Student in the Netherlands: Starting your own business

Here we are again. How’s that job search going? Found anything good yet? For those of you still looking, there is an option that I didn’t mention last time: the option to start your own business.

Becoming your own boss is great if you’re a person with a skill you can turn into a profit, plus the time and motivation to find your own clients, balance your own accounts and taxes, and generally stay on top of a business next to your studies.

If you’re one of these eager beavers, then this just might be the solution to your financial woes.

Registration process

The great thing about this option is that it works for EU and non-EU citizens alike. As long as you have all of your visas and residence permits in order, you are able to register at the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (KvK), or Kamer van Koophandel.

Of course, there are other things you need to register a business and become a freelancer, and the rules about this are stricter if you come from a country outside of the EU. You need to be able to show that you are qualified to run the business you wish to register, that you have a business plan, and that your business brings something to the Dutch economy and society.

 For non-EU citizens

For non-EU citizens, your application to become a freelancer, known as a zelfstandige zonder personeel, or zzp’er (meaning self-employed without employees), will be reviewed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs to ensure that you meet all the criteria required. If they find that you do not meet all of the requirements, you will not be able to start your own business.

 For EU citizens

For EU citizens (including Bulgarians and Romanians in this case), the registration process doesn’t involve a review from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, but does include many of the same requirements and responsibilities.

You need to:
- have a set plan of what you are going to do and how you are going to do it 
- find your own clients and promote your business
- get insurance
- open a bank account solely for business purposes
- set up and send out your invoices
- declare your taxes at the end of each quarter of the year (every three months), as well as do a final yearly declaration

And these are just some of the tasks...

Advantages & Disadvantages

There are both advantages and disadvantages to making this option your source of income.


- Having total freedom over when, where, and how long you work. As a freelancer, you set your own hours and your own rate. You decide which clients to take on and you are responsible for what you produce.

- Being able to turn what would otherwise be a hobby into a profitable skill. Many freelancers are graphic designers, editors, translators, copywriters, artists, and other creative types.

They provide a service that could be useful for companies or people that simply don't have the skills or resources necessary to create a similar product.

For some, like me, the skill they offer is a passion that would otherwise not have turned into a career. They write, draw, take pictures, create websites, and much more, and they share their talents with those that appreciate and value them.

- Developing skills that are important aspects of life. As a freelancer, you will be required to expand your people skills to interact and communicate with clients and to promote yourself. You will build up your confidence, as well as your accounting skills, while managing your own business.


- Not having the benefits a contracted employee would otherwise have. As a freelancer, you don’t get sick days or holidays guaranteed by an employer.

Every hour that you can’t work may potentially cost you. You are also responsible for paying your own taxes and getting your own insurance, and you must be wary of your business expenses.

- Dealing with difficult clients. In order to get paid, you have to provide a finished product that your client will be satisfied with. You must be willing to cooperate and work together to create this product, even when the going gets tough.

- Managing a business that you may have little time for and little to no experience in. As a student, you’ve probably never been in charge of a business before. The learning curve is extremely steep and you might not have much time to get a grip on things next to your studies.

Are you one of these eager beavers?

If you are one of those ambitious folks and you have it in you to run your own business, this could be the perfect way to make some money during, or even after your study.

However, it is a lot of work and can be intensely frustrating at times. But it also has the potential to be extremely rewarding. You will deal with difficulties, but you will also overcome them.

Good luck!

Sonia M


Sonia M

I'm a Romanian/Canadian currently living in Rotterdam. I spent my first two years in the Netherlands living the life of an international student in Amsterdam. I am now self-employed, working...

Read more



Leave a comment