How to start up your own business in the Netherlands
If you would like to be your own boss, then the Netherlands is a great place to consider starting up your own business. However, there are several administrative issues expats need to take care of.
To be able to start up a business here, you must first make sure that you can stay in the Netherlands. EU, EEA and Swiss nationals are permitted to live and work in the Netherlands under EU law. If you don’t come from an EU or EEA country, or you’re not Swiss, then you will need to apply for a provisional residence permit (MVV) and in some cases a work permit (TWV).
Residence permit for self-employed
In the Netherlands, it is possible to apply for a residence permit as a self-employed entrepreneur. This application works with a points-based system, for which a minimum number of points must be met for the application to be successful. Importantly, the enterprise must serve an essential Dutch interest.
Startup visa for entrepreneurs
Since 2015, the Netherlands offers a residence permit known as the startup visa. This one-year residence permit is specifically tailored to international entrepreneurs who want to launch a business in the Netherlands.
Refine Your Business Idea
Most business advice tells you to monetize what you love, but it misses two other very important elements: it needs to be profitable and something you’re good at. For example, you may love music, but how viable is your business idea if you’re not a great singer or songwriter? Maybe you love making soap and want to open a soap shop in your small town that already has three close by—it won’t be easy to corner the market when you’re creating the same product as other nearby stores.
These questions can lead you to an idea for your business. If you already have an idea, they might help you expand it. Once you have your idea, measure it against whether you’re good at it and if it’s profitable.
Consider Your Why
Are you struggling to come up with a business idea that sticks? Consider your “why.” To be successful, you’ll need to have a clear purpose for starting your business. This “why” should be much deeper than simply making money—it should be something you’re passionate about so that you’ll stick with it through the highs and lows of entrepreneurship.
For example, perhaps you’re a parent to a child with autism. Your child loves travel, but it’s difficult to identify locations, tours and cities equipped to accommodate the needs of differently abled families. You could start a travel agency or some other initiative specializing in autism-friendly travel—even going so far as creating a certification of some sort labeling a destination as autism-friendly.
How to start a business
At this point, you may be wondering where to start. Should you work on your business name and logo or tackle your business structure? Does it make sense to already start applying for loans or focus on product development?
It can be difficult to know the right steps to take. But that’s ok. Starting your own venture is all about trial and error. Working through the process to find what works for you and what resonates with potential customers.
1. Determine if entrepreneurship is what you want
This step is not supposed to dissuade you from starting your own business. Rather, it’s here to get you thinking and planning. In order to start a successful business, passion alone isn’t enough.
Conduct a self-assessment
You need to plan, set goals, and above all, know yourself. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? How will these affect day-to-day operations? You could conduct a SWOT analysis on yourself to figure this out.
As you get started, your business will likely dominate your life so make sure that what you’re doing is stimulating and challenging, but not completely outside of your expertise. You’re going to be in it for the long-haul. Use what you learn from the SWOT analysis to think through what you want your life to be like, not just what you want from your business.
Answering these questions (and many more) about yourself and your abilities isn’t necessarily going to ensure you’re successful, but it will get you thinking about your goals and about what motivates and inspires you. Use this time to make sure that you are matching the business you want to start to your personal aspirations.
2. Refine your idea
Once you know why you want to start a business, it’s time to find and develop your idea. More than likely, you already have something in mind after going through your self-assessment. But if you need inspiration, you can check out our sample plan library to explore different industries, or read up on trending start-up ideas.
Now it’s not enough to just think you have a good idea and run with it. You need to validate that there is a need. You also need to start addressing whether this idea is sustainable or not.
Start with a Lean Plan
We’ll get into the specifics of how to explore the market and determine if you’re idea is a good fit in just a moment. Right now, we recommend that you consider starting a Lean Plan to help make the rest of this process much easier.
The Lean Plan is a simple, one-page document that helps you refine your idea. It ensures that you’re considering your mission and value proposition early on, while also providing structure for the more technical portions of your business. In fact, it will provide you with the perfect template to tackle the rest of these steps.
3. Conduct market research
Once you decide on a business that fits your goals and lifestyle, it’s time to evaluate your idea. Who will buy your product or service? Who will your competitors be? This process will help you address your opportunity, value proposition, the market size, and competition sections of your Lean Plan.
Evaluate your target audience
It’s not enough to just state the current market. You need to know what portion you’ll be able to claim and if it’s really possible. To determine how attractive your prospective market really is, we suggest doing a market analysis.
- How urgently do people need the thing you’re selling or offering right now?
- What’s the market size? Are there already a lot of people paying for products or services similar to yours? Have you honed in on who exactly your target market is? Being specific will help you focus your marketing message and investment.
- How easy is it (and how much will it cost you) to acquire a customer? If you’re selling enterprise software, this may require a significantly larger investment than a coffee shop.
- How much money and effort will it cost to deliver the value you would like to be offering?
- How long will it take to get to market? A month? A year? Three years?
- How much up-front investment will you need before you can begin?
- Will your business continue to be relevant as time passes? A business that repairs iPhone X screens will only remain relevant so long as the iPhone X sticks around. If your business is only relevant for a specific period of time, you will also want to consider your future plans.
Research the competition
If you like, you can even take things a step further and consider the consumer needs currently not being met by businesses in the industry. This is a good time to take a look at potential competitors. And remember, the presence of competitors is oftentimes a good sign! It means that the market for your product or service already exists, so you know that you have potential customers who are willing to spend money on your product or service.
Prepare for growth
The best thing you can do to take advantage of any mistakes is set up review processes to help you make decisions. This is where the Lean Plan, or full business plan, you’ve been working on comes into play.
If you have your plan up to date, you can set up monthly review meetings to go over the numbers, your strategy and develop forecasts for the next month, quarter, and year. This is a simple way to keep track of performance and actively make decisions based on actual results. So, rather than reacting to bad situations, you are preparing for them and facing uncertainty with certainty.
To help you start your review process, you can download our free cash flow statement and balance sheet examples to begin tracking your financials. And for a simpler solution, that makes reviewing forecasts and financial statements faster and simpler, you may want to consider LivePlan.
With LivePlan, you can create your Lean Plan, full business plan, pitch, and develop forecasts all within one platform. But, if you’re not quite ready to invest in a planning platform, the templates within this guide will be enough to help you get your business up and running.
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