How to freelance with an agency in the Netherlands

How to freelance with an agency in the Netherlands

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Projob is a recruitment and career coaching agency with a focus on expats. Projob works with local and international companies, professionals and freelancers.

Employers in the Netherlands are deciding more and more to work with freelancers instead of contracting employees.

According to Statistics Netherlands (CBS) in the third quarter of 2015 "more than 906.000 persons offered their services as a freelancer (ZZP’er). Almost half of them were highly qualified and the most common profession currently seems to be software developer or business intelligence professional".

Of course, whether you are hired on a contract or as a freelancer, there are always going to be pros and cons to your situation.

So what’s the best choice at this moment? Working as a freelancer or waiting for a contract opportunity?

Are you ready to be an entrepreneur?

At Projob, the recruitment agency I work for, we work with a group of freelancers, who are also known as "interim professionals".

Learning more about this way of working, I understand that if you choose to be a freelancer just because it’s a convenient way to find some work, then it will probably not last for long.

A freelancer or interim professional, is defined as an independent entrepreneur, with an emphasis on being an entrepreneur.

Being an entrepreneur means that you must be able to:
find clients and do acquisitions;
feel comfortable working alone or accept the feeling of not being a real team member (if you work within a company);
manage your administration;
put money aside to cover your pension, if you're sick or have no work;
handle the insecurity of having no stable work or income.

If these skills or mentality do not suit you, you might not survive as an interim professional. But, on the other hand, if this mentality does appeal to you, than I would say go for it!

Understand the freelancing situation

It’s important to define your attitude toward freelancing because the amount of interim professionals in the Netherlands continues to grow. This in turn causes many businesses to take advantage of the situation.

Companies choose to work with freelancers for obvious reasons: they can hire a professional, a self-starter with the necessary skills and a critical eye which can be very useful and refreshing, and they have no binding contracts once the work is finished.

At this moment there are some changes going on in Dutch law concerning freelancing, in particular with regard to the work relationship declaration (verklaring arbeidsrelatie or VAR).

The Dutch government plans to replace the existing VAR system with a new system, expected to be announced in January 2016, so it is wise to stay up-to-date about these changes.

What are the benefits of working through an agency?

I believe it can be very beneficial for a freelancer to work with an agency because of the following reasons:

1. First of all you will have access to the network of the agency, which will probably be many times larger than your own.

2. You are not working completely alone, there will always be someone to advise you about labour market issues, developments or legal advice.

3. You can share your experiences and questions with other freelancers, you can help each other.

4. And last but not least this very important benefit: a good agency will pay you on time, you do not have to wait more than two weeks to get your salary.

Freelancing via an agency: how it works

When setting yourself up as a freelancer, either independently or with an agency, you must first prepare your documentation. At this stage working through an agency has the same obligations as if you were taking care of your assignments by yourself.

Before you can work with an agency as a freelancer you must prepare the following:

If you don’t have Dutch citizenship, or are newly arrived in the Netherlands, you must obtain a residence permit based on self-employment. This also applies to EU nationals. The process of this application can take a while (as it needs to go via the Vreemdelingenpolitie or "Aliens Police").

If you have just arrived in the Netherlands then you must also get a BSN number (social security number) from the Dutch Tax Office (Belastingdienst). A BSN number is needed for all kinds of official documents, such as tax returns and registrations.

You must always have a valid ID.

You must register your new business with the local Chamber of Commerce (KvK).

You may register a sole proprietorship (eenmanszaak) or another form of legal entity, or register as a service provider.

You must register your business with the Dutch Tax Department, in order to receive a VAT number (BTW nummer).

You must be able to deliver all these documents to the agency in order to work for them as a freelancer.

Once you have provided all the documents to an agency then you will be able to accept assignments from them and their clients.

Freelancing vs. contract work

Whether you choose to work as a freelancer or to be employed on a contract depends on your field of work, how much effort you want to put into your freelance business and the work structure you prefer.

Once you have weighed up your interests, priorities, strengths and weaknesses then you will be able to decide on the most fulfilling work arrangement for you. Good luck!

Els Brouwer is an Expat Service Provider and Manager of Interim Professionals at Projob. She has been working with expats and international companies for over 10 years.

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Els Brouwer


Els Brouwer

Els has been working for more than twenty years in the recruitment sector and now at Projob, an agency that offers not only recruitment but also careercoaching. She is responsible...

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