FINALLY!!! Everything you ever wanted to know about the “rules” of freelancing in the UAE….

At Nabbesh we’ve been hearing many questions lately from our community members regarding the “rules” of setting-up as a freelancer in the UAE, and we have been listening to you!

Many of our community members in the UAE are expats who want to earn extra cash, but at the same time, want to make certain they are doing it legally!  Our Nabbesh community of nearly 30,000 come from many different backgrounds in the freelancing world, and although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for everyone, we compiled a list of some of the most frequently asked questions to give you insights into the UAE’s rules on freelancing.

Frequently Asked Questions on Freelancing in the UAE

1. May I legally freelance in the UAE?   

Yes, you may freelance in the UAE!  However, it is important to distinguish between part-time work and freelancing.  Freelancing is working for yourself, where you are essentially a company made up of one person, which is perfectly legal as long as you are licensed to do so.

2. So, I need a license?

Yes you do!  You will need to secure a Trade License pertaining to your business activity from your selected Licensing Authority, and adhere to their stipulations.

3. What kind of license do I need?

The kind of license you need depends on the nature of the business you are looking to conduct.

There are two main ways of setting-up a business in Dubai and different license options for both, which a business setup specialist can explain in detail. The first is through the Dubai Department of Economic Development and the second is through one of the many Free Zones (e.g., Fujairah). 

a. Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED) Business Setup

The main license types in the DED are:

1. Commercial (51% Emirati owned; 49% foreign owned), and; 

 2. Services/Professional/Consultancy (100% expat owned with a local Emirati service agent).  

b. Free Zone (FZ) Business Setup

For the free zones, both of the above license options apply, but the main differences are 1., an Emirati partner is not required, and 2., FZ businesses are 100% expat owned.

4. What are other benefits of setting-up through a Free Zone?

The general benefits of setting-up through a FZ are that companies can remain 100% foreign-owned and benefit from being “tax free” for 50 years, according to Article 15 of Law No. 1 of 2000 of the Emirate of Dubai.

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5. If I’m not a resident, may I obtain a residency visa through one of these license options? 

Yes, you may!

6. May I freelance if I’m on my husband’s visa?

Yes, you may!  You would first need to obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from your husband as well as a labor card issued from the licensing authority/immigration office of the Emirate where the freelance company has been registered.

7. I’m working full-time but I’m interested in turning my hobby into a business.  May I obtain a license even if I’m sponsored by my employer?

Yes, you may!  Most (not all) licensing authorities would request you to provide a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from your employer in order for you to start your own freelancer company.

8. How long will it take to get a freelance license and setup my business?

On average the process can take anywhere from one week to ten days. 

9. Do I need to rent office space?

The majority of licensing authorities do require you to have some sort of office space within their jurisdiction, be it something minimal like a flexi-desk or a smart office, which is often already built into the price of the company setup package offered. These packages are typically catered to fit the needs of freelancers like yourselves. 

Some licensing authorities are even able to provide you with a Trade License without taking office space of any sort, however under this option you wouldn’t be able to secure any residency visas on the company, so this option is best suited to a freelancer who already has a residency visa be it through their spouse, parent or current employer.

10. Do I have to get a freelance license through a business setup specialist or can I do it myself?

You certainly can do it yourself, however most of our community members have testified that using a business setup specialist was a wiser, more sensible and efficient option, as setting up a company in the UAE can be a very time consuming and draining process.  

There are so many facets to consider when setting up a new business in the UAE, like obtaining your trade license, applying for your visa, getting business cards printed and setting up your bank account. The business setup specialist takes care of all the admin, allowing you to focus your attention on developing and growing your business.

To learn more about special licensing options and discounts available to Nabbesh users through our partners, e-mail us at support@Nabbesh.com

Disclaimer: The information contained within this blog post is intended for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as legal advice.  The information contained here may not necessarily relay the most up-to-date regulations by the government of the UAE.  Nabbesh always recommends you check with your local authorities to make certain you are compliant with current regulations.

Update:

11 – Where Can I find freelance work?

Click here to browse freelance work opportunities on Nabbesh.

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.

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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.

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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.

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(www.nabbesh.com/molham.bakir)

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”

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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:

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  • 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:

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  • 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 Nabbesh.com 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.

www.nabbesh.com – where talent meets opportunity.

Nabbesh on DubaiEye

Nabbesh was interviewed on DubaiEye 103.8FM today alongside Sara Khoja, partner at Clyde & Co to talk about the legalities of freelancing in the UAE and how to get started. The below is a summary of the discussion:

It’s no secret that unemployment is high in the region with a need to create 100 million jobs by 2020.  Particular risk segments are women and youth.   Certain countries have extremely low participation rates for example Saudi.  To enable participation in the workforce, Nabbesh offers the opportunity to find and apply for freelance and part time jobs.  With over 12,000 registered users and growing, its clear that a gap is being filled.

In the UAE, many people are here because their partner is here on full time work, they want to be proactive in working but often have certain restraints that prevent them from working full time in an office for most of the day.  Family and cultural considerations are often not taken into account.  Many of these people are highly educated with experience in other parts of the world and are finding ways to work through Nabbesh. Typically people are not fully aware of the jurisdiction surrounding non full time work.  Since December 2010 however there has been a move by the government to allow various types of work permits, freelance licenses, part time work permits and more.  The best way to get started is to think about how you want to work, for example fully self employed or part time, and this will determine the type of license you need.

SME’s are responsible for the majority of business in the region, and we see that trend on Nabbesh.  Many of the employers looking for talent have financial and time restraints where they either need to fill a job urgently for a particular campaign or they don’t have the budget for a full time person. Nabbesh has been quite successful in fulfilling posts within a very short time frame, in some cases as little as 24 hours.

For people who are looking to transition into freelance (people already on their spouses visa) or students who have graduated you can get part time work permits from the ministry of labour for 3 months up to a year.  If you already employed you can do work part time in the UAE but you would need a no objection certificate from the employer.

If someone is coming to the end of their job here in the UAE and looking for freelance – what should they do to ensure they can stay here?  Firstly the employer is under duty to cancel the work permit and residency visa, and the individual has 30 days to find another sponsor or leave the country.  Within that period they need to register as a freelancer, many freezones have freelance licences, they don’t require a huge capital investment.  The other way is to secure a part time job with an organization and work that way until you figure out what you want to do.  Many part time positions are advertised on Nabbesh and can be found easily using the search functions.  For employers they should have evidence of the freelancers being properly licensed, if not, the company would be potentially liable for employing people unlawfully and could be fined.

A recent Employee retention survey done for the MENA region showed that  55% of respondents wanted to leave their jobs immediately.  Freelancing will play a more important role moving forward as it gives people the opportunity to work on things they love, not on things they have to do to get by.  These days, where job security isn’t as tight as before, freelancing is a good way to maintain your income and keep your skills up to speed.  We recently wrote about what employers are most affected by, and being out of work for 6 months or longer was the most decisive factor for employers to pass over a candidate for potential employment.

In short, the opportunities for freelancers are growing daily.  We are making it easier for both individuals and employers to meet and do business more efficiently.  To find out more and to keep up with the conversation follow #freelancesummit on Twitter, and join us at the first Freelance Summit in Dubai at The Shelter, May 8th.

Got questions? Let us know!

Can you really freelance in the UAE?

Yes you can! There are a few ways.

For companies registered in some Free Zones for example they can hire a freelancer for as long as they need using a “non sponsored employee ID card” which costs 720 AED (TECOM), 800 AED (Dubai Silicon Oasis) and 860 AED (Trakhees Zone)

This is suitable when the freelancer is already on their relative or spouse’s visa.  The paperwork required is fairly straightforward, and involves the usual application forms, the company’s trade licence and passport copy of the sponsor showing residence visa along with a No Objection Letter from the sponsor.

What if you don’t have a spouse or relative to sponsor your visa?

Dubai Media City  is an example of a zone which offers a Freelance Permit which identifies an individual as a sole practitioner and enables him/her to carry out business in his/her own birth name as opposed to a company or brand name.  However, because you cannot open a company account at a bank without a registered company licence, it can be quite tricky to invoice as an individual freelancer.

More useful is the freelance license offered through Fujairah Free Zone.  With this type of licence you can choose a company name, can have one or more shareholders on the license, appoint someone as person in charge, the license has up to 3 visa allocations (available at an additional cost) and most importantly, you can upgrade this license to a ‘Baby Business’ license if you need to expand your business in the future.

The Ajman Free Zone Professional Licence comes with a 2 visa allocation without the need to take an office in the free zone (unless you have more than 2 employees).  For a faster processing of licence and visa, and for freelancers who trade in goods, a licence from Ajman is what you need

Starting at AED 17, 500 with the option of monthly payments, you can be running your own business in no time!

To learn more about special licensing options and discounts available to Nabbesh users through our partners, e-mail us at license@Nabbesh.com