Dec 8, 2022 • 55M

Sara Taher: How I Balance Freelance Work W/ My 9-5 Job

From building a 90k/month website from scratch to in-house and agency roles. Sara shares her experience balancing freelance SEO work and a full-time job.

 
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Each month Nick LeRoy interviews a freelance consultant about their experience generating over six figures in annual income.
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Introducing Sara Taher

Sara has been doing SEO for 8+ years. She started out by building an online magazine that she built from scratch to over 90k sessions and getting local media attention. Her interest in entrepreneurship only grew from there. Sara was excepted into Ycombinator and further doubled down in her SEO career in both in-house and agency roles (and freelance projects).

Sara’s Resource Recommendations

  • Listen to The SEO Freelancer podcast

  • Find smart people to network with - both in-person and online (LinkedIn is great)

  • Build a small group that you can trust and meet with regularly. this can end up being your best source of referrals and or simply run ideas past them.

How to connect with Sara Taher online

Sara’s official website

Connect with Sara on LinkedIn

Connect with Sara on Twitter


This Months Sponsor: SEOChatter.com

Do you want to jump into SEO freelancing?

But not sure if you’re good enough to make it work?

At SEOChatter.com you can get the expert training you need to succeed for free.

SEO Chatter is one of the fastest-growing sites in our industry that teaches every aspect of SEO. You'll find hundreds of free guides on keyword research, on-page optimization, link building, and more to help you maximize any website's rankings and traffic.

Visit SEOChatter.com to see it for yourself. And click the subscribe button to get your free SEO training gift.


If you are a freelancer interested in joining me on a future episode of The SEO Freelancer podcast Please email me directly at nick@nickleroy.com


Podcast Transcription

Nick LeRoy 

welcome to the SEO Freelancer podcast. My name is Nick Leroy, and I am your host. And today I'm very excited to have Sarah ta her with me. She's going to be talking a bit about what it's like to do freelancing on the side in addition to a nine to five SEO job. Before we jump into this month's episode, I want to do a quick shout out to this month's sponsor SeoChatter.com.

Do you want to jump into SEO freelancing, but not sure you're good enough to make it work? At Seo chatter.com You can get the expert training you need to succeed for free. SEO Chatter is one of the fastest growing sites in our industry that teaches every aspect of SEO. You'll find hundreds of free guides on keyword research on page optimization, link building, and more to help you maximize your website's rankings and traffic. Visit Seo chatter.com to see for yourself and click subscribe button to get your free SEO Training gift. Got Seo chatter.com today. Thank you again to this month's sponsor, SEO chatter. Now let's jump into this month's episode.

Thank you, Sarah, for joining us today.

Sara Taher 

Thank you for having me today. Here, Nick.

Nick LeRoy 

Yes, absolutely. So for those that aren't familiar with you, are you willing to share a little bit about yourself? Obviously, we know your name. We know you're in SEO, but give us a little background about your who is Sarah?

Sara Taher 

Okay, so I've been doing SEO for eight years now. I stumbled upon it accidentally, I launched an online magazine, I was managing a team of editors and we were creating great content. And it was like okay, so how do we get more people to read it. That's where I started to learn and you know, take boot camps and so on. And within a year, I took it from zero to 90,000 visitors per month. And a lot of things happened as well. Like the it became popular in my community. The I was interviewed by the local radio, the biggest it was an Arabic so the biggest one of the biggest Arab Arabic content portals starting to start to repost our content on the website, which was like really, really cool back then. Some of the people who contributed to the website, were invited to TED talks, for example, again in so it was like, pretty cool, right? I was like, wow, that's really fun. And then that wasn't Egypt, I moved to Dubai. I was, I was in love with SEO. But I was also interested in entrepreneurship and startups. And when I say startups, I mean, like, technical startups with an innovative component. So again, like I launched a tech startup, I was managing a team of developers in Ukraine, and I was able to take it to grow it to a, as a, in a seed stage startup, very reasonably with SEO. I was doing basically everything else other than development. So it was like a lot. And I was able to get accepted to Y Combinator, which is like the world's best startup accelerator. They had an online startup school launched that year. So it was like, wow, that's my chance. And I got into it. And I started, it started to grow, really. But I ran out of funds, and I wasn't able to raise funds, and I was too shy to ask people to pay for the service. I know that sounds ridiculous, but that was that. So I moved from that I had a lot of SEO experience in my pocket. So I, I loved it. So I moved into an in house role in Dubai, it was the biggest travel agents in the Middle East. It's like Expedia, which was pretty cool for me to get into that. And I to this day, I am so grateful for that experience. I had a lot of great managers that helped me grow there and understand a lot of things and dynamics, how SEO sits with other and works with other teams and so on. As well as being able to connect with enough developers and understands a lot of technical stuff that were not commonly talked about back then, like programmatic pages, for example, right? So I moved from I moved to Canada. I freelanced a bit and then I started to work at an agency and then in house and then I moved back to agency, which is where I am today.

Nick LeRoy 

So that's, that's a lot of experience. Beginning and I'll just say a comparison. You know, here you are building a website that is driving what do you say 90,000 visits when you? Yeah, my first website outside of leroy.com was was best holistic dog food.net. And I didn't make a single penny off of it. So it just shows how we all start from somewhere but some of us have a little bit more success than others. So

Sara Taher 

maybe I was lucky. Maybe I was just lucky. You know?

Nick LeRoy 

There is no luck. Hard work is always valuable. I think I just chased the money, whereas you chased a passion.

Sara Taher 

Yeah. I think, literally, I had a problem monetizing anything. I, I would, I think, and that was a part of a struggle in my freelancing journey. So back when I was working in house in my first role, I also freelanced and worked part time within a local SEO agency there. And that was good for me, because I didn't have to deal directly with the clients and ask them for money. Like this is a skill I had to grow into literally.

Nick LeRoy 

Yeah, no, absolutely. And I think, you know, that consulting aspect of it is such a unique skill set. I mean, learning SEO is hard enough. You know, there's a lot of things that are constantly changing, as you myself, and everybody on this podcast already knows. But the people element of it the communication, I think, truly is one of the components that turns us from being a good SEO to a great SEO. But if you don't, let's jump a little bit. So you've covered a little bit about your first job. So do you want to talk just a little bit more about how did you and we heard about your past, but how did you get this job? Did you apply kind of with the experience sharing, you know, the success you had with the site? Yeah, how long were you there for? And then everybody's favorite question, if you don't mind sharing what you were earning at the time.

Sara Taher 

Okay, so I was able to get the job because of what I've done, you know, in my startup, and previously in my, the magazine write it, it was like really differentiated me a lot, compared to other candidates who just a lot of them with started in SEO, they were in the role that somehow, you know, doing social media and some SEO was, so it was differentiate me when I applied. I stayed there for a year before moving to Canada, and I was earning so in UAE money, it's 10k, which is, it was it was good back then. That was okay. For a junior position. Sure. Yeah. 10k would be like, I think back then it was around three U. K, USD, per month,

Nick LeRoy 

per month. All right. Yeah, we could certainly live off of that. You know, I know, we've been talking about various guests. And it's interesting when it has come down from everything from making. You know, I think Christina was saying that she was making the Aquila like 500 bucks a month to, you know, we have people like Steve Toth or you know, making, you know, 40 grand a month. Yeah, it just all over the place.

Sara Taher 

I think I was lucky because in Dubai people, at least back then when I was there, people tend to have bigger salaries, then, you know, because that's people go to Gulf countries to make savings. So that's probably why it was like that. But when I was freelancing for the agency there, I was getting like for 20 hours per week. So total 80 hours per month, I was getting paid around 500 or $600 per month for that work. So

Nick LeRoy 

and that's a very good transition. So naturally, one of the reasons I was very interested in having Sara on the podcast is she still has a nine to five job. But she freelances In addition, a lot of my guests previously have been freelance SEOs for a couple of years now are just kind of starting out on the journey, but they're 100% dedicated to it. And I think the opportunity to discuss how freelance can continue to augment our our earnings and learning opportunities is super important. So if you don't mind, Sara, will you share with us a little bit? What encouraged you to freelance in addition to you know, that first job I think you're saying it sounds like you were making some decent money at the time? Was it strictly money? Was it learning, I'd love to hear a little bit more.

Sara Taher 

I wanted to learn as much and do as much as I can. And I wanted to see how other people are doing SEO as well. Right? So this was like a very good opportunity for me for that. For that because the money wasn't like I was I had a decent salary and the money I was getting paid from the agency wasn't that much. And it was actually a lot of work because I worked like one hour driving and because back then we used to go to the office to work full time. So one hour driving in the morning, and then nine to six, not nine to five and then one hour back and then you have to do your freelancing and I literally Some nights I would and I have my family as well. Right? So literally, sometimes I would sleep or sleep on my laptop literally I would be like, my head would be dropping and and the money was like was not enough motivation for me to do that. But I wanted to, I wanted to do it because I wanted to learn as much as I can. And I wanted to see what others are doing and be able to get feedback, right?

Nick LeRoy 

Yeah, and I think that's, that's one thing, it's not that everybody should have to be, you know, doing the 8090 100 hour, you know, months. But it seems like we don't see that quite as often I kind of did the same type of thing. You know, it was work, you know, 4050 hours during the week, I came home, and it was like launching a website, taking out a project. But I think it was very similar to what you were mentioning, it's much more about learning. And for me, it was almost fear of like, what don't I know? Yeah, so I was always same reason. But I think this actually brings us to a really good conversation, I can share some of my thoughts, but I'd love to hear from you. How do you handle the conversation? Or is there one about freelancing on the side? When you have a nine to five SEO job? Is that something that you've had conversations with your bosses about? Or did you kind of do it on the sly, like, walk us through a little bit your experience?

Sara Taher 

I definitely every time I apply for a job, I definitely discuss that and make it clear. And I've seen situations where people say we're not comfortable with that. And, and I've seen people will say we don't mind that. So, right. And it's funny when people say they're not comfortable with that. Because I mean, in their mind, they're afraid that this is gonna jeopardize the work the full time job. But I mean, if you're being honest with them, and you're disclosing it, you're not hiding anything. And they should see that you're a responsible person, but they don't see that. So I mean, and and this is where you need to make a decision. I mean, the best path is just be clear about it, because I'm really, you know, I'm on LinkedIn all over the place. And I know me talk about clients, like, I do name them, obviously. But I may mention that I have a current client or something around that. So the best bathroom is always to talk about it and be transparent with it. So. And I've seen also situations where companies include that in their contract that you may work as much as you want, outside their hours and not on people like or not on businesses that are competing with the current clients, which is fair enough as well. So yeah, so like my current agency in the in the contract, it does include talking about working outside, having your own consulting work, right. So yeah,

Nick LeRoy 

when you say when, when that's in the contract, it's saying that that's okay. Like they approve of it. Yeah,

Sara Taher 

as long as there is those, you know, you're not working for a competitor or having this conflict of interest or those situations, as long as you're not in one of those situations, you're good.

Nick LeRoy 

Absolutely. And I think that's kind of been my experience as well, you know, there's naturally a non compete, you don't want to work for the competitors to your day clients. And you don't want to put yourself in a situation where you're ruffling any feathers at work, I would say and Sara would love for your opinion as well, one thing that I did not do a good job early on in my career when I worked at the agency, but it was better. You know, more recently, and obviously now that I'm freelance full time is making sure that you do separate, like your technology and your tech stacks. Because there are some companies that will get very upset if you're using your work computer to be sending emails, even if it's outside of your work hours, or if they have a SEMrush account and you're using it. You know, I think that again, in that full transparency, if you're going to freelance, it's really trying to separate it so that you can be very intentional in both efforts and not have them, you know, reflect upon one another or leverage resources etc.

Sara Taher 

Yeah, I mean, for me, I have separate laptops, obviously, like the company's laptop companies tools are theirs, mine, I have my own Screaming Frog license, my own sem rush, and so on. And I mean, it saves a lot. And if like, for me, in my mind, if this conversation ever pops up, you have you can show your you have your own license, you have your own stuff, and you know, I I like to have this, like separation and have it helps you have if if that discussion ever pops up you have the evidence to support that you're not doing anything wrong, but I mean, at the end of the day again, I generally speaking, I do feel that employees should trust their employees. And I mean, if you disclose that This means that you're being responsible and, you know, taking the necessary steps to make sure that they don't impact each other.

Nick LeRoy 

Yeah, without a doubt. And I can say, as a hiring manager, most people by now know that I was on the agency side for 10 plus years. And on the latter half of that I had hired quite a few people. And anytime that I saw that somebody was interested, or currently had freelanced, or built their own websites, or just basically were even building like a personal like persona, like I was 90% interested in those candidates, like right off the bat, like as long as you're good with, like, a culture fit like that, to me, excites me, because there's something to be said about, you can be really good at your job, nine to five, come in, come out. But if you're actively trying to learn outside of work, like I can't force you to do that as like a team lead. But if you're gonna do that to yourself, so that you can either get more experience make a little bit extra money, that inherently is going to help you with your nine to five. So I wish more people if they're not would actually embrace this, obviously keep in consideration what we had talked about before with non competes and technology. But I think that is more just general respect for one another.

Sara Taher 

Yeah, I mean, I think we do need to change the conversation literally about having a side gig, in addition to your full time job, but it should be normal, it should be seen as something positive. It should not be like, and I actually, you know, when you get go into an interview, this is actually one way I do check. What the way people respond to that, because I would like to work in a place where people trust you right off the bat from day one. I. So, it for me, it's also like a way to interview them as much as they're interviewing me. Yeah, I totally agree with you. Yep.

Nick LeRoy 

Yeah, and I think that what you had said, is super important, the idea of interviewing them, I mean, similar to what I would do, you know, with my clients, you know, I'm interviewing them as much as they are. But, you know, going in, especially now, with the SEO market being as hot as it is, and nearly any SEO can get any job they want, you know, go in and ask these type of questions. And it's not about being a bully, but it's making sure that you're set up to succeed with them, and vice versa. Yeah, I remember taking calls, you know, sir, as, as you kind of alluded to, as well, things would be going really, really good. And then, you know, they ask you some of these questions. And naturally, I would bring up some side clients. And I remember one individuals, specifically it was for an agency had said, oh, so I see that you do freelancing? Yeah, I just want to let you know that we have a strict no freelancing policy here. And I was just kind of gutted by that. I just told them, I was like, honestly, this is kind of a deal breaker. Like, for me, I had always used freelancing as the ability to make and I'm using air quotes here, your extra money, this is what I spoiled my kids with, you know, get bought the candies all all trips. You know, it was never something I relied on. But I was unwilling to put myself in a situation where I was 100% dependent on a salary. So I just hope that, you know, other people that are being in that situation, to your points here are having a broader conversation about why is it that you're not encouraging this?

Sara Taher 

Yeah, I feel they just maybe they never freelance themselves. So they you have doubts on how you're going to be managing that or I feel it's a matter of trust. And it's something it's not comfortable for me personally, to go into a role knowing that they wouldn't trust me if I wanted to have a side project. And again, when we talk about transparency, again, even with your freelance clients, if you have another freelance project that comes up that would have like some, like I had a makeup client, and it's for woman it for 50 plus women, and then I had another makeup client reach out and I had to disclose that to my first client. I told him, Okay, guys, this business, they want me to work with them. Is that okay with you or not? So they checked outside, it's a different different target audience. So they were okay. But, I mean, it's not just for a full time job. It's also even with your freelancing clients, you need some time, like if you get in those situations, I mean, we have invested so much in our careers and put out poured our heart into learning SEO, I would not jeopardize that for an extra client. Do you know? Yeah, like I really don't care. I'd rather lose declined, then have someone say, Oh, you tricked us and you have another client and you've been like, you know, this is like a conflict of interest. I would never do that. And myself and I mean, every single good se Oh, that invested so much time and effort into this would not? Would not, I cannot imagine someone wasting all of this over, you know, a client that you can get another one later, you know?

Nick LeRoy 

No, absolutely. I think it kind of goes back to personal branding, which we'll talk about, you know, we only have one name associated with us. And it takes years and years and years to build trust and expertise. But I mean, you can make one decision in a split second, and it can ruin it overnight. Yeah, yeah. It's not worth cashing it in for a quick buck, just for that.

Sara Taher 

I mean, you work on a website for a long time before you start seeing any results. And then you ask them to give you like your viewer recommendations, I'm not gonna waste all of these, you know, efforts just for, I don't know, a consultation client or, and yeah, I mean, that's, and that's, that's one time I discussed this, actually, with another SEO, like a really an expert SEO and even in this mindset, it does impact a lot of the work you do. And even when, when I was working in house, and you start getting pushed away from you know, the typical, like, you're not being involved as you should be. One time, I just told them guys, no good, good SEO is gonna sit on the bench and watch, that's not gonna happen, you know, like, you definitely hired the wrong person, I'm not going to just sit there and watch you do a migration. That's, that's not gonna happen, you know. So I, for me, like freelancing is it's a lot of things, but one of them is it's I genuinely like what I do. And I wouldn't jeopardize that.

Nick LeRoy 

I think your analogy of sitting on the bench is so true. I've mentioned this, I think before on the on the past to on the latter end of my agency career, you know, when I was kind of at the director level, you find that as you scale up in these positions, the amount of SEO you do goes down. And to the point where I was sitting in meetings for, you know, 678 hours a day, and I wasn't doing it was delegating day in and day out. And, and trust me, I mean, if I don't have to do manual redirect mappings ever again, I'll probably be okay with that. But you miss, you know, doing the work. And when I went out freelance full time, I was surprised at how much I actually missed it. Like, I knew I missed part of it. But I liked getting my hands dirty, I liked doing more than just talking about best practices and talking about strategies. So I completely understand that. And I think that's potentially one reason why someone may want to consider freelance as well, in addition to learning more, and potentially making some extra money, but again, as you kind of are climbing a corporate ladder, historically, that means you were doing less, so if you love getting your hands dirty, and being deep in those crawls. Your Freelancing is just an opportunity to talk about or to discuss.

Sara Taher 

Yeah, and I mean, even when you're and I mean, even if you're still getting your hands dirty, hands dirty to an extent that in an agency, there's still some restrictions on and, and pressure on pleasing the client in a way. And you don't have sometimes you don't have the saying that, like the client wants this, maybe that's not what best for them, they want that we're doing that, you know, you don't have that, like had have much say in certain situations. But when you have your own clients, you do have to say like, and maybe that's why I actually I also feel, having my full time role and having clients on the side gives me that opportunity or make it easier for me to not worry about pleasing the clients versus telling them what they should be doing. Right. So it's a lot of things. Yeah.

Nick LeRoy 

Yeah. And I think we're kind of gonna blend a little bit personal projects versus freelance projects. But I think you would probably agree to me if not, what you can learn and what you can test on, say your own websites isn't necessarily something we're always comfortable doing on a client's website. So we have to push ourselves to be able to learn so we know what we shouldn't do as much as we should do for, you know, our nine to five like agency clients.

Sara Taher 

Yeah, definitely. I remember one time a few years ago, I got a manual action on one of my websites right now. And now I learned what not to do. Right.

Nick LeRoy 

Right. And so it's terrifying. Again, something like that, but it's also terrifying. I mean, you can only think of you probably think, oh my gosh, I'm gonna lose my job. How am I gonna pay my bills? Five, whereas now you're just like, What the heck happened? Like, I'm going down the rabbit hole today.

Sara Taher 

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And I mean, it's Having this combination and having also personal personal projects are really important for any good SEO or anyone who wants to be an SEO with good SEO to develop, you have to have this ground zero where you, you know, try things and make changes and you're just, you know, whatever. I'll just see what happens. It does help a lot. Yeah.

Nick LeRoy 

So knowing that you've done all the I mean, you've done everything you've been agency you've been it has, you've done the freelance, you've had your own projects, I'm going to ask a pointed questions that I'm sure a lot of people are thinking right now. So Sara, have you given consideration to going freelance full time? And if you have, or haven't, can you share a little bit more like what your thinking is?

Sara Taher 

So I thought about it, I, I just don't see myself doing it. And here's why. And I know it works for people great. And that during the times that I was when I was shifting from one country to the other, and I freelanced fully full time. It's awesome. It's like you have all the flexibility. Like I like that right? What about hearing

Nick LeRoy 

fruit? Talks about what a bad we did have a whole nother episode just about.

Sara Taher 

It's awesome, right. But few things I noticed. First of all, you're pretty lonely. And even if you build a team, it's very easy that you become the expert in the room, you're the boss. Even if no matter how friendly and open you are to discussions, people will always prioritize making it pleasing you in a way or another over having like those hot debates. So I just don't want to be. And it's not that I don't want to lead an SEO team. But I don't want to be like the the owner of the business or owner of an agency in a way that because I've also since I've also worked in small agencies before and I've seen this situation, and I it's not, I don't feel this is a setup I want to be in like I don't want to be the expert, the the, it's good to be the expert, but I want other voices as well to challenge what I say and show me when I'm wrong. So these two things do impact, like, make make it not as attractive to me. And then you have the stress of making sure your sales funnel is always full, making sure you know your clients are happy and so on. And I just feel like I'm the type of person who would like to just focus on doing SEO without all these other things. So yeah, that's why at least for now, I don't see myself doing it full time. Maybe that will change. Sure. But not

Nick LeRoy 

everything can change in a day. I mean, as been very vocal, you know, I've always liked the idea of freelancing. I never had the guts to actually do it full time. And then I got fired. And it's like, I started going through the interview process, got some really junky offers and sat through a sixth round interview for a job I really wanted and then didn't get it. And you know, basically had to get so frustrated to the point where I was like, That's it, I can do this better. But I think you truly if you were a good employee, which it sounds like you are, I was never a very good employee. I was always hard to manage. But there can be a best of both worlds. I

Sara Taher 

think working I'm actually I've been actually laid off before so yeah, I'm I'm hard to manage as well.

Nick LeRoy 

Both of us.

Sara Taher 

I mean, I would I would say the thing is with people who have if you have this freelancing mindset even if you're working full time or if you have that it means there's a lot of other traits in your personality you're in and and sometimes it's actually means you really love what you do and that's why you know, you took so this does not necessarily align with a lot of from my experience and interviewing for jobs and so on. Some people will not hire you just because they're intimidated by you so or maybe they would you be laid off just because your coworkers are not comfortable around you because they just intimidated they just feel like you know it I've seen that I don't want to dig into that a lot but sometimes you're just making people uncomfortable just because who you who how much you care and how much you love something and you're so obsessed with it and you know they they're not on the same level and they just so they feel that you're gonna like when the corporate race or something and that's that's not what what was on your mind and then they start getting in your way and yeah, things happen.

Nick LeRoy 

Yeah, and you know, and no one can see this because this is audio but I've never been you know, shaking my head up and down. on so much, and what and like you said, we certainly don't have to go into any more. But I think a lot of what I allude that to is just corporate politics and politics exists, whether it's a very large company or a very small company. And what I alluded to not being the best employee at times, I think it's because I never was really good at the games. Yeah, that's.

Sara Taher 

It's just yeah, I totally agree. I'm listening to this book for the eight rules of power. And it's ridiculous. It talks about politics in a way or another. And it's ridiculous how many people in history when like, literally were killed, or because people would not were intimidated by them just just just because there were better or look, apparently outshined. Others were one way for one reason or the other, literally killed. So yeah, we're lucky to live.

Nick LeRoy 

Yeah, and you and I certainly, you know, don't want to compare the those extreme situations. And here you go, you should freelance. But I think what it does show is that freelancing can sometimes be an outlet for people that sometimes maybe feel a little bit limited within their company, but maybe don't have the want the need, or even the interest in running a company. So I knew Sir, this is gonna be a great topic, and why I was so excited to have you on this podcast. So thank you for going into a lot of those details.

Sara Taher 

You're welcome. I'm happy to talk about it.

Nick LeRoy 

Yeah, I think one thing that will be super helpful, you know, a little bit of transitioning is, you know, you have done a great job and, you know, public speaking, and kind of building up your, your personal brand. Can you talk to me a little bit about how you're on public speaking, being on like this podcast, like, how is that impacted, you know, the success behind your nine to five career as well as like your freelance work.

Sara Taher 

So building my personal brand generally helped me many times, get to the first round of interviews, or sometimes even the second, right, it did take me through the door, you have a lot to showcase, I if I'm interested in role I can connect with like the hiring manager, or the marketing director, for example, and start a conversation and they can see like, what's, you know, my profile my, my podcasts, or webinars and articles as well. So it does help me get through the door, but nest and give an established, because they can see how confident or how confident you are in your skills and what you can talk about and so on. So does get you in, to pass in that in that area, then there is the fit, as you know, as we discussed, maybe they're not interested in freelancing, you freelancing and so on. So did help me in that, it from from that standpoint, another thing for my clients, I noticed every time, so I published four articles so far, to One Search Engine Land and to on Search Engine Journal, I'd like to publish more, but my time is sort of limited anyway. So every time I publish, I at least get some one person reaching out for consultation or retainer, at least one person. And I mean, that's the power of personal brand, right. So I, the reason I started investing in my personal brand, so much is I was so invested in SEO and I was giving my all to the companies I worked for, and I almost never felt appreciated. In fact, it was crazy, though, like the the things I literally would have people reaching out for me, there was one point in my career where I would get clients. And instead of taking them for myself, I would give them to the agency. And I was still not appreciated, which was the people who were appreciated were the people who are good at playing games, and that sort of thing. So that's why when I said okay, I am still doing my best at my job because I care, but I also need to invest in myself. And I never that's the best decision I ever made in my life so far. The only thing is it there's doing SEO is one skill. And then there's so many things that you need to grow into to be able to have a personal brand, and I'm not there yet, but I hope i i get there sometime. So yeah, yeah. Well,

Nick LeRoy 

we're all building on that. I think again, you guys can't see this. But I mean, my head's hitting the ceiling and hitting the floor. This constant Yeah, yes, yes. Yes. Because I think you know, this was very much the the situation that I was in when I was working agency side and doing freelancing on the side agency full time but freelancing on the side. You know, there is a lot of if you don't play the games, or maybe the politics are strong or you just aren't feeling like you're, you know, a perfect fit, you know, and then you're doing this extra effort and you feel like you're kind of rewarding the company where you don't feel 100% validated. It's hard. But I think the personal branding the writing, is really an opportunity, from my perspective has always been almost like insurance, you know, I looked at as if, and thank goodness, I did this, but it's like, if a day where I was like, go or, you know, removed from a situation, where do I go? And, you know, without going too into detail, well, heck, I'll just go into so like, last time I was, you know, I've been like, Oh, my job twice. The first time I was like, Go was terrifying. I lost my mind, I had no clue what I was gonna do. And then thank goodness, because of, you know, the work that I had put into the SEO for lunch newsletter, you know, I've written for Search Engine Land that, you know, follow a lot of people on Twitter and have this network, I was able to get my new job in 10 days, I literally was sitting in the new seat 10 days later. Now, I'd be like, go from that job to at the end because of COVID. However, you know, it's just another situation where it's like, I feel like, it's good to be loyal to your company. But you need to be loyal to yourself first. Because if there's ever a situation where they have to pick between their business and you, they're going to pick the business, just like you should pick yourself over the business given that situation as well. So and rant, but I feel like that's it's really important. I think that further validates kind of what you were saying about, you know, investing into your public speaking and personal brand. Yeah, I

Sara Taher 

mean, the first time it was let go, that also was on my mind that, you know, I was like, so stupid, giving them to clients, I thought they would appreciate that and and that never happened. And, and I was also recently let go from an agency. And I there was no reason actually, like, on Friday, I was getting on boarded for with a client, I had a client meeting went well, oh, well, this is like it was an existing client. So and I was new, I was just a new hire. And I met the client Monday, all good Tuesday, layoff. What happened on Monday is that they lost some PPC clients. And then I was like, the newest hire probably, and I think it was the one of the highest paid maybe on the team. So last, oh, yeah. I was not happy, to be honest. And, and, you know, I put a rule for myself that I will never, ever join a company with less than 50 people like the less population or employees, there isn't a company, they tend to be very responsible with hiring and letting people go.

Nick LeRoy 

Right? Yeah. And I think there's a whole nother conversation about that. And you're Ryan, anyone's like, I would even love to have a third head in this conversation, because I'm sure, from someone like you and I come from one position. You know, we obviously have some strong opinions. And I'm sure from a leadership position or an owner of an agency, it comes from a different side as well. But, you know, it's it's very interesting. It's very hairy, you know, and part of it, I this is honestly, part of the reason why I personally, as of today have no interest in starting an agency, I just, that's not where I want to spend my time. I like having the business associated with being a consultant. That is fun. But it all kind of revolves around me and impacts me and it's not taking food off of other people's plates.

Sara Taher 

I see that I know. Yeah, I agree with it. It's just for me, as I said, I need that feeling of security. Maybe I know it's false. But

Nick LeRoy 

hey, you know what, I was the first one to say, you know, I wrote the blog posts that a lot of people probably have read here about, you know, the false dichotomy of job security in a nine to five job, but the reality is, is in the right situation, you know, there are companies that are trying their best to be loyal and support, you know, their, their support staff, you know, and they're trying to and, you know, businesses hard. I think we especially saw that with COVID. But I think, freelancing on this, I think if there's anything that we're taking away from this is freelancing on the side, it allows you to just have more opportunity, you know, given you know what, someone who maybe doesn't have that?

Sara Taher 

Definitely, yeah, definitely. And I use the income I get from that freelancing and taking courses if I need it, and buying go, like I bought two dropshipping websites to experiment with them last year. That sort of thing, right. Yeah. Because I mean, for me, I have a family and I need to make sure that I'm not touching that sort of because, like, I'm always on my phone. Why didn't you do me? You know, what are you doing? No worries. Don't worry. Just

Sara Taher 

one more small project, don't worry. Like, it's not like I'm buying Amazon or buying domains. And once you buy a domain, there's the whole project coming out of it. So

Nick LeRoy 

oh, so I feel like talking about freelancing, there's a little bit of a chicken and egg, you know, obviously, you got to have the skill sets to be able to deliver. But you have to be able to kind of demonstrate it for people to be interested in you. And I kind of put that together with like a personal brand. And I know, you have a pretty, you know, big following. You're especially strong on LinkedIn, can you give us some tips, you know, if there's somebody that you know, let's just assume they're already and all star and SEO, they have this nine to five job, they're happy, but they want something a little bit more. But nobody outside of their clients, you know, at this agency or their in house Job knows about them? What recommendations would you give to start building that personal brand?

Sara Taher 

Yeah, I would, first of all, I would tell them never copy anyone. It's not going to work because people want to connect with you as a person. I mean, if you copy the best performing posts from everyone, this is your not your that people will not see a person at the end of the day, like they will engage with your posts, you get engagements, but who are you? Because when I get people connecting with me, or people asking me questions, I do feel they know me, they've read, like, read few of my opinions, my personal opinions before and they're discussing them. But if you're copying posts that work, how would you discuss something that does not come out of your own experience? Like it's, it's not going to be really genuine. So don't copy anyone. Keep trying to find your voice, right? I kept trying different approaches. And then what worked for me is I write about something I'm working on at the problem or a challenge I came across. So that worked for me, because apparently it resonated with a lot of people. They're working on stuff and they come across similar things. And from there, I was like, Okay, what, what if I start SEO riddles, and I started that hashtag repost, head scratching, or why not sure. What's the right word? captures that people are like, okay, yeah, we never thought about it that way before. So you keep and if you look, even if when you go on LinkedIn, on Twitter, like I've recently stumbled upon Christina Zanku, talking about that, when she started, she was just giving a summary of Google's John John Miller's videos, she was just summarizing them and posting them on Twitter. So it can be something very simple, simple, doesn't have to be complicated, you're just, you know, making information more accessible to people. But if someone like comes today, and tries to start, for example, newsletter about latest and greatest in SEO, well, they're competing with Elida. And, you know, it's, I don't see there's a lot of potential there, for example. So be yourself, definitely keep trying to find your voice and find what you can bring that that people will connect with, right. And that's when you meet those people in real life or in events, they'll be talking to you about the things you've posted, that this is their image, the image, they have a view in their mind, and it's only gonna, like, when you build a personal brand you want people to, to remember you and connect with you, right? And the only way you do that is just finding what is working for you and then resonates with people.

Nick LeRoy 

And I love that if I think I could sum up a lot of that in even one word, I would just say like, be authentic, like authenticity is huge. And I think you really captured one thing that I believe strongly and it's like, just put yourself out there like you, it's very vulnerable to go out there. Because I guarantee you and I hate this, if I could protect everybody from it, I would, you're going to hit a troll before you will hit a fan. There's going to be like I I tweet and I talk on LinkedIn, a lot about freelancing and something that I'm really passionate about. And as Sara and I had just talked about, like when you have some of the experiences that it sounds like we've had in some our nine to five roles, you know, it really makes you want to be an advocate for the topic, but I am regularly told that I glorify SEO or freelancing and that I don't talk about the bad things and you know that, you know, maybe I'm making things up. But really, it just comes down to put yourself out there anything that you assume somebody knows, you can't assume that because there's always gonna be somebody who's thinking about that just says too afraid to speak up.

Sara Taher 

Yeah, yeah, definitely. Yeah.

Nick LeRoy 

So So on that note, one thing that I get is, especially with some younger individuals I've been talking to lately, you know, I'll sit there and say like, we'll be at an event. And I'm like, You should throw on LinkedIn, you know, because they'll always look at like, My followers or something. And they'll say, Oh, I'd like to do that. And I'll go over to them and be like, Hey, that was like a really good nugget in that presentation, you should tweet that out or throw it on LinkedIn. And they look so puzzled. Like, they just have no clue where to even start, like, what did you do to kind of just, I guess, just, it's that start line? Like, what did you do just to start going?

Sara Taher 

I just, you know, just do it, don't overthink it, do it and learn it as you do it. That's, that's the only way it can be done literally. Because if you keep planning and analyzing and overthinking, you will delay your start and may not start at all, then you can just think about, okay, how would I make this in like a short post, I would summarize or highlight that and they keep they post one time they see, okay, was this good or not, maybe next time, they you know, change the format a bit, and so on. But my advice is just to start executing don't overthink it. And so far, I've seen a lot of people that are like, a lot of people are nice, and will encourage you in your own network, right. And I like, even for me, like I've been trying to write this ebook for, like, 1000 years now. And I just said, don't know how to start and then actually took the day off to do this podcast with you. And to that, okay, I'm just gonna sit there and start, I'm just gonna write and whatever happens, you know, what's the worst thing that can happen? At least I'll know where, where's the challenges or why it cannot start. So just do it.

Nick LeRoy 

I think that's fantastic. And honestly, there's like Nike. Yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking they shouldn't have to sponsor this show for that. Just do it. And the only other thing that I could recommend is honestly, like, throw up a splash page, like, like, if you can buy your domain, you know, Nick leroy.com? Yeah, Sara, Dash taher.com. You know, put a picture of your face who you are in a contact form? Because you'd be surprised that you know, who's gonna reach out? Yeah, it was just on LinkedIn this morning. I got to know what that was, like, I liked one of your messages followed to your website, and I got to dig what you're doing. You know, let's talk and I have a call later today. Yeah, so it's like, just do it, you know, get up there, you know, just, you know, shoot your shot. So, so let's, let's move on a little bit more into what recommendations do you have for anyone that aspires to freelance and again, it doesn't have to be full time make up your whole salary, even if they want to do on the side? Job, particularly like a book newsletter, any courses that you've taken that you just think are, you know, really good for somebody to look into?

Sara Taher 

Yeah, first of all, this podcast, they have to listen. That's the first thing. I would say also. Yes, so you don't necessarily need to wait for people to reach out to you. You may look, for example, for freelancing gigs, job posts on LinkedIn, for example, you may start to approach people just you know, be ready to answer their questions. Because they'll ask, okay, what what's your How does it work? What, what's the fees? Or what's the budget for that? So they have those questions, and you need to have those sort of sorted out. Because you don't want to give the impression that you don't know what you're doing. So that another thing I recently met another in house SEO, that's also freelancing on the side. And I was surprised when they told me they have four clients, because that's exactly the number of clients I can only that that's the maximum number of clients, like retainer clients that I can work with for months on the side on top of my without going being crazy or losing my mind that so keep that in mind and that you only can have four clients. Not necessarily that I mean, for me that this is a specific number of clients. So feel free to be picky. And I mean, it's not easy getting clients when you're starting, obviously, and even sometimes even now, it can be challenging. It's not always easy. There's a lot of great SEOs out there as well. But it's it's better to be picky and to work with people you know that you're interested in working with them. There's there they actually are ready to execute. And so you'll get some results that you can showcase, because that's one of the mistakes I did a while back. I He took on clients that I liked. I liked the businesses. But as we worked, I started to realize they are not ready to execute and recommendations started piling up. And I literally just had to tell them guys, in my mind, I'm sorry, I cannot continue taking your money. Because I mean, you're not ready to execute. Let's connect later when you're ready. So as I said, Because you have a limited, you don't want to overwhelm yourself and have no life at all. So be picky. Even if you don't have a lot of clients. Right from the start, make sure you're working with the right people that will help you have those case studies or something to showcase. It's it's not. So it's not just about the money if you really want to grow your freelance, it's also about having those stories to tell. Right? Right. So yeah, that those are two things. And I would say also, like I built, I started a small meetup monthly meet up with other SEOs. Some of them, one of them is in house. One is an agency owner, and then two are freelancing. And three are freelancing. Yeah. And we meet to discuss things and challenges and find yourself a small tribe like this, right? You need people to talk about any challenges you're facing. And you'll be surprised how much support you'll get. I personally forwarded a client, I did not have capacity to to one of the people in that group, right and find your friends or creative group of SEO friends that you meet with regularly, it will help you a lot.

Nick LeRoy 

Yeah, you know, that last tip is phenomenal. I mean, honestly, that's very much how I have gotten some of my best clients, it's other individuals or agency owners that I know and have a relationship with, and they can't take it on. Or they may have a non compete, you know, with another client. And you know what, I'm a big proponent of never just saying, No, it's always no, but like, no, but I know somebody who I think might be a good fit, and I trust. So I think that's a huge tip. And I'm really glad that you made that recommendation.

Sara Taher 

And yeah, one more thing, you don't need to wait for clients or find clients who want may want to start on your own affiliate website, or maybe, you know, buy a $500 existing affiliate website, and you have like, it's not like a fresh domain, it has some work done there. And you can try to make it grow. And that would be a small side gig till, and it would still help you to probably have a tiny bit of income, but at least you have stories to tell. As I said, Yeah.

Nick LeRoy 

And you know, what the best part is about affiliate sites or ad revenue sites is if they don't work, you have nobody but yourself to say why they don't work. Whereas when you come from an agency side, or even on the freelance side, as Sara had said, sometimes people just aren't ready. They don't buy into it. You know, there's budget constraints, there's always a reason why it doesn't work. But the best part of an affiliate site is when it works, it's really validating that you know, your stuff. But when it doesn't work, you got to give two big old thumbs to yourself and say that as long as that work,

Sara Taher 

yeah, and that's the stuff you've been sending to your clients, right. This is what they will be telling themselves. So this is what I've been telling my clients to do. And it's obviously it's not enough, right. So I literally, if what someone wants to start today, the easiest way is just an affiliate website. And don't overthink it. Just start you know. Yeah. Yeah,

Nick LeRoy 

maybe you don't start with payday loans. But you do you prove me wrong. And come drive by me and your new Lamborghini. I'll be the first one to be drooling. Well, thank you, sir. I really appreciate you joining us today. I think this has been a fantastic conversation. For anybody that wants to find you online connect with you reach out, can you tell us the best way? Yeah,

Sara Taher 

they can either reach out through my website, Zara hyphen, doll hair.com or LinkedIn. I'm easy to find on hashtag SEO riddles, or just search for Serato here and hopefully I'll pop up.

Nick LeRoy 

Fantastic. And I'll make sure to put all those links below in the show transcript. But Sara, thank you again so much for joining us. Again, all these notes are going to be available as well as this recording on the SEO freelancer.com

Sara Taher 

Thank you so much.