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I want to break free!

I want to break free!

Media freelancing is big business in Dubai, but working on your own terms is not easy. Here are its pros and cons.

November 9, 2008 9:27 by

Comes with the package. For solo freelancers who don’t need office space, Dubai Media City offers a “hot desk” package, granting individuals usage – on a first-come, first-serve basis – of any of 10 workstations at Media City’s Media Business Center in Building 2, the CNN building. The hot desk itself is something of a formality, since the option is aimed at those who work from home or, as is often the case, in the offices of clients. The costs include an annual “rental fee” of Dh 6,000 – payable regardless of whether you actually use the work station or any of the Business Center’s services – plus an annual freelance permit fee of Dh 7,500. Plus a joining fee of Dh 5,000, a three-year visa sponsorship fee of Dh 1,900, and a refundable security deposit of Dh 5,000. To cover this, Dubai Media City demands an immediate payment of Dh 15,000 ($4,087) along with an additional check for Dh 8,000 ($2,180) post-dated four months after the license start date. Fees rise considerably for those who want a desk or an office, or employees even.

Even at the lowest level, that’s no small amount when you add it up – especially considering that in today’s rent environment, one would be lucky to find a small room in a shared flat (which, remember, is technically illegal) for Dh 5,000 a month, usually payable six months to a year in advance. Therefore, those moving here from abroad, in the best case, would need to come up with at least Dh 45,000 (more than $12,000) just to get set up. That’s a conservative estimate that discounts a number of hurdles, such as starting a local bank account – likely needed for the post-dated check – before having a residence permit. It also means you’d mainly be working out of your bedroom.

So it’s no surprise that many freelancers find it easier to moonlight – that is, they do a bit on the side while working a regular job with a company that provides their visa. (That’s also technically illegal, by the way.) “It is far healthier to have a permanent job and, at the same time, reach an agreement with whomever you’re going to work with that you’re going to have the freedom to continue doing your writing,” says Rasha Owais, a freelance journalist who also works as a media consultant for multinational ad agency.

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  1. An Independent Photographer on November 9, 2008 9:47 pm

    This article really helped, thank you.
    After talking to several people in Dubai (over the phone) on the topic, I googled the issue, and found your website. Glad I did.
    All my best.
    – HH

  2. ZEI on November 10, 2008 10:34 am

    Someone wise once said that peanuts will get you only monkeys, But did I also hear someone say that only monkeys will be attracted to peanuts? You get paid for the real sotry, and the real stories rarely get written out here. Even if they sometimes do, they rarely get published in the local media.
    The big guys of the global media keep reporting about the Middle East as they have always done: with a myopic vision concealed behind dark glasses. So, in sum, you will keep getting what you keep getting if you keep doing what you keep doing. Simple.

  3. Tom Adler on November 12, 2008 9:33 am

    Interesting article!

    I’m a freelancer, a hardened one at that. Last year I was referred by a good friend to check out

    Obviously I was skeptical and wondering when they would ask for my credit card to sign up.

    Guess what? They don’t charge money. Its by invitation or referral basis. Its free.Their website (or online platform as they call it) does all the commissioning, payments, licensing, security etc. I post content regularly; besides get commissioned projects into my inbox.

    Because they operate on a global basis, payments are not limited to that measly ‘1 Dirham a word, circa 1994′

    Its a great service, very interesting business model, payments are a breeze, could be really big. Heard they won a lot of awards recently as well. Not surprised.

    And they’re based in Dubai! Well…thank god someone’s doing something outside real estate in that place.



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