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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

Will Dubai Media City really come to the aid of freelancers who don’t get paid? “That’s a load of crap,” says Bhavesh Dedhia, whose company, Lemon, offers copywriting services. “Media City is only concerned about getting the money. I’m being a little harsh here, because they’ve done a great job of setting up this Business Center. But freelancers are really not protected by anyone.” Dedhia began setting his own hours in 2003 and estimates only about 20 percent of clients pay on time. Over the years, he says, he’s had to sift through about 300 clients – writing off a lot of receivables in the meantime – before finding ones that have any payment discipline.

Dedhia upgraded to an LCC two years ago after finding that many potential clients wouldn’t give him the time of day without one. “People don’t associate freelancers with being professional,” he says. “I have seen a lot of negativity, so it helps to have a company. It at least gives me one measure of respectability.”

There’s a dilemma built into the system. The UAE needs to attract wunderkind media talent to keep the industry healthy. But those always seem to be the ones with the streak of the freewheeler in them, and in the UAE, that tends to put them on the edge of “respectability” and the law. Dubai Media City’s fees may be steep, and those with Western European or North American citizenship (plus Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Hong Kong) still seem to have the possibility of flying abroad or making an Omani border run every time their visas are due to expire. But continuing changes to the immigration rules – and the unpredictability of the unwritten legal code here – makes these options fraught with uncertainty. Freelancers may want to bear in mind that even Han Solo would have been better off staying on Jabba the Hutt’s good side.

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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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