Joeri Schouten

6 scary myths about freelancing after a career in strategy or M&A

6 scary myths about freelancing after a career in strategy or M&A
Joeri Schouten

Joeri Schouten

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Taking the leap to leave an established consultancy or M&A firm is scary. However, at Sweav we have learned that many of the beliefs that often stop people from making this change are just myths. Here we analyze and debunk 6 of the top myths.

Myth #1. Landing a project is hard

The biggest insecurity preventing strategy consulting or M&A professionals from taking the leap is thinking: ‘how do I ever land a project?’. In reality, this is actually quite easy. There are basically two ways to land projects: market yourself and/or join a freelance collective.

An effective way of marketing yourself is to get in touch with former colleagues who have taken the leap before you. They tend to have a network of companies with a high demand for talent. In addition to that, sharing your move through LinkedIn always helps.

Myth #2. You’ll be broke

Not being able to maintain the existing lifestyle as an independent consultant is the second biggest myth. Now we have the insecurity of not landing a project out of the way, let’s look at rates.

Rates somewhat depend on the type of company (scale-up, NGO, Corporate), type of project (short term project, long term engagement, M&A deal) and personal experience. However, one can safely assume that rates are somewhere between €100 and €175 per hour, so €800 and €1.400 per day.

Let’s say you work on average four days a week, and take six weeks of holiday, resulting in 46 weeks of work a year. At a day rate of €1.000, you’ll make €184.000 per year. Not bad.

Myth #3. Forget about getting a mortgage

The truth is that since 2019 banks have been much more flexible when it comes to offering mortgages to freelancers, especially consultants. Generally, if you meet specific requirements such as: doing the same type of work as freelancer that you did before at a firm, being registered with the Chamber of Commerce (KvK) for at least one year, and of course, if you get enough income, getting a mortgage shouldn’t be an issue.

When calculating the ‘base income’ (toetsinkomen) for the total mortgage amount, usually they take 75% of your income in the previous book year. In our example in Myth #3, this would account for €138.000. At a common loan-to-income ratio of 5.5, you would be eligible for a €759.000 mortgage after one year of being in business.

The primary Dutch mortgage providers that accept independent consultants are Florius, Rabobank, and Nationale Nederlanden.

Myth #4. You stop learning

Another common myth is that your learning curve will flatten dramatically when being an independent consultant. While it is true that you won’t be surrounded by top notch colleagues all the time anymore, that does not mean you will stop learning. In our experience, independent consultants grow by (i) learning how to take full ownership of their professional lives and (ii) expand their horizon beyond the consulting (skill) bubble.

Unlike at an established firm, you will have full ownership of all the work you do. From acquiring the project and negotiating rates, to working side-by-side with senior clients and entrepreneurs, navigating a company by yourself and managing the project content end-to-end. This is a great learning experience for most new independent consultants.

Next to that, is that in our experience stepping outside of the 65h/week stress bubble will broaden your horizon dramatically. This will put you more in charge of your own life, and will open your eyes to more opportunities like starting your own company or working remotely at an exotic location.

Myth #5. You'll be on your own

As an independent consultant, you don't work in the same environment with intelligent, exciting, and fun colleagues in a high-pressure environment. That's why most consultants who start freelancing miss the social cohesion of the firms they left. However, that doesn't mean you're doomed to loneliness as a freelance consultant.

Suppose you join a freelance community. In that case, you'll still be surrounded by kindred spirits whenever you want, but freely without a superior breathing down your neck. Freelance communities usually have an office space to work, hang out together, and have drinks on Fridays.

Myth #6. Paperwork = headache

Being a freelance consultant will not complicate your life a great deal with paperwork since keeping track of your work is relatively straightforward. You need three things: registration with the Chamber of Commerce (KVK), accounting software, and an accountant for annual financial and tax reporting.

Registration with the Chamber of Commerce can be done online. You only need 5 minutes and a short face-to-face meeting for the final validation. For accounting systems, many intuitive and highly automated systems facilitate transactions. For this task, we recommend Moneybird and Jort as accounting systems.

We also strongly recommend using a professional accountant to prepare the financial and tax statements. The fees of these professionals range from €800 to €1,300 per year, depending on the complexity of your company and your personal finances. Not cheap. However, the right accountant has enough fiscal tricks up its sleeve to reduce your tax burden in excess of its own fees.


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About the author

Joeri founded Sweav together with Thijmen Kaster in 2022. Before founding Sweav, he worked as independent consultant and interim manager himself for two years. Previously, he worked at digital strategy consulting boutique SparkOptimus. Focusing on strategy, commercial due diligence and large scale transformations. Joeri lives in Amsterdam East together with his girlfriend and daughter. If you’d like to get in touch with him, please fill out the form below.

Joeri Schouten

Joeri Schouten

Co-founder @ Sweav

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