Dubai is among the world’s most famous business environments. A growing economy, strategic global location and incredibly attractive tax regime have long made it the destination of choice for ambitious entrepreneurs from every corner of the globe.
But the bright lights and the big city can also be daunting. For this reason, many entrepreneurs feel that to succeed in here in Dubai, you must possess substantial startup capital. This could not be further from the truth.
Dubai is the home of low cost business setup. In fact, the cost of business setup here is lower than in many other major global cities, thanks to the lack of corporate and personal income tax and highly accommodating business regulation.
Set up in a free zone and the business setup cost falls even further. However, whichever setup your choose, registering a company in Dubai is so easy that it can be completed in just a few simple steps.
Why start a business in Dubai, UAE?
Whatever your budget, there’s a host of reasons to start a business in Dubai, UAE. For starters, the country offers direct links via some of the world’s busiest ports and airports to vast and emerging markets across the globe.
These links offer incredible trading opportunities and put around two-thirds of the world’s population within eight hours flying time, making it the ideal hub for international entrepreneurs.
Business owners in Dubai can also benefit from a famously welcoming and encouraging corporate environment. There are numerous accelerator, incubator and funding programmes throughout the country, designed to help small businesses launch, grow and thrive.
Finally, as the Dubai company formation process has been time-tested by entrepreneurs from almost every country in the world, with the right support, it is fast, straightforward and affordable.
How to start a business in Dubai with little or no money
The factor that perhaps has the largest bearing on the cost of setting up a company in Dubai is whether you choose a free zone or mainland setup.
While both can be achieved on a budget, the all-in-one nature of free zone setups can make it one of the most cost-efficient ways to register a company in Dubai.
If budget is your primary focus, start by seeking out the cheapest free zone that fits your needs. Aside from price, there are many advantages to setting up in a 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.
If however, you wish to take on government contracts or trade directly with the local UAE market, then you should establish a mainland business setup. Depending on the nature and size of your business, this can still be done in a low cost and effective manner.
A business setup expert can help you decide on the pathway that best suits your requirements and your budget.
Setting up a business in a UAE mainland or free zone
Regardless of your budget, the process for setting up a company in Dubai, UAE, follows the same simple steps.
The first is to establish your business activity or activities. There are more than 2,000 permitted by the Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED), covering all manner of sectors and sub-sectors.
However, while there may be great choice in the activities that you can carry out, it is vitally important that you list them correctly on your license application. Undertaking unlicensed business activities can lead to penalties, so it is best to work with a business setup specialist who can suggest the best options for your organisation.
Next up, you’ll need to choose a business name. While this may seem like an obvious point, it’s worth mentioning here due to the UAE’s strict set of naming conventions that may not be familiar to anyone outside of the region.
To paraphrase the rules around company names: 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 business setup expert can help you with this step, making suggestions and checking that your chosen name is free.
Making your Dubai business license application
As mentioned previously, if you want a low cost option, the best advice is to seek out a low cost free zone license.
Once you have found the cheapest free zone that meets your needs, you can make your application.
There are two steps to this stage of the process. The first is to establish the type of business license that you require. This is relatively straightforward. If you wish to conduct professional services then you will require a professional services license, it you intend to conduct industrial activities then you require an industrial license and so on.
Now that you know the type of license that you require, you can make your formal application. Free zone company registration in Dubai is incredibly straightforward and simply requires you to submit a completed application, along with some basic documentation about you and your company.
Should you require a mainland setup, the process is largely similar. In this case, however, you would make your application to the DED.
As the application process is very particular, it is again a good idea to work with a business setup expert at this stage. Such companies 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.
You can also make any required visa applications at this stage. This includes your own visa, as well as employee visas for your staff and those of your dependants.
In most cases, 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, the process is very straightforward providing you meet the eligibility criteria.
Finally, you’ll need to open a corporate bank account in order to run your business. Opening a bank account as a foreign national in the UAE is not always easy. While there are many local and international banks to choose from in Dubai, all will have different application and acceptance criteria and navigating them can be a minefield.
Working with an expert can help here too. As well as advising on the most suitable bank for your business, such companies can also organise meetings with financial institutions.
How much does it cost to start a business in Dubai, UAE?
The total cost of starting a business in the UAE will depend on many factors, including your industry, activities, business setup type and company location.
There are also many costs to consider. On top of your business license which comes in the region of AED 10,000 to AED 30,000, you will also need to account for your visa, any permits required to trade and any equipment that you may need.
Five potential low cost business setups to start in Dubai, UAE
- Digital marketing
Dubai is home to thousands of small and medium-sized businesses all looking to get their offering in front of potential customers. If you have the skills to help in this endeavour, then you could find your skills in high demand.
There is little to no investment or equipment required to get started here. If you have an understanding of web and social media advertising, a computer and internet connection then you’re ready to start building your business.
- Teach, coach or tutor
You may already have everything you need to start your business setup in Dubai. If have any teachable skills then there are many willing students waiting to learn from you, whether in person or online.
As well as traditional skills like languages or mathematics, online tutors and coaches can teach everything from cooking and other life skills to crafts like knitting, sewing, pottery and much more.
- Pet sitting
Dubai is fast becoming a nation of pet owners, whether it be dogs, cats, birds or something much more exotic. And with hardworking residents often travelling or spending long hours in the office, a market for pet walkers and pet sitters is quickly emerging.
Once again, there is little required to get started here. If you are good with animals (and people) and hold any necessary permits and insurances, you are free to get started.
- Content writer
Content marketing is bigger than it’s ever been. Business across all industries are keen to offer their thoughts, advice and support to customers and prospects through regular, engaging content.
So, if you have a flair for the written word, turn your hand to creating web copy, social media posts, emails, blogs, infographics and much more. And the best part is, you only need a license and a laptop to get started.
- Cleaning and laundry services
Dubai’s residents are more than happy to pay for a service – and willing to pay a premium for an exceptional one. So, any task that you can take off their hands has the potential to become a lucrative business opportunity.
There are a number of services you can offer, from cleaning customers’ homes to collecting laundry and ironing. As you expand, you can even look to win larger jobs such as office space or other commercial cleaning.
Low cost business setup in Dubai
The cost of business setup in Dubai will vary depending on the size and nature of your business.
However, if you wish to start up here on a budget, affordable business setup it is certainly doable.
Be warned, however: while the application process isn’t difficult, it does require an expert eye. Any errors in your application could lead it to being delayed or rejected. That’s why it’s often a good idea to work with a business setup specialist to help you establish your business.
When you work with a business setup expert, 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.