.g. reduced/deferred payments due on the first year of income, which may be an unwelcome surprise later when they ask for regularization payments on your income from two years ago); and all the various official/bureaucratic acronyms are things you won't have learned in school; and some things (e.g. getting a carte vital) may take a good long while to process, like a year.
I heard that becoming a freelancer in France is not bureaucratically easy
I found it fairly easy actually in retrospect:
- Figure out who (which organizations, three or four of them) I need to register with
- Go to their (each) office in person
- Explain myself to the receptionist
- Show ID (e.g. a suitable passport)
- Let the receptionist register me (using their own computer)
- Go home and answer the mail (which includes sending them cheques) about 12 times per year
I guess answering the mail (e.g. their requests for payments) might be difficult if you don't speak French, unless that's something an accountant/translator/office assistant can do for you.
Just the figuring out which organizations I needed to register with took a bit of reading (many hours).
I didn't have the additional complication of a non-EU spouse.