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Top ten rules of freelancing in the UAE

By Staff

Freelancing is a work option for many in the UAE. Increasingly many companies are looking to hire freelance workers in various fields such as programmers, web developers, designers, writers, data entry staff and more at a fraction of the cost when compared to full-time employees.

Though freelancing seems a viable and an attractive way to work for many in the country, there are employees who are not sure about the rules that should govern their scope of work.

Nabbesh, an exclusive website for freelancers in the country has come up with its list of top rules that a freelancer should remember.

“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 have compiled a list of some of the most frequently asked questions to give you insights into the UAE’s rules on freelancing,” said a spokesperson of the website.

Here are the top ten rules complied by the website.

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 licence?

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

3. What kind of licence do I need?

The kind of licence 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 licence 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 licence types in the DED are:
1. Commercial (51 per cent Emirati-owned; 49 per cent foreign-owned), and;
2. Services/Professional/Consultancy (100 per cent expat-owned with a local Emirati service agent).

b. Free Zone (FZ) Business Setup

For the free zones, both of the above licence options apply, but the main differences are 1. an Emirati partner is not required, and 2. FZ businesses are 100 per cent 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 per cent 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.


5. If I’m not a resident, may I obtain a residency visa through one of these licence 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 labour 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 licence 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 licence 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 licence 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 licence, 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.