This post is for you introverts, who think it’s not possible to build a business because you want to be alone.
I am an introvert.
Oh yes, I am such an introvert. People drain me. One of my favourite holidays was 10 days alone reading books by the pool. This doesn't mean I don't enjoy spending time with people. I love nothing more than an afternoon coffee and cake with my friends, or a business retreat with a bunch of other cool entrepreneurs. What I mean is I can't fill my life with people all the time.
I grew up in a family with 3 siblings. At home, there was always noise and people around me. I remember closing my bedroom door to play the piano and yelling at whoever entered while I was playing. I wanted to be alone when I played because I needed it. It was my “me-time”. I just didn’t know at that time that it was ok for me to be alone. I thought I was really bad at making friends and being friends with someone because I needed my space. I was always the kind of person you tell your stories to, but who is never asked how she is doing. So often I didn’t want to listen to their stories for hours, but I was too shy to say so.
I was trying to avoid people. I labeled myself as “anti-social” without even knowing what it really meant. I felt I had no real friends who got my craving to be alone. I felt misunderstood.
Now, years later, I understand that it is normal. Introverts need to be alone in order to recharge their batteries. In order to function, I must spend some time by myself, preferably in the countryside with nothing else than a novel.
When I started my first business, I had this idea that only extroverts could be successful at building their own company, and my belief was “I would never be able to do it on my own because I’m avoiding people”.
How can you build a company that serves people all the while minimising human contacts?
Well, not only is it possible, but when done in a way that works for YOU, it feels amazing! I’ve had to define my own rules and set boundaries to protect my energy levels. That means: I must spend a substantial part of the day alone or else, I’ll get VERY upset. There are 3 areas, I consciously worked on.
The beauty of being my own boss is that I can decide where I work: I avoid spending more than 1 or 2 afternoons a week in a crowded place, such as a coworking or a coffee shop. If I go there, I’d only do light work that doesn’t require much of my brain power. I don’t believe in working from open spaces where we are constantly interrupted by colleagues, noises, music, etc. I also don’t believe in being always alone in your office because it feels isolating after a while. I believe in finding a balance between noise and silence, people and yourself. It is up to you to decide how much of each you need.
That was the biggest one to deal with. First, I realised that I get uncomfortable in large groups. So I decided to start working one on one with my clients. I LOVE being alone with someone and taking the time to open up, be vulnerable, and be honest with another human being. This is what lights me up. And I feel that in groups, we tend to be less comfortable to speak our truth because there are too many people who could potentially be judging us.
I also started to set boundaries and decided to stop engaging with people when I was too tired to do so. I gave myself permission to stop replying to some people who were contacting me without bringing me any value. I felt they were stealing my time and energy, and if I listened to them, I’d have nothing left for myself.
I now have a system in place where I don’t take any calls before 2pm so I have the whole morning to myself. This was a big game changer for me.
Here I am to tell you: give yourself permission to stop replying to people who drain you. When you say NO to someone, you say YES to yourself. You are more important than anyone else.
Being visible online
This was - and still is - my biggest challenge. For years when I started my first business, I tried to be invisible. I enjoyed the background work so much and I never wanted to face clients in person or potential clients online. I gave it all to my cofounder, who thankfully, enjoyed being under the spotlight.
The issue is when I founded Swiss Escape Incubator on my own, I had no choice but to learn how to become visible online. Talk about a learning curve!
I was so terrified to post anything that I procrastinated on it for months. I knew that it was not possible to have a business that makes money without being visible. I’d heard that enough from all my coaches, and business partners. And yet, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Everything felt heavy:
Telling people what I do
Deciding on the name of the company
Creating a website
Updating my LinkedIn profile (people were still contacting me about my old job 9 months after I’d resigned)
I kept saying no to every opportunity where I would be visible online.
One day, my best friend and business partner told me “When you want to say no, say yes”. This has been the biggest game-changer to slowly start being visible. It is a process, but eventually, I started being comfortable under the spotlight. It was ok to share my stories and the stories of people who came into contact with me. I felt the need to do it so that all the curious who were wondering “what is she doing?” got their answers and stopped bothering me. I realised I needed to talk, to share, because it made me feel good, and it made other people feel less lonely, more normal. Being vulnerable online is a learning curve. I used two main tricks to get to that point:
I created a plan called “Marketing for Introverts”, wrote down all the things I wanted to do but didn’t dare, and decided I’d do them all no matter how much time it takes. It took 6 months, but it’s done!
I wrote notes to help me get over the “Marketing Monster” I’ve created. Even though I didn’t believe a single word when I wrote it, I read it over and over again until the words felt true. Here it is:
I LOVE MARKETING!
It’s so wonderful to be able to be visible online.
It comes to me naturally and easily.
I create content easily and effortlessly.
I create a huge value for my clients.
I am changing people’s lives thanks to my marketing activities.
I love posting my content online. It is life-changing to people and FUN for me.
I also realised I can do this, because when I shut down my laptop, I’m alone again. I can decide how long and how often my laptop is shut down.
So yes, Introverts can build a business on their own and make money with it. I am the living proof that it's possible.
Want to dig deeper?
If you are unsure if your are an introvert, take a test here: https://www.16personalities.com/
For more information about introverts, check out Susan Cain's work:
Book: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.