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Freelancing in the Arab world: 7 reasons why the time is now

Do you live in the GCC/MENA region? Are you jobless? Suffering from salary cuts with an uncertain future? We have you covered. There has never been a better time to freelance than today

The GCC is expected to have negative growth of 7.3% Nabbesh has access to over 100,000 registered freelancers The cost for establishing a freelance company may vary between $2,725 to $5,450

Do you live in the GCC/MENA region? Are you jobless? Suffering from salary cuts with an uncertain future? We have you covered. There has never been a better time to freelance than today.

The COVID-19 induced economic mess decimated businesses and left countless unemployed. 

The gig economy is about temporary, flexible jobs where companies tend to hire you as an independent contractor or freelancer instead of full-time employee.

It is your way out. Watch this 1-min video for a quick explanation.


But first the facts.

Read: Killer economics: Are Covid-19 lockdowns a thing of the past?

Economic downturn 

Let’s start with a sobering thought. CNN reported yesterday that UK economic output shrank by 20.4% in the second quarter of 2020, the worst quarterly slump on record, pushing the country into the deepest recession of any major global economy.

It’s a softer blow for the region. 

Regional economic growth in 2020 and 2021 will be slow and anemic. Lower Brent oil prices, COVID-19 stimulus spending, and travel restricted tourism are coming at a substantial cost. 

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Saudi Arabia’s economy, the largest economy in the region, is projected to contract 6.8% in 2020. Saudi is expected to gradually return to growth of about 3% in 2021. 

Jihad Azour, Director, Middle East and Central Asia Department, IMF, said recently said the GCC is expected to have negative growth of 7.3%.  

In its regional economic outlook update, the IMF projected the MENA economies to contract by 5.7% in 2020, the lowest in over 50 years, according to World Bank data.

Oxford Economics predicted in May that employment across the GCC could fall by 13% this year, with job losses of some 1.7 million in Saudi and 900,000 in the UAE.

Enough proof for you?

So now the solutions that governments and startups are coming up with to create better agility for both the economy and the workforce. 

Gigs Galore

1- The Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development launched the “flexible work system” to enable job seekers to engage in the labour market, and increase their chances of finding a permanent job.

2- Dubai Economy, in partnership with the Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG), has launched “The Great Economic Reset Programme” planning to support the shift to remote working and the rise of the gig economy and flexible working. 

3-Ureed, one of the GCC largest freelance marketplaces connecting expert freelance talents with employers, recently closed a 7-figure seed fund from Wamda, and Anova Investments. The funds will be used to fuel the company’s expansion across multiple markets and to continue attracting top talent in technology, growth, and business development. 

They additionally said they plan to acquire Nabbesh, a freelance marketplace that provides tech solutions for freelancers to work remotely or on-site with employers. Nabbesh has access to over 100,000 registered freelancers. 

4- Dubai-based advisory services provider GIGS Advisory has established a strategic alliance with Strategic Anchors to assist architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) to form expert teams of senior sector professionals and become more agile and flexible and utilize the gig economy.

5- Rizek, an Abu Dhabi-based start-up, raised $3.5 million in seed funding that will help the service marketplace firm to increase job opportunities for gig workers with service-based income through the portal.

6- Dubai-based employment startup Ogram has raised $870,000 in a Pre-Series A (equity) round by Global Ventures.

Ogram is an online marketplace that connects on-demand vetted gig workers with temporary (mostly part-time) job opportunities in different sectors (mainly F&B, hospitality, ecommerce, and logistics).

It claims to have served over 450 businesses and individual clients in the UAE and over 1,050 active service providers placing over 2,000 jobs per month.

7- Sabbar, a similar Saudi marketplace that connects on-demand part-time workers with temporary job opportunities had raised $1.5 million in a seed round.

Read: 5 unconventional, yet effective, ways to stay productive when working remotely

Dubai’s Gig economy ranking globally

Worldwide, the projected gross volume of the gig economy is expected to reach $455 bn by 2023, according to Statista. 

Dubai’s Gig economy ranking globally
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How to set up a freelance company in Dubai

In order to set up a freelancing company, one must require a license and permit from the relevant authority either mainland or free zone. Importantly, one must possess a work permit or residence visa for working as a freelancer in Dubai. 

Several free zones offer freelancing license that is Dubai Media City, Dubai Studio City, Dubai Production City, RAK free zone, Twofour54 free zone, Ajman Free zone and can issue a license within 10 business days.

The free zone will provide you with common office space and a mutual PO Box number. The cost for establishing a  freelance company may vary between AED 10,000 to AED 20,000 ($2,725 to $5,450). 

Some important documents necessary for obtaining the licenses would be primarily as follows:

  1. Letter of reference from the bank;
  2. Resume;
  3. No-objection certificate from the current sponsor;
  4. Passport and visa copy.