The entrepreneurial path can be an awesome one for introverts.
Owning your own business sounds like paradise for many introverts. After all, by definition, we introverts “spend” energy on interacting, then “recharge” when we’re alone. We’re also often independent folks who prefer being left alone to get on with things rather than being constantly interrupted by co-workers. And we generally find interacting easier when we can prepare for it, rather than having to respond “on the fly.” So what better way to earn our living than working from home at our own pace, in our own space?
But being an introverted entrepreneur can also be seriously challenging.
Susan Cain’s book “Quiet” has helped the Western world to realise that shyness and introversion aren’t the same thing. But even for confident, assertive introverts, running a business still holds major challenges. Yes, you get to spend most of your days on your own…but there’s still no shortage of energy drain in your life. Finding clients, connecting with them, ensuring you understand what they want, and then providing it? That all chews through your energy reserves at a crazy pace. Then, to complicate matters, much of the business and marketing advice out there is aimed at extroverts. It makes basic assumptions that everyone’s excited by a 5-figure list, a 6-figure income, and as many clients as they can physically pack into their days. If you’re an introvert, that definition of business success probably doesn’t feel “exciting,” so much as “overwhelming.” It’s easy to conclude that you’re not cut out to be an entrepreneur.
Here are 3 recommendations to make it easier.
Luckily, there’s no one right way to run a business, and no one right set of goals to aim for. If you’re an introverted entrepreneur who longs for a less overwhelming way to build your business, here are three steps you can take.
1. REMEMBER: IT’S YOUR BUSINESS, SO YOU GET TO SET YOUR GOALS
The first thing to realise is that you don’t have to set huge goals for your business.
Whatever the folks who sell coaching programmes tell you, you’re not “playing small” by setting goals that suit you. It’s true that some people work well with wildly audacious, unrealistic goals. It’s also true that others work better by “crossing a chasm in several small jumps” (usually, by looking for a different place to cross!).
So it’s OK to take baby steps. It’s OK to make slow, steady forward progress. It’s OK to take things at a pace that works for you. This is your business, so the only person who gets to say what it should or shouldn’t achieve is you.
2. PRO-ACTIVELY MANAGE YOUR ENERGY BY “BUDGETING” IT WISELY
Many introverted entrepreneurs are well aware of the need to manage their time, but few realise they also need to manage their energy.
When I’m talking to my clients, I often liken energy levels to a bank account. For introverts, every interaction acts like a withdrawal. Every recharging activity done alone becomes a deposit. The overall aim is to keep your account out of overdraft.
So one of the major keys to avoiding overwhelm in your business is to “budget” your energy so that it’s available when you need it. And budgeting is simple (at least in theory): know what drains you, know what recharges you, and then plan your days from an energy-aware perspective.
3. GET SUPPORT FROM OTHER INTROVERTED ENTREPRENEURS
Despite our somewhat-unfair reputation for being anti-social, connection is just as important for us introverts as it for extroverts. In fact, connecting with other introverts can be a sanity saver – especially when we start feeling weird because our brains work differently.
However, as introverts, we often connect in different ways to our extroverted friends. We generally prefer to build a few deep relationships gradually over time, rather than make friends with a whole bunch of people at once. We also often do better if we can limit and pace our interactions.
And sometimes, it’s just easier and less overwhelming to connect with people whose minds work the same way.
Luckily, the online world makes this easy. There are all kinds of introvert-related websites, newsletters and blogs springing up now; and many of them are well worth checking out. Plus, you can find several excellent introvert-friendly online communities that allow you to participate at your own pace.
Reach out and connect with any of these to access the support you need.
Over to you! There are a lot of introverts in the entrepreneurial space – are you one of them?
If so, how do you make sure you stay out of overwhelm? And if not, where do you see yourself in the introvert/extrovert spectrum?
Please let me know in the comments!