In many ways, being a founder (and particularly a solopreneur) is a dream gig for introverted folks. After all, you'll spend plenty of time alone. But one thing you'll hear over and over again when starting a business is the importance of building an audience — and for good reason. So what does that mean for introverts?
I'd say I lean toward introversion. Self-promotion is difficult for me. And social media just isn't for me. A few years back, I made myself post daily for a period of about six months and it always felt forced. I didn't feel authentic and I burned out.
So I did a little research on how introverts can thrive as indie hackers, and I'll break it down below.
A quick note before we get into it: Introversion is not the same as social anxiety (though the two certainly can exist together). Introversion is all about how people gain and lose energy, while social anxiety is a condition that usually involves fear of socializing or being seen and judged by others.
If I'm being honest, much of my introversion could very well be social anxiety — I haven't quite figured that out yet. But I think it's an important distinction to make because social anxiety can often come from trauma and therefore may be something a person can work through in therapy, etc. But introversion isn’t something to fix or heal from (unless it’s causing you suffering). It’s actually a part of how a person has been wired since birth — essentially, introverts are more sensitive to dopamine (a chemical that surges during socializing and novelty) and can easily feel overstimulated by crowds or lots of socializing, while extroverts have low sensitivity to dopamine so require larger amounts of this type of stimulation. And they both have their benefits.
In many ways, our world is built for extroverts. But there are a ton of advantages to being introverted — even as a founder. In fact, according to a study by Harvard Business Review, companies tend to perform better financially with introverted CEOs.
Here are a few traits that you might be able to use to your advantage:
Not bad — and that's barely scratching the surface.
As I said above, being a founder is a sweet gig for people who lean toward introversion. But marketing can be a big hangup. So here are some tips on how to market, grow, and thrive.
Don't try to be someone else — even if that person is an extroverted marketing genius. People can smell inauthenticity a mile away. Just be (and market like) your authentic self. Do what you enjoy. Play to your strengths.
Of course, you'll probably have to do some kind of marketing, so try to identify what feels good. Here are a few marketing efforts that may feel comfortable for some introverted folks:
Whatever it is, find a medium that works for you. And don't stop there — figure out what else works for you (and what doesn't). For example, only distribute as much content as feels right for you. That might mean that you post infrequently, and that's okay as long as it's super valuable. And share only what feels comfortable — you don't necessarily need to bare your soul.
Tip: Some people recommend posting as your brand instead of yourself to ease the discomfort.
Yes, it's kinda the opposite of what I said above, but both are true — and it's important to find a balance. In my research, a number of introverts said that it was helpful for them to repeatedly put themselves in positions where they had no option but to interact with people. So test yourself and see what you can do.
If you have a really strong aversion to a specific marketing task, it can be helpful to think about whether your hesitance is due to fear (in which case it might be a growth edge) or if it's just good, old fashioned introversion (in which case, it'll just be draining).
Start slow and easy. If you push too hard, you might burn out, and that won't help your business. Dip your toe in. Take breaks when you need to. Challenge yourself in small increments. And check in with yourself frequently to see how you're doing. The goal is to catch yourself before you go over the edge instead of trying to recover after you go over it.
How do you recharge? Is it a good book? Meditation? Conversation with a close friend? Have that resource on hand and ready to go whenever you need it.
If you need something to lean on to get through tiring activities, focus on your "why" and take energy from your conviction about what you're doing.
And plan ahead. If you know you've got some stressful marketing tasks coming up, make space in your schedule for recharging afterwards.
Batch difficult marketing tasks and set a routine for when you'll work on them. This should be uninterrupted, independent work time. And try to schedule social commitments for days where you don't have these difficult tasks.
Of course, it's also important to take advantage of inspiration. So if you're suddenly feeling really social, jump on your platform and spread the love.
In addition to time, set aside some space. Make sure you have a physical space where you can work uninterrupted. Your office should be a sanctuary where you can recharge. For info on optimal office setups, check out this article.
And speaking of interruptions, if you're working with co-founders, employees, clients, stakeholders, or anyone else who might expect immediate responses, set expectations proactively. Let them know when you're available, when you're not, the best way to reach you, and how long it might take you to respond. To put their minds at ease, consider giving them a way to reach you in case of emergency — this has the added benefit of prioritizing their communications so that you don't always feel pressured to respond right away. Keep meetings and other draining (and arguably unnecessary) activities to a minimum. And of course, know when to say no.
Reduce your support load and the number of emails you have to respond to with proactive tactics like thorough onboarding, documentation, knowledge bases, tool tips, and FAQs. Chatbots can also be helpful in this regard.
To dive deeper into the possibilities, look into conversational support funnels.
If you feel like your marketing efforts aren't going to be enough, you can supplement them with growth tactics. Growth involves marketing but it goes beyond it to include product strategies, monetization models, and so forth. It should help you to bring in more leads and make the most out of each one. Check out Growth Bites for a long list of tactics, many of which are great for introverts.
If you're marketing right, you're offering value. You are helping others. It can be helpful to remind yourself of that from time to time.
Tip: One thing I read again and again is that it gets easier.
Let's drive it home with what some fellow introverted indie hackers have said on the topic.
And lastly, some reassurance. If you're an introverted founder, you're in good company. I looked through lots of IH posts trying to find advice for founders, and I noticed something: TONS of indie hackers lean toward introversion.
Even IH fave @patio11 calls himself an introvert. And of course, there are the 800-pound gorillas who are famously introverted, like Larry Page, Marissa Meyer, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and (somewhat surprisingly) Elon Musk.
I guess the internet has made it way easier for introverts to make it in business. Not easy, necessarily, but easier.
What do you do to get the word out as an introvert?