When you picture a successful entrepreneur, you probably imagine someone with an outgoing, talkative personality. The kind of person who loves to socialize and meet new people.
The person you probably don’t picture is someone who is quiet, who becomes overwhelmed and exhausted by noisy environments, or avoids spending too much time around other people, especially large groups.
So where does that leave the stereotypical shy, socially reserved introvert who wants to start a business?
Better off than you think!
For starters, most experts see introversion/extraversion as a spectrum with few people at the extremes. Instead most of us fall closer to the middle. What about you?
Take the Quiz: Are You An Introvert?
- Do you feel exhausted after an evening out with a lot of people (like at a party or networking event)?
- Do you find you really need quiet time alone, for example, just reading, meditating, listening to music, or watching TV?
- Do you tend to prefer to socialize in a very small group (just a couple close friends)?
- Do you find it difficult to initiate a conversation with a stranger?
- Do you label yourself (or do other people label you) as shy or quiet or socially inept?
If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, you’re probably closer to the introvert end of the spectrum. But that doesn’t mean you’re not cut out to start your own business.
Hugely successful entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, or Warren Buffett are not the kind of guys you’d find chatting it up at a party. And there are plenty of actors, professional speakers, and other performers who can “do” extrovert but are in fact quite introverted – myself included!
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, it’s important to know yourself and where your energy lies. In fact, think of your energy like a battery; if you are an extrovert your batteries are charged by social interaction, if you are an introvert your batteries will be drained.
That means you need to play to your strengths and get help in the areas where you’re weaker. For example, if you are an extreme introvert, you may prefer to run a home-based business rather than founding a company that requires you to interact with employees.
Or if you really do want to build an empire then like Zuckerberg, Gates, and Buffets then just know you’ll probably need to partner or hire an extrovert who loves the social stuff.
25 Small Business Ideas for Introverts
As an introvert it’s important to find the right business for you.
For instance, an online business where you sell new or used products or where you create and sell information products (written materials, audio downloads, etc.), can be a great fit for introverts because it allows all the freedom, control, and income of self-bossing with less of the frequent people contact that you find so draining.
Another benefit to a web-based business is you get to use your online interactions and presence to determine the persona the world sees. So you can be reserved Rachel or Rick at home and Rock Star Rachel or Rick in your business!
But selling stuff online is not your only option. Here are 25 other ideas that are well suited to people who enjoy solitude:
- Webmaster or IT consultant
- Graphic design
- Copywriter (using words to sell a product or service or to promote causes)
- Fiction writing (romance, novels, etc.)
- Social media consultant
- Editing and/or proofreading
- Web designer
- Craft-related businesses
- Creating patterns: Sewing, knitting, woodworking
- Creating software or apps
- Clothing designer
- Working with animals
- Growing and selling flowers, vegetables, and/or herbs
- Errand service
- Fixing things: Cars, appliances, clothes alterations, broken pottery, antique clocks/watches
- Making things better: Custom cars, motorcycles, campers, etc.
- Building things: Furniture, boats, decks, etc.
Success Strategies for the Introvert Entrepreneur
Once you find your perfect business, you need to take action. To help ensure your success you’ll want to follow these simple strategies:
- Find your passion. Your enthusiasm for your business can help you overcome your reluctance toward social interaction because you’re so eager to share it with the world.
- Know your strengths and weaknesses. Introverts may have social issues to overcome, but they have a knack for seeing the big picture and focusing on the important details.
- Know what drains and energizes you. If you know that client meetings, long phone calls, or networking events drain you, try to schedule your day to include blocks of time for things that recharge your batteries like listening to music, meditation, reading, or even watching TV or playing a video game.
- Automate and delegate. When you’re juggling a lot of balls it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Create systems and automation that will allow you to remove people from the equation – i.e., eliminate the need for employees, for making personal phone calls, etc. And where you can’t eliminate it, delegate heavily people tasks to a Virtual Assistant (VA) or others who are more extroverted.
- Seek out other introverted entrepreneurs. This may sound counterintuitive, but a fellow introvert is more likely to understand where you’re coming from and is more likely to respect your social boundaries. Having other like-minded entrepreneurs around you – even if only virtually via social media– will also give you more confidence
- Step out of your comfort zone. Finally, you may be an introvert but if you want to be your own boss then you still need to stretch yourself. Join a Toastmasters club to conquer your fear of public speaking. If you must attend a networking event set a goal of talking to just four people.
To this last point, you may even choose a business precisely because it pushes you to talk to strangers.
For example, according to International Living magazine editor Jen Stevens, one of the many great things about travel writing is it gives introverts a built-in excuse for initiating conversations with owners of inns, shops, cafes and others along the journey who can add value to your article.
(As an aside: If you’d like to learn how to become a travel writer, I highly recommend The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program.)
With so many ways today to build a small business, to communicate with clients and customers, and to make business connections without ever venturing into public, you don’t need to be bigger, louder, funnier, or more charming to build a successful business.
Instead, be true to yourself, find the right business for you, and then take action!
Join the “Brainstorm Nation” Family!
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, when it comes to ways to make a living without a j-o-b, lots of heads are always better than one!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post, including any ideas you have for the introvert entrepreneur! (Non-Facebook users, scroll down to the comment section.)