Becoming a freelancer in the Netherlands: The 2024 ZZPer guide

Being your own boss? Check ✅

Dreaming of quitting your job and becoming a freelancer in the Netherlands? It sounds like you may have been bitten by the ZZPer bug and are in love with the idea of being your own boss! 🪄

Even with the stellar Dutch work-life balance, becoming a freelancer and essentially marching to the beat of your own drum can be an enticing option.

So, are you stomping on the pedal to become a fully-fledged ZZPer and start your own fabulous business? You may want to gently nudge the brakes for a minute — at least until you’ve read up on a few things you need to know first. 👇

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What’s a ZZPer?

Standing for zelfstandige zonder personneel (independent with no staff), a ZZPer refers to a freelancer in the Netherlands.

The most common business model for freelancers is an eenmanszaak (sole trader/proprietorship), in which you have full legal and professional responsibility for your business.

READ MORE | Types of Dutch companies: quick and easy guide

Going freelance comes with a host of benefits, such as a flexible schedule, full creative control and direction of your business, choosing your own clients, and setting your own rate.

Freelance life isn’t for everyone, and that’s perfectly okay! Image: Freepik

However, things aren’t sunshine and stroopwafels all the time. From wrangling taxes, building your own client base, setting up all the legal requirements… etc., the freelancer lifestyle is not without its challenges.

But if you fancy being your own boss and are willing to navigate a few possible bumps along the road, then the freelancer route just might be the right choice for you!

What do I need to become a freelancer in the Netherlands?

Oké, so you’ve got this exciting new business idea and you’re champing at the bit to make it a reality, but you’re wondering what the next steps are.

We’ve worked our way over that particular hurdle, so here’s something to help: a mini-guide on everything you need to become a freelancer in the Netherlands. 🙌

A KVK number

Legally, you’ll need to register your business with the KvK (Dutch Chamber of Commerce) before you start freelancing.

You can easily make an appointment with a KvK kantoor (office) near you through the official website. Remember to bring your official documents, such as your ID/BSN information with you.

READ MORE | Can I work in the Netherlands? Complete guide to work permits and visas to land a Dutch job

At the end of the process, you’ll be issued with your KVK number. This means that you are registered in the Handelsregister (Dutch Business Register) as a legitimate business in the Netherlands.

In addition to this, you will also be required to choose a unique name for your business, detail its legal structure, and define what activities it will be undertaking.

Not sure if your ideal business name has already been taken? Maak je geen zorgen (don’t worry), because you can search the KvK’s business register.

Let op: Unless you’re an EU, EEA, or Swiss citizen, you’ll also need to be in possession of a valid residence permit.

Your residence permit will provide you with a BSN (Citizen Service Number), which is mandatory in order to register as a freelancer, get insured, and pay your taxes.

A BTW nummer

Also known as a VAT number, your BTW number will be provided to you when you attend your KvK appointment.

Containing part of your BSN (Citizen Service Number), you will need to use your BTW nummer when filing your taxes and when sending invoices.


Living in the Netherlands without valid insurance is a bit like driving down the German Autobahn after you’ve been on a six-week bender. You’re probably going to be in a lot of legal trouble (and it might hurt more than just your wallet).

Whether you work from home or a freelancer that’s racked up a wealth of Air Miles, protecting your business and your health should be a top priority. Image: Freepik

In short, you’re legally required to take out Dutch health insurance (zorgvezekering) as a ZZPer. Although international students and expats can receive healthcare in the Netherlands through global or EU health insurance providers, it is mandatory to take out Dutch health insurance instead when legally employed here.

READ MORE | 9 things you need to know about Dutch health insurance as an international

Luckily, there are a range of effective Dutch health insurance providers that can give you the coverage you need! These include:

Although Dutch health insurance is mandatory, it’s not the only type of insurance that freelancers are advised to take out.

Freelancers who want to insure their businesses against lawsuits brought about by possible professional errors may also want to take out beroepsaansprakelijksheidsverzekering (professional indemnity insurance). For some lines of work, such as law, accountancy, and architecture, indemnity insurance is legally mandated.

Meanwhile, what if you accidentally drop your customer’s laptop whilst explaining an important report to them? If you’d like to avoid the risk of being liable for the accident, you may want to take out bedrijfsaansprakelijkheidsverzekering (business liability insurance), from a company like Univé.

Tools you’ll need for your business: ZZPer edition

Making the most of your full-time freelance dreams often means treating your one-man (or one-woman) show as a serious business. Although success is never a guarantee, there are definitely tools that can aid the process. 👇

A business bank account

Let’s face it, trying to be über-professional while your ‘freelance’ bank account includes charges for your Netflix and chill binge can get rather… hard.

That’s why investing in a business bank account is a great move. Not only will it create a financial division between work and play, but a business bank account will also give you access to specific features that can help your business flourish and grow.

A business bank account helps you stay on top of things whilst offering you powerful add-ons to boost your freelancing career. Image: Freepik

Whether you’re planning on taking out a loan, setting up an invoicing system, or just need some assistance getting your head around VAT calculations, a company bank account will probably be your wallet’s BFF. In fact, setting up a business account is even recommended by the KVK.

Our top picks for ZZPer-approved business bank accounts include:

Note: You may need some extra documents to open a business bank account. These include proof of identity and an extract from the KVK business register (Handelsregister).

An invoicing program

Oké, it’s time to rip off the plaster: being your own boss means that you NEED to be organised.

Although many freelancers are aware of the importance of keeping many aspects of their business well-organised, the invoicing side can be a tricky beast to master. However, properly filed invoices are both tax obligatory and useful for recording your business’ cash flow.

If you’re new to the ZZPer life or just aren’t comfortable with handling invoices yourself, it stands to reason that you may want a little help.

READ MORE | 7 things you need as a freelancer in the Netherlands

The easiest and most hassle-free way to get your invoices in order? By using invoicing software!

Hate invoicing? Luckily, there are simple solutions that’ll make this step a walk in the park. Image: Freepik

In fact, some banks (such as bunq) even offer invoicing services straight from the app or offer you the option of connecting to third-party software that’ll make the job easy as pie. 🥧

However, if you’d prefer using dedicated software, our freelancer-approved list of handig (handy) invoicing programs include:

How much tax will I pay?

The Dutch tax office collects a 21% BTW tax from freelancers in the Netherlands typically four times per year. In addition to the regular rates for your goods or services, you will need to add this extra tax on every invoice you charge your customers.

Of course, for reasons of transparency, you will need to inform your clients that the cost you’re charging them is including (or excluding!) VAT.

READ MORE | How to pay your taxes as a self-employed person in the Netherlands

The process of paying taxes (belasting) in the Netherlands as a freelancer can be a bit like walking around Scheveningen beach with a fat stack of patatjes (chips), as greedy seagulls caw overhead. In simple terms, the whole ordeal can be fraught with stress and confusion.

It’s sad, but true: taxes are a necessary evil when living and working in the Netherlands. Image: Freepik

Although enlisting the services of an accountant is always a good idea, freelancers that don’t want to shoulder the additional expense also have apps that can guide them through the process.

One of our personal favourites is Finom, a handy app that helps manage the financial aspect of running your own business, including invoicing, business bank accounts, and offers options for your clients to make payments.

Feeling a little overwhelmed? Maak je geen zorgen (don’t worry), because things aren’t all head-scratchingly confusing when it comes to doing your taxes as a freelancer. 👇

Tax subsidies: freelancers can get them, too

Being self-employed in the Netherlands means that you might be entitled to some tax deductions that’ll help your business thrive.

If you’ve just set up your business, then you’ll likely be eligible for startersaftrek, which is a form of tax relief for new companies.

Not quite new, but making under €20,000 per year? It sounds like the kleineondernemersregeling (small business scheme) might be just right for you. Even better, this scheme means you don’t need to pay VAT!

And calling all ZZPers that cajole their spouses or partners into working for them: you could be entitled to meewerkaftrek (working partner’s abatement), as long as their work is unpaid.

Oh, and if you’re devoted to doing a lot of research and development for your business, the Dutch government really digs that. They’ve even got handy dandy aftrek voor speur- en ontwikkelingswerk (R&D credit) for you, as long as you spend at least 500 hours per year on the task.

Let op: To be eligible for these subsidies, you will need to work at least 1,225 hours per year on your business.

Do I need a contract to work with clients as a freelancer?

According to the Belastingdienst (the Dutch tax authority), it isn’t mandatory for freelancers in the Netherlands to set up a contract with their clients.

However, it may be advisable to create one, so that all parties involved are assured of the obligations and other details that their work relationship involves.

Whether you love marching to the beat of your own drum or could use a bit more supervision, there’s probably a contract that’s perfect for you! Image: Freepik

Dutch law outlines several types of model agreements (or modelovereenkomsten). These include:

No employer authority

If you draw up this contract yourself, it entails that you don’t need your client’s supervision or instructions, and can work at your own discretion.

However, the second type of ‘no employer authority’ agreement gives you slightly less freedom as a freelancer. If this contract was drawn up by the Tax and Customs Administration instead, your client may be allowed to provide supervision or define the end goal of your assignment.

No obligation to work personal work

This type of agreement means that you are not mandated to undertake the contracted work yourself and can nominate someone else to do it. In other words, you’re allowed to decide if delegating the work to someone else is a good idea, as well as who’ll be filling your boots.

However, if this agreement was drawn up by the Tax and Customs Administration, then your client can refuse the replacement if they don’t meet the necessary criteria for the job.

No employer authority and no obligation to work in person

This agreement combines several of the specifications of the two previous contracts. Drawing up this contract means that you are allowed to do the job at your own discretion, without supervision from your client.

This agreement deals with the conclusion of assigned work between you and your client.

How to (effectively!) manage your business as a freelancer

If you’re dead set on becoming a freelancer in the Netherlands, there are definitely some helpful things to know!

Learning Dutch is an asset for freelancers in the Netherlands

Think doing your taxes is nerve-wracking? Now picture doing them… IN DUTCH! 😱

Oké, jokes aside, learning Dutch is not a necessary requirement for becoming a ZZPer. However, getting its guttural gs, confusing grammar, and Scheveningen’s spooky syllables under your belt definitely makes navigating freelance life in the Netherlands much easier.

READ MORE | The top 16 free ways to learn Dutch

In addition to all of this, learning Dutch opens the door to attending useful networking events in the Netherlands.

Whether you’re paying taxes, reaching out to fellow freelancers, or just networking, Dutch can definitely be an important asset. Image: Freepik

Whether you’re trying to reach out to fellow freelancers or widen your customer base, being able to efficiently communicate in Dutch is a powerful tool in your ZZPer arsenal.

Setting up a Dutch pension plan is a great idea

Of course, being a freelancer also means that you’re solely in charge of your retirement funds.

Whilst many ZZPers may put off setting up a proper pension plan until their businesses are fully established, there’s no better time than the present to work on your financial health.

Not quite sure where to start? It’s perfectly normal to feel a little lost! Thankfully, there are helpful apps that can help you set up and manage your own pension funds.

But wait… am I really a freelancer?

Although this might sound like a purely obvious question, it’s an entirely different story in legal terms. The Belastingdienst (Dutch tax office) has noted that there are three key things that an aspiring freelancer needs to fulfil to legally qualify as a ZZPer.

READ MORE | Salaries in the Netherlands: the ultimate guide to Dutch wages

These specify that you need to:

  • Work independently to provide goods or services.
  • Ask for a commercial price or hourly rate.
  • Do business with people other than friends or family, and compete with other entrepreneurs in a similar industry.

In addition to these criteria, the Belastingdienst may also pay attention to a number of other factors to gauge your ability to take to ZZPer life. You can read all about them here.

Is the freelancer in the Netherlands life right for me?

Of course, just like salted liquorice (or zoute drop), becoming a freelancer in the Netherlands may not be the right choice for everyone.

Freedom is great, but freelancing occasionally has TOO much freedom for some. Image: Freepik

As a ZZPer, you’ll need to have an aptitude for:

  • Finding (and maintaining!) your own client list
  • Organising your own schedule and resources
  • Managing your business’ finances (or employing the services of those that can)
  • Handling periods without much work

If all of these requirements still have you keen as a bean, then your future ZZP business is likely in very good hands!

Being a freelancer in the Netherlands: FAQs

With a lot of information to sift through on the hows, whats, and whys of freelancing in the Netherlands, we know you’d have some questions. Let’s clarify some of your doubts! 🙌

What is a ZZPer?

What do I need to freelance in the Netherlands?

Can internationals become freelancers in the Netherlands?

How can I pay taxes as a freelancer (ZZPer) in the Netherlands?

Do freelancers need to pay taxes in the Netherlands?

Are you debating dipping a toe in the ZZP life? Let us know in the comment section below!

Feature Image:Freepik
Liana Pereira 🇱🇰
Liana Pereira 🇱🇰
Liana juggles her role as an Editor with wrapping up a degree in cognitive linguistics and assisting with DutchReview's affiliate portfolio. Since arriving in the Netherlands for her studies in 2018, she's thrilled to have the 'write' opportunity to help other internationals feel more at home here — whether that's by penning an article on the best SIMs to buy in NL, the latest banking features, or important things to know about Dutch health insurance.

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