The number of freelancers in the UAE and across the world shot up during and after the 2008 economic slowdown, when several took to part-time work as a solution to help foot the bills as companies scaled back on full-time opportunities.
Since then, freelancing has remained popular in the UAE, especially with the country’s laws making it perfectly legal to work part-time if certain guidelines are adhered to.
Read: Make more money, but is freelancing legal in UAE?
This is evident in the growing number of people who now sport the freelance badge.
For instance, members of Nabbesh, a website for freelancers in the UAE, has doubled in less than two years – from 30,000 in 2013 to 73,693 this year, registering a strong growth in the number of people looking for supplementary income and work options.
According to Hazel Jackson, Chief Executive Officer, biz-group, a UAE-based business consultancy, there has definitely been a spike in the number of people approaching them for freelance work.
“There has certainly been an increase in freelancers reaching out to us in the fields of training, consultancy and digital support. We are also contacted by HR consultants, coaches and digital media freelancers,” she tells Emirates 24|7.
“The Free Zone support and networking groups are making operating as a freelancer more viable,” she adds.
However, there are some stumbling blocks that are holding back the true potential of this category of workforce in the country.
Jackson believes freelancers in the country are in for the long haul but there are hurdles that need to be crossed by companies and employers who depend on them for work.
#1 Cowboy freelancers
Just as with many full-time candidates, freelancers too are not specific when it comes to looking for work. Jackson says many freelancers who write to them don’t give much thought to the seriousness that entails with any job search.
“Some of this is strategic, targeted communication, but mostly it is blanket emails or LinkedIn requests with little thought,” she tells this website.
#2 Rigid corporate policies
UAE-based businesses often still view freelancers as a cheaper resource. They don’t change their payment policies or time to close deals, resulting in many failures due to a lack of cash flow.
#3 No cash buffers
“In conjunction with this, many freelancers aren’t aggressive enough with their sales plans, or don’t have the 6-8 months of operating cash I think it takes to establish themselves,” she says.
“Everyone starts with the intention of the long haul, but few succeed because of these reasons,” explains biz-group expert while highlighting the problems with both the parties involved.
The win-win strategy
There remains hope for those that are serious about it, and freelancing is here to stay.
In fact, freelancing is a top HR trend that is expected to define the market. As per biz-group findings, the workforce-on-demand trend is on the rise due to an increasingly unsteady and fast-moving business environment.
“A lot of UAE businesses are seasonal – we are quieter as a training company during the summer months, but it’s hectic during October-May,” she notes.
“So, engaging freelancers when we are busy enables us to have the resources when we need them, without carrying heavy salary costs during the summer. Secondly, it might be specific skills that you need for a project, that won’t be needed beyond a project,” she adds.
At the end of the day, contract-workers and employers both need each other. The win-win strategy is one where both see value in each other’s proposition, and are sensitive to the other side’s needs.
Beyond flexibility, the workforce-on-demand model can also offer companies the ability to explore and identify potential innovators, technical experts, and seasoned professionals.
“It is more about demand planning and scale, than about saving money on a particular job,” says Jackson while explaining the benefits of freelance workers to companies.