Money & Me: ‘My first commission in Dubai was more than a nurse’s annual salary in the UK’

Liam Dawett, a hip hop choreographer-turned property sales manager, learnt to budget expenses while working on a commission-only basis early on in his career

Liam Dawett believes merely saving in the bank doesn't make your money work for you. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Liam Dawett went from being a hip hop choreographer in the UK to a real estate agent in Dubai.

The British citizen, who’s been in the UAE since 2018, is from the town of Basingstoke in southern England and lives in Business Bay, Dubai.

He started his real estate career with a boutique property company HMS Homes in Dubai.

“I did not have sales experience but my strength was to talk to people. That helped me to move to residential sales,” he says.

“That was a commission-only role, which is very common in Dubai real estate.”

Two years ago, he was headhunted to become a leasing manager at real estate company Betterhomes. He was promoted to a sales manager the same year.

Mr Dawett currently manages sales for the company’s Business Bay branch.

Did wealth feature in your childhood? What did you learn from it?

We’re fairly well off. My dad worked in finance and my mother was an entrepreneur in events. Both were workaholics and did very well for themselves. I've always been surrounded with a good level of success.

But I was never spoon-fed. I had to figure it out, learn things on my own and was encouraged to find solutions for problems in real life. I came to Dubai and had to do the hard work, living alone in a new country.

My parents were there for support in terms of being available to speak, but they wanted me to learn the ropes the hard way. You'd never get it right otherwise.

My sister and I were raised with the mentality that you must work hard to get what you want.

We were big competitors in the dance world. We knew what it took to set up something and that once you become good at your craft, money follows.

What was your first job and how much did it pay you?

I started off as a hip hop choreographer. I became a World Street dance champion at the age of 12. My whole career was dance-orientated and it was more entrepreneurial in the early years of my life.

I started a hip hope dance company at the age of 13. We were one of the first dance groups to perform at the top of the Burj Khalifa.

I choreographed for major TV programmes, the John Newman music video for Love Me Again, for Janet Jackson and other celebrities at the time.

However, my income was very volatile. I was probably doing just under £10,000 ($12,738), after tax it would work out to £4,000 per month.

I worked on that business from 18 until I was 24 years old. Dubai came across my radar because my dad used to work for Al Futtaim Motors. What interested me was the corporate side of the business, and I decided to move here.

I was conditioned from a young age to be able to adapt and learn very quickly. Although I didn’t have the relevant skills or experience for my property sales job, I was willing to push my output, come to the office at 8am and stay till 9pm. I also had great mentors.

It took me three months to get my first deal with HMS Homes. It was worth Dh7.8 million ($2.1 million) and I was 24 years old. That gave me a lot more breathing space to understand the job and be able to do it consistently.

My commission from that deal was more than a nurse’s annual salary in the UK. When you see that level of money come through, you get inspired and realise that there's a lot more to be had with this job.

Any early financial shocks?

Since coming to Dubai, I've not faced any big financial jolts, apart from having to invest in myself at the very beginning of my real estate career and cope with the Covid-19 pandemic.

When you are working in real estate on a commission-only role, you have to understand budgeting, costs and be able to live on a minimum. So, I had to be sensible with my money at the very beginning.

How do you grow your wealth?

I invest my money into different assets. I have invested in stocks in London and Dubai. I also invest in property in the UK. I’m looking to invest in property in Dubai.

As soon as I make a decent commission, the money comes into my account and it goes out straight away for investments.

Saving cash in the bank doesn't really make your money work for you. The good thing about real estate is that you get huge injections of capital on this job, so you find opportunities to put money elsewhere that gives you good returns.

I'm always thinking five to 10 years ahead, rather than looking at the current moment.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I’m 51:49 on spending versus saving. I spend on things that will eventually make me more money, and then I spend that money on things I like.

For me, it's all about personal growth. It’s always about: How can I get better? What can I do? How can I learn more?

I understand that money comes and goes and it's just my time to get it at a certain stage.

I've done quite well doing this job, and it's given me an opportunity to be able to explore certain avenues that not many people have the time to decide on.

Have you been wise with money?

I'd like to say so. I like to spend more money on experiences rather than materialistic things.

If there's an opportunity, I like to get the full idea, be advised and then make a judgment call myself.

What has been your best investment?

My properties in the UK. But overall, the best investment you can make is on yourself.

I know it sounds clichéd, but it's true. Your brain needs dusting off in so many aspects. You must spend money on yourself to understand it.

My first property deal and being able to afford my first and second properties in the UK are financial milestones
Liam Dawett, sales manager, Betterhomes

Any cherished purchases?

When I go back home, I get jewellery for my grandmother and my mum. I spend a lot of time outside the UK, and you don't get to see family too much.

When my grandmother asks me why I don't come back, I gift her jewellery and tell her this is why. It’s quite funny.

How do you feel about money?

I'm not too connected to the idea of money. I just understand what it's for.

Any financial advice for your younger self?

To persevere. At the beginning, I was impatient and wanted too much, too fast.

Just persevere and keep trusting that your time’s going to come. Don’t make judgment calls without having an idea of what the situation is.

Any financial milestones?

My first property deal. Also, being able to afford my first and second properties in the UK, and buy business and first class flight tickets and treat family and friends.

Also, to be in a position where if any of my family or friends needed me, then I'd be there to support them financially.

What luxuries are important to you?

Gym membership, food and aftershaves. I wear Ombre Nomade by Louis Vuitton now.

What are your financial goals?

It'd be to invest in a property in Dubai. Another goal would be to be completely free financially and being able to have options.

To be able to go anywhere, choose to spend time with family, travel across the world, spend on certain things to ensure family and friends have a good time.

I don’t want to be tied down by the idea that I can't do those things. That's the idea of freedom for me.

Is there a number for it? Not really. With where I am now, if I can grow my passive income to a significant amount, where I'm able to just use that money rather than my main source of income, then I would have made it.

Updated: June 07, 2024, 6:32 PM