Work as a freelancer
Becoming a freelancer
If you are looking to be your own boss, you might want to consider being a freelancer. Freelancers, known in the Netherlands as ZZP'ers (zelfstandige zonder personeel or ‘independent with no staff’) are self-employed entrepreneurs who are not committed to any single long-term client or employer. The procedure is very similar to starting a business. To become a freelancer or ZZPer, you will need to follow a few steps:
- Residence permit: you need a valid residence permit which allows you to live and work in the Netherlands.
- Registration with the KvK: you will need to register your new business at the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (Kamer van Koophandel, KvK).
- Choosing a legal form: The most common business structure for a freelancer's enterprise in the Netherlands is an eenmanszaak (one-person business).
- Registration with the Belastingdienst: you should also ask to be registered with the Belastingdienst (Dutch tax office), which will issue you with a VAT number nummer (BTW nummer). Most freelancers are required to charge VAT – 21% or 6%, depending on their service. The tax office collects this tax four times a year via the VAT declaration (BTW aangifte).
- Annual income tax: Doing your annual income tax return is slightly more complicated when you are a freelancer compared to an employee, because you will have to calculate your tax independently. An accountant can help you with that.
- 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 may need to 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.
- Insurances 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 starters with no previous experience in freelancing.
- Pension: As a freelancer it is also important to take responsibility for your own pension since the only contributions going towards your retirement will be payments that you deliberately set aside yourself. Thinking long-term, it is wise to investigate the Dutch pension system for a collective pension fund you can join or an individual pension product that you can invest in. Read more about the pension system in the Netherlands here.