Running Your Own Business As An Introvert
Earlier this week, a reader of ours asked what it's like to run your own business as an introvert, something that I (Bre here) most definitely am. An INFJ, to be exact, if you're into personality assessments or care about specifics. In fact, my own introversion is a huge reason why I began working for myself in the first place. I not only love setting my own boundaries and working from home, but also don't mind (and actually quite enjoy) taking on the huge responsibility of running an entire business. For the most part ... it's a dreamy situation, perfectly suited and adapted for who I am. But sometimes it's messy and lonely and tough to navigate, which I'm sure other introverts can relate to. So how do I deal with it? More on that below.
FIND WHAT FEELS GOOD
As an introvert, it's easy to be quiet. To fade into the background and hope that people will find you and want to work with you. But here's the thing. When you run your own business, marketing and connecting is a huge part of the game. It's something that you need to do in order to grow and become sustainable. I've always understood the importance of this (because duh, I guess?), but chose to find comfort in knowing that I could do a lot of it from behind my computer screen.
So for the first few years, I did just that and kept it simple. I ran a blog, hung out on social media, connected (online) with many creatives, and in general, played it safe. I put myself out there, but in a way that wasn't uncomfortable. As time went by, I found myself going beyond my initial realm of comfort. I shared even more about myself, met online friends in person, and uncovered a newfound confidence, something I had lacked for the majority of my life.
I could have gone all out when I first started my business. From local meet ups and conferences around the world, to sending out beautiful postcards and connecting with other businesses, there's endless ways to put yourself out there. But you know what? I'm happy that I did it my way. Slow and steady. If I would have rushed towards success, I whole-heartedly believe that I would NOT be where I am today. Instead, I probably would have exhausted my introverted self and gone back to some sort of traditional role. It's sad, but honest.
My point is ... find what feels good. You know that in order to run a successful business from the ground up, you have to be seen and heard. But you don't have to do it in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable all of the time. I know that many people out there will tell you the opposite of what I just said. That amazing things don't happen unless it feels scary. And while that can be true, it's not the absolute truth. Not if it's at the expense of burn out or losing who you are along the way. Risk yields reward, but so does being kind to yourself. Remember that. ;)
As I mentioned before, I began to share more about who I am and what I do once I ventured outside of my safety net. I introduced a freelancing column on my old blog, openly wrote about my struggles between work + life balance, and discovered that like me, so many people are just trying to figure it all out. My transparency, while slightly nerve-wrecking at first, opened the door and allowed my tribe to show up. I felt less alone and more connected than ever, even though the majority of my communication was still from behind a computer screen.
My dad used to warn me about showing all of my cards. That people would take my "secrets" and use it for themselves. And although I appreciated his concern, that sort of thing never really worried me, because helping others is something I crave. I write this blog because I know how tough it can be to navigate the world of running your own business. I pull back the curtain and speak about my own struggles, because I know that I am not alone. I respond to comments because I genuinely care and am thankful for each and every kind word that's shared.
Simply put, transparency is essential for me. A game changer that will always be a core part of my business. Your definition may be different than mine (and that's okay!), but I do encourage you to explore it for yourself, just to see what happens.
TRY EXTROVERTED THINGS
This last section is a bit easier said than done, especially for those of you (like me) who are truly introverted. For example, I used to shy away from hopping on the phone with clients simply because it made me anxious. I mean, even talking to good friends was difficult for me. So once again, I took small steps. I scheduled 2-3 calls each month at first, and allowed myself to get used to it until it became the new normal. I'm not "over it" by any means, but feel much more comfortable with incorporating regular calls with clients into our process here at Rowan Made.
You can use this "small step" approach for anything, really. If you're nervous about attending a conference, see if a friend will go with you. Or if you've been feeling like a hermit from working at home, get out and join a yoga class or work in a local coffee shop where you'll be surrounded by other humans. Again, find what feels good for you. Trying extroverted things doesn't make you a forever extrovert. It just means that you're taking care of yourself. Because as comfortable as our homes and routines can be, it's important to see the world and try new things every once in awhile in order to gain experience + insight. And this is reluctantly coming to you from an introvert that doesn't mind staying in for seven nights in a row.
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At the end of the day, I think that there's more of us (introverts) out there than we even realize, which is a comforting thought. So if you're one of them and have other tips for running your own business as such, feel free to share your thoughts below. The more, the merrier, right? And then we can start our own little gang. ;)