Dubai has launched a cheaper freelance package aimed at people sponsored by their parent or partner and employees who want to earn money on the side.
The Gofreelance package from Tecom and Dubai Creative Cluster Authority offers specialists in education and media the opportunity to apply for a licence that will allow them to legally work in the two sectors for an annual fee of Dh7,500. That makes it about 70 per cent cheaper than before, according to Gofreelance.
The cost only covers the licence – a residential visa is subject to an additional cost of Dh4,000, plus Dh2,000 for a bank guarantee, if it is required, according to Creative Zone, a business set-up consultancy.
The permit covers five activities in education, such as trainer, education adviser or researcher, and 50 activities in media, including actor, artist, journalist and social-media specialist.
Mohammad Abdullah, managing director of Dubai International Academic City and Dubai Knowledge Park, said Gofreelance will enable professionals in the education and HR sectors to offer their services at a more affordable rate.
“Businesses are increasingly turning to freelancers due to the need for flexibility and a more affordable workforce, especially during peak seasons, when the benefits of this pioneering offering will be most keenly felt,” Mr Abdullah said.
Experts said the new permit represents an opportunity for professionals to test out working for themselves for a “nominal” cost.
“We see this as an avenue for those who are currently employed as well as on dependent visas – parents or husbands – and wish to understand how viable their business ideas are in the marketplace without much financial commitment and career change,” said Raquel Luy Decena, business development director at Creative Zone.
“It also suggests work freedom for those looking to increase their income.”
However, applicants who are sponsored by a company must produce a non-objection certificate, which could be difficult for some, according to experts.
Steve Ashby, the founder of Businessmentals, a consultancy based in Dubai for freelancers and solopreneurs, worked in HR for 35 years.
"The chance that I would ever give an employee an NOC so they could do a side hustle, even if they promise me that they would never do it during work hours, is remote," Mr Ashby said.
“So I don’t think you are going to find too many employers who will do that because many employment contracts specifically prohibit working for anyone else.”
Mr Ashby said there are an estimated 100,000 licensed freelancers in the UAE, and another 100,000 to 150,000 "incognitos" who do freelance work on the side in addition to their own jobs to earn extra income.
This is one way of bringing them into the fold legally, he said.
“This is a significant change because now you are allowing people to operate who will by and large never qualify to pay VAT, because most people who are freelancers will not earn $50,000 [Dh183,658, the minimum for voluntary registration],” Mr Ashby said.
“If you have a job and are earning $50,000, maybe you are going to quit your job.”
But if they do, they must also consider the additional cost of sponsorship, he added.