Seven legal ways to earn a side income in the UAE

From renting out your home to selling personal items without paying for a trade licence – there are several ways to make extra money

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People in the UAE whose incomes are affected by Covid-19 or are simply looking to make a little extra money on the side have a variety of ways to do so.

Nearly all business or labour activities require a licence or permit in the Emirates, but there are some affordable options with decent returns and others that do not need a licence at all.

As the world's markets recover from the effects of Covid-19, recruiters said the gig economy was here to stay, offering jobseekers temporary solutions to earn an income.

The pandemic affected nearly all sectors and industries worldwide, causing many redundancies and pay cuts.

Here are seven legal ways UAE residents can earn a side income. These can be taken on by people job hunting or those with full-time jobs, provided they have approval from their employer.

1. Promotion jobs

Promotion jobs are offered by companies looking to promote their products in places such as shopping malls, supermarkets and at events.

They are popular with university students and those on a dependent visa, because companies hiring for these roles offer temporary work permits.

Depending on the hours and company, a promoter can earn between Dh3,000 and Dh15,000 a month.

The role varies from handing out flyers, educating customers on the product or distributing samples. If it is an event, responsibilities could include ushering, waitressing or emceeing.

It could be a day job, week-long role or short-term contract.

Salman Kaka, 23, has been in the promotions industry since he was 18.

“It’s a very good way to make extra income and cover your daily expenses,” said Mr Kaka, who is studying for a master's degree in business administration.

He is on a six-month contract with Velocity Events Management, where he earns Dh4,000 a month, plus commission. They have provided him with a temporary work permit.

Mr Kaka said these opportunities help with networking and could lead to permanent positions.

Opportunities in the promotions industry are advertised widely on social media, especially Facebook group pages and on messaging apps such as WhatsApp.

2. Take part in flea markets

Dubai Flea Market allows residents to sell old and unique items from their house.

It takes place in different areas of the emirate a few times each month and is open to the public.

Those interested in selling can book a table for Dh305, and are likely to make a fast return on the money spent because these events get crowded quickly with people looking for great deals.

A booking can be made online on the official Dubai Flea Market website.

A trade licence or permit is not required.

Mohammed Al Hamwi, owner of the flea market, said people were allowed to sell only personal items rather than anything commercial.

“The flea market as been running in the UAE for 12 years and is very popular among people looking to sell their unused and old items,” he said.

3. Rent out your villa or apartment

If you live in Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah, you can register with Dubai Tourism or RAK Tourism to legally rent out your home on Airbnb, a home-renting mobile app.

It is open to tenants and homeowners. A trade licence from the economic department is required and prices vary between the two emirates.

In Dubai, the annual cost is about Dh35,000. Price for the permit, renewed annually, from Dubai Tourism depends on how many bedrooms your apartment or villa has.

Tenants are required to get approval from their landlords.

The cost may seem pricey, but one Dubai resident who has turned this side gig into a full-time business said “the money gets covered in no time”.

Sonia Ngninkeu, 30, rents out her one-bedroom apartment in Dubai Financial Centre for Dh250 a night. She is renting the place for Dh70,000 annually until 2024.

“I used to be a real estate agent and was selling villas. The owners of these houses were asking me to help them rent their new homes and I realised this was a great way for an income,” she said.

“I live in a villa and I rent out two bedrooms there as well.”

She said she earns Dh8,000 a month by renting out the apartment, earning her a profit of Dh26,000.

She also has a business where she rents out other people’s holiday homes, and earns a 5 per cent commission on each property.

With Dubai’s winter tourism drive, this option is a solid choice for an extra source of income.

4. Freelance

Professionals in the media, marketing, social media, graphic design, copywriters, legal experts, IT or a range of other fields can get short-term gigs as a freelancer.

Freelancing requires an annually renewed permit that starts from Dh7,500 in Dubai. Freelance visas and permits with Tecom are some of the popular options.

Nevin Lewis, chief executive of Black and Grey, a human resources company, is advising freelancers to properly calculate pay rates and speak to reputable agencies so they are protected.

"Professionals must be adaptive to see the significant upside opportunity with the rise of gig economy and part-time work," Mr Nevin said.

“We must all contribute to the future of work, whether we like it or not.”

Freelancers can choose how many and which assignments they want to take on, or they can be hired on a short-term contract.

TWJRJ2 Arab saudi businessman working online with a laptop and tablet in his comfortable cabinet or office. Male model as an enterpreneur. Concept of business, finance, modern technologies, start up, economy.
Some options exist for people to make a small income online as a secondary job or while seeking full-time employment. Alamy

5. Earn a small income online

Some of the most popular ways to earn online is through freelancing on Fiverr. The website allows people to take on individual jobs as a translator, writer and all sorts of other required services. A freelancing permit may be required in some cases.

If you play competitive games, you can live stream them on online platforms such as Twitch and sign up for affiliate marketing programmes, which help gamers to earn small amounts of income.

Teachers, medical professionals or legal experts can also use e-learning platforms to connect with people in other parts of the world for paid services.

It is always recommended to use trusted online payment platforms for safe transactions.

6. Part-time jobs

Those already employed can accept part-time jobs, after getting approval from their company.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation allows employees to take part-time jobs, and a permit can be obtained online from their official website.

The second employer has to cover the cost of the part-time permit. More information on working for two different employers is available online.

Photo Taken In Bangkok, Thailand
Part-time work is available for people seeking a second income. Getty

7. Jobs for young people

Young people aged from 15 to 18 can take on part-time jobs, with contracts that do not exceed one year.

Written approval from parents must be given and the hiring company cannot have any outstanding offences on its licence.

Part-time opportunities were made available to young people to help them gain experience in their desired fields, as well as earn a small income to help with their daily expenses.

The ministry has outlined the documents required to apply for a permit.