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Money Management for Freelancers in Dubai

May 15, 2024

Dubai is an open sea of opportunities and growth, but one must know how to swim and survive the gushing currents without being drowned. Beyond skyscrapers and 'habibi, come to Dubai' glamour lies the reality that is overseen.

This article is divided into sub-parts, and each part will name the following:

  • Initial Expenses
  • Monthly Expenses
  • Daily Expenses

You must keep in mind that financial planning varies according to the geographical area they are living in as well as the situation and the person's interests.

Initial Expenses

Freelance Visa: 

The first thing that you must fix while relocating to the UAE is to get a freelancer visa to secure your residency. The freelance visa will expand many opportunities for you. It will help you stay in the country for two years. You will get an Emirates ID that will be a testament to your being a resident of this country. You can also avail insurance through it and have your own bank account. Therefore, this is the very first expense you will have to bear in the UAE if you want to live and work as a freelancer in Dubai. The cost varies based on the type of visa you will be applying for; the basic cost for any freelancer visa in the UAE begins at AED 9K–AED 10K.

Medical Insurance: 

Each visa issued in the UAE must be accompanied by a confirmation of medical insurance coverage at an additional cost. This is a mandatory requirement for all visa holders in the country. Insurance is an important factor when budgeting for your freelance visa in the UAE. Basic insurance pays for general prescriptions, which is very helpful because medical costs are expensive in the country and you would not be willing to pay a high amount during a health emergency. Insurance will cost you around 3000 to 4000 AED. However, it is important to note that basic insurance may not cover all medical expenses, so it is recommended to also consider additional coverage for more comprehensive protection. It is advisable to thoroughly research and compare different insurance options to find the best fit for your needs and budget.

Freelance License:

This is one of the necessities that a freelancer will need to keep in mind if they decide to relocate to Dubai. It is illegal to run any profession without a license. This varies according to the business activity you decide to do and the organization you desire to issue the license. This is available to UAE nationals and expats alike.

The basic cost of a freelance license begins at 3000 AED to 3500 AED, and this has to be renewed annually. You must be vigilant enough to not fall into any freelancing scams and go head-to-head with the right organization, like Freedom2Work 

The team at Freedom2Work understands your need and tailors the trade license accordingly, with a price tag that is affordable to pay without worrying about the cost.

These three budgets are necessary to pay if you want to work without being caught in the legal eye. With the right support and guidance, freelancers can navigate the process of obtaining a license and focus on building a successful business in the UAE.

Before I get into monthly spending, I'd like to go over certain details because we're into money management, so a penny lost is a plenty loss. Keep in mind!

Monthly Expenses


Create a budget. Financial mapping is the first step to spending on what's necessary and saving on what's not. In the UAE, one must keep aside his rent expenses as soon as the payment is accredited to his account. The rent varies from place to place, and again, it depends on what kind of housing you prefer to stay in and in which location.


DEWA stands for Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA) | the bills arrive every month. Therefore, you must store the money before your phone beeps at you with a bill. 

Saving Tip: The authority has a certain time of day when they charge more, especially during peak hours, but less in the afternoon and early morning, so get the laundry done during off-time hours.


Dubai is widely known for its public transport. The nation uses metros to run their day-to-day activities. Dubai Metro is a 74.6 km mass rapid transit system with 47 stations and two lines (Red and Green). They together encompass the majority of the Emirate's populated regions. You have to recharge for a NOL card, and then you get access to use the Dubai Metro.

Following are the fares for the four different NOL cards, and I will shortly let you know which card is the most preferable one.

Product Type Silver Gold
1 Zone 2 Zones All Zones 1 Zone 2 Zones All Zones
7 Days 50 80 110 100 160 220
30 Days 140 230 350 280 460 700
90 Days 330 550 830 660 1100 1660
365 Days 1060 1770 2670 2120 3540 5340

If you are a freelancer in Dubai, then you must go with the silver card option in the beginning to save on extra expenditure. I would suggest you take a 30-day NOL card. This is renewed on a monthly basis. If you think this is a lot more affordable, then you may slightly fall into error since a 90-day NOL card will charge you only 830 AED, while paying manually month 

One of the main advantages of these NOL cards is that they will allow Dubai freelancers to travel on buses too! You just need to tap your card on the machine, and they will let you in.

This is an important motive since not all sites are near the metro; henceforth, you hop off the metro and board the bus nearest to whomever's place. (good luck!)

Note: If you are subscribing to your NOL card for the first time, then you need to give an extra 30 AED, totaling 380 AED.

If you work as a freelancer and transport cars, there are a lot of hukus bukus that come with it. You should be prepared for parking fees, which vary depending on the location, and understand which zones the Salik Tag electronic toll gate system in Dubai will apply to. However, petrol is cheaper in Dubai, and having an owned car has its own perks that freelancers owning cars will know better.


Freelancers will have to travel a lot. This also means you have to spend a wholesome amount of money on the food being served at restaurants due to the less time you get to prepare food at home, but this will bring you to the brink of survival if you spend everything on outside food.

Financial planning is not only about saving but also about spending wisely. Many supermarkets will have their pamphlets published; try to cross check which products are placed in the offer sections. Most of the time, hypermarkets come with coupons and happiness cards that offer discounts on certain purchases. Some, however, give you rewards for using a certain card when making payments.

Try looking for tiffin packages in the city; that is the cheapest way to save your money from falling into the hotel's cashier counter. Many freelancers rely on tiffin packages because they are home-made and taste delicious.

Determine your budget and keep a certain amount of money to shop for groceries. The best way to do this is to plan your meal ahead of time and list the shopping materials to avoid the adrenaline rush while looking at ramen noodles, which you seriously didn't plan out.

Emergency Fund: 

You might have heard about buffer funds. Remember how some people will have a backup account if their primary account is subject to unethical hacks? Likewsie, buffer funds are sort of like a backup account. Make sure you put some money in the buffer fund, for example, 500 AED each month, and you do not put your eye on it at all. Freelancers have seasons, so sometimes they make a lot of money and sometimes they don't. Therefore, buffer cash will assist freelancers in paying their bills during these dry periods.

Daily Expense

Track Your Expenses: 

This is one of the least important things among freelancers; they do not calculate the expense at the end of the day. They wonder how money has gotten wings to fly. Keeping a record will also educate you on how to spend wisely and not just run errands with your hard-earned money.

Diversify Your Income:

Create a pipeline, or a spreadsheet, where you keep your sources of income in one column and client details, the status of the project, and the payment section allotted. Don't forget you are a freelancer in Dubai; there's no stipend coming to your doorstep, nor is your salary being deposited. 

Keep Only One Debit Card: 

A lot of people will not agree to this, but having just one debit card or credit card will save you a lot of time and energy you put into seeing transactions and potentially reduce the risk of overspending. Beware of spending with a credit card because your debts shouldn't accumulate in the end. As everything comes with a boon as well; using a credit card wisely can offer perks such as cashback rewards or travel benefits.

Decide How Much to Pay Yourself:

To prevent going overboard, think about creating and adhering to a personal spending budget. Once you have taken what you have decided to keep for yourself, don't use any of the money that your firm has generated.

You can open a separate business bank account that is used only for your company, draft invoices, and ask customers to deposit money into this account. This can also help you avoid confusion when it comes to paying for personal expenses by keeping track of the clients who have paid you for the services you provided. Freedom2Work also assists you in opening your business bank account.

Select an Appropriate Method for Billing Clients:

Some charge by the hour, while others charge by the project. As a freelancer in Dubai, be serious in your work and avoid 'you said, I said' moments. Generate official invoices. Take half of the money in advance and finish the project before its due date. There are plenty of money-management apps that help you deal with managing money on a monthly, daily, or yearly basis. Some even include helpful reminders about approaching bills. 


Freelancing in Dubai is easy as long as you are well-equipped with how to manage money. In the end, you are a human being, so be easy on yourself, enjoy your weekends, plan for trips bi-annually, remain adventurous, and keep stress at bay. Stay informed on economic trends and market changes. As a freelancer in Dubai who relies on stable revenue streams, staying up-to-date on business development and market research is critical to making wise financial decisions. Keeping up with news stories, industry studies, and expert analysis can provide you with the knowledge you need to efficiently ensure long-term financial security.

Enjoy the benefits of a freelance license and visa in the UAE, such as a Work Permit, Emirates ID, Residency, and Option to Sponsor Family.

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