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.

Freelance Jobs in Over 100 Middle Eastern Cities on Nabbesh

Nabbesh has launched in June 2012 in Dubai and ever since we have been working really hard to cultivate the freelance movement in the region and be the platform that empowers freelancers to showcase their skills, gain exposure and connect with clients. Whilst many of you may think that we are a job site catering to the UAE, the truth is we have grown a lot since our launch to become the “go to” marketplace for professional service providers or freelancers in the region and we wanted our community to know about that.

 

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Looking through the 2,000+ freelance projects that have been posted on Nabbesh since the beginning of the 2013, we are proud to assure freelancers everywhere in the Middle East – there’s an employer out there who needs YOU.  So far we have had jobs from employers in over 100 Cities in the Middle East & North Africa, and even some from the US and Europe. How’s that?

Month on month, over 300 jobs are posted from various cities. Aside from the UAE, the majority of freelance gigs on Nabbesh are originating from Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. We are also proud to have an increasing number of jobs from Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar. A recent survey done by Nabbesh in September 2013 highlighted that 35% of employers registered on Nabbesh are open to hire freelancers residing in a geographic location different to their own, this truly emphasises Nabbesh’s unique position to be the regional marketplace where people connect & sell their services.

If you are a freelancer or a supporter of the freelance movement, and if you want to help talent in the Middle East find work opportunities, then we have a modest request! Please share this post on the interwebs to spread the word so we can build a vibrant regional marketplace and create more wealth to our Nabbesh community.

Freelance Designer in Dubai – What is it really like?

We wanted to give you a peek inside the life of an expat freelancer in the UAE. Danny Ammounah is the CEO and Creative Director of The Design Hat, he is originally from the UK and has settled in the UAE since the 90’s.He started his own agency after working as a designer with agencies such as Fitch and retail art pioneers Gallery One for over 5 years.  And his guest post tells you why he took the plunge and how has his life changed as a freelancer. 

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Every freelancer has his own history that led him to his true passion, which then turned into a dream job. This is a little insight into my brief experiences as a self-employed web and graphic designer. The life of a freelancer might seem somewhat idealistic, but in reality its hard work and your work ethic, and your willpower needs to remain strong in order to ultimately succeed. Prior to becoming self-employed I had a pretty regular working lifestyle. I worked all day 9 till 6, came home and usually had more work to do then. This was my life for a good five and a half years. Working for some of the largest design agencies in the UAE, this was an important time and life experience for me as it taught me the basic fundamentals of which I rely so heavily on today.

However, it started to get a little tiring and I saw freelancing as a way of easing up this hectic work schedule and starting a new chapter in my career. I mean why not? I had gathered all the necessary skills and know how over the years, why shouldn’t I take a slice of the cake? The thought of running my own business really excited me but also posed a great challenge as well. Not only would I need to do the actual design work, but there’s also the need to manage the finances, prepare the proposals, find the clients & also get those deals sealed. This is a lot to take on when you are used to having multiple resources and man power available to help collaborate on a project. Now it was just going to be me. It’s a frightening thought but as I found out it’s all about time management and adapting strong organisational skills to your everyday routine. In a way, I find this is the most enjoyable aspect of freelancing.

Being self-employed I have a strong responsibility to ensure that each piece of work I undertake is completed on time. How I manage that time is entirely up to me. If I want to leave my desk and got to the pool, I can. If that means making up the time by working into the early hours, that’s fine. As long as the deadline is clearly set, completed and delivered by then, who is to argue? Mostly, I have been trying to stick to a fairly standard 9 till 6 routine, mainly so that my life doesn’t completely go out of sync with others around me. The freedom to choose when and how much work I do is a fantastic feeling and that’s what really sold this gig to me.

However…

There is one minor downside that I have noticed. Freelancing can usher you into quite a lonely everyday working environment. Generally I’m very happy with my business and don’t get fed up easily, but being on your own Sunday – Thursday can start to test your ability to maintain sanity. To help alleviate this, I often head out to my local coffee shop or business hub and treat this like my mobile office. This a great way to meet other freelancers, take meetings and a puts you in a more creative and buzzing environment than that of your bedroom. One of the greatest surprises when I decided to go freelance was the fantastic support I received. Before I decided to go freelance, I did take the time to asses my options and really examine if this really was the correct move for me. I wasn’t sure at first and it’s never easy leaving a secure working environment for something somewhat unknown and usually risky. But after I took the plunge and the support I received through family, friends, emails and work referrals, I was in no doubt it was the correct decision for me.

If you can relate to Danny’s story, connect with him on twitter, or hire him as a freelance graphic designer via Nabbesh

You won’t pay me?! Nabbesh freelancers reveal the top 10 excuses used by clients to avoid payment.

Many of our Nabbesh guest bloggers have spoken about the challenges of freelancing particularly in the Middle East. The fact that we lack a mature marketplace, proper regulations to protect freelancers as well as a lack of best practices may deter many people from venturing into the freelance world.

At Nabbesh, we have made it our mission to enable freelancing via the creation of a transparent marketplace as well as learning from our community to establish a set of best practices for freelancers, regardless of their type of skill, to provide their services to clients and more importantly get paid for their work.

During September 2013, we surveyed our 25,000 freelancers from across the Middle East, with a majority in the UAE, Lebanon and Jordan to find out about their attitudes towards freelancing.

The survey has revealed that whilst freelancers are accustomed to doing free jobs for friends and family, volunteering or offering sample work to improve their portfolio, a whopping 30% of freelancers have come across a non-paying client in their career.

Here are the top 10 reasons and the story-lines behind them :

 

Middle East Freelancers not getting paid

– He/ she was not happy with the quality of work

– We had a disagreement on the fees that should be paid

– Client kept delaying and postponing and then ignoring follow up

– Client was deceitful – It turned out to be a scam

– Client simply doesn’t like to pay anyone, I found out he did the same to many other freelancers

– Client claimed they weren’t making enough money to pay me

– Client did not understand the amount of work that was put in providing the service

– I was too young to put proper agreements in place and they took advantage of that

– Client had a cashflow problem or company (startup) closed

– Company management put the project on hold and decided not to pay

– There was a requirement, deliverable and communication gap

Call it occupational hazard, freelancers are prone to these types of clients and need to protect themselves at all times and have the ability to pick up the warning signs.

Some went as far as calling it an attribute to the Middle Eastern culture as highlighted by one of the respondents: “I did not get paid by clients more than once. I blame the lack of professionalism in the Middle East. Now I don’t even lift a pencil without a non-refundable down-payment.”

We do not agree with the notion that “professionalism” is lacking in the Middle East. We believe that in the presence of a marketplace, both parties will be required to be respectful and ethical in the way they treat each other and it is the marketplace that will reward freelancers and clients who honor their agreements and deliver quality work.

We highly recommend that freelancers put together agreements (like this sample agreement from the Freelancers Union)  with their clients detailing a concrete scope of work and a milestone-based payment. Another common practice is to ask for a deposit before starting the work. Lastly, ensure you agree on the method of payment and make sure to understand the various charges for the money transfers, for example, a bank may charge up to 30$ for a transfer.

In order to be enablers for freelancing, Nabbesh is launching an online payment facility where clients are required to pay upfront for services, in the form of a deposit that Nabbesh holds in Escrow, while freelancers are bound to the work they agreed to deliver. Freelancers will get paid once the project or task has been completed.

While it may not be a panacea for the freelancing woes, we believe that a marketplace can create a layer of trust, which protects its participants and enables a healthy environment. 88% of our survey respondents confirmed that they will be managing their payments through Nabbesh in order to get paid in a timely manner and have a strong mediator in the event of conflict.

As we prepare for this major step in Nabbesh’s development we look forward to more feedback from you, to help you get better freelance gigs and we hope that our tips will help you stay vigilant!

Note: The full survey will be shared as soon as the data compiling is complete!

Joe Akkawi: We’ve had over 10 jobs completed through Nabbesh!

Freelancers help businesses grow and expand. And in this new series on our blog we are sitting together with employers who are actively using Nabbesh to find out how that is done.

We are happy to launch it with an interview with Joe Akkawi, the Managing Partner of Paz Marketing  to find out how their agency has integrated freelancers within their DNA. Paz Marketing  is a MENA based integrated solutions agency for public relations, events, and social media to help brands connect with the correct audiences.

 

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1-      How has working with Freelancers helped you build Paz Marketing?

Freelancers have helped us fill certain gaps that extend beyond our core product offering. Sometimes the key to winning a business is offering a full communication package to our clients and there are certain proficiencies that we might lack internally. Nothing a good reliable freelancer can’t solve!

2-      How has your personal experience as an employee turned  freelancer turned entrepreneur helped you hire better freelancers?

It has helped me most with understanding how to manage timelines. Freelancers sometimes over commit to multiple projects due to need of income while we need to take necessary steps to manage clients expectations. Giving promises based on timelines you can’t control is dangerous and being a freelancer in the past has helped me project and estimate how much time a project might need.

3-      What are your top 3 tips for hiring freelancers?

  1. Take your time. Plenty of talent around. Pick the one that suits you best
  2. Never keep the relationship over email. It’s never personal and meeting the freelancer can give you insight about them and where they can help you more.
  3. Hold on to talent you’ve worked with before. Variety is nice but solid results are better.

4-      In which areas is hiring a freelancer better than a full-timer?

When a service needed is not a core offering of your business. It doesn’t make sense to hire someone for a role that will not generate business or revenue for your company

5-      In your opinion what role do freelancers play in the advertising & communications industry? 

Freelancers are seen as both an asset and a threat. As an asset freelancers can play multiple roles from design to consulting and development. It’s a very wide talent pool and can contribute to any part of the communication process. Yet freelancers pose a threat to agencies that lose clients to freelancers who offer humble services for more affordable fees. This has been on the rise in the UAE in the fields of web design, PR, and social media.  Everyone’s always looking to save. It’s the human condition.

6-      What UAE regulatory issues can one encounter when hiring freelancers?

There are two main issues:

a. Having a freelancer work in your office can lead to trouble if you get inspection on site and they don’t have a labor card.

b.   For companies that audit their finances, freelancers who don’t have correctly marked invoices are a nightmare for finance to work with.

 

7- We’d love to hear about your experience hiring freelancers through Nabbesh! What are your insights? 

Hiring through Nabbesh is organized, quick and efficient. We’ve had over 10 jobs completed through Nabbesh.com in the fields of SEO, SEM, Social, Consulting, Design and Artwork. We even build an affiliation with someone we hired for a job and he now consults on all our business.

The entire experience has been solid but on a general note, the region is struggling to find good Arabic speaking, writing talent. You might have to do some Arabic legwork yourself to get some projects off the ground.

Additionally with new pay-through-the-website feature coming soon, a lot of pressure on sorting out payments with freelancers will be alleviated. I’m also looking forward to a mobile app.

 

We would love to take this conversation further! Let us know your thoughts in the comments and connect with us on twitter

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!