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How to Become a Freelancer in the Netherlands

Are you sick of conventional part-time jobs, because you feel like they don’t actually get you closer to your career goals? Maybe you’ve spent half of your life cultivating a specific skill that you hope to turn into a profession one day, whether that be graphic design, coding, writing or even something more obscure like hand lettering. It could even be that you’ve been pursuing one of these things as a hobby for ages and have been overlooking its money-making potential. If either of those is the case, then dig deep for that entrepreneurial side and consider becoming a freelancer next to your studies.

Just like with any other job, there are various advantages and disadvantages involved in being your own boss. A big pro is flexibility, since you’ll be able to decide when, where and how much you want to work. As long as you get everything handed in on time, nobody will care when your creativity strikes, so you’re free to complete a project at 3am over frozen pizza if you so choose. On the flip side, you’ll have to bid farewell to some benefits like sick days or holidays as well as pay your own taxes. Of course, getting the hang of things will also take time and effort, particularly if you’ll also have your studies to focus on on the side. 

If you’re feeling up for the challenge though, we’ve broken down everything you’ll need to know concerning freelancing in the Netherlands. 

Getting started

Unlike with regular student jobs, freelancing in the Netherlands is an option for everyone, regardless of where their passport is from. Neither EU/EEA nor non-EU/EEA students need a work permit to take on their first client. All that you’ll have to do is register with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (Kamer van Koophandel) as a zzp’er (‘zelfstandige zonder personeel’) to clarify that you’re self-employed without employees. If you’re not an EU citizen, your freelance application will have to be reviewed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs before you can officially begin.

Just don’t forget that, just like with any job, you’ll have to take out Dutch health insurance, or so-called ‘basisverzekering’, if you want to freelance in the Netherlands. Declaring your taxes to the Dutch Tax office (Belastingdienst) every three months, as well as at the end of the year, is also a necessity. 

Finding your first client

The hardest part is done once you’ve decided to take the plunge into freelancing. However, closely following suit is the hurdle of scoring your first client. You may not really know where to begin, and of course, this also depends on the skills that you’re advertising. What’s important to keep in mind is that you need to research the industry you’re trying to break into as well as the type of demographic you’ll be marketing your services to.

Once that’s done, learn how to sell the hell out of yourself by writing killer pitches! You can also speed up the process of impressing prospective clients by ensuring that your portfolio really showcases your best work. And who knows? With passion, a few trendy design elements and your charming personality, you’ll probably land your first assignment in no time.

Freelancing platforms

Cold-emailing companies can be intimidating. If you don’t feel like you’re quite at that stage yet, and especially if your freelance business will be more of a side hustle, then freelance platforms could also be a low-risk outlet to get started on. Whether Guru, Upwork or Fiverr, there are many websites out there for you to offer your skills, be it animation or SEO. 

We know this all sounds easier said than done, and establishing yourself as a freelancer is always a tough feat. In case all of this does seem a little too overwhelming to manage in addition to your studies (since, let’s be real, being a full-time student is a lot of work as it is), it may also be worth considering a more traditional part-time job after all.

Check out our guide on finding student work in the Netherlands here. And who knows, you can always embark on the road to becoming a successful freelancer later on if it still appeals to you.  

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