Online entrepreneurship can be perfect for introverts, because it allows you to run a business without the draining day-to-day social interaction.
When you envision an entrepreneur, you probably think of an outgoing, boisterous, Fortune-500 type. Maybe you picture someone from Wall Street giving the next viral TED Talk on how their product revolutionized today’s technology. You see, society would have you believe that every entrepreneur thrives off social networking and “working a room” until the wee hours of the morning.
But what about the stay-at-home mom typing away at her keyboard, running her online social media agency from her living room? Or the introverted blogger who prefers to write his thoughts rather than make small talk with strangers? Don’t these people count, too?
There truly are people (like myself) who don’t fall under the typical image of what an entrepreneur looks like — and they’re building their businesses online. In fact, online entrepreneurship can be perfect for introverts, because it allows you to run a business or organization without the draining day-to-day social interaction that characterizes traditional business ownership. Introverts tend to thrive alone and recharge in solitude, which means that working on projects and collaborating with others (simply through emails and video chats) can be a more energizing method of working.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the Western world is built for extroverts, and introverts can struggle to adapt. I certainly don’t have all the answers on how to thrive in the entrepreneurial field, but I have finally managed to develop a routine that works pretty well for me. Here are five things I’ve learned.
How I Succeed as an Introvert Entrepreneur Online
1. Choose an industry where introverts thrive.
As the business owner of Sorella Magazine, an online publication, I’ve found that working online has eliminated much of the pressure of social networking. While decades ago it may have been necessary to attend some sort of dinner and charm my way into receiving interviews and exclusives, now I can reach out to people through email — and they’re still likely to answer me back.
The awesome thing about writing is you can do it for hours and hours without getting bored. At least, that’s been my experience. It’s a solitary activity that I do to recharge and feel at peace.
2. Acknowledge the ways your introversion has benefitted you so far.
If I hadn’t spent so much of my childhood locked away in my room furiously scribbling my thoughts into notebooks, perhaps I wouldn’t be the writer I am today. Not to say that I’m the second coming of Margaret Atwood, but there are a few tricks I’ve learned that have taken me a long way in my writing career.
While other kids were out playing in the mud and dropping worms down each other’s t-shirts (true story!), I was inside writing, reading, or staring at the ceiling just thinking. The world inside my head prompts me to wrestle with Schopenhauer’s philosophy and ponder (admittedly, too much) the meaning of life and more. This isn’t to say that extroverts don’t do these same kinds of things. I’m only suggesting that many introverts are prone to rich inner lives.
This fact is something I’m immensely grateful for, and I’ll never deny that my tendency to think, observe, and ponder has propelled my skills forward.
3. Create meaningful work.
I spend more time observing and watching people than I actually spend contributing to most conversations. It’s not that I watch people like a hawk and never explain my thoughts and opinions. It’s just that I prefer to learn from other people than to teach or lead. My teachers and parents used to think this was a problem and spent an ungodly amount of time trying to convince me to speak up, for goodness sake! But this fact about me has never changed, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The whole listen-and-observe thing has made me more attuned to the plights of the people around me. I’m not only introverted, but I’m also highly sensitive, which has been a great help for me in creating businesses that solve problems and make people’s lives better — work I find very meaningful. Because I am empathetic and tend to take on other people’s issues as my own, I often see their needs and try to create solutions for them.
For one, growing up in Canada left me extremely aware of the lack of media representation of black women who looked like myself and my friends. I watched the way my friends and I struggled to deal with not being appealing to our male classmates (mostly white). Now I write inspirational articles encouraging black women to find pride in our unique beauty and to go where we are celebrated, not merely tolerated.
4. Connect to other introverts in your industry.
My writer friends have been lifesavers along this entrepreneurial journey. For one, they’ve introduced me to incredible apps like Mint, Canva, and Snapseed that make things that felt like chores (i.e., doing inventory and creating Instagram posts) a million times easier. But most importantly, they’ve provided companionship along this journey.
It’s true that, as an introvert, I prefer to be alone. Meditating, listening to a self-help podcast, or running with my dog in the park will always feel better than having a conversation. Yet my blogging friends have provided companionship in this solitude. We’ll head to Starbucks, grab a coffee, and then get to work on our novels or articles. Alone, but together, if you get what I’m trying to say.
5. Make time to disconnect and recharge.
As much as I love my job and feel that what I do is meaningful, I still take time (on a daily basis) to actively forget my work. I don’t allow myself to think about my content calendar or reach out to businesses for sponsored posts or design my next pin on Pinterest. Nada.
Instead I’ll make time for my friends who work in other industries and listen to their stories about their 9-to-5 jobs. It reminds me that there’s a world outside blogging, writing, and entrepreneurship as well. Business ownership is great, but it’s not life. What makes life worth living is the people we surround ourselves with and the passions that drive us, like painting a flower you found on your evening walk or that silly song lyric that makes you laugh.
The First Steps to Starting an Online Business
If you’re an introvert who wants to start an online business, the first step is to examine your interests. What are some topics you could talk about for hours? What keeps you up thinking until 3 in the morning? Whether it’s selling your washi tape designs on Etsy or starting a YouTube channel about DIY, there is likely a way you can turn some passionate interests into profitable ventures.
Likewise, if you start a business you’re passionate about, the work will naturally be more meaningful, and refill and recharge you. This will help you later down the line if you find that you need to expand beyond the online world to reach your company’s full potential.
As long as your work is meaningful, and you set aside time to disconnect and recharge on a regular basis, you can thrive as an introvert in the world of entrepreneurship. Remember that introversion is not a hindrance; you can be an introverted entrepreneur and a confident leader, decision-maker, and problem-solver.
Lastly, be proactive about finding a career mentor and/or partnering with people who understand your mission and complement your strengths. Mentors can offer amazing guidance and teach you how to propel your business to the next level.
I think that as we begin to highlight introverts more, we will discover there are way more introverted entrepreneurs than previously imagined. Instead of expecting the quieter, more reserved part of society to assimilate into our extroverted culture, let’s praise and acknowledge introversion in all areas of life.