I am an introvert, no question, and I also run my own business. Are those two things incompatible? Some people might think so, but the real answer is an emphatic NO.
There are lots of definitions of the term ‘introvert’: it can mean someone who is shy and quiet; someone who directs their attention and energy inwards; or someone who gets their energy from being alone. That last definition is my favourite—I used to be extremely shy, but now I like to think I’m OK at holding a conversation and making a good impression. The difference is that, after a social binge, I need to ‘recover’ by being by myself and doing my own thing. I like people, but I need my own company too.
In many ways, I’m more suited to the self-employed, work-alone lifestyle than I am to working in an office: I don’t really like small talk and I can’t sustain it all day, I HATE phone calls, and I feel unreasonably immense pressure when I have to make anyone else a cup of tea. But being an introvert is by no means a death knell for entrepreneurial flare, and it can even be a real advantage to starting a business and making it work.
So if you’re an introvert who wants to start a business, here are my 6 tips for making your introversion work for you!
1. Acknowledge your strengths
It’s easy to look at introverted characteristics in a negative light, but if you just reframe them you can see that they’re actually strengths. You’re not unsociable, you like your own company. You’re not quiet, you’re focused. You’re not a bad team player, you’re an excellent solo star. If you know you work best alone and you come across better in writing than face to face, play to your strengths: start a business that you can do by yourself (might I recommend editing and proofreading?) and sell yourself in emails and written pitches.
2. Embrace email
Speaking of email—when you run your own business, you can more or less choose how you communicate with your contacts. I had a couple of temp jobs when I was a teenager which involved answering phones all day and it was HELL for introverted me. Now, in my business, I communicate almost exclusively over email or Skype messaging. None of my clients have my phone number. Of course, some phone calls are inevitable (and if a client wants one, do it), but it’s so pleasant to work without that constant dread of the phone ringing.
3. Allow yourself to recharge
If you do end up having to make a phone call or attend a face-to-face meeting, give yourself some time to recharge afterwards. For introverts, spending lots of time with people can be draining—especially in a more intense business situation—so it’s important to get your energy back by taking some alone time and rewarding yourself with something fun. You might dance around the living room, pelt out your favourite song at the top of your lungs, or treat yourself to your favourite snack. Plus, knowing you’ll get a reward for your efforts will make you more likely to do it again.
4. Push yourself
You might be tempted to think you can do it all yourself, but no entrepreneur is an island, and a huge part of running a successful business is making connections. That means you’re going to have to go to meetings and networking events, and you’re going to have to talk to people. Sounds scary? It is, so don’t give yourself the chance to chicken out. Book well in advance, spend money on tickets, and set yourself a target like talking to three people or giving away five business cards. Harness all that self-motivated energy to get you out of the door and you might even find you have fun!
5. Practice your elevator pitch
When you deliberately put yourself in situations where you will meet people, they’re going to want to know about you and your business, so have a brief ‘elevator pitch’ prepared. This is a short summary of who you are, what you do, why/when you started, and perhaps a funny or interesting one-sentence summary that will stick in your listeners’ minds (mine is: “Anything to do with words, I’m your girl!”). Crucially, you need to practice this, so when all eyes turn on you, you can take a deep breath and take comfort in the fact that you already know what to say.
6. Encourage other introverts
As an introvert, you’re best placed to recognised introversion in others, and to help them with it. If you’re at an event and you spot someone sitting alone at a table looking terrified, approach them—after all, you know exactly how they’re feeling! Similarly, if you notice a fellow introvert trying to say something and getting talked over by the more extroverted in the room, ask their opinion and encourage them to speak. By promoting solidarity between introverts and helping the ones who are just starting out, we all stand to benefit. Maybe one day you could even pass on your wisdom in a blog post about running a business as an introvert…
I hope you’ve found these tips useful. If you have any more suggestions for how to run a business as an introvert, leave a comment down below. I’d love to hear from you!