5 Ways To Harness Your Introvert Power as an Entrepreneur

I don’t want to presume too much about you, dear readers, but I’ve noticed a pattern among the fellow freelancers/entrepreneurs I’ve had the pleasure of engaging with over the past few years:

Much like me, the majority of them are introverts.

It makes perfect sense.

Instead of feeling the pressure to perform at business meetings, freelancers can allow themselves the time to absorb communications from clients, mull things over, and then respond. Instead of feeling guilty for turning down lunch invites — worried that others will think them a weirdo or a snob — freelancers can spend lunch hours with their cats, scheduling social outings only when they feel up to them. And instead of working the typical 9 to 5, feeling obligated to stick to corporate work hours despite feeling burnt out, freelancers have the ability to work at their own pace, scheduling in book breaks, walks, or yoga as a means of recharging. It’s no wonder that introverts everywhere are flocking to freelancedom and entrepreneurship.

What’s sad is that many introverts still feel the need to apologize for their introversion. In Introvert Power, Laurie Helgoe writes that many introverts “… see extroversion as a bar that he or she can never quite reach.” I know the feeling. I’ve long cursed my tendencies toward introversion and social anxiety, and I admire those who can work a room like nobody’s business… and have a blast doing so. The thing is, being an introvert has its own benefits.

Introvert Power wasn’t written for freelancers or entrepreneurs, and it wasn’t written for writers. I recommend it anyway, because I found to be very affirming. That and I found that its lessons can easily be applied to the freelance life. How?

1. You should incorporate both solitude and quiet ritual into your work day.

Helgoe writes quite a bit about retreats, meditation, and other means of recharging. As a freelancer, you have the ability to make these a bigger part of your everyday life. How? Set aside a work space that’s all your own, and all about work. Keep it free of distractions, yet filled with things that inspire. Then, schedule out blocks of time for the work you have to do. Intersperse these more productive blocks of time with moments in which you can recharge. Enjoy a cup of coffee on your smooshy couch mid-morning. Go for a 20-minute walk — with an all-Gaga playlist on your iPod — mid-afternoon. Indulge in a yoga session — heavy with breathing meditations — in the evening. Slow down. Repeat these day after day. Make them something you can look forward too. You’ll be amazed at how this slower pace can sometimes help you get even more done.

2. You should tap into your powers as a superior listener.

While extroverts often process information by talking things out, introverts prefer to quietly listen, retreat, process, and only then take action or weigh in. This can be powerful, both when handling clients, and when networking. When negotiating the terms of a new project, take your time instead of rushing to propose what may turn out to be a lowball rate or time estimate. When talking over a new project or assignment, ask lots of questions. That way, you’re more likely to get things right the first time. And when networking, ask people about themselves. That way, the spotlight won’t be on you, and you may find that, in showing an interest in others, you’ve created a more enduring connection.

3. You should avoid overextending yourself.

Speaking of networking, there’s no shame in leaving an event early, or even in spending a greater amount of time with fewer people, rather than aggressively circulating the room. After all, introverts tend to operate better in one-on-one interactions. What’s the point in collecting 20 business cards when you can’t even remember a single defining factor about the people who handed them to you? Take your time, and create more meaningful connections with just a few people. Then, when you feel your energy flagging, bow out. You’ll be most productive anyway when you’re still high-energy.

4. You should market to others in the way you like to be marketed to.

In Introvert Power, Helgoe writes, “We don’t like bothering others because we don’t like being bothered.” YES! It’s why I avoid cold calling, and it’s also why I sometimes hesitate at calling my own flippin’ friends! (Jesus.) In some older, completely genius promos for Rich, Happy, & Hot B-School, Marie Forleo and Laura Roeder advise entrepreneurs to market to their target clients in the way that they themselves like to be marketed to (in a non-sleazy way). While watching these promos, I thought to myself: Holy crap! They’re doing it right now! Then I almost bought what they were selling. (I say “almost” because the b-school was, sadly, out of my budget at the time.) My point is, you know intuitively how to market. All you have to do is look at the things you spent money on and ask yourself: What made me click the “buy” button?

5. You should seek out mutually beneficial collaborations whenever possible.

In Introvert Power (which is apparently my new favorite book), Helgoe relates a lesson learned from Jung: “we choose partners in order to expand who we are.” Helgoe was talking primarily about romantic relationships. In fact, she included this fun quote from Anne Landers at the beginning of one chapter:

“At every party there are two kinds of people — those who want to go home and those who don’t. The trouble is, they are usually married to each other.”

But when I read it, I couldn’t help but think about the benefits of business collaborations. Because, in seeking out mutually beneficial business relationships, one has the opportunity to find collaborators who excel at that which they most struggle with. And in doing so, one can rock the house extra hard. Want to plan an event? Let yourself concentrate on the behind-the-scenes work while your collaborator acts as master of ceremonies. Want to expand your business? Bring on a partner to handle PR while you up your writing hours.

Are you an introvert like me? How have you used this to your own benefit?

Related: How To Build Your Network Without Having a Panic Attack, Are Your Supposed Weaknesses Actually Your Strengths?


  1. I cannot imagine a better lunch hour than spending it with my cats. Probably why I want to be a full time freelancer! 🙂

    #5 is definitely important. I have keep strong connectors in my contact list because I know they will introduce me to the new people they meet that they know would be good for me, without me having to get the will to walk up to them on my own. In return, I can listen to them and give them advice from a non-extrovert perspective. It’s a win-win situation!

  2. Excellent advice, Steph.

  3. Wow. I need to read this book! I can relate to everything you mentioned in this post (especially #4!)

  4. I’m a big introvert. I wrote a piece on the subject a while back, and loved what Wendi Gelberg, a career counselor for introverts had to say. My favorite piece of advice was to rethink words like “networking” and “selling yourself.” She said these are sales terms that make introverts uncomfortable. (They definitely make me uncomfortable.) Instead she said to just think about having a conversation with someone.

    Also, I love your advice in #2. I’m trying to get in the habit of asking people questions in social situations. And it makes them much easier!

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