There are around 1 million people in the Netherlands who are working on a freelance (sole trader) basis – in Dutch this is known as ZZP or Zelfstandige Zonder Personeel. With the ease of working over the internet and the current economic climate making full-time jobs more scarce, the number of freelancers in the Netherlands is expected to grow further.
However, the downside is that with an ever increasing number of ZZPers, getting a good contract is becoming more of a challenge. That said, if you are looking for a more flexible lifestyle and are thinking of starting your own business in the Netherlands then here are a few steps explained…
1. Write a business plan. Think of the demand for your business idea, the network you need to establish and any financial considerations. A good move is to check your business ideas with people already operating in your target sector. The most important part about setting up a small business is to get that first sale or contract.
2. Register as a sole trader (Eenmanszaak) with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (KvK – Kamer van Koophandel). You will also immediately receive a VAT (BTW, Belasting Toegevoegde Waarde) number. To register make an appointment at your local KvK office – it’s possible to do this online at the kvk.nl website. The KvK has offices in each major Dutch city.
Chamber of Commerce (KvK) office in Amsterdam: This is located at De Ruyterkade 5, 1013 AA Amsterdam (just west of central station) and is open from 0830-1700 Monday to Friday.
You will need to have your BSN number (Burger Service Nummer) at hand, bring a form of ID such as a passport and have a rough projection of the revenue and costs your new business will have. Even as a sole trader you can give your business a specific name, as long as it is unique in the Dutch company register (handelsregister).
Registering a new business at the Dutch Chamber of Commerce costs €51.95 which can only paid by debit or credit card.
3. Sort out a bank account. If you already live in the Netherlands you probably have a local bank account. If not, see: How to open a Dutch bank account
There are 2 routes you can go for your new business:
(a) continue using your personal account – bank fees are generally lower but you will have to use your real name when giving payment instructions to clients.
(b) opening a business account – this has the advantage of allowing your business name on the account. Most banks offer limited fees for the first 12 months to new business accounts. Ideally you can then keep personal and business transactions separate.
For example, online bank KNAB is quite popular with ZZPers as its business account offers 5 sub-accounts. The Knab online portal however is only available in Dutch, you can get more info and apply here
4. Insurance – Think about any insurance you may need as a freelancer, such as liability and incapacity insurance. Everyone in the Netherlands must have their own basic health insurance which costs around €110-130 per month. Freelancers also have to pay the employer’s health premium, so in total you would probably pay around €2,000 for standard healthcare coverage. However, those on lower incomes do get a rebate on healthcare insurance costs.
5. Tax Reporting – Once you are registered with the Chamber of Commerce you can officially start trading. It is important to keep a good administrative overview. Most starting freelancers hire an accountant to help with tax deductions available and filing a tax return each year. You also need to file a VAT return – generally done every quarter.
There are 3 rates of VAT (21%, 9% and 0%) and you need to be aware which one you are liable to charge for. If you have clients outside the Netherlands you also have to file additional reports, such as the Intracommunautaire Prestaties form.
Be aware that to be considered as a freelancer by the tax office you must have at least 3 different clients.
6. Places to Work – Most freelancers who don’t need to be physically present at a client will either work from home, at a cafe or shared office space. Note, some shared office spaces have been occasionally closed due to the ongoing lockdown restrictions.
There are numerous co-working facilities around Amsterdam. Here are a selected few which are located in the centre of the city:
Meet Berlage offers co-working space and meeting rooms in the Beurs van Berlage building close to Dam Square in Amsterdam. The address is Oudebrugsteeg 9, 1012 JN Amsterdam.
The Hacker Building is a co-working community venue in the tech-space. It offers dedicated desks, virtual offices and the rates include coffee and meeting rooms. Address is Herengracht 551, 1017 CW Amsterdam
VENU is a modern lifestyle and workplace with a lobby/shop and cafe area. It offers rooms and creative spaces, no membership required. Address is Haarlemmerdijk 138 A, 1013 JJ Amsterdam.
Wheelhouse calls itself a curated workspace (communication and media) where members are carefully selected based on skills and personality. Location is Achtergracht 17-19, 1017 WL Amsterdam.
Zoku Amsterdam has private work lofts and a variety of co-working spaces (day rate to monthly memberships). Lunch is included from its Living Kitchen rooftop restaurant. It is located at Weesperstraat 105, 1018 VN Amsterdam in the Weesperbuurt district.
This article was originally published in 2010. Last updated 16 February 2022. Note, information is subject to change.