Work as a freelancer in Amsterdam was one of the best experiences I had. To make you a brieve idea of what it is, this is one of the places to be for freelancers in the digital area. In this post I’ll try to detail everything, every part of my experience to share it with you. I hope it will convince you to give it a go.
In 2012/2013, I was studying Mobile Design and Web Design (Creation and Development of Online Products) in Gobelins – l’école de l’image, in Paris. This year was very rich in work, relationship and discoveries. At the end of the year, our school offered us the opportunity to go abroad to find an internship while getting paid by some organisation in France. This was a chance, a chance to leave my country (something I’ve never did in the past) and give a try to work abroad with foreigners, make a new experience and go out of my confort zone. The limit of the program was to choose a city in Europe. The principal targets for everybody were London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Stockholm & Copenhagen. We already had some feedback from old students living abroad, everyone was very happy to live in their country, so the choice was really diffuclt. We were finally 8 from the group to choose and go to Amsterdam.
The internship went really well. I found a small digital agency where my work was pretty free during the first weeks. With the other interns we developed a game for tablets called “Tanks vs Chicken”, I let you imagine what it was about! I learned 3D modeling for the occasion, everything was cool, the first weeks were really a blast!
Then 5 months later, this is the end of the internship, I had to choose.. What’s next? I liked working as a Motion/Graphic Designer, but what I didn’t like was all the drawbacks of working in an agency, the hierarchy, the oraganisation, doing policy with people … I wanted something concrete and work 100% of my free time, be efficient and creative.
That’s why I choosed to be self-employed.
Be a freelancer in Netherlands
Here I am, my internship is done, I am living in a beautifull city, what is the next step?
The challenge wasn’t that big but still not very sure. I decided to go to the KvK – Kamer van Koophandel (Chamber of Commerce in Netherlands) to see the requirements to declare my activity. I was very surprised how simple it was, compare to the french administration system!
Step 0 – Requirements
- Citizen Service Number
- Arrange a workspace, or check whether your residence is a viable (legal) workspace for the work you intend to carry out.
- Open a bank account, if you want to be a freelancer you can use your personal one for your company.
To be able to register a company, you should have a Citizen Service Number (BSN). And for this BSN you should have a residence permit that gives you the possibility to register a BSN. Watchout, make sure your landlord gives you the possibility to register a BSN when you look for an appartment, it is not always the case. Without BSN number you can’t even have a bank account!
As a digital designer or a developer, there is no need to find a workspace, you can work in your appartment or in a coworking space. People at the KvK or the government are not really picky about this.
For the bank account you can use your personal account as your professional one. You just need to be able to justify all the transfers. For example, at the end of an administrative year, you provide a sort of resume called “financieel jaaroverzicht” to your accountant wich lists everything from the beginning of the year.
Step 1 – Make an appointment with a KvK counselor
First of all, even before to choose the type of your company, you should make an appointment with an advisor to be sure what fits the best with your plan. If you choose to be a freelancer (self-employed), here are the steps to follow.
In the Netherlands, freelancers, entrepreneurs and one-man start-ups are recognised as ZZP’ers (zelfstandige zonder personeel) or self-employed without employees.
Step 2 – The KvK
No worry, people at KvK are very nice with expats. Go to see the hostess and she will give you your pass number if the KvK is busy. In my experience the service was super fast.
The KvK counselor you are going with will advise you on everything for a good start, you can also ask him everything about administration.
You’ll have to answer a few questions as, how much money do you plan to earn the first year? Do you already have any clients? How many clients do you have? Are you gonna work for abroad clients? They’ll also probably try to detect if you are planning to work for only one client, you have to know that is forbiden in Netherlands because it is considered as kind of employment. So you have to work for several clients.
Here is a list of important things to consider while going to the KvK:
- 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?
Step 3 – The beginning!
As soon as you leave the KvK, after your appointment, you should be able to invoice your clients and start your business! (In my experience)
To make you things easier I made you a simple invoice example (just the necessary to start). Please download it and modify it as you wish!
Step 4 – Administrative stuff in coming!
If you’re very brave, you can try to make your administrative stuff by yourself, or … You can hire an accountant! Which is very comfortable as their price are very low (compare to France!). You can hire a self-employed accountant from 300 to 500 € per year. The accountant will be helpfull in everything, they’re used to help a lot of expatriates. Their services are very complete and easy to access. You can even hire an accountant before to go to the KvK and he will help you in the approach of creating your own business.
So my advice is to hire an accountant as soon as you can, you’ll save a bunch of time, then money!
Step 5 – Tax legislation
Freelancers and self-employed have to pay their turnover tax and income tax (BTW – Belasting Toegevoegde Waarde). There are two different BTW, 21% and 6%, depending on the service. BTW/VAT declarations are typically filed quarterly.
External links to help you