Bart worked as an in-house employee in Germany for many years before he thought about becoming a location-independent freelancer. With some research, he found a way to leave his old profession and is now a multi-faceted freelancer in Belgium. We sat down with him and discussed his move to freelancing, his challenges with working in Belgium, and his recommendations to aspiring freelancers. What do you do for a living?
I'm a Lawyer / UX Designer / Programmer / Data Privacy Specialist. Do you freelance full-time or part-time in addition to a day job?
I freelance full time. We are currently house sitting as well. What does your typical workday look like?
I get up around 7am, do an hour of yoga, get some work done or walk the dogs (depending on who's up for it, me or my wife), have breakfast around 10, work, lunch around 1pm, work, walk the dogs around 5pm, and that's about it. Who are the customers you usually work with? Are they businesses, private individuals, which countries are they from?
My activities are currently focused on Belgium based legal tech start-ups/scale-ups. How easy would you say running a freelance business in Belgium is?
I don't think it's very difficult, it's just expensive in tax and social contributions. And there are a lot of forms to fill and file, and deadlines to keep in mind. (For quick reference see our Doing Freelance Business in Belgium Guide
). What would you say are the biggest challenges when running a business in Belgium (or elsewhere)?
The red tape! The monthly (or quarterly) VAT returns, annual tax returns, local taxes, social contributions, bookkeeping … There's so much to focus on, besides your core business. How did you simplify this process?
I started looking into the Estonian e-residency program a while back as a means to become location-independent. Xolo
was (and I think is) the most solid service provider in this respect. When it was finally time to start invoicing, I decided Xolo provided even more flexibility and it suits my current needs perfectly. Why Xolo?
Simply put: as a location independent professional, Xolo
was the only service provider that allowed me to invoice clients. At this time, I have no stress whatsoever related to following up on VAT deadlines, bookkeeping requirements... It takes the hassle of VAT compliance and bookkeeping completely off my hands. If you had one recommendation to give to aspiring freelancers out there, what would that be?
Just freakin' go for it. Life's too damn short to be stuck in an office working to fill someone else's pockets. Go out and explore. And if you need to make money, do it on your own terms. But make sure you don't forget about health insurance, tax liability and those other practical things. Do your research and you'll avoid unpleasant surprises. (A good place to start is our list of freelance tips here
If Bart's journey is something you'd love to do yourself, you need to have plenty of resiliency and patience. What puts off most people is the admin and tax part, but freelancers can now get help with complicated accounting and invoicing cross-border clients, and choose the solution which best fits their needs. Xolo offers Xolo GO
, which is the easy, no strings attached version, for freelancers just starting out. If you're more serious about your business, then Xolo Leap
will give you much more powerful tools and dedicated support - you only need to sign up for Estonian e-Residency
See a quick demo how to register your account and issue an invoice in 5 mins
below and register your free account here