How to become a freelancer

In the Netherlands, freelancers, entrepreneurs and one-man start-ups are recognised as ZZP’ers (zelfstandige zonder personeel) or self-employed without employees. As such, the procedure is very similar to that of anyone starting a business or registering a company. To become a ZZP'er you will need to have certain documentation (residence permit, address, etc.) among other essentials. The IND (Immigration and Naturalisation Service) and the Chamber of Commerce can advise you on your individual situation.

Once you have been given the green light, you'll need to follow a few steps:

  • Choose a business name.

  • Arrange a workspace, or check whether your residence is a viable (legal) workspace for the work you intend to carry out.
  • Register your business with the Chamber of Commerce. Registration is compulsory for every business.

  • Get a model agreement to clarify your income tax status. When a ZZP’er works for another company or client, it is often difficult to determine whether this is a case of employment in the traditional sense. To clarify where you stand, you must use a pre-approved or individual model agreement. This statement clarifies the status of a ZZPer’s income and whether another company should or shouldn’t withhold levies and premiums. The model agreement system replaces the previous VAR statements and comes into effect on 1 May 2016. Read more about model agreements

  • Sort out your tax administration (filing for your VAT or BTW). . Most freelancers are required to charge VAT – 21% or 6%, depending on the service. You can either do this yourself or hire a bookkeeper and/or accountant. VAT declarations are typically filed quarterly.

  • Research insurance cover for freelancers. There are many different insurance types including business liability, health, unemployment and pension. Insurance can be expensive but it is recommended for new start-ups with no previous experience in freelancing. One option is to become a member of ZZP Nederland. This is a specialised body that provides advice and information on all freelance matters, as well as adjoining discounts on ZZP-related insurance policies.

  • Arrange various other administrative issues: tax, invoices (facturen), terms & conditions, and expenses.

Important things to consider

Being your own boss allows a great deal of personal and creative freedom but the experience can also vary drastically from typical employment. Before filling in the paperwork and launching your company consider the following issues:

  • Who will be your clients? How will you find new clients?
  • How will you market your new company?
  • How much should you charge for your services?
  • Do you have a financial plan (including budgets, projected turnover and investments)?
  • What happens if you become sick or pregnant?
  • Do you require permits and/or licences for your workspace or trade?

It must also be remembered that registered freelancers are expected to have a minimum of three employers (clients) per year. It is also inadvisable to receive more than 70% of your company's income from one client – surpassing this may result in the tax authorities viewing it as traditional form of employment and be subject to employer-paid tax and social security.