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How to start a small profitable business in Dubai

Dubai has become one of the premier places to do business, which is why every year people from across the globe flock to the emirate to set up their own company.

Some businesses require heavy initial investment, but it is possible to set up an online company in Dubai without investment and turn it into a profitable venture.

For those who are thinking of starting a business, but want to upskill before doing so, there are a range of affordable courses available on Udemy.

But for those who want to set up a small business in Dubai, our article guides you through how you can do it, including:

  • Why set up a small business in Dubai?
  • Small, low-cost businesses you can start in Dubai
  • Steps to start a small business in Dubai
  • How much it costs
  • What is Dtec?

Why set up a small business in Dubai?

With its fast-growing economy, backed by world-leading infrastructure and its low taxes, Dubai is a great place to set up a small business – especially one that requires minimal startup capital,

Renowned for being a centre for high tech enterprises, there are a range of virtual companies that can be set up in Dubai by entrepreneurs who run them from their home.

Small, low-cost businesses you can start in Dubai

Many small, low-cost businesses can be started in Dubai with little initial investment. Here are just four of the many examples:

Digital marketing agency

With the constant growth of the Dubai economy and rise in the number of businesses in every sector, there is more competition for consumers’ money, which means that marketing is increasingly important.

Today, marketing through online and social media are vital, and digital marketing specialists are in demand from businesses in a wide range of sectors.

Video editing services

With the rise of short form video content, the need for creative video editors is on the up – especially video editors for platforms like TikTok, YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels.

With such platforms there is a wealth of content out there, so it is part of the video editor’s role to make it stand out from the crowd, perhaps by using visual effects or clever editing – and this can be the difference between a clip going viral or not.

Demand for the skills of good editors is rising all the time, and those with in-demand skills can charge healthy fees for their services. While it does take training and the right editing software initially, if it is your niche, it can be very profitable.

Wedding planner

Becoming a wedding planner – a person who acts a consultant between the client and the event management company, while focusing on the needs of the client – is a job that can be profitable, as it has very few overheads. The role doesn’t require an office, just a laptop and a phone.

While there is a seasonal element to being a wedding planner – many people prefer to get married in the summer months – there is work all year round. However, the role can involve long hours in the immediate run-up to a wedding, so that has to be considered.

Consulting business

If you have a particular skill or expertise in a business practice or niche, then you can set up as a consultant and give people the benefit of your knowledge.

There are no formal qualifications needed, but it helps to have demonstrable expertise in your chosen field to give you credibility among customers.

However, if you have that, as well as a reputation, then other businesses will pay for your services as they seek to get ahead of their own competition.

Steps to start a small business in Dubai

Various stages are involved in setting up an enterprise. Firstly, you must decide what activities your enterprise will carry out, and all these must be included when you apply for a business licence. If you don’t list all activities on your application form, it can cause problems later.

Next, a name for the company is needed. Owners need to be aware of several rules that have to be abided by. Firstly, the name should be unique and not the same as another business in the emirate. In addition, nothing sacrilegious or profane should be included in the name. Finally, if you want to use your own name, it must be your full name – forename and surname – and not an initial or abbreviation.

Following this, a decision has to be made on where to be based – on Dubai’s mainland or in one of the numerous free zones. Both have their plus points: with free zones companies can be incorporated quickly, and there are a range of facilities to support businesses and access to finance.

Obtaining a business licence is next on the list. Applications for mainland-based businesses are made to the Department of Economic Development and can take three weeks to process. For free zones, the governing authority handles applications, and processing generally takes a few days.

When sending in an application, there are certain other documents needed, such as a copy of the owner’s passport as well as a pair of passport-sized photos.

Another necessary step is applying for a UAE visa. This is relatively simple and quick to do. If you hold a business licence, you can sponsor other people’s visa applications such as close family members and domestic workers. How many applications you can make is contingent on how big your enterprise is and how it is set up. If you are sponsoring visas of dependents, your personal income will also be taken into account.

Finally, a business bank account is needed. Numerous UAE banks provide business bank accounts, but non-UAE nationals can find it difficult to open accounts due to the money laundering laws in the UAE. However, there are plenty of available advisers who can help.

How much it costs

When starting a Dubai-based business there are a range of costs that must be considered. Licences are a significant one and they can cost about AED 10,000, although extra fees such as registrations and visas can bump the total up to AED 30,000.

However, with setting up an online business, it does markedly cut the outlays as there are no premises to pay for – rent or utilities – and possibly no staff costs either, if it is only you in the business.

What is Dtec?

As this article shows, establishing a small profitable business in Dubai can be complicated, but Dtec can help with that process.

Dtec is the largest technology innovation campus in the MENA region and has become a hub for a range of cutting-edge businesses.

For those starting a business, Dtec provides a range of resources to help them realise their ambitions for their business. For instance, they provide cost-effective collaborative co-working spaces, as well as accelerator programs, opportunities to source funding and networking events with leading players in the Dubai tech economy.

To find out more about what Dtec can offer you, contact us today: