How to Become a Freelancer or Self-Employed in Dubai

Explore the thriving world of freelancing in Dubai. Discover legal considerations, payment solutions, and expert advice for expat freelancers. Join Hubpay and unlock your freelance potential in the city of opportunities.

Explore the thriving world of freelancing in Dubai. Discover legal considerations, payment solutions, and expert advice for expat freelancers. Join Hubpay and unlock your freelance potential in the city of opportunities.

freelancer dubai
freelancer dubai
freelancer dubai

Dubai, the modern metropolis of the United Arab Emirates, is renowned for its dynamic economy and vibrant lifestyle. If you have marketable skills and dream of living in Dubai while working as a freelancer or being self-employed, you're in luck.

This modern oasis seamlessly blends futuristic marvels with the allure of desert landscapes, sun-kissed beaches, and exotic experiences. With its rapidly modernizing economy, Dubai is actively seeking skilled professionals who can deliver contract work efficiently. In fact, the demand for freelancers in Dubai saw a staggering 40% increase in the first quarter of 2016, as reported by the renowned Dubai-based freelancing website, If you are considering settling in this vibrant city for an extended period and possess marketable skills in development, website design, writing, editing, IT, marketing, or graphic design, Dubai offers limitless opportunities to not only earn a decent living but also bask in the sun as you work on your tan.

With the right approach and understanding of the local landscape, you can embark on a successful freelancing career in Dubai. This guide will equip you with essential insights and practical tips to navigate the path of becoming a freelancer or self-employed professional in this thriving metropolis.

This guide will provide you with essential tips and tricks for starting your freelancing career in Dubai, navigating the bureaucracy, and assembling the skills you need for success.

Understanding the Difference: Freelancer vs. Self-Employed

Before embarking on your freelancing journey in Dubai, it's crucial to grasp the distinction between being self-employed and being a freelancer. While both paths involve working independently, there are important nuances that set them apart.


Freelancers are individuals who offer their services to clients or companies on a project basis. They work autonomously and are not bound by traditional employment contracts. Freelancers often have specialized skills in areas such as writing, design, programming, marketing, or consulting. They provide their services to multiple clients, allowing them to work on a variety of projects simultaneously.

Research from the Global Business Survey conducted by Upwork and Freelancers Union in 2020 reveals that freelancers constitute a significant portion of the global workforce, with their numbers steadily increasing. In the United Arab Emirates, the demand for freelancers has been on the rise, driven by the country's thriving economy and the need for specialized expertise.


Self-employed individuals, on the other hand, are entrepreneurs who own and operate their own businesses. They have complete control over their enterprise and are responsible for its success or failure. Unlike freelancers, self-employed professionals often build a business structure that extends beyond their individual efforts. This can involve hiring employees, managing finances, and undertaking various administrative tasks.

Dubai's entrepreneurial landscape is experiencing significant growth, as the government actively supports and promotes the establishment of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). According to a report by the Dubai SME, the contribution of SMEs to Dubai's GDP increased to 52% in 2020, highlighting the importance of self-employed individuals and their businesses in the city's economy.

It's important to note that while freelancers are always self-employed, not all self-employed individuals are freelancers. Self-employment encompasses a broader spectrum of business ventures, including start-ups, consultancy firms, retail establishments, and more.

Understanding the distinction between freelancing and self-employment will help you determine which path aligns best with your skills, aspirations, and long-term goals in Dubai's thriving business landscape. Whether you choose to operate as a freelancer or establish your own business, Dubai offers a supportive environment for both options, allowing you to thrive and succeed in your chosen endeavour.

Legal Considerations: Freelancing in Dubai

Freelancing in Dubai presents a unique set of legal considerations. While the typical route to work in Dubai involves being employed by a UAE company or being married to a legal UAE resident, freelancers have an alternative option through the city's tax-exempt "free zones." These designated areas enable freelancers to operate independently and enjoy certain benefits. Here are key points to understand:

Free Zones:

Dubai boasts several free zones that cater to freelancers and entrepreneurs. These zones are geographical areas within the city where foreign workers can establish businesses in specific sectors. Notable free zones include Dubai Media City, Dubai Studio City, Dubai Production City, Dubai Knowledge Park, Dubai Design District, Dubai International Academic City, Abu Dhabi Twofour54, and Fujairah Creative City.

Research from the Dubai Creative Economy Strategy indicates that the creative and cultural industries are key contributors to Dubai's economic growth, with these free zones fostering innovation and entrepreneurship.

Licensing Requirements:

To operate as a licensed freelancer in Dubai, you must register your enterprise as a business and obtain a Trade License from the Department of Economic Development. Each free zone has its own registration procedures and fee structures, and it is advisable to seek guidance from a business development specialist to navigate the process smoothly. The fees for obtaining a freelance trade license can vary but typically involve a one-time payment, which was approximately 16,000 dirhams (around €3,850 or $4,350) at the time of this blog post.

Setting Up Your Workspace:

Depending on your trade license requirements, you may need to rent office space. If you prefer a flexible and collaborative environment, consider co-working spaces. These spaces allow freelancers to access well-equipped office facilities by paying a monthly fee. They also provide opportunities for networking and breaking the monotony of working from home.

International Payment options for freelancers in Dubai:

As an expat freelancer in Dubai, efficiently managing your payments is a crucial aspect of your business operations. While wire services like Western Union or Paypal are commonly used, it's essential to consider the fees and exchange rates charged by different financial institutions to maximize your earnings. Hubpay for Business presents a compelling option that offers advantages over traditional banks and transfer services. Here's why:

Real Exchange Rates and Cost Savings:

One of the key factors to consider when receiving payments as an expat freelancer is the exchange rate. Traditional banks and transfer services often impose high fees and use unfavourable exchange rates, which can eat into your earnings. However, Hubpay for Business differentiates itself by providing the real exchange rate—the same rate you would find on reputable platforms like Google. By eliminating hidden fees and offering transparent pricing, Hubpay ensures that you receive the maximum value for your hard-earned income.

Multi-Currency Business Account:

Dubai's position as an international hub attracts freelancers from around the world, necessitating the ability to transact in various currencies. The Hubpay multi-currency Business account is tailored to meet this need. With this account, you can send, manage, and receive money in multiple currencies, including the Emirates dirham, enabling seamless transactions with clients and collaborators across different regions.

Streamlined Payment Management:

Hubpay for Business provides a user-friendly platform that simplifies payment management for expat freelancers. The intuitive interface allows you to track incoming and outgoing payments, generate invoices, and manage your financial transactions efficiently. This streamlined process not only saves you time but also enhances your overall business operations.

Compliance and Security:

Compliance with financial regulations is crucial for expat freelancers in Dubai. Hubpay for Business ensures adherence to the necessary regulatory requirements, providing you with peace of mind and protecting your financial interests. Additionally, the platform prioritizes the security of your transactions, utilizing advanced encryption and security protocols to safeguard your sensitive data.

Tax Benefits for freelancers in Dubai:

One of the attractive aspects of freelancing in Dubai is the tax exemption for the first 50 years of operation. The UAE focuses on taxing industries like oil and finance, allowing freelancers to enjoy tax-free income. Unlike traditional employees, freelancers are not required to submit tax returns or maintain detailed accounts, freeing up valuable time to focus on business growth and deliverables.

Finding Freelance Jobs and Clients in Dubai:

To kickstart your freelance business, explore online platforms where companies and skilled workers connect. Upwork is a popular global platform that allows you to filter job opportunities within Dubai. Another prominent marketplace in the city is Nabbesh, with a large membership base. Create a compelling profile on these platforms, highlighting your skills and professionalism. Respond promptly to client inquiries, deliver projects on time, and be open to feedback to build a strong reputation.

Freelancing in Dubai made stress-free with Hubpay for Business

Dubai, with its thriving economy and forward-thinking visa system, presents abundant opportunities for freelancers and self-employed individuals. While the city may have higher living costs, its limitless potential and tax advantages make it an ideal place for 21st-century freelancers to establish their brands. By following the tips and insights shared in this guide, you can set yourself up for a successful freelancing career in Dubai.

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways:

  • Dubai offers a dynamic economy and diverse opportunities for skilled freelancers.

  • Freelancers work independently on behalf of other companies or organizations, while self-employed individuals own their own businesses.

  • Freelancers in Dubai can operate in tax-exempt "free zones" such as Dubai Media City and Dubai Design District.

  • To become a licensed freelancer, you need to register your enterprise as a business and obtain a Trade License from the Department of Economic Development.

  • Seeking guidance from a business development specialist can help navigate the registration process and requirements.

  • Wire services like Hubpay for Business offer advantages over traditional banks, providing real exchange rates and saving on fees.

  • The Hubpay multi-currency Business account enables expat freelancers to transact in multiple currencies, including the Emirates dirham.

  • Dubai's tax exemption policy allows freelancers to enjoy tax-free income for the first 50 years of operation.

  • Freelancers in Dubai can find opportunities through online platforms like Upwork and Nabbesh.

  • Building a strong reputation by delivering quality work on time and being responsive to feedback is key to attracting clients and securing freelance jobs in Dubai.

Join the ever-growing community of thousands of freelancers that have already reaped the benefits of our platform. Elevate your transactions to new heights with Hubpay.