17 Steps to Start a Freelancing Business in Dubai While Working Full-Time

8 Mins read

UAE provides a very flexible environment for both investors and employees to achieve a good business operation. Incentives provided by the government have brought on board very many foreign investors in the region. This has made the futuristic country one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

Research by and YouGov entitled ‘Entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa 2017’ found out that 78% of those employed in the UAE are already starting their own business or planning to do so. Some of the reasons these people give are closely related to having a chance to work on something they are passionate about or an opportunity to make more money. If you wish to start your own freelance business in the UAE and are employed, this post will take you through the nitty-gritty of starting a freelancing business in Dubai.

Is it legal to start a freelance business while still employed in the UAE?

Even while under someone else’s sponsorship, it is very legal for one to start another business. According to the UAE labor laws, one can start their own business even underemployment by someone else. The only important document they have to get is a NOC (No Objection Certificate) from their current company or employer. This will mean that they have the green light to start a side business while still under the supervision of someone else, so long as their new business does not interfere with their current employment. Not all companies, however, will let their employees have the NOC. This has prompted the government to have NOC-free zones. The five zones which do require No Objection Certificates are;

  • Sharjah Media City Free Zone
  • Fujairah Free Zone Authority
  • Ajman Free Zone
  • Creative City Fujairah
  • Umm Al-Quwain (UAQ) Free Trade Zone

Documents required to start working as a freelancer in Dubai

Before starting off your application for a freelancing license, you will need a number of supporting documents. These are;

  • A color photograph of yourself
  • Relevant academic qualifications
  • A copy of your passport
  • No Objection Certificate from your current employer
  • A copy of your residency visa which is valid for over six months

Steps to start a freelancing business while still employed in Dubai

There are 17 key steps to be followed when you need to start a freelancing business in Dubai if still underemployed. Let us jump right in.

1. Identify Your Purpose & Define Your Goals By Asking Yourself A Few Questions.

    • What is the purpose of my freelancing business? Your purpose is different and bigger than your goals. Your business will be successful if the purpose of your business is to solve a problem and enhance the lives of your customers and society as a whole. The purpose of your business is often closely related to the purpose of life. However, your goals are more specific, for example, make AED 100,000 per month to buy a home for your parents, finance the education of your children, friends, or establish an orphanage or an old age home. When the purpose is clear, you are more focused on achieving the goals.
    • Identify why you wish to start freelancing in the UAE? You should always assess the market before starting your freelancing career. If you wish to settle in the UAE, then starting a freelancing business in the region would be a great idea. You should identify the opportunities available to freelancers in the UAE to be able to make the most of your capabilities.
    • What is your passion? Find out what you are passionate about because when you pursue your passion, your work becomes easy and less tiring. There is nothing more fulfilling than doing something you love.

2. Be Realistic And Honest To Yourself

    • You should know whether your freelance work will interfere with your current work obligations. Determine how much time does your freelance business requires.
    • Always be mindful of your other commitments and personal capacity. Some people are very passionate about their work. They can often spend hours working tirelessly. They see work as a stress buster. However, there are people who like to engage in other activities to unwind after work. You should be honest to yourself in determining how much time you can set aside for freelancing before committing to a freelancing job.

3. Breakdown Your Goals Into Daily Tasks

    • State your daily goals and make sure you mark them as “achieved” every day.
    • Maintain a daily calendar of activities. You could also use it for recording the time you spend on each activity.
    • You could maintain the calendar in Excel or Google Spreadsheets. You can use more sophisticated apps for project management, for example, Basecamp (free for teachers when you sign up with your work ID), or Monday.

4. Confirm Your Visa Eligibility.

    • Are you legally able to receive a working visa in the UAE? Make sure you have a valid UAE visa to be able to operate from the UAE as a freelancer.
    • What are the requirements to get one? You can read our detailed article Ultimate Guide: Freelance Visa in Dubai, UAE to learn more about the visa requirements in the UAE.

5. Apply For The Freelancer License.

    • The first thing to do is to apply for a license in a jurisdictional zone you wish to work in.
    • if you already have a visa from your current employer, then you can apply for Freelance Work Permit without the visa, and save the visa cost that adds up to AED 3,500.

Read our article Ultimate Guide: Freelance Visa & Work Permit in Dubai, UAE to learn all about the freelance work permit requirements and process.

6. Virtual Office In Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

There is no compulsion for an official setup but some zones will require you to get one if it is in their laws. You might be provided with flexi desks in some zones. You can also get a virtual office in a business center in Dubai, that gives you

    • an address, in areas like Dubai Downtown, Business Bay, Sheikh Zayed Road, Marina, etc.
    • A P.O. Box number; although you will be sharing the same PO Box number with other businesses in the same office.
    • a Landline number,
    • a professional receptionist to answer your calls,
    • an office boy,
    • Cutting-edge conference rooms with projectors.
    • Internet and other facilities, including printers and photocopying machines.
    • a number of hours are also allowed for office usage, depending on your package.
    • The starting price for virtual offices in Dubai is AED 700/month only.

7. Manage Your Time Well

  • After you reach home, spend time with your family to get re-energized.
  • If you have kids, put the kids to sleep by the latest 8:00 pm to get some time for yourself.
  • Get at least 5 hours of sleep so you can start the work fresh early morning. If you hit the bed by 10:00 PM, you can wake up by 3:00 am and start working on your business. By 8:00 am you would have worked for 5 hours on your business like Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and several other successful individuals we look up to.
  • If you want to work in peace, then you could get all the work done after everybody goes to sleep to avoid any distraction. Very few people are willing to sacrifice their sleep for work. If you are one of those people who are willing to go the extra mile, then success becomes inevitable, sooner or later you will make it!
  • If you do not have enough time to finish the work in 5 hours, then consider hiring freelancers/virtual assistants who can help you get the work done.
  • You should divide your time well between tasks, where getting new clients is vital in growing your business, you should not compromise on the quality of your services to the number of projects you have. Also between a job and extra freelancing work you will have very limited time for your freelancing gigs. So start small and scale if you feel you can handle the pressure. Therefore, focus on the quality and not your quantity.
  • Also, treat your weekends and holidays as boosters to cover up all your major work. Keep all the major work for those days and use these days to clear all your backlog.

8. Have your pricing and proposals ready.

  • In some instances, you need to customize your pricing and proposal to match the client’s requirements. However, you can come up with a basic pricing and proposal template that you can reuse for all your clients. You can choose pricing charts and proposal templates from Microsoft Word Templates, you can use online tools like Prezi to create highly professional proposals which will surely impress your prospects.
  • You can also attach your standard Terms & Conditions, contracts, or engagement letter with your proposal to speed up the sales process.
  • Make your proposals as short and to the point, because normally people don’t like going through big 5 to 6 page proposals. Keep it max 2 to 3 pages.

9. Build A Portfolio

  • Work on building your freelancer profile in order to attract new clients.
  • As freelancers, you need to increase your credibility. Ask your clients to give you testimonials on LinkedIn and Bawabba. Then include those testimonials on your website, proposals, presentations along with your profile link for verification.

10. Have Self-Discipline

  • As a freelancer, you are your own boss. Which means there is no one to push you. You have to push yourself. Be strict with yourself.
  • Your goals and purpose should be so clear that nothing can stop you from achieving them.

11. Have a mentor

  • Find a mentor to help you overcome obstacles & challenges that arise in any business.
  • Your mentor should be someone who has already done, what you are setting out to. Choose your mentor wisely.
  • Highlight your weak areas, then find someone who is an expert in those areas to mentor you and turn your weaknesses into your biggest strengths.
  • There are many mentoring platforms in Dubai. AstroLab is running a mentoring platform. There are mentoring platforms for women, for example, The Link. Although, most mentoring platforms support startups and entrepreneurs.
  • Freelancers can still find platforms like Unwind The Grind, to find mentors who can help with their freelancing career in Dubai.

12. Constant improvement

  • Thrive to enhance your skills to beat your competitors.
  • Sign-up for online courses to learn from the experts.
  • Keep learning, as you can never learn everything. Years ago, Earl Nightingale, a famous American author said that 1 hour/day of learning in your selected field will put you at the top of your field within 3 years, in 5 years you’ll be a national authority, while within 7 years, you can become one of the best experts in the world at what you do.

13. Join A Mastermind Group

14. Disconnect yourself from negative people

  • Negative people are the biggest hurdle in your success. They can ruin the way you look at yourself.
  • Stay away from people who doubt your abilities and hold you back from achieving your dreams.
  • Develop a positive “self-image”, by surrounding yourself with positive people who appreciate you and have a positive outlook on life.

15. Start Networking

  • If you are serious about growing your freelance business then attend suitable networking events. Smaller events and workshops are usually more interactive, where you tend to develop more meaningful professional relationships.
  • Exchange business cards and find new clients.
  • Explore new business opportunities.
  • Find new partners and investors to help you grow your business.

16. Do Not Be Afraid Of Making Mistakes.

  • You are likely to make mistakes during the first year. Mistakes are just a stepping stone towards your ultimate success. But do not repeat the same mistakes twice.

17. Do Not Give Up

  • You only lose when you give up. Therefore, giving up is not an option, continue to work hard. If you fail, then work harder and better next time.


The concept of Freelancing in the UAE is still taking shape with a reported rise of freelancers. However, in Dubai, freelancing is still relatively new and maybe misunderstood and underestimated by your peers in some cases. We must acknowledge that no work is small. If you are passionate about what you do then it’s worth doing it. Whether employed or just taking up the freelancer career path from the word go, the process of getting started is pretty much the same. Have any questions or issues concerning freelancing in the UAE? Hit us up.

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