When I used to think about people that had the drive to start a business, I thought of someone who is eager to meet and talk with new people, gregarious and a master salesperson. As a person who identifies as an introvert, I never envisioned myself starting my own business or feeling comfortable talking about what I do to new people. What I’ve learned in the several years building my business is that there is not one single personality that can succeed; instead, it’s all about finding the best way to work with the strengths you have.
To be clear, introverts do not hate people or prefer a life in isolation. Being introverted or extroverted simply refers to where you draw your energy from. Introverts recharge from alone time, while extroverts feel energized after spending time with other people. Understanding this aspect of yourself can be a big help in how you structure your schedule and operate your business.
Another introverted trait is that we feel best when we’ve had time to think through things before speaking, rather than offering words on the fly. We also tend to dislike small talk (we’d rather have deep, meaningful conversations, or I’d rather ride an elevator in silence rather than chat about nothing the whole way up!).
When I worked in an office setting, I felt exhausted by the interruptions and constant interaction with coworkers. Part of the reason why running my own business appealed to me was that I would have the ability to work on my own and focus when I needed to. Now, I can strategically schedule calls or meetings with built in recharging time and get the quiet time I need for client work.
When engaging in get-to-know-you conversations and offering ideas during client meetings can be important components of business, how can an introvert handle it? I’ve got a few tips to help you out:
Write out “elevator speeches” ahead of time.
Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than being on the spot, and I dislike having to talk about myself. I plan ahead by writing out some “stump speeches” if you will about myself. It’s normal to hear at the start of a call, “Tell me about yourself!” Instead of stumbling to string together a cohesive story every time someone asks, take a little time to write out an answer that is brief and clear. Then, you’ll have that story in your head every time and don’t have to worry about speaking on the spot. If you’re on the phone, even better: you can glance at your speech to help guide you.
Learn what makes your energy feel drained and plan for it.
Does it feel tiring to take several phone calls sporadically throughout the day? Do you dread going to networking events? Anticipating when you’ll need alone time to recharge can be extremely helpful.
For example, I only take phone calls on certain days so that each week, I know which days will be my work days and which ones will be interacting with clients. It can help to schedule calls before a built in break, like lunch, so you know you can regroup afterward. If you get too annoyed making small talk at networking events, try networking somewhere like a business-related Facebook group where you can start by helping people and better connect with a potential client.
Take notes before a meeting or phone call.
If you know what the topics of your meeting or call are going to be before it starts, take some time to write out some notes about the points you’d like to make or the questions you anticipate having. This can be in sentences, bullet points, or just notes. It will help you visualize the things you’d like to say and in what way before you actually have to say them.
This is especially helpful in difficult phone calls or when you need to explain something. You will sound confident and clear to your listener and feel less anxiety about what you’ll be saying while having the conversation. I also make sure that my clients schedule phone calls ahead of time rather than call me unannounced. This gives me time to feel prepared and organized so that it can be efficient and productive. Setting a time limit can help as well, making the call or meeting more focused and less open-ended.
Don’t be afraid to say “no.”
Had a long day, and your friend texts you to meet for happy hour? If you are out of energy, don’t force yourself to get out. You will get depleted quickly if you are constantly meeting and spending time with people and don’t take your time to recharge. Set a date for the future instead.
If a client asks during a call for answers immediately or wants a project done ASAP, learn to be confident in saying, “Actually, I need time to process this to give you the best outcome. Here is when you can expect it.” Don’t give into someone else’s timeline when you know what it takes for you to deliver your best work.
Don’t be afraid to say “yes.”
While it’s vital to give yourself time to recharge by yourself, it’s also important not to become a hermit. This is so easy when you are a solopreneur, especially if you work from home! Don’t use your introverted nature as an excuse to avoid doing anything social.
Pick a day or a few days where you’ll meet someone for coffee in your field or go to a conference (like VenturePop!). It is all about the connections you make, and while making them online is fantastic, nothing beats connecting in person once in awhile. Just make sure you go home and recharge afterward.
Want a better picture of how your schedule affects you? Use this worksheet to map it out.