Despite the hard work and moments of uncertainty, many self-employed people feel their career choice gives them a freedom and sense of fulfillment few cubicle careers can compare with. Unfortunately, introverts are sometimes hesitant to consider starting a business because of the socializing involved in marketing and networking. With the right planning, though, you don’t need to be a social butterfly to run a successful business. If you’re tired of being told you’re “too shy” to be self-employed, here are some tips for you.
Be realistic about time management
Before you fall in love with a business idea, make sure the lifestyle it requires is truly compatible with your personality. There’s no sense in setting up a business only to get burned out six months later. Take an honest look at how much “recharging” time you need to be at peak performance and schedule for that time. Calculate your work hours and fees such that you won’t feel pressed to work yourself to a frazzle. For example, you might love tutoring kids, but if you need to do it eight hours a day, five days a week in order to turn a profit, will you still be able to teach as well as you know you can?
Identify your ideal customer
This is important for any business, but it goes double for introverts. It’s not just about identifying who’s most likely to buy from you, but also the kind of personalities you genuinely enjoy being around. Working with people you like can be draining enough; you don’t need to be working with people you don’t like on top of that. Depending on your market and location, though, to be profitable you may need to find a compromise between the people you really want to work with and people who are easy to reach and can afford to do business with you.
Plan you marketing strategy
Most of the marketing advice floating around these days was designed for extroverts, so it takes a while to sift through them to find introvert-friendly techniques. Hunt down those techniques and have a basic marketing plan in place before you invest in a new business. If you can’t reach your customers, you have no business.
Take a serious look at the marketing methods you believe fit your product and market and make sure they fit your personality, too. It doesn’t matter if you’ve made a list of the world’s greatest marketing methods. They’re useless if you hate the idea of actually using them so much that you continually procrastinate (unless you can afford to hire them out, that is). Find marketing methods you enjoy and you may be surprised how fast your customer base grows.
Don’t think you have to be pushy to sell, either. Instead of pushing, focus on customer attracting techniques like informational marketing and planned word of mouth. Get a marketing funnel in place that allows customers to learn about your business before they approach you directly. Reach them with brochures, your Web site, or a newsletter. Consider “qualifying” your customers with questionnaires or conditions to reduce the energy you spend on tire-kickers.
Plan your networking strategy
Introverts looking to limit socializing will benefit from finding the most efficient network methods. Fortunately, a surprising amount of networking, both international and right in your hometown, can be accomplished online through forums and networking sites like ryze.com or myspace.com.
When you do socialize in person, instead of mingling at networking events with people you’d otherwise never talk to, go to events that actually interest you, even if they don’t seem like obvious places to meet business contacts. This way you’re far more likely to meet people you can build lasting relationships with.
Find a mentor who respects your personality
Just because you’re an introvert doesn’t mean you have to do it all alone. Working with a mentor can drastically shorten your learning curve, and can also provide moral support for the inevitable dark moments. Make sure any mentor or advisor you work with understands the vision you hold for your business and won’t inadvertently push you in direction you don’t want to go. Ideally, your mentor should have career experience in your field and understand your need for alone time and for energy-efficient marketing and networking methods.
Loners can run successful businesses, although their methods may be different the ones extroverts use. Being honest with yourself about how much time you want to spend working directly with people, marketing creatively, and using your introvert strengths like independence and initiative you can build fulfilling career as a business owner.