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 kippreport
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.