If you're looking to self-start or be your own boss, here's a comprehensive guide on freelancing and how to be a freelancer in Dubai
13 November 2019| Last updated on 23 March 2021
You can legally be a freelancer in Dubai even with a full-time job
Do you prefer working alone? Are you great at networking or possess a decent network of contacts? Are you financially secure enough to go solo? Then freelancing might be for you.
Freelancing in the UAE has increasingly become a popular career choice thanks to the freelance permits and the many free-trade zones based across the country.
A freelance permit allows individuals who specialise in media, design, education, and technology to offer their services on an independent contractor basis. You are, essentially, a one-woman/one-man business.
It's a fairly easy and straightforward process that is steadily growing as an attractive career prospect in Dubai.
Ahead, we've compiled a handy guide on how to begin as a Dubai-based freelancer.
Requirements for freelancing in Dubai
Who can apply for a Dubai freelance permit
If you're interested in becoming a freelancer in Dubai, it's important to note the pre-requisites. Individuals in the following sectors are eligible to apply for a freelance permit:
- Educational advisor
- eLearning advisor
- Executive coach
- Academic or non-academic researcher
Media, Design, and Communications
- Film directors
- Actors and models
- Artists and animators
- Audio or sound engineers
- Music composers
- Content creators/provider
- Brand consultants
- Event planners
- Designers and stylists
- Lighting specialists
- Creative directors
- Marketing specialists
- PR specialists
- Social media specialists
- Social media influencers
And other specified roles related to the above specialties and industries.
- Web, software, and app development
- Data science
Legal requirements to be a freelancer
To work as a freelancer in Dubai, you will need the following document requirements:
- Updated resume
- Passport copy
- UAE visa copy (if you have it)
- Bank reference letter (either from an international or local UAE bank)(this can be from either your local or international bank)
- Sponsor or employer's NOC (if you are currently in the UAE on a work permit and/or a residency visa)
- Portfolio of your work
- Recommendation letter from your current or previous employer
- A copy of your business plan
- Credentials and certificates (for specialties that requires a certificate or license)
However, there are legal freelance schemes available for individuals at a lower cost. Dubai-based Tecom Group launched GoFreelance, wherein UAE residents can apply online for a freelance permit at just AED 7,500. This scheme was set up to meet the rising growth of free business in Dubai and to attract more skilled and talented people into the UAE. GoFreelance's permit also allows freelancers to sponsor immediate family members in Dubai.
To apply for a GoFreelance permit, you will need...
- A business plan
- Valid passport
- UAE visa
- Sponsor (husband or parent's) no objection letter
How much does it cost to be a freelancer
UAE residents can get a freelance permit package for a yearly fee of AED 7,500 which does not include the residency visa fee, insurance, immigration card, and other costs.
Combined, a freelance permit in Dubai can cost between AED 10,000 to AED 20,000 and must be renewed annually.
How to apply for a freelance permit in Dubai
Application process for a freelancer permit
- 1. Apply at the relevant free-trade zone authority in Dubai where you intend to hold a freelance permit
- 2. Submit an application for a freelance permit along with your business plan, portfolio, passport copy, and other mentioned requirements above
- 3. If the provisional approval is permitted, sign the confirmation letter received from the respective free-trade zone authority
- 4. Make the payments - freelance permit fee, etc.
- 5. Sign the free-trade zone sponsorship agreement
Then collect your freelance permit along with your UAE freelance visa.
Once you've received all approvals and permit to start working as a freelancer in the UAE, the free-zone authority will provide you with your own desk and business facilities.
Where to get a freelancer permit in Dubai
Freelancer permits can be obtained in Dubai from...
- Dubai Media City (DMC)
- Dubai Knowledge Park (DKP)
- Dubai Internet City (DIC)
- Dubai Design District (D3)
- Dubai Development Authority (DDA)
How long does the freelancer permit application process take
It takes between 7 to 14 business days to process and issue a freelancer permit.
Limitations of being a freelancer
There are several limitations to being a freelancer in Dubai. For one, the permit is only restricted to specialists in the media, education, design, and technology industry.
If a freelancer has a corporate client, the company might request them to provide a Tax Registration Number (TRN number) issued by Federal Tax Authority. This cannot be obtained by Dubai freelancers, which could limit their work with medium to large-scale businesses.
Business can only be conducted under the freelancer's name, as you cannot register a trading name.
Freelancers cannot have a company bank account as they do not have a trading name. All payments must be made to the freelancer's own bank account.
Employees cannot be hired by a freelancer.
It's a mandatory requirement for freelancers to register for VAT if they are earning between AED 187,500 and AED 375,000 per year.