How to survive in a crisis and during recession as a freelancer in Belgium
Updated: Apr 24, 2020
This guide in simple English (Dutch version available here) gives you information and tips about:
Social security and financial aid available to you as a freelancer
Loan freeze and guarantees
Cutting costs and saving money
Business Development: Automation, personal branding and learning
Getting English-language updates about the coronavirus situation in Belgium
Together with the partners and supporters of our community Freelancers in Belgium, we want to offer you clear guidelines on how to survive this crisis and to plan your future as a freelancer.
Social Security & Financial Aid
The following support options regarding social security are available to you. Please note that these get updated every day.
Delay your social security payments
Reduce your social security fee. Please note if you do this you save less for your pension.
Apply for exemption of your social security payments
Your request for a delay, reduction or exemption of social security contributions need to be done directly at your business counter (in Dutch: “ondernemingsloket”, Securex, Xerius, Partena, Liantis, Acerta...).
Please consider that the business counters are overloaded with requests right now and they are doing their best to help everyone.
We contacted Securex who said they are getting 1000s of calls a day. They recommend that customers fill in the necessary documents online to make the follow-up easier and more efficient.
SBB accountants and advisors can provide freelancers with accurate and customised info about what the financial and fiscal impact will be on your business, and which steps to take. See also their corona-guide here.
Compensation during illness
If you get sick and can't work for more than 8 days, you can request compensation (from the 1st day) via your business counter. Make sure you have a doctor’s note.
If you believe you are infected with COVID-19, avoid going to the doctor/hospital to avoid spreading the disease. Call first and follow their instructions.
Financial aid by the government
The following support is available to you depending on your activities and location. These measures are changing by the hour.
Postponement of VAT and tax payments
Get (part of the) taxes paid in advance back
Fixed allowance 1500-5000€ for businesses forced to close due to the coronavirus. The amount and procedure depend largely on your activities and location (Flanders, Brussels, Wallonia) - check conditions and how to apply in the links below.
How to apply for support?
You can also call UNIZO (Flanders and Brussels), or your own business counter. You can find the phone number on their website. Or call the National Institute for the Social Security of the Self-employed’s Corona Call Center at 0800 12 018.
Survey for government support
Loan freeze and guarantees
The banks have put new measures in place to support the economy and people in difficulty. The agreed measures rest on 2 main pillars:
- Freeze on loan repayments for up to 6 months without additional charges: The financial sector will allow non-financial companies and viable self-employed who are in financial difficulty as a result of the coronavirus crisis to defer repayments up until 30 September 2020 without charge.
-For private individuals facing difficulties as a result of the crisis, the banks will also offer to defer mortgage repayments at no extra charge until 30 September 2020. In addition, the banks have agreed not to convert any more mortgage mandates into mortgage registrations.
- Government guarantee scheme for new loans: The federal government will activate a guarantee scheme for all new loans and credit lines with a maximum term of 12 months, which banks provide to viable non-financial companies and self-employed. This in order to preserve the level of finance required to keep the economy running.
Check ING's website for more info.
The importance of a detailed contract is of even bigger importance in times of crisis. Better safe than sorry. If you need help to set up a new contract or review your current one, we recommend you contact Furbo Legal, who are specialised in supporting freelancers with legal questions.
Cutting costs and saving money
If you need to cut costs in your business and private life, here are some tips:
When we are allowed to meet and work outside of our homes again: check Workero for affordable workspace inside companies across Belgium: from 2.50€ an hour, it includes access to a platform where you can connect and co-create and innovate with people in the Workero network.
Review and optimise your costs
Typical expenses for freelancers are:
Office & Administration
Phone & Internet
Bank and Insurance - check ING for their business banking options
Food & Drinks
Check your costs for all of these categories and see where you can make cuts. Then optimise the rest.
How can you use your free time optimally to develop your freelance business?
If you have not yet gone digital with your accountant, now is the time. TOCO makes it possible for you to upload, manage, pay invoices (some banks) and
forward documents to your accountant in an easy and secure way.
Other options are SBB, Accountable, Yuki etc.
Check your online profiles
Make sure your personal brand and online visibility are strong. Be sure to update your profile on LinkedIn and job matching platforms like Jellow. You can get more tips about optimising your freelance business via Jellow's blog post about freelancing before and during corona in English and in Dutch.
Stay up to date
If you want to follow the trends and updates about freelancing in Belgium and the future of work check the knowledge hub Nextconomy which has lots of content and research in Dutch and French.
Stay informed about the latest coronavirus news (in English)
https://www.be-alert.be/en for you who would like to be immediately informed in case of an emergency, register for free at BeAlert.
With thanks to freelance supporters and experts contributing to this article with their best information and tips: