Attention! Freelancers in the Netherlands should put down their fees in writing

There are nearly one million self-employed workers without employees in the Netherlands. These freelancers are working on the basis of contracts for services instead of employment contracts. This means, among other things, that freelancers should always put down agreements about fees, activities, and other conditions in the contract. It is something they often forget about. Dutch Contract Law Lawyer Thomas van Vugt explains a recent case on this subject.

Contract for services in the Netherlands

A recent debt collection dispute concerned a difference of opinion about invoices between the parties. A producer had concluded an oral agreement for services with a freelancer. On the basis of this agreement, the freelancer had performed work as an art director, stylist, and casting director for the production of a commercial.

Starting debt collection proceedings in the Netherlands

The freelancer had been given a work budget for the activities of €18,915 in total. The producer paid her an advance to the amount of €6,500 in total. The freelancer then sent a number of invoices to the total amount of €7,719.21. The advances already paid were deducted from the invoices. The producer did not pay the invoices in spite of various payment reminders. The freelancer’s lawyer started debt collection proceedings.

Work budget or fee?

The core of the dispute was the question of the freelancer’s exact entitlements. The difficulty in this case was that the parties had not made any agreements about this. Therefore, the subdistrict court considered that the budget should be taken as the starting point. Although it was not the contract price, it was the only agreement that the parties had made with regard to the finances. According to the subdistrict court, the freelancer was allowed to use this budget as a starting point for the performance of the contract.

Failure to perform the contract?

The producer also argued that he did not have to pay the freelancer because she had not performed the contract properly. He argued that the freelancer “had not kept to agreements”, had not submitted “moodboards” and “declarations of principle”, or submitted them too late, and had failed to inform the producer of certain issues or informed him too late. Moreover, the freelancer would have exceeded the budget and not have substantiated her expenses.

Freelancer’s shortcoming not proven

According to the court, the producer had not sufficiently substantiated these claims. Moreover, he had informed the freelancer of the complaints by e-mail but had not followed up on them. The subdistrict court ruled in favour of the freelancer. The producer was ordered to pay the invoices and the costs of the proceedings.

Dutch lawyer in contracts for services

This case illustrates once again the importance of properly putting down agreements in writing, particularly about the fees of the contract. In this case, the judgment went against the defendant, but litigation always costs money. The saying “prevention is better than cure” is particularly relevant here. It is recommended to use your own (standard) contract which states exactly how the fee is structured and also what happens in the event of non-payment of an invoice.

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