How to start an online business in Dubai

man in suit starting an online business in Dubai

Online businesses are hugely popular around the world. The online marketplace is incredibly lucrative with millions of consumers buying online every day.

Here in Dubai there are even more benefits to starting an online business. For one, it is possible to start a UAE online business and take advantage of the minimal bureaucracy and 0% tax rate on offer here while running your business from anywhere in the world.

Then there’s the fact that, with the right support and guidance, obtaining a license to operate an online business is incredibly straightforward. So much so that you could be trading within just a few days of making your license application. So, if you’re thinking of entering this vibrant marketplace, here is everything you need to know before you get started.

How to start an online business in Dubai

There are several steps involved in starting an online business in Dubai, with a number of key decisions to make along the way.

Will you set up in a free zone or on the mainland?

One of the first major decisions to make before starting your online business is whether you wish to set up in the mainland or in a free zone. If you decide on the mainland setup, you are free to trade directly with the local UAE market without working with a local agent, and you are permitted to take on government contracts.

If, however, you wish to start your business in a UAE free zone, as well as benefiting from the UAE’s zero percent tax rate, you can also take advantage of full customs tax exemption, no currency restrictions and the ability to repatriate 100% of your capital and profit.

What will you call your company?

To some this step may seem trivial, however, it is particularly significant in this part of the world. The Emirates has a strict set of naming conventions that will not be familiar to anyone outside of the region. 

When choosing a name for your Dubai business, you must keep in mind that it cannot include any offensive or blasphemous language, nor any references to Allah or Islam. If you wish to include your name in your company name, you must use it in full rather than just your surname or initials.

Finally, you must check that your chosen name is available to be registered. Again, a company formation expert can help you with this step, making suggestions and checking that your chosen name is free.  

Making your license application

Operating an online business in Dubai – or any other business for that matter – requires a license.

If you wish to establish your business in a free zone you can apply directly to the free zone in question. If you prefer to set up in the mainland, you should apply to the municipality or Department of Economic Development in the emirate you wish to set up in. In both cases, you will be required to submit some basic documentation, including passport copies, along with your completed application form.

As the application process is very particular – and inaccuracies and omissions can lead to delays and rejection – it is a good idea to work with a company formation expert such as Trade License Zone at this stage. We can handle every aspect of your application for you, liaising with all authorities on your behalf and advising on the type of setup that best suits your needs.

Applying for your visas

While it is sometimes possible to start and operate a UAE business without residing in the UAE, if you wish to relocate here you will require a visa. As will any employees you decide to take on.

The number of visas you can apply for will depend on the size of your business and where you choose to set up. When it comes to applying for visas for dependants – such as domestic staff or your spouse or children – the process is equally straightforward providing you meet the eligibility criteria.

Online business ideas in Dubai

With these key decisions made, we come to the next important question: What online business to start in Dubai? There are plenty of options available. Below are just a few that can be started with minimal fuss or expense.

Start an online shop
E-commerce is big business in the UAE – with the market worth in excess of USD 10bn. And starting an e-commerce business is easy. All you need is a license, internet access and products that people will want to purchase.

Become an influencer
Social media influencing is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world of online business. The Instagram influencer market alone is said to be worth USD 1.3bn and expected to almost double by the end of 2020.

Start tutoring
If you have a skill- or knowledge-set that others could learn from, tutoring could become a lucrative business. The online tutoring marketing is forecasted to be worth USD 120bn by 2021.

Try web design or development
Web design and development can be incredibly lucrative in the UAE. There are thousands of new businesses setting up here every year and they all need a website.
If you already have the skills, it’s simply a case of selling yourself. If not, there are plenty of online and in-person training courses available.

Sell marketing services
Blogging, social selling, SEO, vlogging – online marketing services are in demand. If you have what it takes to stand out in this space, then the rewards can be enormous.

Cost of starting an online business in Dubai

The total cost of starting an online business in Dubai is dependent on a range of factors. These include the size of your business, the number of visas you apply for, whether you require office space as part of your package and your choice regarding a free zone or the mainland.

To put a ballpark figure on it, you should account for anywhere between AED 15,000 and AED 50,000 depending on your requirements.

If you are looking to keep startup costs low, setting up in a free zone is often the best approach. For a detailed breakdown of the costs involved, speak to a company setup agent.

How to start an online business in Dubai

The process of starting an online business in Dubai has been designed with simplicity in mind. That said, it does take some in-depth knowledge of the UAE and its many customs and regulations.

That’s why it’s always advisable to acquire the services of a business setup company who can not only advise on the process but also seek out the most suitable license and setup type for your business, based on your needs and your budget.

By making use of a business setup service, you also gain peace of mind that your license and visa applications are free from errors and omissions – both of which can lead to delays and rejection.

When you work with a company formation specialist in the UAE, all you need to provide is some basic documentation and a little information about the nature of your business. Then, sit back and let the experts take care of the rest – managing your license and visa applications, communicating with all relevant departments and authorities, and reporting back when you’re ready to start trading. It really is that simple.