How to Start a Business When You're an Introvert
The business world seems like it caters to extroverts. And that makes sense: As a business owner, you need charisma to lead a team, negotiate with partners and engage with them regularly. In addition, you need to network with new people and improve your client relationships.
For an introvert, therefore, these responsibilities may seem intimidating, or even overwhelming, to deal with. Introverts tend to prefer quieter, solitary environments; but does that mean it’s impossible for them to be successful entrepreneurs?
Of course not. If you're an introvert, you have your own strengths and weaknesses; and while you may have some extra challenges to overcome in business ownership, you’ll also have some extra advantages -- if you know how to use them.
1. Choose your business category wisely.
Your first step is to choose your business carefully. Before you write up a business plan, think carefully about your idea and how it will relate to your personality and mental and emotional needs:
- Play to your strengths. Not always, but often, introverts like to bury themselves in specific, individual tasks. For example, you might like to code applications at work, or, as a hobbyist, you might be an expert woodworker. In either case, you need to build a business that caters to your particular strengths. There’s almost certainly something you can do or something you know that extroverts won’t be able to match. So pinpoint it and exploit it.
- Minimize interaction demand. When you start planning your business, opt for a model that doesn’t require much personal interaction. For example, you might want to avoid one-on-one consulting or training if you don’t enjoy socializing. You might also want to rely more on helpful tools to build your business than do other people.
- Start small. Whatever your business is, start small. Hire only the people you need; that way, you can get used to your role gradually and avoid overloading yourself with new people and situations.
2. Find partners who'll complement you.
If you’re strongly introverted, you'll be better off finding business partners and employees who complement your personality and skill set. For example, if you hate the idea of making a sales pitch to a stranger and don’t like talking to people in general, team up with someone who’s strongly extroverted and straightforward, who likes having conversations.
Introversion is a collection of strengths and weaknesses, and extroversion is, too; so you’ll need a blend of both if you want your business to perform its best.
3. Create the environment you want.
This is your company. This is your brand. You get to define it and build it in any way you choose. Obviously, you have to consider the limits of practicality and what will work best for your business, but consider adopting policies and values that cater to your introverted nature. For example, if you prefer written communication to spoken communication, consider making your business fully remote, with all your employees working from home.
If you don’t like the idea of one-on-one sales meetings, opt for more inbound marketing strategies, to reach your revenue goals.
4. Use online networking and interaction.
If you don’t like to engage with people in the real world, maybe you can find your stride in online interactions. Instead of going out to networking events, for example, you can do the majority of your networking over social media. You can rely on emails and instant messages for the bulk of your interactions, and reserve in-person meetings for when you really need them.
There are some benefits to talking to people in person, so don’t be exclusive with online interactions.
5. Practice socializing.
While it’s definitely possible to be a solo entrepreneur, I don’t recommend it. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to socialize with other people, whether it’s partners, clients, employees or mentors. If you aren’t good at socializing, or prefer to avoid it, you’ll need to practice, to get your social game up. Conversation and interactions are skills, like anything else, and you can refine them if you spend time working on your abilities.
Start by attending more networking events, and talking to other attendees there. Also, develop new tactics for guiding conversations the way you want them to go. This may seem intimidating at first, but you’ll get the hang of it.
6. Learn to be uncomfortable.
There are a couple of important things to remember here. First, your introversion isn’t a curse -- it’s a strength, if you know how to use it, and you need to be able to play to that strength. Second, no matter what, you’re going to face situations that make you uncomfortable as an introvert. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to become more comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable.
It’s only through discomfort that we challenge ourselves to grow, learn new things and earn successes that only people dream of.