In the spirit of the rule ‘Practice what you preach’, today I went to the Kamer van Koophandel, the Dutch Chamber of Commerce, to register my own company.
Last week I spent a lot of time reading about the Dutch business regulations, taxes, invoices and other boring things you never think about as an employee. I also called an accountant (the first consultation was free) and the tax office to ask for clarification of the rules that were not clear to me.
Q.: Do I need a business bank account?
A.: No, but it is better to have one.
Q.: How many times a year should I file my taxes?
A.: Four times a year for BTW (VAT) + once a year for income taxes, in which your income from employment and freelance activity will be integrated, and some business costs can be deducted.
Sounds complicated, I better get myself an accountant.
Q.: Should I inform my employer about my business activity?
A.: Not only should you inform your current employer, you should also ask for a written permission to work as a freelancer, because your freelance activity can potentially be in conflict with your employer’s business interests.
This part was easy. On a Saturday evening I sent an email to my boss informing him about my plans. In ten minutes I got his full consent and encouragement. This gave me the first glimpse into the life of an independent entrepreneur. First, there are no weekends and off-business hours; and, second, there is a certain camaraderie between fellow entrepreneurs, which does not exist between employees and their bosses.
After long hours of reading and telephone conversations, it is still not completely clear to me which rules apply in my specific case. Of course, it is natural for me as a novice not to understand some rules. But I was left with the feeling that people I was talking to did not know the right answers either. And this is worrying. If the rules are not clear, how am I supposed to follow them?
In spite of all my worries, today I drove to a nearby city and registered my company. A KVK employee was very friendly and helped me to find the right categories for my business activities, which are not so easy to translate into Dutch, e.g., ‘human-centred design’ and ‘user experience research’. I asked if they had more or less clients during the Corona time.
“In 2020, we saw a slight increase in the amount of people who started their business. But there were much more of those who came to close their business because of the Corona”.
I am among the hopeful few, and I am now officially an independent entrepreneur, ‘een zelfstandige ondernemer’. Wish me luck!