Teaching as a self-employed professional
- Henk Herkink
- How to
- 22 May 2020
- Edited 16 January 2023
- 7 min
The KVK Business Register lists some 2,400 self-employed teachers. It is easy to start as a self-employed teacher, but you do need to take several matters into account. For example, taxes, administration, setting your hourly rate, and legal obligations, including the GDPR.
De een noemt het zzp’er in het onderwijs, de ander freelance docent. Daar zit geen verschil in. Je werkt in beide gevallen voor verschillende opdrachtgevers en voert je werk uit als zelfstandig ondernemer. Er is geen sprake van een dienstverband. Maar heb je als zelfstandig docent meer vrijheid en minder verplichtingen? Ontdek de mogelijkheden en uitdagingen.
Whether you call yourself a self-employed educational professional, a teaching ‘zzp’er’, or a freelance tutor makes no difference. You work for different clients and you perform your work as an independent entrepreneur. There is no employment relationship. Does being a self-employed teacher come with more freedom and fewer obligations? Discover the possibilities and challenges.
More teachers are going freelance
Teaching a class, being a teacher, is mostly associated with being in employment. But the number of self-employed teachers hiring themselves out for teaching jobs is on the rise. In the past 5 years, the number of self-employed teachers has nearly doubled from 1,378 to 2,444.
Part-time or full-time?
It may be a good idea to start out as a part-time entrepreneur. You can easily combine freelance teaching with employment. That way, you still have your job to provide a secure income, pension, and disability insurance. We asked a few part-time teachers why they chose self-employment:
“As a self-employed professional, there is less pressure. I do not have to participate in meetings or other activities.”
“It is easier to combine my private life with my work as a teacher. I can determine on which days I am available for work myself.”
Freelance education, a positive trend?
Educational organisations are currently suffering an acute lack of teaching capacity. Self-employed teachers are hired so that classes can take place. Not everyone in the educational sector is happy about this. Opinions on hiring zzp’ers range from ‘exploiting the educational system’ and ‘teaching without a lot of passion’, to ‘glad someone could take over the lessons’.
Some schools and educational institutions say they are happy that self-employed professionals are filling the gaps in their schedules. Others solve the problem by rearranging their existing teachers’ rosters. Self-employed professionals are mainly hired for individual tutoring, in addition to ‘regular’ education, including primary and secondary schools, secondary vocational education (mbo), and higher professional education (hbo).
Interest groups in the education sector are less than enthusiastic about the use of self-employed professionals. Erwin Warschauer, policy advisor at CNV, one of the larger unions in the Netherlands, feels that the ‘flexibilisation’ has gone too far and should be stopped. A lasting working relationship should be the norm. The educational sector thrives on lasting working relationships, as they guarantee continuity and quality. In his view, the relationship an educational organisation has with a self-employed professional does not have such a lasting quality.
Self-employed professionals in education seem to have fewer health problems and suffer less from burnouts. This is partly thanks to their independence when it comes to arranging their schedules. “But there are also drawbacks to starting in education as a self-employed professional”, states CNV:
- The cost of education is higher, due to the high fees charged by intermediaries.
- Zzp’ers run a greater risk of poverty, as they do not build up a pension and cannot claim social benefits.
- The growing number of teachers per class may lead to loss of continuity and quality.
- The harder-to-schedule lessons, rosters, and many tasks that do not directly concern the classroom have to be taken over by the regular staff. This may lead to strained relationships.
CNV advises starting zzp’ers to find out what your risks and obligations are as an entrepreneur. And, above all, to ask yourself whether entrepreneurship is right for you.
Harry van Soest is not an advocate for self-employed teachers either. He is an advisor at the General Association of School Managers (‘Algemene Vereniging Schoolleiders’, AVS). He believes that more self-employed teachers would raise the pressure on teachers in employment, as it increases their responsibilities. Also, hiring zzp’ers makes education more expensive. AVS advises teachers who want to work as self-employed professionals to use the model agreements that are part of the Deregulation Assessment of Employment Relations Act (‘Wet DBA’) to avoid false employment.
Choosing a legal structure
As a self-employed professional, you must register with KVK. You need to choose a legal structure for your business. Most zzp’ers start a sole proprietorship (‘eenmanszaak’) or a private limited company (‘besloten vennootschap’ or bv). Which legal structure you choose has an impact on the taxes you pay, and on your liability. Find out which legal structure suits you best.
DBA Act and employment test
The Dutch Tax Administration determines whether or not you are truly an entrepreneur. They use several criteria for this. The Deregulation Assessment of Employment Relations Act or Wet DBA is the legal basis for this test.
Freelancers, self-employed professionals, and clients are themselves responsible for the relationship they enter into. The main question is whether you are an independent entrepreneur or an employee. To find the answer to this question, read the article What qualifies you as a Dutch entrepreneur? The Tax Administration also offers a tool called the ‘ Ondernemerscheck’ (only in Dutch) to give you an indication of whether or not they view you as an entrepreneur.
Are you not sure if you are actually an employee? Avoid false self-employment and use a model agreement as provided by the Tax Administration. There are several model agreements available for zzp’ers in education (in Dutch only). You are also allowed to draw one up yourself, but you must have it approved by the Tax Administration. Do check the validity of a model agreement. Each model agreement is valid for 5 years from the date it was approved by the Tax Administration. This date can be found at the top of the model agreement. Only the person who created the model agreement can extend its validity.
According to the Tax Administration’s standards, you are not an entrepreneur if:
- in case of illness, the decision whether or not to choose a replacement is not up to you;
- more than 70% of your working time is spent with one client;
- you make no investments yourself, and instead use your client’s materials and facilities.
You need more than just the DBA
The Tax Administration does not count a model agreement as sufficient evidence that you are an entrepreneur for income tax purposes. The model agreement only proves that there is a relationship between the client (the school) and the contractor (you). In other words, that you are not an employee of the school. The Tax Administration will also evaluate whether your income counts as profit from your business (‘winst uit onderneming’) or earnings from other activities (‘inkomsten uit overig werk’).
If the Tax Administration does not see you as an entrepreneur for income tax purposes, then you are 'enjoying results'. Your profit is calculated as if you were an entrepreneur. You can deduct the costs you incur for these activities, but you are not entitled to entrepreneurial deductions, such as the private business ownership allowance or the tax relief for new companies. The result after deducting your expenses is the taxable income in box 1. You can also agree with your client that they will deduct and pay wage tax national insurance contributions, and healthcare insurance contributions from your salary. This is called opting-in (in Dutch). You cannot offset any costs, but the client may provide reimbursements.
Setting an hourly rate
Setting the right hourly rate can be tricky. If it is too high, it will scare clients away. If it is too low, not only are you underselling your qualities, but you will not make a living. You need to consider your business costs, how much you want to end up with, and your required turnover.
Video: Calculation example of your hourly rate
Hoe bereken ik mijn uurtarief?
For English subtitels to the video above, click the settings wheel, click ondertiteling and select Engels.
Exempt from VAT
The educational sector is exempt from VAT. This goes for primary, secondary, and higher education. Even when a self-employed professional is the one providing the education. You do not charge VAT on your fee, nor do you file a VAT return. You cannot deduct VAT for purchasing and costs.
If you teach classes, workshops, or trainings at a vocational education institution (such as mbo, hbo, training institutes), you need to register with the Central Register for Short-term Vocational Education, the CRKBO in Dutch. Self-employed teachers who meet the quality requirements for teachers are registered here. The Tax Administration will not award you a VAT exemption if you are not registered in the correct CRKBO register (in Dutch). To register, you need to have the right certificates and/or diplomas.
Small businesses scheme KOR
Do you have activities besides teaching, for which you do have to file a VAT return? The small businesses scheme, or KOR, might be of use to you. The KOR exempts you from VAT obligations. You can use the KOR if your turnover does not exceed €20,000 in that calendar year. Learn more in our KOR checklist video.
Keeping business records
You are legally obliged to set up a proper business administration. Your invoices and quotations * have to meet certain standards, for instance. Your business administration gives insight into how your business is doing. You can outsource your administration, or do it yourself. If you do, it helps to know the basics of bookkeeping. You can make use of several apps and bookkeeping software programs. Ask an accountant for help, or inquire through your network.
Pay attention to…
Other issues and obligations you may encounter as a self-employed teacher are:
Certificate of Conduct
Self-employed professionals who are hired by an educational organisation must present their client with a Certificate of Conduct (‘Verklaring Omtrent het Gedrag’, VOG). You can apply for one at Justis.
Starting a school yourself
Do you wish to start a private school and work as a teacher? You will have to arrange several other matters.
Working in education means working with personal data. According to the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation, AVG in Dutch), schools have a special accountability (in Dutch), which requires them to demonstrate which technical measures they have taken to protect their pupils’ personal data. The self-employed teacher also needs to be able to demonstrate that they meet these requirements.
Limit your risks
As a self-employed professional, you need to put some thought into limiting the risks you run. You do this by:
- Taking out insurance policies (against disability or professional indemnity, for example)
- Drawing up general terms and conditions
- Building up a pension
Register with KVK
Do your activities meet the criteria for a business? Find out by reading the article When do you have a business?
Do you meet the criteria? Are you ready to start your own business? And have you thought of a good trade name? Then it is time to register with KVK. This will also take care of your tax registration, as KVK will forward your details to the Tax Administration. They will then send you a VAT ID number and a VAT number. Read why you need 2 VAT numbers.