Saudi Arabia: Women, Don’t Sell Yourself Short


Expat women in Saudi Arabia and Saudi women may face some similar challenges when attempting to get established as a professional in Saudi Arabia.  In this regard, I am primarily speaking of women who have special skills and expertise and usually market themselves as an independent or freelance consultant.  These women may do editing, take on writing assignments, provide marketing skills, design web sites and so on.  There is a good demand in Saudi Arabia for such services.  I’ve been asked a number of times to assist with editing, writing, crafting business plans and proposals, planning a viable marketing strategy.  And like many other women before me and probably after me as well, have been requested by the client to either do some work “gratis” so they could evaluate my product first or provide services at a discount since in their eyes, I was an unknown entity.

In my own case I may have lost some opportunities as a result but I do not compromise on this issue.  I feel like doing so can be compared as selling out short and minimizing skills, expertise and time.  If one has particular skills and expertise, then that is a marketable commodity which should be recognized.

I have had the opportunity to speak with other women (Saudis and non-Saudis in KSA) and find this is a common occurrence.  It is very easy for one to find themselves agreeing to provide discounted or gratis services but in many times, this may be a one-time shot for some entities routinely seek services from differing women and therefore do not need to request return services!  Therefore to break the pattern and send a message home to an enterprise following such practices is for a woman to be firm.  Send a message of confidence as an individual and in the services to be provided.  I am not totally against giving a discount when it makes sense to do so but hopefully before even going to an introductory meeting of a potential client, check out the company carefully – not only to gain an advantage but to confirm the reputation of the client and associated business practices.

Another area where I am aware of professional women as independent consultants being short-changed is when entering into a business agreement for “x” amount.  Unfortunately not all enterprises will pay on time if at all.  Therefore do not be shy or afraid to ask for a percentage of the funds for services upfront.

Lastly as a professional woman in Saudi Arabia take advantage of the professional business organizations which exist.  From the Riyadh perspective the American Business Group (ABG) of Riyadh is an excellent organization for networking, learning and doing business.  While it is oriented towards American businesses in Riyahd it has monthly networking breakfasts which are open to those who are interested.  And of course the Chamber of Commerce and Industry is always a reputable institution to know in any city.  Last but not least for the expat businesswoman in the Kingdom it may beneficial to register with ones embassy and seek an appointment with the Commerce or Trade representative so he or she is aware of your skills and services too.


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