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Full-Time Employee or Freelancer: Who Should You Hire in the UAE?

Hire in the UAE, full-time employees have become the traditional business model for employers worldwide. It has been an effective model and remains prevalent today. At the same time, the availability of skilled freelancers and the advantages of hiring them have been growing. UAE business owners are becoming increasingly cognizant of the choices available to them. This article provides information and input to better understand and compare the two options.

Full-Time Employees:

According to estimates by the World Bank, ex-pats comprise close to 90% of the UAE’s total population of more than 9.5 million. Foreign workers have long been the main ingredient of a vast skill pool. Which has enabled the UAE’s economy to grow over the decades? The overwhelming majority of these ex-pats are full-time employees of Emirati firms. The collective governments of the seven Emirates adopted policies to attract and retain top talent. Low taxes and good working conditions are the most notable among such policies. The ease and speed of getting a UAE work permit are commendable as well. The percentage of foreigners in the workforce indicates that Emirati employers, except for the country’s public sector, largely prefer employing ex-pats to locals.

Freelancers vs. Full-Time Staff:

There are several roles for which employees will always be preferable to freelancers. These are jobs with longer learning curves and/or require building long-term relationships. Strong working relationships with clients and other stakeholders are built over time. Most forms of management require rapport building. In many skilled jobs such as law firms, consultancies, and medical occupations, professionals hone their talents over time. The formal commitment of a full-time employee, backed by the legal assurance of a work contract is a fitting assurance to such a role.

On the other hand, there may be short-term, one-time assignments, which are non-core but essential. These may include audits, on the job training, statistical analysis and so on. It does not make business sense to have an auditor, trainer or analyst on your full-time staff if these are not your core businesses. It is much more suitable to hire a skilled freelancer with proven skills, get the job done well with minimal overhead cost, and move on.

Benefits of Hiring Freelancers:

As an employer, you would only pay a freelancer for the net output as per your mutual agreement. Costs such as visas, gratuity, healthcare, insurance, and benefits are avoided. The cost per unit of work done by freelancers can, therefore, be substantially less than having full-time staff. Employers can bypass hiring freezes and pay hike freezes. Moreover, hiring freelancers involves less paperwork and legal considerations for both parties.

You can also bring in freelancers with skills that your full-time employees do not have and never need to have. A couple of decades ago the word ‘freelancer’ may well have invoked an image of a freckle-faced teenager looking for a summer job. Although that species of freelancers have not gone entirely extinct, the word had come to encompass a much wider range of professionals.

Today a freelancer can be an ex-fighter pilot who assists a game developer, or a retired CEO who provides consultation to startups. For jobs your business only requires on a rare basis, you are better off hiring a freelancer with the necessary skills. Such jobs are typically one-off assignments such as web development, a photography project, designing a brochure, legal advice in a foreign country, conducting a survey, and so on. Freelancers get repeat business largely based on their performance. For this reason, freelancers often produce better quality work compared to salaried employees.

Who Are These Freelancers?

Anyone in the UAE can be a freelancer. It doesn’t matter whether they are full-time employees that like doing extra work on the side, or are freelance professionals working for themselves and who typically manage several projects at a time for their clients. These freelance experts usually are there on their own visa and possess their own licenses.

The IMF reports that the per capita GDP (PPP) of UAE stands at $69,896. Which is the seventh highest in the world? Combine this with the fact that Emiratis comprise less than 12% of the population, and you get a large population of highly paid and highly qualified foreign workers. A significant portion of this ex-pat population chooses to bring their families along. In a typical ex-pat family, the primary visa holder works as a full-time employee. His family members (dependents) meanwhile, also usually well-educated, often choose to work as freelancers. They may do so for reasons varying from getting spare cash to keeping themselves occupied or upgrading their skills.

A large pool of skilled freelancers thus exists within the country. Besides, there are a small number of highly frequented online platforms, such as Xpertin where freelancers can be hired for practically any assignment.

Factors to Consider When Hiring:

Hire in the UAE, It is worth noting that obtaining a license to work freelance is mandatory in the UAE, though it’s a quick process. Even youths can limited work permits. UAE law sees freelancers as one-person companies, thereby necessitating a trade license depending on the type of work. Someone living in the UAE as a dependent (such as a spouse) also needs to get a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the primary visa holder.

As an employer, you should verify if the ex-pat freelancer you intend to hire has their paperwork in order. Moreover, do consider the confidentiality of the job and the verifiability of the freelancer’s credentials. For time-sensitive or confidential jobs you may prefer a freelancer from within the country whom you can meet and who would be accountable to Hire in the UAE labor laws. Also get a sense of the skills, experience, and motivation of the person you are considering.


Hire in the UAE and their employers often build strong, mutually beneficial relationships that may last for years. Hiring the right freelancer is an invaluable advantage as it can add a lot of value and efficiency to your organization.

Read more here.

The Cost of Hiring the Wrong Employee in Dubai, UAE
How to Hire a Trustworthy Freelancer
6 Qualities You Need to Become a Successful Freelancer Sought-After by Clients

Fastest growing freelancing platform in the Middle East where you can find top freelancers to hire OR find projects from different categories to work as a freelancer. Xpertin is a registered member of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for SME Development (Dubai SME). More about Xpertin

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