What do I need to start a freelance business in Belgium?
Just arrived in Belgium and eager to start up your own business? Or perhaps you’ve been here for a while and want to become a freelancer? Read all about how to set up as a sole trader in Belgium in our series of articles with practical tips.
The information in this article comes from official sources and our own experience. Nonetheless, things change, agencies get new names and rules are rewritten. If you spot an error, please let us know in the comments below or on our contact page.
The first question you will ask yourself is what are the requirements and conditions for setting up as a freelancer in Belgium? When we speak about freelancers, we mean sole-traders/self-employed/independent (indépendant/zelfstandige).
Most of the links in the article lead to websites of organisations in Brussels, as most freelancers are based there, but we also include terms in Dutch and French to make it easier for you to find a local contact point.
Becoming a freelancer as a foreign national in Belgium
If you have Belgian nationality, or you are from one of the Member States of the European Economic Area (European Union, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) or Switzerland, you are eligible to set up a business in Belgium.
If you are from outside this area you additionally need a residence permit and a professional card (see below).
- You need to be entitled to your civil rights, meaning if you are convicted of breaking the law you are not allowed to start a business during your sentence.
- You may not trade if you are seen as not capable and have been forbidden to exercise your profession.
- You need to be at least 18 years old.
Business Management Skills
Note: The requirement to prove business management skills will be abolished from September 2018.
Whether you are Belgian or not, you might need to show proof of business management skills. Usually it is enough to show that you have a bachelor’s degree. You can also prove your skills by passing an exam at the Centrale Examencommissie/Jury central. The exam is offered in Dutch or French. It takes place in Brussels, and costs 35€.
Some adult education schools also have courses to help you prepare for starting a business, called “bedrijfsbeheer/connaissances en gestion“. Passing one of these courses can be used as proof of business management skills. They offer courses in groups or online of various lengths and at different times of the day.
You can also check out bedrijfsbeheer.com for their bilingual courses with English translations of the study material. But please note – the exam still needs to be completed in Dutch or French!
Additionally, you can get vouched for by a third person or show your relevant previous professional experience to prove business management skills. It is up to an official “business counter” (ondernemingsloket/guichet d’entreprises) to decide on applications. Look for the closest one to you via this website in Dutch and French.
People without Belgian nationality or people who do not come from one of the Member States of the European Economic Area (European Union, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) or Switzerland will most likely need to have a professional card (which also acts as a work permit) to start a business in Belgium.
If you are in Belgium you can apply for the professional card at an official “business counter” (ondernemingsloket/guichet d’entreprises). Look for the closest one to you via this website in Dutch and French.
You need to have either a valid “certificate of registration model A” (attest van immatriculatie model A/attestation d’immatriculation modèle A) or proof that you are registered in the foreigners’ register (= electronic residence card type A).
Certain professions and types of business require additional permits or certificates. In Belgium, certain professional acitivities are regulated at the national level, while some others have requirements at the regional level.
Have a look at the list of activities regulated in Belgium and Brussels: in English, French and Dutch. Note that in Flanders, since 1 January 2018 several of these regulated professions no longer require proof of professional competence.
Disclaimer: the information on this page is based on the information found on official government and local websites, and on the experience of the authors. While we have done our best to make sure it is accurate, rules and regulations change and each individual situation might be different, so it is always a good idea to check with appropriate authorities for the latest information. Consequently, the authors do not assume any responsibility or liability for any issues or damages stemming from the use of the information on this website.