Get started as a freelancer or zzp’er

Published by:
Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK
Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK

Do you want to work as a freelancer or self-employed professional without staff (zzp’er)? You can typically get started very quickly. This article tells you what you need to know and arrange when you want to start working as a freelancer.

What is the difference between a freelancer and zzp’er?

There is actually no difference between the terms zzp’er and freelancer. They both mean that:

  • you work for different clients;
  • you do not have an employment contract with the clients;
  • you carry out an assignment temporarily as an independent entrepreneur;
  • your client pays you for a specific assignment; and
  • the client does not deduct payroll tax. You pay this yourself via your tax return.

Neither zzp'er nor freelancer are legal structures in the Netherlands. Most self-employed professionals register as a sole proprietor (eenmanszaak). But you can also choose another legal structure, such as a private limited company (bv).

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a freelancer?

Working as a freelancer or zzp'er has advantages and disadvantages. For example, a disadvantage may be that you have to organise your own pension and disability insurance. On the other hand, you often have a higher hourly rate than in paid employment. And you decide who you work for and how. Learn more about the advantages and disadvantages on the KVK website.

Freelancing part-time

You can also work part-time as a freelancer, alongside your main job. Check with your employer first, before taking on freelance assignments. Especially if you intend to work on similar types of projects. Even if you are only freelancing part-time, you must register as a sole proprietor at KVK.

Prepare to become a freelancer

Before you get started, consider what you need to do to succeed as a freelancer. Think about how you will get clients and promote yourself. Write a business plan. Are your plans realistic? How will you set your hourly rate? And do you meet KVK’s and the Netherlands Tax Administration’s criteria to be considered an entrepreneur?

Register your business at KVK

As an entrepreneur, you usually must register in the KVK Business Register. You pay a one-time fee when you register. KVK then passes on your details to the Tax Administration (Belastingdienst). They will send you your VAT ID number and VAT tax number. You usually receive these by post within 2 weeks. Many freelancers choose a sole proprietorship (eenmanszaak) or a private limited company (bv) as their legal form.

Take a look at the step-by-step plan for starting a business in the Netherlands. There you can find out what is involved in starting your own business. This is also useful if you want to become a freelancer.

Find customers

You will be responsible for finding freelance assignments and contacting possible clients. Learn more about finding potential clients on the KVK website.

Assess your working relationships with clients

Do you work as a zzp’er for just one client? Or do you always work for different customers? You should always check if your relationship with a client is actually an employee relationship. If you are an employee, for example, your client must pay payroll taxes for you.


As an entrepreneur, you usually have to arrange for an extra pension yourself. You build up rights to a General old age pension (AOW). This basic benefit is usually lower than what you earned while working. As a zzp'er, you have several possibilities for supplementing this benefit. Read more about pension provisions for zzp’ers. Note: In some professions and industries, participation in a pension scheme is mandatory. Read more about the mandatory pension scheme.

Freelance organisations

Do you need help with your plans, administration, or a legal problem? There are several sector organisations for self-employed professionals in the Netherlands to advise and offer support.

There are also organisations and networks for specific professional groups. Such as journalists, artists, and entrepreneurs in the construction industry. Find out more.

Questions relating to this article?

Please contact theNetherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK