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Business Challenges Introverts Face And How To Overcome Them

19/09/2016 09:57

At the time, I thought it was just the last-born rebel in me that provoked me to leave my stable 9-5 job in exchange for the free range, freelance life.

I thought I was just being a bit of a brat; unable to 'cope' with the London commute and inability to control how I spent the hours in my day.

Looking back, I realise a big chunk of that desire to flee the office nest was my introversion.

Even now, when I do occasionally work in-house for a client, I find myself unusually exhausted by 3pm - whereas a day working from home or a quiet coffee shop will keep me churning away happily from 7am to 7pm no problem.

Being in an office environment, sitting in meetings with extroverted colleagues, being unable to hear myself think over the din of small talk and heated discussions over news I'd prefer not to know about...

Not for me.

But does that make running a small business a piece of cake? Heck no.

There are plenty of creative business challenges introverts face when they trade in the 9-5 too - and I think I've experienced them all.

Creative Business Challenges Introverts Face (+ How To Overcome Them)

1. Expressing your thoughts to others

Introverts tend to go 'deep and narrow' with conversations, as opposed to 'wide and shallow'. We prefer to build a few deep relationships over time, than make friends with a whole bunch of people at once.

This can make expressing our thoughts to a group of people, particularly ones we don't know very well, quite difficult. This is partly why networking events can be such a stressful experience for us.

What to do about it

Relax. Know that it's totally ok to not have all the right words at the right time, in every situation. Or any situation!

I've embraced my own strength: writing damn good emails (if I do say so myself) and expressing myself that way.

One-to-one relationships may take longer to form, but they are by far the most powerful way of getting your point across. We can play to our strengths and form those intimate relationships on our own terms: take your time and know that the tortoise did indeed beat the hare.

2. Exhaustion

No business owner is going to pretend that life doesn't occasionally get exhausting, but due to the nature of introversion: some of the most vital parts of our business can be the most exhausting.

There's no avoiding that - interacting with people is something we all have to do at some point or another - but it's how we manage our energy that is the difference between a productive day and a total burnout.

What to do about it

One way to look at our energy levels is as a bank account. For introverts, every interaction acts like a cash withdrawal. Time alone, maybe reading or walking; becomes a deposit.

I'm no financial expert, but I can tell you the aim is to keep our account in the black.

So, let's create an energy budget.

Write down a list of what drains you, and another list of what recharges you.

When planning your days, make sure you have a mix of these, and don't overbook yourself (as tempting as it can sound.)

For example, I try to book all speaking engagements, calls with clients, interviews etc, for mid-late afternoon. That leaves my morning free for my most energetic creative work, and it means I can still give a decent, high-energy interaction to the person I'm conversing with.

Of course, sometimes I do have to function in the evening too... So I do my best to not book anything too energy-draining that day, or I might take a nap in the afternoon, and I make sure to allow myself some proper recharge time the next day.

3. Difficulties concentrating at work

Despite the fact that we can concentrate like a lazer beam at most tasks; when we're in the wrong environment this all goes down the pan.

It's not that I am so smart. It's that I stay with problems longer.

~ Albert Einstein (introverted genius)

For many of us who have escaped the office environment (which we know is generally not set up with introverts in mind) we can now have full control over our creative working space.

But are we making the most of it?

For some, especially work-at-home mothers, a home environment isn't ideal either.

I love to get out to coffee shops, mostly as a change of scene and to stretch my legs, but not all coffee shops get the noise levels right either. (I'm writing this from a Starbucks which is playing some surprisingly awesome-for-concentrating music, but there's a couple behind me arguing and I can't help but pick up on their I DON'T THINK THEY DO VERY GOOD PIZZA LET'S GO TO - sorry, distracted again -_-)

What to do about it

Noise cancelling headphones are a bit of an investment, but if you know external noise is a distraction: it will be the best investment for your productivity you can spend.

We can't all escape the chores of family life or other commitments that might throw us off concentration, but we do have some control over our time: I wake up at 4:30 to make the most of the quietest time of the day to do my most intensely creative work.

But I'm NOT recommending you do the same: if you know you're a night owl, GO WITH IT! Embrace the midnight oil and set aside time later in the day to do the work that requires most concentration. It might take a bit of experimenting, but it's worth it.

The idea is: play to your strengths, don't fight your weaknesses.

4. Impostor syndrome

I've harped on about impostor syndrome before, but it's a big enough problem I think we can dive in again.

As introverts, we're often pressured into feeling we need to 'extrovert' ourselves to fit the bill as a creative business owner; whether it's at networking events or just showing up on social media.

I've learnt that any time I feel this pressure, I have to question where it comes from. Is it from a place of fear?

Fear-pressure sounds like: "If I don't talk to 23 different people at this event then it's a waste of time and no one will know who I am ever and I'll never be a success"

What to do about it

Tuning out that fear-pressure voice is of course, easier said than done. But kind of like meditation: after a while, the more we simply notice our thoughts, the less frequent and powerful they are.

If you find yourself in the 'impostor' position, question what got you there. What are you feeling pressured to do? Why?

Pick up a journal, a notebook, a post it - whatever - and ask yourself these questions, and start writing and writing.

This is a creepily effective form of self-counselling, which I use almost daily. It will help you get to the root of why you're feeling what you're feeling - and I'll bet you'll see the pressure to 'extrovert' fading.

5. Anxiety at/before networking events

Ugh - that sick-to-the-stomach feeling leading up to a networking event.

That ongoing debate between the voice telling you "Just think about how great for business this will be! All those big names and influencers that will be there!"

... and the other voice "Jesus H. Christ you can still cancel. You have a fresh tub of Ben n Jerry's that will be nicely melted if you take it out of the freezer now..."

Networking events are the medicine we know we need sometimes, but my GOD does it taste terrible.

What to do about it

I have several tactics to try if a networking event really is on the horizon and you're determined to go. I'm all for pushing your boundaries and stepping outside your comfort zone, and I've had some great experiences (that I was NOT expecting) at networking events.

But know that it really is OK to bail. Have compassion for yourself; know that there will always be another opportunity to have a shmooze, and know that there are other ways to connect with people.

Online networking is getting poo-pooed by everyone it seems, but 80% of my most beneficial relationships were formed online - there's nothing wrong with using this incredible tool, if you bring your human element to it, and do what you do best: go deep.

6. Fear of disappointing others

Apparently this fear even has a name: 'Atelophobia'.

Now that we've named this demon, can we cut the crap and slay it?

I'm a historic people-pleaser, and will put myself through serious emotional turmoil at the expense of not letting someone down. Daddy issues? Probably.

But I've done a lot of work on this, and I'm here to tell you, fellow people-pleaser, that it's a lose-lose battle.

You CANNOT control how others feel. You WILL inevitably disappoint others... and that's totally OK!

But... it still doesn't feel great, does it?

What to do about it

I can't give you a quick-fix for this one (if someone can, hit me up...)

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.

~ Dr Seuss

Practise saying 'no'. Ask yourself the classic Derek Sivers litmus-test: is it a 'HELL YEAH'?

If not? It's a no! Give your 'because' (people will appreciate being given a reason) but make no apologies. Being unapologetic is another tricky skill, but one you can totally master/

7. Feeling overlooked and unheard

This is a powerful challenge for all of us - not just introverts. I found out not long ago that our human need to feel IMPORTANT is one of the deepest, strongest needs we have.

Once our shelter, food, water are set: we really just need to feel... needed.

Like we exist.

Like we have purpose.

Like we're heard.

Introverts can kid ourselves for a time: we don't need anyone but our cat and a good book!

In reality, we are not immune to the need to feel noticed and have our voice heard.

Especially if we're trying to get the word out about our business, and reach the people we know we can help.

What to do about it

Firstly, know that you are NOT alone in this. Introverts may feel inclined to push these feelings away, or at the very worst: give up on their creative business altogether, assuming it isn't for them because it's such a noisy, competitive world.

Know that there are hundreds, thousands of others who are going through exactly the same thing: and connect!

Scary as that might sound at first, once you've received a reply from a fellow innie who feels exactly the same way: it's amazing how many good feelings come from it.

Simply writing a comment on one of those blogs, shooting an email to the writer, or joining one of the communities can be your first step towards getting your voice heard.

It might not be obvious at first, but the more you reach out and start participating in a community, you'll find yourself making more and more connections (all at your own pace) and your voice gets amplified.

Every email gets easier to send. Every reply gets easier to read. It's like dominos. Before you know it: being heard isn't the problem (it's what to say next...)

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Cat Rose helps creative introverts show their work and get the exposure they deserve. She does this through the League of Creative Introverts, an online community, as well as 1-2-1 coaching and online training.

She's currently researching the links between personality types and how we can use our self-knowledge to make the most of our creative style and strengths.

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