Finding Work as a Freelancer

Thursday, September 29, 2016


Hey April- how exactly do you find work as a freelancer?

I think that this is a major question that has been plaguing readers and potential movers alike- how do I find work when I get to Amsterdam! Ahhh

Have no fear, what I like to say to others (and to myself) where there is a will there is a way! I have had so many random freelance jobs since moving here that I have lost count. My very first job in Amsterdam was as a tour guide for bachelor parties that wanted to go clubbing and through the red light district. Needless to say, I have gathered enough strange experiences to last my grandchildren a week of grandma's stories.

I cannot say that freelancing has been easy- my main goal coming out here was to establish a legitamite marketing agency that does business with large corporate companies as my own consultant. I will not say that that cannot happen, I have just had to roll with the rejections and find income elsewhere. I think that doing odd jobs in the beginning to build up a network is the way to go. So for kicks, here is a short list of jobs that I have done in the past 5 months:

1. Bachelor party tour guide
2. Spa manager of a nudist green vegan party
3. Bartender of various sorts (public relations)
4. Ticket scanner at festivals (street marketing)
5. A marketing baker (start up company needed a marketeer/baker)
6. Indian travel tour guide for Holland
7. Graphic designer for a start up company

I could keep going...

But my main point is that jobs will come to those that are looking for them! I started my search on craigslist, markplaats,, job pages on Facebook, linkedin, friend connections, etc.
I never used just one portal for finding jobs. Once I found the first one, other jobs just presented themselves to me. I was confident in my abilities and presented myself in a way that people were happy to hire me as a freelancer.

Do you have any specific questions about finding jobs as a freelancer when you first move to Holland? Ask away!

Read More

Answering Some Questions About Obtaining a DAFT visa

Friday, September 23, 2016

Hi everyone,

Lately I've received some good questions that I would like to answer for all readers! The process to obtaining your DAFT visa can be a little convoluted but it doesn't have to be- I completed the whole process without a lawyer. I think that living outside of the Netherlands and applying can be trickier and can definitely be harder but it's not impossible. So, below, I've answered some of the most recent questions; if you have some of your own, please feel free to ask me in the comments below.

Did you use a lawyer or service to help you apply? 

No I did not! The DAFT treaty application paperwork provided by the IND provides the steps needed to take in order to have a completed application, so I just followed those steps exactly. A lawyer would have just cut through the waiting times for me at the government buildings and would have eased my anxiety about not being granted my visa. 

Do you know if by being granted the DAFT visa if you can only live in the Netherlands?  Or can you live and work in any EU country?

The DAFT visa is the residence permit and the work visa all rolled into one. So my freelance business is based in the Netherlands but I can do work for other businesses/ clients in other countries just like a normal business. I invoice all of my clients with my company name that is here in The Netherlands. Since my residence permit is for The Netherlands, I cannot live in another country unless I get a residence permit for there too. 

Did you move over there first?

I did! I lived in London and once my visa was done for the UK I moved directly to here and moved in with my partner who was already living here. 

I'm finding that apartments are quite $$$$ and it looks like most people have a roommate?  Is that the case?  What part of the city do you live in?

YES. Housing is expensive and very hard to come by. Everyone I know has a roommate (or a family). We looked at maybe 7 apartments that were either closet sized or we were not selected for (they had other interested parties) and almost gave up our search. We found a beautiful 1 bedroom apartment in Haarlem 15 mins by train from Amsterdam for a reasonable price and I think we got lucky. Be prepared for the housing struggle. 

More questions are welcomed!

Read More

Dealing With Homesickness While Abroad (Part 1)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

1 comment
So the initial high has dissipated and now I am left to deal with the everyday life things of no longer being a tourist in my new homeland. One of these everyday life things is finding employment. A lot more on that later.

It's taken me two months to be able to have the clarity of knowing that yes I do have some homesickness, but no, I am not going to give up and go home. I know that the feelings will pass and that I will start to get adjusted to my new home slowly.

I have found small comforts have helped me to deal with my homesickness and maybe they might help someone else out there too.

1. Buy comfort food.

I know what you're thinking and before you call me an emotional eater, hear me out. A lot of the things that I miss from home involve having a routine and having everything around me figured out. I found out that having the same cup of tea every morning helped me establish a routine that I was familiar with from back in Florida and was a bit of comfort early in the morning.
If tea isn't your thing, maybe it's a type of fruit that grew near your house or a brand of cereal that your mom bought for you to eat while you were home from college.

I have found a store in my new hometown of Haarlem called "A Little Piece of Home" and that's exactly what it is! I walk in and I'm immediately surrounded by 
Aunt Jemima pancake mix and Kraft Mac and Cheese. Seriously, it made me tear up when I first walked in. 

2. Have your friends/ family ship items from back home. 

I currently have a running list of items that I send to my dad when they pop up in my head. I think it's up to 12 items now with things like GNC chewable vitamins and Cracker Barrel pancake syrup. I've already received one package that was filled to the brim of items that I haven't been able to find here and it's made my adjusting a little easier. Once I've gotten a package I first thank my dad a million times and then we cross off the items that were sent and start building the list again until it's up to 15-20 items. It's a fun little game that my dad and I share and he also gets to feel like he's helping me. It's a win-win. 

3. Join a group

There are so many meet up groups that you can join! I love meet up for the simple fact that I can be anywhere in the world and meet like minded people. So I've recently joined an Expats in Amsterdam Group, an Americans in Holland group and a women's football group. All groups that keep me busy and share my experiences.

I have plenty of other coping mechanisms that I have for when I start to feel a little homesick but for now, I'm going to head to my (new) favorite store and go and pick up some Capt'n Crunch, Hot Pockets and Bubble Yum. 

More later,
Read More

You Know You're Home When You've Found Your Coffee Spot

Monday, May 9, 2016

1 comment

Holy rollercoaster of emotions! I have officially moved in and settled into the beautiful little town of Haarlem, 15 minutes outside of Amsterdam. Before I moved to The Netherlands, I read a few articles about "what to expect when you move" and how to deal with culture shock and how long it will last, but for the most part, I really didn't take anything that I read too seriously. I have had so many "firsts" within the last month, that I think I'll be okay if I don't have another "first" for another couple of years.

Not only is the culture different, the language is totally different. When I used to visit Jakob on vacation, I guess I was okay with the language barrier and not hearing English around me because all of my attention was focused on him. Now that we are settled and getting aclimated with being around each other all day, my attention is able to be on everything else around me. I was not prepared for the lack of understanding. The signs, the people, the items on the store shelves. I am having to be comfortable with not knowing what's going on and I think that's my biggest challenge since moving.
With all of the craziness of having complete culture shock, I am also loving The Netherlands for many reasons (all of which will be described in a post) but for one, the Dutch love outdoor cafes. I think that sun shines very rarely and when it does, the Dutch love to be outdoors. On the main street in the center of my town every cafe is packed with people sitting outside people watching. It's my favorite thing to do too Dutchies!

So in my attempt to blend in and assimilate, I have found my favorite cafe and find myself people watching too. The weather has turned and is nice enough to be outside everyday. My favorite cafe in Haarlem, STAAL has wonderful homemade lunches and proper Italian coffee. Not to mention, the food is beautifully presented- I feel like it's all made to be instagrammed. Before I moved to Haarlem, I told myself that as soon as I found myself the coffee spot where I felt comfortable pulling out my laptop with out getting side stares for taking up space I would really start to feel like this place could be home, and I've found it in STAAL.

Check out the beautiful presentation of their food and decor and stop by to people watch with me soon! (I'm a regular on Sunday afternoons now).

Read More

DAFT Treaty Step by Step guide to a visa

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


As an American wanting to pick up and move to The Netherlands there are a few options out there for me, the best one being becoming a freelancer and starting my own company through the Dutch American Friendship Treaty. I've been told to make the process smoother, I should hire a lawyer to navigate the complexities of Dutch government, but I have only encountered helpful people at the IND and paperwork in English.

Maybe this is me being jaded, but I've been given a timeline of two months until I have my visa in my hand. I've also found this incredibly helpful guide to what is required which is actually a step by step guide of getting everything done (super helpful!)

If you're an American trying to get your freelance visa through DAFT, check out this site! DAFT Treaty Step by Step  On the site, they also provide resources such as contacts for accountants, lawyers, and phone numbers to the important Dutch government centres you will be applying and sending your application to.


I've also copied the basic steps below:

Step by Step Guide to Receiving your Visa Through the DAFT:

1. Understand & Meet the Requirements

The IND lays out the requirements for eligibility to apply for residency under the Dutch American Friendship Treaty.
You must meet the following conditions:
  • You operate your business between the US and the Netherlands.
  • You start a new business opportunity and represent an American in the Netherlands or you start a profession in which you have invested a substantial capital.
  • You have a valid travel document (for example a passport).
  • You are not a risk to public order and national security.
  • You have sufficient and long-term means of support.
  • You have not previously stayed in the Netherlands illegally.
  • You have not given false information or have withheld important information to support any previous applications.
If you meet these conditions, read on.

2. Make an Appointment with the IND to Begin the Application Process and Make an Appointment with the City to Apply for your BSN
As long as you meet the criteria above, you can make an appointment with the IND to start the application process. Even if you don’t have all the information you need yet to complete the application, make the appointment. Depending on the time of year, your actual appointment may be weeks after you call the IND.
As an American, you have 90 days to stay in the EU. Your first meeting with the IND, when you hand in your application (regardless if it’s complete or not) is the starting date of your temporary visa. This temporary visa will allow you to stay beyond the 90 days.
As part of the application, you need to submit the following documents:
  • Copies of all the pages containing the identity details of your passport, including all pages containing travel stamps.
  • An original certificate of the registration at the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (not older than 3 months).
  • When you are the sole entrepreneur (‘eenmanszaak’): A bank statement of the business showing the amount invested, as well as an opening balance sheet. Financial evidence supporting the application must be checked by a certified external expert (a chartered accountant, an accounting consultant, an accountant or a financial advisor.
Here’s the catch! In order to meet the last two criteria you will need your BSN number (or Dutch social security number). You will not be able to get this number without this first meeting with the IND as the municipality needs specific documentation from the IND in order to process your BSN application. You can go to the city and register prior to your meeting but they will not assign you a BSN number until after you have met with the IND.
Setting the appointment with the IND is your first critical step to get all the other elements of your application started.

After you hang up the phone with the IND, call the municipality to make an appointment to get your BSN number. When making your appointment, make sure to mention you are a US Citizen applying for the Dutch American Friendship Treaty visa and that you already have an appointment with the IND.  Ideally, you should set your BSN appointment AFTER your IND appointment but depending on availability and how much time you have left on your visitor visa, this may not be possible. That’s ok. 
Steps 3 and 4 may occur one before the other depending on when your appointments are scheduled.

3. Meet with the IND to Submit your Application 
When it’s time for your first appointment with the IND, make sure you have the following:
  • A valid US passport
  • The application form completed to the best of your ability
  • The fee (You will usually have to bring this in cash unless you have a Dutch pin card. Since you need a BSN number to start a Dutch bank account, the latter is unlikely. Check the link for the latest fee as this does change frequently. And take note of the fee when you made your appointment. In case the fee changes between when you called and when you actually arrived, you may be able to negotiate paying the lower fee. In the three weeks between setting my appointment and my actual appointment, the fee doubled.)
At the meeting they will enter you in the system, take your fee, a picture, and images of your fingerprints and iris. You will also receive an extension to your visa, usually 6 months. The IND will request from you via post any missing information that you will need to complete the application. Essentially, by meeting with the IND, you are adding time to your visa and buying time to complete the application process.

4. Meet with the Municipality to Register at the Municipality to Receive your BSN 
The BSN is your Dutch Social Security Number. You will need your BSN for all the official forms you will complete in the process. If someone asks you, “did you register with the city yet?” or if someone reminds you that you have four months from your arrival date to register with the city – this is the step they are referring to. All residents of the Netherlands have to be registered with the city within four months of arrival; the requirements and process differ depending on your citizenship and residence status.

If you meet with the municipality before your IND appointment, your registration with the municipality will be provisional. After registration you will receive a letter of preregistration (BvB) for the IND. The municipality mails this letter off to the IND for you. After you applied for a residence permit (at your IND appointment), the IND returns the BvB to the municipality. Only then will your registration with the municipality be final.  You will then receive your BSN from the municipality by post.

If you meet with the IND before the municipality, you will need to bring proof you have applied for a residence permit through the Dutch American Friendship Treaty. This can be a letter from the IND or a sticker in your passport (extending your tourist visa for about six months).
For your registration / BSN appointment, you will need to bring the following documentation:
  • A valid passport or identity card.
  • If you met with the IND already, proof you have applied for resident permit (sticker of letter IND).
  • A rental agreement or deed of conveyance or written lodgings agreement with a copy of the proof of identity of the owner/main occupant of the house. I used a similar letter and brought with me a copy of my flat mate’s passport. This was sufficient.
  • A birth certificate
  • A proof of deregistration with the PIVA if you are moving to the Netherlands from Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, Saba, Aruba, CuraƧao en Sint Maarten.
5. Register with the KVK
You will need your BSN number in order to register your company as an ‘eenmanszaak’ (sole proprietorship) with the KVK (the Chamber of Commerce). There is no fee for this application. Depending on the office, you may not need an appointment but I recommend making one to avoid a long wait time.
You will need to bring:
The online form is in Dutch and English, which is helpful for non Dutch speakers. But the description of your company should be written in Dutch since they will enter the description into the system in Dutch. I wrote a rather lengthy description in English and the Chamber of Commerce official that helped file my application summarized it in a few words. If you have a detailed or complex business, I recommend asking a Dutch friend to help you translate the description for you so that it is accurate.
After registration, you will get an extract with your KVK details. The information you provide will also register you with the tax office, effectively applying for a VAT number.  At the end of the appointment, request an official extract of your registration. This should be around €11. You will submit this extract to the IND to fulfill the requirement for an official certificate of registration with the KVK.

6. Submit a Business Plan
This is not explicitly listed on the IND website as a required document but every IND official I have spoken with has recommended that I do so in order to satisfy the following conditions set by the IND:
  • You have sufficient and long-term means of support
  • You operate your business between the US and the Netherlands
  • You start a new business opportunity and represent an American in the Netherlands or you start a profession in which you have invested a substantial capital
You may already have a business plan but it’s important to revise it so that:
  • It matches with the company category / set of services specified when you registered with the KVK
  • It supports that you are meeting the conditions set by the IND
If your business is incorporated, the initial capital investment requirement will be greater. The business plan will help to determine with the IND what the required amount minimum will be.

7. Apply for a Dutch Business Bank Account and Deposit Your Initial Capital Investment
You will need your BSN number and KVK number in order to apply for a Dutch Business bank account. The initial investment for a self-employed applicant is a minimum about of €4500.  When you’ve set up your business account and made the initial deposit, get an official statement from your bank. This is the documentation you will submit to the IND.

8. Opening Balance Sheet Reviewed and Signed Off by an External Expert
The opening balance sheet is a fairly straightforward financial document but the IND does now require that it is checked by a certified external expert (a chartered accountant, an accounting consultant, an accountant or a financial advisor.) Depending on the complexity of your business, you will need documentation showing your assets at start up and liabilities/debt.
For most self employed applicants, the opening balance sheet can be completed with just the opening balance from your business account. If you have assets like a newly purchased laptop that you bought explicitly for your new business, bring in those receipts when you meet with the advisor as they may include it as an asset in your balance sheet.
In order to receive a renewal of your residency permit, you have to prove to the IND that the minimum required amount of capital has been in the business bank account without fail throughout the year. The external expert can provide this documentation as well with an official statement of your income. You can prove that this has been the case by means of an official statement of your income, a report of your business’ figures from start year to current year.  When selecting your external expert for your initial application, you may want to consider if this is a service provider you want to work with long term as you will need this additional evidence as part of your renewal and many experts will not provide this information without an existing relationship.

9. Submit All Supporting Documentation
This can be done in person or by post. If your schedule allows and you are near an IND office, I recommend making an appointment to submit your supporting document. You can also go the IND office to submit materials without making an appointment but the wait times can be very long.
You can of course submit supporting documentation as you receive them but since each step usually requires official documentation from the previous step, waiting until all the steps are finished means you don’t have to request and pay for multiple official copies of this documentation.

10. Wait
Probably the most frustrating part with dealing with the IND is that all official communications are done by post. You can meet in person or speak on the phone but if they require any information from you to complete the application, this will be requested by you via post. Any confirmations regarding your application are not official unless it is by post. So keep track of your mail. Should you need additional time to fulfill requirements, contact the IND and request an extension. They are usually amenable to this.
Patience is probably the most essential criteria for this whole process. It can be frustrating. You may feel like you’re going around in circles sometimes but stay confident, diligent and patient.
11. Dutch Health Insurance
The IND does not specify a health insurance requirement on their site anymore. You may however meet an IND official who has not read this latest update and ask proof of insurance from you. Also, the municipality will expect you to sign up for Dutch health insurance after registration.  The problem: you can’t sign up for Dutch health insurance without a residency permit number. There is however Dutch insurance especially for residency applicants that are stuck in this limbo.
Read More

5 things I did not expect from my first hostel visit

Sunday, January 10, 2016

No comments

Copenhagen was a great intro city for my first hostel experience. My mom had me petrified with her stories of girls getting taken from hostels in foreign lands. (she thinks that anything outside of Virginia is a "foreign land") My friend Stevie and I were traveling around Europe for 10 days and spent 5 days in a really cozy hostel called the Copenhagen Downtown Hostel, located, as you may guess, downtown! 

Here are 5 things that I really didn't expect from my first hostel experience: 

1. Free food! 
And yes, it was actually delicious- the hostel had a free dinner every night to encourage travelers to gather together and interact with each other. I'm guessing this was a way for single travelers to open up and get to know other travelers without their being the awkward pressure of walking up to strangers. The dinner was served family style, so no matter what, you at least had to ask the person next to you to pass you the potatoes. 
One night we were served roasted pork with sauerkraut and potatoes ( a typical Danish dinner) and another night we were served spaghetti and meatballs. It was all up to the chef that night what would come out of the kitchen. It was free so there weren't many people complaining! 

2. How tiny the rooms were going to be. 
Ok, I could have looked this one up myself but I just guessed it would be like a regular hotel room. Nope. Not even close. They used every inch of that building for accomodations and fitting as many people as they could into the building, but I don't blame them. The price was great for what we received and I had enough room for my luggage and my body and that's about it. But in reality, I was there to travel, I wasn't there to sit around in my hostel room and stare at the walls. It actually forced me to get out and explore which is a good thing. 

3. How noisy the hostel would be at night. 
Again. Another one we could have looked up ourselves. I vividly remember lying there in my bunk bed at 2 am listening to the rooms music from across the courtyard and a floor down and bobbing to the beat. Stevie and I were trying to sleep so that we could wake up early the next morning and take a long trek to go see the Little Mermaid. (let me save you a trip and tell you that she's very underwhelming) We finally started throwing what ever we could at their window (granola bars, apples, empty water bottles) to get their attention to tell them to turn down their music. They opened up the window and told us they had tequila (the magic words) and we ended up throwing on pants and meeting new friends, but that's besides the point. The point is that the hostel was un-sleepable as a light sleeper. 

4. How many different nationalities would be there at the same time. 
My roommates in my 4 person hostel room were from South Korea and were traveling around Europe during their term break. During free dinner, I sat next to someone from India, Indonesia, Finland and Canada- and the night was just getting started. I would guess that on any given night there, there are at least 60 different nationalities under one roof. It was so cool to meet so many different cultures and people that it all seemed overwhelming at one point. 

5. That I would find someone else from my hometown! 
I'm from a relatively big city, Richmond, Virginia. But it was so crazy to meet two guys who were also traveling that were from Richmond! We had never met and had no friends in common but out two high schools played each other in sports and they were only 3 years older than me. Even 3000 miles away, Virginia still reminds me that it's my hometown in the weirdest ways. 

So yes, after my first hostel experience I look forward to booking another one! My mom was wrong about the dangers of them and I think she's watched too many movies with Liam Neeson kicking down doors to save taken women. 
I would definitely recommend a stay at the Copenhagen Downtown hostel for anyone that is considering traveling through Copenhagen alone or with other people and are looking for a chance to meet others from around the world, affordable accommodation and of course, free food. 

Read More