Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bare Bone Basics of OPCAS

There are a handful of initialisms that strike fear in the hearts of Travailleur Indépendants. URSSAF and CIPAV are two, but careful, financial planning and a good accountant can help lower one's blood pressure.  DIRECCTE is another, but hyper time-management and an Excel fetish can help cure the hives that break out when dealing with this administrative hurdle.  

But the letters from the alphabet that drain the color from many of my fellow independents' faces are:  O.P.C.A. or: organisme paritaire collecteur agréé. In short: mandatory funding managed by a government agency for employee training in the private industry.  Warning, any sentence that includes the words "funding" and "government" means bracing yourself for an administrative migraine.

Putting up with the admin abyss and gaining access to the OPCAs can open doors to bigger clients, internal referrals for more training, multipliers at top management and ultimately, more long-term contractual commitments. 

OPCA funding 101
Different OPCAs have different rules. There are different OPCAs for different industries. But these steps should give you and idea of what to expect when you wade into that murky, paperwork-infested lagoon. Apologies for all the hedging.

Step one:  Get your Numéro de déclaration d'activité. If you don't have this registration number, or don't intend to apply for it, then stop reading.  Now. 

Step two: It depends.  If you've been approached by a company that requires OPCA funding then you might (repeat, might) be able to put Numéro de déclaration d'activité en cours on your contract and, eventually, on the fiche organisme de formation you send to the OPCA (see step six). For example, Christina Rebuffet-Broadus happily found this to be the case with FAFIEC.  You need a contract in order to get a Numéro de déclaration d'activité and you could use this first contract to get your foot in DIRECCTE's door.

Step three:  Your client should notify their OPCA of their intention to bring you on as a training provider.  You should then receive the OPCA's "fiche organisme de formation" to fill out.  
Try to stay calm. You'll likely need:
  • An Extrait K-bis (NB: Travailleur Indépendants don't have this.  They have a Certificat d'Inscription from INSEE / URSSAF.  A photocopy of this proof of your SIRET will do).
  • Récépissé de déclaration d'activité from DIRECCTE, (proof your declaration number is active. You have to request this document from DIRECCTE and, sometimes, it can take a while.)
  • Copies of your Bilan Pédagogique et Financier (BPF) from the last two years, signed by your accountant (see step two above),
  • A RIB,
  • A brochure advertising your services. A bit of knowledge of fancy word-processing software, a good eye and a color printer should do the trick. Or get it done right and pay someone to write and design a brochure for you.
OPCAs up close
Now, you may be asked to produce all of these documents in 10 days (wait...what?!).  But the good news is since the DNA of OPCAs is hoops and hoops of administration, they are likely to be sympathetic if you can't get those documents in on time. Just send them a polite letter apologizing for the delay. 

Step four: Dance a little jig in your living room when the OPCA notifies you that they've approved your dossier.

Step five:  The OPCA should then send you a separate contract for the training and ask you for a programme détaillé and a copy of the contract you signed with your new client.

Step six: Write an amazing training proposal (programme détaillé). In it, include the training objectives, the types of trainees, the number of hours, a description of the training, your methodology, materials, where the training will take place and how you will evaluate the trainees.  The time you invest writing this training proposal will help save you time down the road when your client is thrilled with your high-quality teaching and wants to renew the contract.

Step seven:  At the end of the training, send signed presence sheets and a bill to the OPCA, not your client. Payment may take up to two to three months.

Some of you may have set up a training package that lasts over a year. If so, good going!  But waiting until the end of the training to get paid can cause your bank account to collapse in fits of dry heaves.  Rebuffet-Broadus recently spoke to a very nice lady at FAFIEC and found out: "I can send the first bill after the first 10 hours of training. Then, it's up to me when I bill. I don't have to specify the billing frequency in the convention de formation (I asked just to be sure), but I can if I want."  

So calling the OPCA directly can pay off if you run into any snags along the way.

If you find all the OPCA admin utterly daunting and impossible to do on your own, but you still want to give it a shot, I strongly recommend joining The Language Network. For a small, incredibly affordable annual fee, members get access to additional help dealing with OPCAs including how to fill out the initial paperwork, writing a training proposal, billing, etc. 

Good luck on your journey!  Hang in there.  But remember: there's a reason why OPCA rhymes with vodka.


  1. Thank god for your website, Bethany.

    It was a real pain to get my DA number so I am a bit put off by venturing into this process again unless it is worth it.

    I definitely think it is very related to if they like you or if they know someone you know. for my DA, I had everything and more but I still got rejected the first time round. Perhaps turning up in person wasn't a good idea though so I would advise doing it via the post. I spoke to 2 assistants who couldn't agree between them and the top boss needed "thinking time" to mull over my folder.

    All this means you really need a real reason to go through with this and based on my tax bill, cancelled and rescheduled lessons, I really should have doubled my rate.

  2. Hi Phil,
    Yes, welcome to the lagoon. But some lagoons sprout the prettiest flowers. I totally agree submitting the paperwork by post, when dealing with the DIRECCTE, is better. Always scan the documents so you have a copy on hand, and send your file registered so you know when it lands on their desk. But sending documents by post can often cause a delay in a process that involves strict deadlines (e.g. some OPCAs, Call for Tender applications, etc.). This is sort of why I started this blog in the first place, so readers can plan ahead.

    Phil, you bring up a key point: "All this means you really need a real reason to go through with this and based on my tax bill, cancelled and rescheduled lessons, I really should have doubled my rate." Time is money. Hiring an accountant can definitely help lower one's blood pressure. But the time you spend doing all the paperwork (and maintaining all the paperwork) to obtain and keep clients is an investment choice only you can make.

  3. Too bad that this article is not updated....
    I own a large company and I am juste tired of french administration and the impossibility to hire someone easily and at reasonnable cost... I have also been working with a major company working with DIRECCTE Champagne , Babeau-seguin and they think the same !!! Please keep writing such articles and try to have some companies contributing to it !

  4. I'm waiting on a report from a fellow independent who just submitted her bilan as an Auto-entrepreneur. I hope to update the blog soon! Thanks for your interest and good luck with everything.