Optimise Your SEO Career: Toxic Feelings around Money with Areej AbuAli
In this week's episode of the podcast, Sarah chats with Areej about toxic feelings we can have around money sometimes, why we have them and what we can do to combat them.
Areej is Head of SEO at Papier where she focuses on all things technical and on-site SEO. She is the founder of the global Women in Tech SEO community and has been in the digital marketing industry for 8+ years.
Where to find Areej:
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Hello, and a very warm welcome to the SEO mindset podcast. I am very thrilled because I have got a corker of a guest joining me today. Um, so I have the wonderful Areej AbuAli, who is the founder of the incredible Women in Tech SEO Community. She's been in digital marketing for over eight years and is the head of SEO at Papier. Hello AreejAreej (:
Hey Sarah. Thank you for having me.Sarah (:
I mean, this is, this is weird, isn't it? Cuz obviously, uh, back in the day when there was, uh, we, well, we used to co-host a podcast together.Areej (:
Yes. It's so weird being on the opposite side again.
Uh, well thank you about how, how are we doing?Areej (:
Yeah, everything's good my end. Really excited to talk to you for the next half hour or so.Sarah (:
Yes, definitely. Definitely. Um, so I invited you on today, um, to talk about toxic feelings we can have around money sometimes, why we have them and what we can do to combat them. But before we get into that, now I'm hoping, and it's probably the case that most people have heard of Women in Tech, SEO Community. Um, but for those who haven't, what, what is, what is that community? Why should people join?Areej (:
Yeah, so Women in Tech SEO has been around for a little over three years now, which is so exciting. Um, there's around 4,000 of, so of us now. Um, so it's a global community for women all around the world who have any form of interest in tech SEO. So we've got everyone from beginners to, you know, people who've been doing it for several years now. Um, and yeah, like we host, um, we host our annual festival. We host a lot of different online workshops. We've got our mentorship program and we've recently started launching some online training courses as well. So definitely urge any, any women in the industry who are interested in technical SEO to join us. Um, it's a free community. You can find us on both Facebook and, and slack.Sarah (:
Amazing. I'll make sure that I will, um, yeah. Include any links to the community, uh, within the show notes. But yeah, I I'm part of it and it is wonderful. So yes, definitely, definitely. Um, have a look into that. Let's get into the Juy, uh, topic of today's episode. Then when we were talking about what to talk about today, you did a article, um, about my, to toxic feelings about money. Uh, so again, I will post that link, uh, to that article, which is on your website within the show notes. Um, but firstly, it was amazing, such a great read. So thank you so much for putting that together. Um, but was it, was it hard for you to write and publish that?Areej (:
Yeah, so it's, it's an interesting one. I mean, I, I think I started my website about two years ago and then initially I had this big aim of in 2021, I said, I'm gonna write one new piece once a month. Of course, that never happened.
I'm guessing then that's the better way of going about that rather than putting sort of pressure on yourself. Um, like I'm gonna, I'm gonna publish X amount of content this many times a year or this many times a month. What have you it's much better to do it more organically. Yeah,Areej (:
100%. Yeah. I, I think, yeah, it took me a while to kind of realize that, but, and I, I even had, like, I wrote down like all the different things I can write about and la la, but still, you know, it's, it's difficult that motivation just kind of needs to come from within. Right. And then it becomes much, much easier to write somethingSarah (:
A hundred percent. And what was the response, um, that you got from there, from the community?Areej (:
The response was actually really positive, even though I posted it on like a Saturday afternoon and I was like, oh, Areej, that's not smart.
Yeah. Well, it can be a bit of a taboo subject, can't it? I suppose. And people can be nervous around that whole subject, but then I suppose, because of that then like, yeah, there's, there's not much transparency is there or openness around it.Areej (:
Yep. Yeah, definitely. I think we're getting better. I mean, in general, like I can see a lot of people now who are more open about sharing, how much money they've made freelancing or like what kind salaries that, or, or at least not specifically their salary number, but at least how much of, um, of a salary gain they've made by moving jobs. So I do see more people talking about it now, uh, which is definitely positive because then other people can hear about it and think, oh, you know, I relate where I'm on this level or so forth. Um, but I think a few years ago, for example, I barely used to see any conversations around this.Sarah (:
Well, I suppose it's, um, articles like the one that you published helps open that conversation, doesn't it? Um, and let's it well brings it to the forefront a little bit, doesn't it?Areej (:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I agree. I, you know, I did. Yeah. I mean, I'm, I think we're probably gonna go a bit deep about like some of the things I mentioned in it, but this, a lot of it to be honest came from, it's kind of like, it's a bit therapeutic for me to have, you know, to have sat down and wrote this because it's a lot of things that I'm thinking about in the back of my mind and it's kind of difficult to, you know, to talk about it. So I find it very therapeutic to sit down and, and write about it.Sarah (:
Well, just as a quick side note, there is that, um, mindfulness isn't there. So if you are ever feeling, um, I dunno, like stressed or you've got a lot on, or you've got a lot of worries, um, writing it out can, can help with that process. Can't it? Um, journaling or what, what have you, um, so, so definitely okay then. So you cover, um, lots of different things in the article. Um, one of the things that you speak about is speaker fees. Mm-hmm
Yeah. So, I mean, so the, the initial piece that I wrote around speaker fees, uh, and I'll just take it back a second and say, I, I didn't use to think about speaker fees when I was only a speaker. I only started thinking about it when I became an event organizer. One of the first, when I did the very first WTS, uh, Women in Tech SEO Festival, back in March, 2020, I felt really bad that I hadn't paid my speakers. It's just something felt off about it, cuz I was like, wow, like these talks are so good. You know, they put a lot of time and energy putting them together. So what I'd done then is I'd covered, I'd covered their accommodation and I'd invited them to a speaker dinner and, and, and that was it. And I remember afterwards just thinking like, because I made a profit out to the event and I was like, that's really weird.Areej (:
Like why did I not pay my speakers? But I hadn't paid my speakers because I'd only started speaking myself the year before for the first time. And no one had paid me speaker fees then. So I knew it wasn't something on the speaker's mind because as a speaker myself, it's not something I ever considered. But afterwards when I later during the pandemic, when I started organizing WTS workshop, which is like our online version, the first thing I thought, okay, I'm gonna go ahead and get sponsors for this. So I need to make sure that I pay my speakers. And so what I did then is I did a 60, 40 split. So 60% of the sponsor fee would go directly to my speaker as their speaker fee. And then 40% would stay with me. And that would number one, give me a profit, but would also mean that I can pay things like my zoom access and so forth.Areej (:
And thi this is kind of where it started. And it just, people were really, really surprised. Like my speakers were like, whoa, but it's only virtual talk. I was like, yeah, but you're putting the time and effort to put it together. And so the next time, um, I hosted Women in Tech SEO Festival, since then I've been paying a set fee of £500. Um, and, and I cover some of the expenses as well. Um, and so I think £500 is, is in no way, a good enough amount. I, if, if we try to say this speaker spent this amount of time and energy putting a top together, it will not amount to 500 pounds. The time that they spent is probably much, much higher than £500, but it is a starting because I hear the argument of, well, if you're gonna pay the speakers for their time, it's gonna end up being in the thousands. So let's just not pay at all. But I think that's a ridiculous argument. It, it doesn't have to be here this or that. We can definitely have a good starting point and just take it from there.Sarah (:
Oh, definitely. Definitely. Um, I think it's a bit dangerous with that, that viewpoint that like our, we can't, we can't afford like to, to pay our speakers thousands, so we shouldn't, uh, pay them anything at all. I think that's a bit of a, a close, well, a bit of a closed mindset about it, isn't it? Because like you say it is a starting point. Um, and yeah, and as you are, um, because as your event or whatever you are putting together grows and becomes more profitable, mm-hmm
Yeah, definitely. And another argument that I hear sometimes is, well, you know, some speakers are more well seasoned than others, so how do I make it fair if this speaker wants to be paid X amount and that speaker wants to be paid Y amount. And my response to that is just have a set fee. I don't think it's fair to base it on. Who's a more well seasoned speaker than the other at the end of the day, they're all putting the same time effort differently and putting a talk together. So there should be a set amount across all speakers.Sarah (:
Yeah. Cuz they're all coming together and helping and delivering this event. Right. So, um, yeah, the deliverables are the same. Um, have you got advice then? So people, people who are listening to this podcast who are speakers and they wanna start addressing this more, um, what kind of advice would you give when asking for payment?Areej (:
So my, my number one advice is when you're invited to speak somewhere, then the first question you should ask is what is the, the speaker package and do not say, what is the speaker fee simply say, what is the speaker package? Because speaker package can mean a lot of things and different things matter for different people. So for example, if it's an international event, some people are perfectly happy if their all their travel and accommodation becomes covered, they could feel happy about that while other people might want travel accommodation and uh, like a speaker fee on it or a specific budget for them to use while they're there. For example. So leave it open by simply asking what is the speaker package and then see what the organizer comes back to you with, uh, because in some cases, all your expenses are covered and that might be fine because as you said, initially, some of it could be marketing for you.Areej (:
The thing is, it matters. What kind of work you do? This is an argument that I hear a lot as well in terms of, well, we work for an agency. So if we have a speaking gig, then potentially our agency might cover some of our costs or potentially it's good marketing for our agency. Or for example, someone might be a freelancer. So they work for themselves. So they wanna get their name out. But in a lot of other circumstances, a lot of us work in house, for example. And when we work in house, our companies don't really care about what we do when it comes to like speaking in SEO conferences and so forth because it doesn't impact them. And a lot of us actually take time off, like some of us take holiday to be able to go and attend some of these conferences.Areej (:
And most of us tend to work on our talks in our own spare time, like in our evenings and in our weekends. So I think we need to be, you know, more open mind about this, that people come from different backgrounds and different circumstances. And it's not necessarily that this is a benefit for, for all of us. If anything, speakers are the reason that any conference sell tickets, like that's the number one reason someone would go and buy tickets when they look at the speaker list and when they look at the agenda. So they are the reason that you're selling tickets, how is it
Oh, a hundred percent, a hundred percent. Um, I I'm guessing that everything that you are sort of saying is completely resonating, um, with everyone that's listening. Um, because cuz yeah, we all come from different backgrounds. Um, there's a lot that goes into an event. The speakers like make up a big portion of that as well. Um, so yeah, and I, I'm just thinking back to, um, because I'm fairly new or newish to this speaking arena. Um, so like the last couple of years, um, and it just, I don't know, it feels alien to, um, I suppose it's just mindset, isn't it. But like if, if someone asked me to speak, usually I'm like, ah, they've asked me, wow, this is a really good opportunity opportunity, but you've got to value yourself as well. Haven't you?Areej (:
Yeah. And, and I think the, the one caveat I always make around this conversation is it depends on the conference as well because I'm not, I'm not necessarily talking about our local meet ups. Like local meet ups are so important and most of them are free for attendees and most of them are there to help share knowledge and help networking between people. So those folks are probably not making any profit at all by hosting this, they could actually be making a bit of a loss. So I'm not saying let's ask for speaker fees from the likes of local meet ups. I'm talking more about conferences that have tons of sponsors and have ticket prices that are over like one K, which, you know, there's a lot of conferences along those lines. So these conferences are there and they definitely make a profit. There is through the ticket sales that you help them sell as a speaker. So there's no reason in that case that they at the very base minimum would be covering your expenses in the form of travel accommodation and potentially also giving you a speaker fee on top of that.Sarah (:
Yes. A hundred percent. So context then context is key. So mm-hmm,
And that is such a good point as well is to use the smaller meetups as a way of like testing, testing your talk and seeing what works. Because from my experience like every time that you've delivered a talk, um, that you, you get better at it, don't you, you find ways that you can improve, you can find ways that you can get a better reaction and stuff. Um, and I think, uh, stand up comedians do it. Don't they, um, when they're testing out their material, I think you can get discounted tickets. Um, and yeah, it might be that some of the jokes are rubbish, but some of the jokes are hilarious. Yeah. So it's like a, a common thing, isn't it? In the sort of entertainment, um, arena and yeah. Um, and it makes sense to do some testing moving on from speaker fees then, um, another juicy area that you discuss is salary. So yeah, this one salary can be a bit of a taboo area. You speak openly in your article about spending five years in a role underpaid and undervalue. Now, when I read that I a hundred percent related to that, and I imagine that most of our audience have, can relate to this feeling as well. Um, so how did you get out then? What was the turning point for you to get out of that situation?Areej (:
Yeah, so my, my situation is probably a little bit different from a lot of other folks because I was, um, I'm Egyptian. And so I was on a work visa. Uh, when I, when I first came here, after I studied, I switched to a work visa. So when you have a work visa, you're pretty much tied to a sponsor. Um, and when you're tied to a work sponsor, it's you, you can change roles, but it would mean you need to get another work sponsor. And unfortunately it's just not easy because the majority of companies it's much easier and quicker and so forth to hire someone that doesn't require work sponsorship, because it means they don't have to go through the headache of doing visa paperwork. Um, so that meant, you know, pretty much sticking to my role and my salary and so forth for, for quite a while.Areej (:
I mean, I learned tons and I definitely met a lot of great people and, you know, I, I, I, I do it all over again, but it, but I knew that my, my salary and the kind of salary raises I was having as well on a yearly basis, we're talking like two K increments at most was very, very, very little when you compare it to them, to the, to the market back then. And in general, and this always happens in the UK. Most switching jobs, unfortunately is the easiest way for you to get a good salary bump. It's just the way it is. And it's just the way it happens. And that's why, you know, especially with agencies and so forth, it's very, very difficult for you to have to just continue retaining your employees. Um, but you know, also in-house a lot of in-house roles.Areej (:
At least they tend to pay higher than, than agency roles. And so in my case, what happened is I finally finished my five years, which is the requirement to switch from, uh, work visa to, uh, permanent residency. And once I'm on that, I no longer needed the work sponsor. So it was like, oh my God, the world is my, um, and so jobs that I applied for would respond to me right away because I finally stopped ticking that box
Yeah. And they didn't question it and because they didn't question it and they gave me that exact figure that I put down, I didn't put a range, I put an exact figure. I was like, oh, I should have asked for more
Um, ah, amazing. So obviously doing your research and finding out okay. Um, what others paid with my similar experience, my similar responsibilities, um, then yeah, that's a good way of sort of knowing how, cause I suppose that's hard in itself. Like how, how do you know how to value yourself yourself? Like how do you know what salary you should expect? I suppose that can be hard sometimes can't it? Yeah.Areej (:
I think it's due things like number one and that's why this is something I always fight really hard for. It's this idea of every job application needs a salary range because it's ridiculous not to have one and I've even right now, I have a rule in place for the community where I, I get a lot of people sharing rule, like a lot of different job roles with me. And I just say, I'm really sorry. I cannot share this with the community because it doesn't have a salary range. And I, I don't think that's very fair. So that's the first thing. And then the second thing is we, we can ask one another and that's what always happens. Like we see that question a lot in our community as well, or even sometimes on Twitter where people just say, oh, this role la la la, this is what it's called. This is what the responsibilities are. What do we reckon should be the salary range? And I think, you know, the more, the more we ask those questions openly, or we will learn, of course there are things like Glassdoor and so forth. But I, I do think a lot of it is word of mouth and it's asking one another, like, what do we think a fair, you know, based on someone's experience, like what is the fair amount of money they should be paid for this?Sarah (:
I think, uh, we need to get a message out there that we are gonna ban. Cuz normally when they don't say what the salary is or a range, they usually use the word competitive don't they?Areej (:
Very, I think it's unfair on two sides. Number one, it's unfair on the applicant who's applying of course, because what might happen is someone asks for 40 K while someone else asks for 70 K and then secondly, it's also unfair on people who are currently working for that company. I think a big reason why they don't add salary ranges is that they don't want people who are currently work there to know I'm happy to hire someone to do your same role and pay them 20 K more. And that's a big reason why they don't put it in so that people internally do not know what the range is for the role that they're doing. So it's, it's unfair on all sides.Sarah (:
And I've definitely seen where there's a job, um, description or job role put together, uh, where it could easily be two people's roles. Mm-hmm
Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, hopefully there are good like review systems in place and their current role. So this is definitely something that they can bring up in their upcoming review. Um, a lot of companies now are really looking at how to factor in, you know, the changing cost of living and make sure there's an added ratio of that. Um, alongside salary raises and review times. So, and that's definitely a discussion that's worth bringing up with someone's boss or with the HR team or so forth, especially with a lot of companies taking it on board right now. Um, and I think it's another question of salary, of course, is one thing it's a very important thing, but it's also around, you know, are you learning things in your current role? Are you growing? Is, is there room to have more responsibilities? So it's kind of like a balance of those and kind of, you know, matching that up and seeing, okay, this is a pro, but this is a con you know, would I be able to get both if I go to another roleSarah (:
And I suppose as well, um, obviously salary is important, but, um, going back to that package idea as well, um, it's very important to see what, what other perks that you get, I suppose, isn't it. Um, because if, if something's not up to your salary expectation, maybe there can be a compromise with other perks or bits and bobs that you get additionally to your own.Areej (:
Yeah, definitely. And I, I see a lot of people, you know, kind of base that around flexibility, work life balance, the number of holidays nowadays as well. A lot of it is around what's your work from anywhere policy. So there's definitely a lot of other things that can make, you know, the job feel much, much more fulfilling, even if the salary isn't exactly on bar with what you wanna be earning at the moment.Sarah (:
Yeah. Yeah. Because some companies might not be able to compete, but they can compete in, in other ways mm-hmm
Yeah, definitely.Sarah (:
Awesome. Okay. Um, Areej time is flying. Do you believe it we're nearly running out of time? Is there anything else that you'd like to, uh, bring up or discuss before we,Areej (:
Yeah, I think maybe the, the only one other thing I had in my, in my article was just around this idea of, you know, being too nervous to kind of launch new initiatives or so forth that require, or that, you know, have a certain fee attached to them. And just this thought is I see a lot in our industry as well with, oh, I've just created this tool. Do I give it away for free or do I charge for it? And a lot of people are doing some awesome courses for example, and they're really undercharging for it. So I think, you know, we all need to be kinder to ourselves and we all need to value it. It's, it's a problem coming from us as well, where, you know, we, we, we put a certain dollar sign next to a course, BEC simply because we don't think people would be willing to pay more, not because this is what I should earn based on the time, effort and energy that I've put into it.Areej (:
So I think it's, you know, it's something that we, we all, it is just a problem that we kind of all face at the moment and how we can just encourage ourselves and encourage each other to kind of value ourselves more. If you see someone selling a, a tool or a, or a course or so forth, and you re and you feel like it should probably cost more, just tell them that. I think that's probably good validation for them because it's something they're thinking and it's good validation for them to hear it from others as well. And they'll probably go ahead and raise their prices next time aroundSarah (:
That was a bit of advice that whenever you are, um, thinking of, um, monitoring value to put net net to something, whether it's, um, salary a course that you put together or whatever, always add on more than what you originally think. Mm-hmm,
Yeah. And I, you can always, and if it, and if people don't buy, then you can always bring prices down, can't you, I suppose. But,Areej (:
Um, you can always, you can always cater and make it accessible in other ways. Like you can always make sure that you've got scholarship tickets, for example, or you can always make sure you have a discount code for, um, you know, for people within your community. Like there's a lot of other ways to play around it, but your, your base price, your set price should be one where you are definitely your work and your hard effort is valued.Sarah (:
So the underlying message here is value yourself. More people be kinder
Yes. 1%.Sarah (:
Love it, love it. Um, wonderful. Well, last question. Um, before we wrap up wrap up, that was, uh, a very rubbish London accent there, cuz uh, I'm a northerner. Dunno what happened there, but yes. What is the best career advice you've ever received?Areej (:
Uh, yeah, that's a tough one. Um, it's uh, I had, I have a really, really good friend called Lindsay and she was office manager when I was working agency side. And um, every time I used to cry over a client
Yeah, definitely. I mean, what in the SEO sense? What is the worst? It can happen, right? Mm-hmm
Yeah, so my website is areejabuali.com. Um, I'm on Twitter for more time than I should be.
Wonderful. And I mean, there's always like new initiatives coming, great existing ones. So yes, definitely definitely get involved. Um, I will make sure that I put links to everything um, within the show notes. I would just like to say, um, thank you again to Areej for joining me today and thank you to our listeners for tuning in for another episode of the SEO mindset podcast. Episodes go live every Thursday, apart from when we have that odd, um, season break. Um, so yes, if you wanna reach out to the podcast, you can find us on Twitter. The handle is, um, @seomindsetpod, or you can find me on Twitter my handle is @sarahmcduk, or as a good friend pointed out Sarah McDuck. So a lovely way to remember that one. Uh, shall we say goodbye Areej?Areej (:
Yeah, goodbye. And thank you for having me.Sarah (:
Thank you. So, and until next time, everyone.