Diana Khayat, 35, a Dubai resident from Lebanon, is a graphic designer. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Finding a job can be a gruelling process and trying to maintain a work-life balance can also take a toll on a person’s mental and physical well-being.

However, many people in the UAE are starting to explore the growing trend of freelancing, which they claim is the path to a healthier lifestyle.

Lebanese Diana Khayat, 35, a graphic designer who lives in Dubai, described freelancing as a “new global approach to jobs that encourages more people to work remotely and accepts that people work harder and better in that environment”.

With good time management and lack of pressure about fixed work timings, the Dubai resident of 12 years is able to maintain a balance between work hours and family time.

“I am able to enjoy a healthy approach to the job, and even though weekends and holidays are sometimes blurred along with some late nights, it is well worth the extra time a freelancer occasionally has otherwise,” said Khayat.

She pointed out that being able to look after a child while working from home is “a blessing”. “Freelancing gives a parent the time to spend with their children while still supporting them financially. I am always grateful for being in an industry that allows that to happen,” said Khayat.

By being more in control of her breaks and routine, Khayat said freelancing has made a big difference when it comes to “living life the way she believes it should be lived”.

“Freelancing gives me the opportunity to express art and design more freely. Direct communication with the client gives me a clearer idea of the client’s needs and speeds up the design process,” she explained.

Through freelancing for different agencies, Khayat said she has enjoyed the advantage of meeting and learning from several highly creative people in the industry.

“The relationship with the client is built on trust and mutual understanding of creating inspiring innovative designs where both parties are happy with the end result. From brainstorming to creation to implementation, you have more room to grow and learn as a designer in the freelancing field,” she said.

Just the same, Syrian Wail Al Mrawed, 46, described freelancing as a life of “freedom”. The Dubai resident, who has been freelancing for a year, said freelancing has given him the chance to manage his time and spend more quality time with his two children.

Al Mrawed currently freelances in the advertising sector and the art industry. “My next goal is to find a long-term freelance contract with an international company, so I can manage even more of my time,” he said.

Al Mrawed recently joined a new freelancing platform called ‘Bawabba’, which aims to encourage the culture of freelancing in the UAE.

 

UAE’s freelance community

Gulf News talked to Hakim Boriawala, co-founder of Bawabba, about the need to raise awareness about the advantages of freelancing in the community.

“The main aim of this community is to enable and empower freelancers. A lot of companies in the UAE are not well aware that freelancing is possible in the country. We want to educate them and at the same time help them save money,” said Boriawala.

The company was founded in May 2016 and the community was launched in January 2018 by Boriawala and his wife Tasneem.

Bawabba is an online community which helps independent workers find jobs in 24 industries.

“The most important industry that we have is the creative industry, which includes photographers, videographers, graphic designers, as well as programming, branding and the marketing industry,” said Boriawala.

Companies can hire people including interior designers, brand consultants, yoga teachers, videographers, tuition teachers, accountants, writers, painters, programmers, makeup artists, and nannies to get a job done.

“We have 400+ skills that can be freelanced on Bawabba and 750+ freelancers and small businesses registered on our community. Companies can also market themselves on this platform,” said Boriawala.

He pointed out the portal is free for its users, with plans to include revenue streams after the two-year mark.

“We give freelancers a platform to showcase their skills, list their services and have customer reviews. Anyone looking for those services can compare the independent workers, check their reviews and get in touch with them directly on their profile,” explained Boriawala.

Hiring freelancers on a project basis also helps companies reduce cost such as medical insurance, visa cost, as well as basic benefits, he added.

Over 170 enquiries have been sent out to freelancers during the first half of the year, with numbers gradually growing.

What the law says

Skilled employees can take a maximum of two part-time jobs in the UAE with two employers under the new system introduced by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation in March.

Employees who fall under the ‘skilled category’ include experts, consultants, university professors and doctors. The total hours a skilled worker can put in with the two employers must not exceed eight a day and 48 a week. The employee must also take at least one day off a week. The new system will enhance the flexibility of the labour market and meet the needs of the employers from the existing labour market and, therefore, reduce dependence on labour being sourced from outside the country. The new system also contributes to attracting and retaining the skills and expertise to enhance the productivity of the labour market in the country. The part-time contract is subject to the same rules and penalties applicable to the regular employment contracts, either fixed term or non-fixed term, to protect the rights of the parties to the employment relationship.

What the law on freelancing says

■ Under the new system introduced by the Ministry of Human
Resources and Emiratisation in March, skilled employees can take a
maximum of two part-time jobs in the UAE with two employers.
■ The total hours put in by a freelancer must not exceed eight a day and
48 a week. The worker must also take at least one day off a week.
■ The part-time contract is subject to the same rules and penalties
applicable to regular employment contracts.