Many introverts have this dream of leaving the corporate world behind. This desire is not an us versus them kind of aspiration. We want to have a sense of freedom and autonomy in our work. Autonomy is a key motivator for most, introvert and extrovert alike. However, the twists and turns we take as introverts in the world of entrepreneurship will be very different than those of extroverts. Namely, our lack of desire to be in the spotlight like so many business owners are.
As a business owner, employing a couple of people is fine. The crux is when you’re running an office of dozens or hundreds of people. They’re all looking to you as their leader, and at times, their executioner. When you put it that way, no thanks.
Still, working a 9-5 gig, you may feel like you’re going to burst just walking through the office door every morning. It’s at this point that you start daydreaming. Taking a walk or meditating before starting your day would be perfect. Tranquil, sans the people, the gossip, and the politics. Wouldn’t it be great to leave it all behind?
My Corporate Job Wore Me Out
This was my experience while working in a super high-paced hotel and casino, of all places, in Las Vegas. Talk about an introvert’s nightmare come true. This place was it. If you couldn’t push your way to the top, you weren’t going anywhere.
In the corporate world, I always seemed to end up in a leadership role. As a representative for my company and, in this particular case, someone sent in to calm raging clients or guests. I suspect this applies to a lot of introverts, because introverts are excellent in roles like this. We tend to notice subtleties, and we’re in no rush to talk over a client, so they feel heard. In the end, that’s all they want anyway.
Being a leader was all well and good; however, I spent 20 years hating my job because it wore me out so much. So why would I want to go out and start a business to put myself right back in the forefront? The answer to this goes far beyond simply wanting to be left alone. Contrary to popular belief, as a self-proclaimed introvert, I don’t hate people. I know this is shocking news if you believe in stereotypes, but that’s not what introversion means. To the contrary, I’m just asking for some peace and quiet.
Is Freelancing Right for You?
If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to be in the spotlight, and having to manage many employees can be mentally exhausting. That’s why I turned to freelancing.
It all sounds amazing. You set your hours, lose the water cooler politics, and you gain the freedom of not having a boss or being a boss. However, there are some things you should consider before you take the leap.
First, understand that social interaction is never going away. You still have to make small talk for the sake of making friends in your industry. You have to find clients and work with employees. I’m sorry, but that will never end.
I’ve found that the key to networking, selling, and working with others as an introvert is putting it in perspective. Here’s something that works for me: Network in small groups and keep it to once a week or whatever is comfortable for you. Just don’t overwhelm yourself. The best part of working for yourself is the ability to set your schedule. You know how much you can handle, and you’re the boss.
Approach selling as a means to help. If you need to tap your network, it shouldn’t be for personal gain. Your focus is helping the people they have access to, not to get access to their people so you can sell to them. Selling feels sleazy to anyone if you’re just selling. On the other hand, when you aspire to help solve problems, it helps you look past the small talk and focus on the bigger reason why.
Employees are a blessing if you treat them well. Select employees that have strengths in areas where you consider yourself weak. If sales or customer service is something you prefer not to do, it’s not a problem. The whiz you hired will pick up the slack.
Second, be okay with the fact that you’re still working for someone else. There’s no way around this. Having your own business doesn’t mean you don’t have to answer to anyone. You do get to pick your clients, but they’re paying you. However, because they are paying you, you need to be prepared for them to give you direction sometimes.
Third, security is not built in. You need to have a thick skin and a healthy risk tolerance. Do you hate the noisy corporate world enough to risk the security of it? If the answer is an undeniable yes, then what are you waiting for?
Most of us dream of creating something amazing. We want to be responsible for the one thing that changes lives. This dream becomes possible when we set off on our own. Creating our businesses gives us the ability to build something that embodies everything we’ve ever aspired to become. Our dreams are things that become havens from the craziness of the corporate world.
Working on your own — even as a writer as I do — still comes with a downside. You have to be willing to take the bad with the good, so before you take the leap, think about what your trade-offs will have to be.
As an introvert, is this life for you? I’ve asked myself this question for years. I was an effective but miserable employee. I worked while everyone else socialized, but I was happy with that. Except that I was always the odd one out. I never knew what they were talking about when I did somehow get sucked into the drama of it all.
If there’s one thing I know about myself, it’s that I don’t want to be bossed around, but I also don’t want to be anyone’s boss, either. So for me, starting a business always tends to be in a freelance capacity.
I don’t want to keep you in suspense about this lingering question. Is this life for you? I can tell you from experience the leap is worth it. Knowing I don’t have to put on an extroverted persona just to get through the day has lessened my anxiety. Not to mention, it’s made me so much more focused and productive. Above all else, I love my life as it is. I never worry about small talk because there’s no one else around but me. I control the dial, that is, the amount of social interaction I’m comfortable with at any given time.
Going the self-employed route isn’t the only perfect job for introverts, but it’s one of them. If walking the line without a net doesn’t make you lose too much sleep, and you want to control that dial, freelancing may be for you. I wish you well.
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