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) 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. In Amsterdam the KvK office is located at De Ruyterkade 5 (just west of central station) and is open from 0830 to 1700 on weekdays.
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 €50 which can only paid by debit card.
3. Sort out a bank account. If you already live in the Netherlands you probably have 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.
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 €95-120 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 to file the quarterly VAT (omzetbelasting) return with the tax office.
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.
Seats2Meet offers a free workspace and lunch to individuals wanting to connect in a co-operative environment. Present in many Dutch cities, it also has paid meeting rooms. The Amsterdam Seats2Meet location is at Oudebrugsteeg 9 (Meet Berlage Center) close to Dam Square in Amsterdam.
You could consider applying to join Impact Hub which offers a creative environment / work / meeting space for entrepreneurs and freelancers. They have international presence and in Amsterdam are located at Linnaeusstraat 2C. Other shared office spaces in Amsterdam for creative coworkers are House of Fashion (at Singel 146) and WeWork (at Weteringschaans 165C and Weesperstraat 61-105).
International office service group Regus has a number of locations in and around Amsterdam which could be useful as a virtual office or if you need a meeting rooms.