5 Tips for Introverts who want to start a business
You're riding one morning on the way to work, and you come up with a brand new invention to make yourself more visible to cars.
"Holy crap. Not only could this save my life, it could save others' too. If I can make my invention a reality, I could make riding safer for all. I should probably start my own business!"
Probably is the key word here. Lots of people probably should do things, but when's the last time you met with your riding buddy for something other than riding? Or attending an event with more than 4 people? And the more you think about it (I'm talking to you, fellow introvert), the more it scares you. Because with business comes risks, and with risk comes the potential to fail, and the potential to fail can be a traumatic thing. This fear is multiplied if people are watching.
On top of that, imagine having to go out and network. You're already comfortable floating through life with your headphones in, minimizing interactions with other human beings (dogs are ok), and getting lost in your own head. You can't bear the thought of showcasing your new idea, especially in front of an audience. Even talking about your new idea is hard, so how the heck are you going to get your business started?
Suddenly, quietly doing your job and coming home with a paycheque seems a lot more attractive.
You're not alone.
My name is Amanda, and I've created a business blog called Fucking Up Effectively. It's a memoir of my business triumphs and failures (mostly failures) that come with starting a business in an entirely new industry, in a new country, without a full-time job and all while being shy.
I'm an introvert, straight up. Riding around the entirety of Australia felt completely natural - in fact, I think it would be harder if I had a traveling partner. Now that I'm back in Melbourne, I could still go through hours without speaking to anyone but the barista. I keep a journal that I'd readily set on fire if it was at risk of being read by someone else. I have to prepare for days before meeting someone new. Days.
Astoundingly, I was able to create and build a microbusiness with nothing but $100 and the secret ferocity of a lioness (which in turn was probably driven by the fact that I had nothing but $100). The beauty of it all was that I was able to do it without being the typical extroverted business person who would happily chat up every man, woman, and dog.
If you're in the same boat, here's a couple tips that I found useful.
1. Meet people organically.
Being an introvert doesn't equate to being antisocial. Humans are social creatures, but we connect with others in different ways. Not everyone is comfortable cold-calling leads or attending networking events. It's an unnatural way to meet people anyway, and it's a shock to the system for both the caller and the receiver.
Know that you can totally be yourself and people will love you for it. I realized I was able to meet people naturally through ride events and track days, even if I wasn't talking all the time. Not everyone will be your customer and that's fine, but you'll immerse yourself in a social circle that would ultimately value you and what you do.
2. Meet people on your terms.
The beauty with starting your own business is that you can (usually) set your own schedule and plan ahead to meet people. You can agree to attend ride groups or social dinners. And Expos and Shows are usually planned months in advance, so you have plenty of time to pull up your socks and take some deep breaths.
When Flying Solo Gear Co attended its first motorcycle expo, I hyperventilated for about 2 weeks leading up to it. My permanent sleeping position was fetal. It was downright frightening to think that I needed to talk to so many people in a span of 3 days. On top of that, my brand was making its debut! But these things don't happen suddenly, so use this time to mentally prepare. Ultimately, your goal is to go and take that leap of faith. It's scary at first but the rewards are great.
Meeting hundreds of people at the Flying Solo Gear Co stand at the Australian Motorcycle Expo has been one of the greatest mental hurdles of the business yet.
3. Do get out there and practice a little bit every day.
Being an introvert is no excuse to hide in a hole, even though there's nothing wrong with that. The art of conversation is exactly that - an art, and just like painting or dancing, it requires practice. The more fluid you can be while speaking, the less awkward you'll be around people. Afterall, you're the face of your business.
Start small. The server at your cafe doesn't need to know your life story, but if time allows, ask them how their day is going or what they have planned for the weekend. Introverts tend to stay away from shallow talk, but believe it or not, there are indeed millions of people who thrive on talking about the weather.
Trust me, I'm still working on this one.
4. Take care of your body, and it will take care of you.
Socializing can be gruesomely tiring. After the Australian Motorcycle Expo, I curled in bed for what seemed like forty days and forty nights. And there's nothing wrong with that, as long as your family members don't file for a missing persons ad. Introverts process social interactions differently, and recover differently as well. While our Netflix stamina is top notch and we can confidently go 72 hours without leaving the house (so long as there are snacks) it can be harder for us to have long bouts of small talk, and we burn out a lot quicker after frequent hits of having to socialize.
If you do have to attend a networking event, party, or other horrifying activity, take the time to rest and recover. Go to the gym and lift something heavy. Go take a long walk with some music. Set aside a few hours for an awesome powernap. You just overcome something scary, go you!
5. Embrace flying solo and do it yourself.
I found it really hard to ask for help. When I did put out a call for help, my friends knew I was being serious. It's difficult for introverts to reach out, but it also gives a fantastic learning opportunity. If you find it deterring to ask for help when you don't know how to do something, it's the perfect excuse to do it yourself.
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