Key takeaways from the Nabbesh Freelance Summit Dubai

We just held our first Freelance Summit in Dubai and were thrilled to engage with a full house at Shelter. The reasoning behind this gathering was fairly simple.  We know from our data that there is a big demand for different ways of working, our 14,000 registered users and over 250 job postings a month are testament to that, but we know there’s a big untapped market out there that can be addressed by starting an offline dialogue between the various stakeholders.


That’s why we built an agenda bringing together freelancers to talk about their insights and advice, employers to talk about what they look for and common pitfalls to avoid, a law firm to tell us exactly what is legal regarding freelance and part time work and a business setup consultancy that told us how to incorporate freelancing activities into a proper registered business.  We even had a session talking about how freelancing can help achieve the UAE’s 2021 vision of a knowledge based economy!

Trevor gulf stat

The event was really successful, and there was definitely an appetite to hear more.  Nabbesh is hard at work building some great product features on the platform to make the experience even easier, but we also want to help people get the information they need.  We’ll be doing more events in the future based on the conversations we started last night, and of course your feedback.


Let’s give you some highlights from the night:

We talked about the enhanced profile builder called Canvas which allows people to demonstrate their skills by linking to all their best work around the web.  Have a look at the profile below to see how much more engaging they are.

If you’ve already got a profile on Nabbesh, now is the time to use this tool to stand out from the crowd.



We also had some sneak peeks of upcoming product features. Want to be the first to test them out? Get on our mailing list!

The question on everybody’s mind was, is freelancing really legal?  How can I do it properly? Sara Khoja, Partner at Clyde & Co gave a helpful and succinct talk on what is now possible.  Some key takeaways:

  • You can hold a full time job and do work on the side with a “part time work permit” so long as you hold the necessary No Objection Certificates from your existing employer
  • Expats are able to act as official work sponsors for their dependents meaning that housewives and students can now take up part time work (with permissions from husbands / fathers)

There was a general consensus that freelancing was a good way to transition from being employed full time to becoming your own boss.  Thanks to the laws in the UAE allowing part time work, we should see more people take up freelancing in their spare time to build up their reputation in the market.

Another surprising piece of news from Creative Zone was that it is possible to incorporate your freelance activities into a proper business in the UAE, allowing you to have a corporate bank account and the ability to invoice in a company name as opposed to your personal name. Offering various license options, Creative Zone are happy to provide you with a free consultation to help you understand these options and advise on the best possible solution as per your requirements. If you want more on this, ping us in the form below with your Nabbesh profile URL and the subject “Freelance Business Licence”


Many people think that freelancing as a work pattern is nothing but a pipe dream, available for only a few people, or those lucky enough to have a skill which is so rare that they can command extremely high prices for it.  Fortunately we had freelancers on the panel to dispel this myth. A few tips from them:


  • It’s a competitive marketplace, you need to be proactive and show why you’re better than others
  • Talk to peers and network with others in the industry to ascertain benchmark rates
  • Start small and build your reputation through delivering quality work

The employer panel was equally fascinating as we heard exactly what it is that employers look for and we got a glimpse into the skills that are highly in demand right now:


  • Have a sense of accountability, prove that you take the job as seriously as a full time employee
  • Demonstrating your work with an up to date portfolio means you have a better chance of standing out (top tip: use the Canvas profile builder to get employers to notice you quicker!)
  • Deliver good consistent work and aim to build reputation with your employer no matter what the project is

Some industry insights as to what’s missing in the market:

  • Arabic Content Development
  • Analytics
  • English writers who follow Arabic culture
  • Good Arabic screenplay writers, producers and directors

So you heard it here first! If you’re reading this and you’ve got these skills, or you know someone who does, get signed up on as soon as possible.

We’d like to thank The Shelter, Clyde & Co, Creative Zone and all our panelists for making the event a success.

We’ll continue doing these sessions to make sure everyone is empowered with the knowledge they need to freelance successfully.  All you have to do is bring your skills to the platform.  Whether you’re an individual or a business, hit us up in the form below to tell us more about what you want to know. – where talent meets opportunity.

Freelance Summit Agenda


The Shelter, Al Quoz, Dubai

Freelance Summit Agenda

6.30 – 7.00     Welcome and Seating

7.00 – 7.05     Audience Brief and Agenda

7.05 – 7.15     Nabbesh Introduction

7.15 – 7.30     Developing a Knowledge Economy in the UAE: The Importance of Freelancers

(Trevor McFarlane, Gulfstat )

7.30 – 7.45     Freelancer Panel – insights, experience and advice

7.45 – 8.00     Presentation by Sara Khoja, Partner at Clyde & Co; What does the law say     regarding licenses, permits and freelancing?

8.00 – 8.15     Break

8.15 – 8.30     Creative Zone – Business Licensing Options

8.30 – 8.45     Employer Panel – what they look for in freelancers, their experience and advice

8.45 – 9.00     Wrap up

Freelancers –           Nigel Holt, Marianne Bassil, Shelina Jokhiya, Swati Randev Verma

Employers –             Sharif Maghraby (MBC, twofour54)

                                 Nick Gonzalez (

                                 Joe Akkawi (Paz Marketing)

                                 Faisal al Yafai (The National)

Moderators – Alexandra Tohme, David Haddad

About the speakers:

Trevor McFarlane is Research Director for the Middle East and Africa at Gulfstat, an independent research group and data provider. He was previously the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Senior Editor for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.  Trevor regularly speaks and moderates at conferences, presents to senior executives and hosts Dubai Eye’s Business Breakfast Radio Show as well as continuing his role as a contributing editor to The Economist.

Sara Khoja is Partner, Employment & Incentives at Clyde & CoSara provides advice on all aspects of employment law, including recruitment, termination, terms and conditions of employment (benefits, bonuses, and remuneration), and the application of quotas and training requirements for the employment of nationals in various AGCC countries.  She has contributed UAE chapters to the International Labour and Employment Compliance Handbook (published by Kluwer Law International and the IBA); Corporate Immigration (published by the Oxford University Press) and Compensating Mobile Executives (published by Taxmann).

Sharif Maghraby has worked as a director and producer with MBC, and was responsible for acquiring and negotiating international content formats such as Who wants to be a Millionaire, Fear Factor, and Biggest Loser amongst others. He has experience working with TV, VOD, IPTV and mobile content.  Sharif worked as the Managing Director of Comedy Central Studios with TwoFour54.  He is also the author of a book, “The seven gates of Phi”  He has managed a team of full-time and part-time staff including producers, directors, content development executives, writers and post-production supervisors and has developed and produced many new programs and concepts for the region.

Nick Gonzalez is the co founder of Nervora represents regional advertising for word-class digital publications in the MENA region reaching millions of readers of well-known global brands such as Conde Nast (e.g. Wired, Vogue, GQ, etc.), CBS Interactive, Hearst Media, Viacom, and Gawker Media.  Previously Nick was the first employee at and joined founder Michael Arrington to cover the burgeoning startup scene in the SF Bay Area. Nick wore several hats to keep TechCrunch running in the early days, including writing, researching, and managing the original TechCrunch website.

Joe Akkawi is the Founder and Owner of PAZ Marketing Management and Bambinoz PR providing clients with Public Relations, Events Management, Social Media and Media Buying consultancy in the Middle East and North Africa. Joe is also the TV Anchor on SkyNews Arabia doing weekly reviews and stories revolving around technology launches and advancements. Previously Joe’s experience was developing online web experiences and communication strategies with some of the Middle East’s top advertising and communications agencies including Leo Burnett, Grey Worldwide, Impact BBDO and Flip Media.

Faisal al Yafai is an award-winning journalist and essayist. He is chief columnist, features writer and editor for The National newspaper.  His journalism and essays have been featured in The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The American Prospect and many other global magazines and newspapers. He is the editor of a collection of essays Women, Islam and Western Liberalism, published by Civitas in London. He conducted undercover investigations into radical and suspected terrorist organisations in the post-9/11 era. He has since reported from countries across the Middle East, Eastern Europe and South-East Asia. Faisal was awarded prestigious Churchill Fellowship, taking a journey to explore feminism across the Arab and Islamic worlds, from Morocco in the east to the furthest tip of Indonesia. His book on the future of feminism in the Middle East is forthcoming from I.B. Tauris, London.