Whether you’re looking to augment your income, save more or add a few dirhams to pay off debt, there are some great ways to put your skills to work to legally make extra money.
Words by Ferdinand Godinez
With the rising cost of living in the UAE and value added tax (VAT) here, it can’t hurt to think of ways to earn a little extra. There are many ideas worth exploring to give your income even a slight boost.
Take note, however, that the UAE has strict regulations in place for any side projects that involve financial transactions. To avoid running into trouble, take the time to check with authorised firms, to know whether you’ll need trade, e-commerce or a freelance license and whether you need to register for VAT.
Once you have locked down the legalities then there’s no reason not to push through with your plan.
Looking for ideas? Here are some that might inspire you…
A bit crafty
If you are the creative type, you can try selling your own artsy creations for a profit.
Suzie Curtis, the bubbly designer behind the Hello Tinkymoo brand, is a great example of someone doing just that.
“I started my business out of a love of colour, design and expressionism. I always struggled to find anything bright and fun so I decided to make my own. I’ve always been a painter and sewer so I started my business making fun, sustainable and one-of-a-kind items,” says Suzie who obtained her business licence through RAK Freezone.
“I make things from canvas and acrylic paint such as bags, purses, baby booties, yoga pants and women’s gym wear for all sizes,” she says.
Suzie is actively promoting her brand online, and she’s a regular at most of the bazaars in the city.
“If it’s a great day I can generate a few thousand dirhams and walk away a happy business owner. On a bad day, you may not even cover the cost of your table.
“But what has always worked for me is selling something I am passionate about. Know your product inside and out, and start slow – you’re not going to make millions in the first week. And remember just to have fun. Happiness and a smile will always bring in business.”
So following Suzie’s lead perhaps you could create unique and stylish clothes. Maybe you have the eye and ability to make amazing jewellery, or do you have the perfect blend of sarcasm and style that would lend itself to coming up with ironic or edgy T-shirt designs?
Bazaars are very helpful in providing venues for small businesses to reach out to their target customers.
Organisers that regularly hold pop-up markets around the city include ARTE – The Makers’ Market, and organic produce advocate Ripe Me.
Sell pre-loved items like clothes, books, DVDs, toys and gadgets at the weekly Dubai Flea Markets or any of the many second-hand goods pages on social media. Check out the markets’ websites to know how you can take part, how much are the fees for table rentals and what are the requirements.
Make sure to ask about permits and if the organisers will take care of the necessary paperwork, at least for the event, on behalf of the participants.
The online option
Do you have belongings you don’t use anymore? You can sell them on Dubizzle. The UAE-based classifieds website carries a diverse array of items up for sale from electronics, home appliances, mobile phones, musical instruments to sports equipment and even vouchers.
Online marketplace mukhtara.com is another worthwhile option for small business owners looking for a platform to sell and promote their items.
Co-founder and managing director, Manal Elmomani, says: “They’ll get exposure to the Middle East because we deliver in the UAE and to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
“This is a nice avenue for them to continue selling their products as outdoor markets slow down because of the weather. Interested sellers can sign up through our website, provide details and we’ll take it from there. It’s very easy.”
Also worth checking out is littlemajlis.com, which houses more than GCC-based 250 independent merchants and small brands selling clothes, jewellery, furniture, art, homewares and more.
Co-founder Annabelle Fitzsimmons adds: “Sales made are covered by our own licensing. Some of our sellers hold their own trade licences, but many are independent designers, artists and makers or micro-businesses with only one or two employees so operating a shop front through us allows them to sell online quickly, easily and with low overheads.”
How the internet can help you succeed!
Carrie Mitchell, founder of The Joinery Shop – a handcrafted gifts and homeware boutique shop – vouches for the benefits of teaming up with e-commerce websites.
“Licensing and setting up a tiny business can cost a lot here in the UAE and Little Majlis offered us the opportunity to have an online shop without the costs and hassle of building and designing our own website.
“In the past year or two we’ve increasingly come to rely on our online sales so the website has been invaluable to our little business developing,” adds Carrie.
For some residents, the real fun starts when the clock hits five and the spotlight calls. If you are musically inclined, there are options you can look at to make some extra income.
Head of business operations by day, Miraz Saleh, sheds the corporate life in the evening to spin the decks and dish out beats for partygoers.
“I started by DJing for private events of friends like birthdays and weddings then slowly moved my way up to clubs and hotels,” he recalls.
A DJ can earn around AED 3,000 for a three-hour set depending on experience and the organiser’s budget. With fierce competition, self-marketing through social media and word of mouth are essential to increase your chances of landing gigs.
“My advice is don’t compromise on your rate. Put an amount according to market standards; don’t downgrade your fees just for the gigs,” adds Miraz.
Perhaps you fancy yourself a future movie star? The UAE has hosted a number of movie productions over the years including Furious 7, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and War Machine.
Bollywood movies in production are also constantly looking at the country as an attractive shooting destination.
Miranda Davidson Studios – the entertainment company that provides casting services for film, TV and commercials – have a talent registration page on its website for those who fancy seeing themselves as extras. CEO Miranda Davidson says hired talents can make around AED 400 to AED 2,500 on average per project.
Similar agencies here engaged in discovering talents and models both for on cam and print projects are Bareface (bareface.com) and MMG Talent (mmgtalent.com).
More great ideas (freelance!)
There are a handful of websites dedicated to freelancing for people skilled in web and mobile app development, graphic designing, writers, personal assistant, transcriptionist, marketing experts and much more.
Looking to freelance and connect with companies and entrepreneurs as a freelancer? You can sign up to online sites like upwork.com
On the local front, we have nabbesh.com where people can register and offer their services. Again, note that you need a licence to freelance so study the options available to make sure you’re following the regulations.
The country’s rich expat population means there’s room for translators and even language teachers. One way to scout for opportunities is through your home country’s embassy here, as they often get enquiries for recommendations.
Passionate about baking? You’ll be glad to know that there’s a market here for customised cakes (particularly for children’s parties). You can start by joining bazaars to get the word out or meet event organisers. You need a valid UAE trade licence relevant to the food being sold or prepared.
Good at painting? Sell some works by grouping up with fellow artists in the community for possible exhibitions.
Is your voice deep, tonal, and rich? Why not try dabbling in the field of audiobook voice acting? Sign up on acx.com, and audition by recording a few lines from chosen manuscripts found on the website’s database.
Keep an eye on contests such as design, digital short films and photography as some offer cool cash prizes. Many talented artists and shutterbugs in the city have won in these sponsored competitions.
Make it legal
Selling items and offering services for a fee online or offline requires necessary permits in the UAE.
To sell online, you will need to secure an e-commerce licence through the Department of Economic Development (DED). Another option is registering through a freezone, where an authorised consultant will guide you through the rules.
The same process applies when applying for a trade license, the permit given to all businesses big or small.
Bazaar sellers are also required to have a license. However, in some cases, market organisers can help them in obtaining permits which will allow them to take part.
Writers, designers, animators and other media professionals wanting to freelance, Dubai Media City is the place to go for licensing.
Finally, employers will have different policies about their employees earning extra money. So, make sure to check your employment contract and consult with your company’s HR department before going ahead.
Looking for help? These companies can help you get the correct licence and permit:
Creative Zone: creativezone.ae