One for the quiet freelancers.
We're often told that creating a successful business requires us to "just keep putting yourself out there". But what does that mean if you're more introvert than extrovert? Self-promotion can be tough for anyone, but if you're the quiet type, common strategies for sales and marketing can be energy-draining and uncomfortable.
In this episode, I’m joined by Carmel Finnan, a freelance Communication & Storytelling Consultant. Carmel shares her thoughts on how quiet freelancers can be found by the right clients in a noisy online world.
Our conversation includes:
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Carmel’s blog post about Marketing for Introverts: https://storydialogue.com/blog/marketing-for-introverts/
Say hi to Carmel:
Louise Shanahan is a freelance health and medical copywriter and a big fan of finding your freelance niche. She's on a mission to help others build a freelance business that feels easy and works for them – in weekly snack-sized bites.
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Welcome to 15 Minute Freelancer, your snack-sized guide to being your own boss and building a business and life you love. I'm your host Louise Shanahan. My LinkedIn bio says I'm a freelance health copywriter. But for the next 15 minutes, I'll be tickling your ears with practical strategies, behind-the-scenes stories, and nuggets of wisdom so you can create a freelance business that works for you. Whether you're just starting out or you've been self-employed for a while, I'll be right here with you to help you navigate the ups and downs of freelancing life. So grab a coffee relax and join me for 15 minutes of freelancing fun. Don't forget to hit subscribe.
Louise: Hello, everyone, Louise here. One thing that I've consistently spoken about on this podcast is the need to keep putting yourself out there, to keep talking about your services, to connect with people, to be available for opportunities. But what does that mean if you identify as an introvert, or if you're a quiet, thoughtful, maybe a little bit of a shy person. Putting yourself out there might feel a bit exhausting and uncomfortable at times, so this is an episode for you. Today, I'm very excited to be joined by Carmel Finnan, who is a freelance Storytelling & Communication Consultant, who is here to share her thoughts and advice on what it means to run a freelance business as an introvert. Hi, Carmel, thank you for joining me.
Carmel: Hi, Louise. It's great to be here.
L: Maybe that's a good place to kick things off. Let's do some definitions. What do we actually mean when we talk about introverts and what's the difference between an introvert and an extrovert, should we even be using these terms?
C: Well, you know, I don't really use the term introvert/extrovert very much with my clients because they don't use it. A lot of my clients would describe themselves as conscientious, quiet, private, solid, thoughtful, shy. Because for a lot of people introvert, they confuse it with social awkwardness. But what I mean when I use the word introvert is that, yes, we are sociable, I consider myself to be an introvert, but we are social beings, it's just we have to manage our energies differently to somebody who was an extrovert. Which means that if I spend too much time with others on social media platforms, just being out there as we call it, my energy gets depleted very quickly. I have to pull away and I recharge best of all on my own, in my own space, where I feel no distractions, no noise, etc. So that to me is generally how I would define an introvert.
This is not a label to carry around, because in a way I have extrovert tendencies as well, like extroverts are sometimes introverts. But overall, it's how comfortable do you feel on your own, how comfortable do you feel in social settings, and energetically how does that feel for you. There are a lot of us out there, people say up to a third of the population would be considered the classical introvert. It's not something to fix, this is not a diagnosis, it's about really accepting it, identifying it. Saying I notice when I go to a networking event, I get tired, I can feel overwhelmed even before I go, or I get overwhelmed after about half an hour, and that's a sign that you need to pull back your energies and look after yourself. The same on social media. The modern marketing tactics were developed for extroverts, it’s great to be an extrovert, the world loves you, but it exhausts the 33% of us, it overwhelms us, we burn out much more quickly. When we follow the classical advice of get yourself out there, stay out there and be heard, be seen be found, that doesn't work in the same way for us.
Saying that, we cannot run away and hide and expect clients to find us. My clients would all consider themselves to be people who are not the classical extrovert. It's about finding ways that are suitable for you and how do you know if they're suitable for you? How does it feel to be spending two hours a day on social media? Do you feel exhausted after it? Does it ignite you? Does it motivate you? Does it give you energy? You don't need somebody else to come with a label and say you are this. This is something with your own awareness you discover what are the best ways for you to market your business. Because in the end, you have something valuable to offer and you want people to find you. That to me is sort of where I start off. It's not about putting yourself out there, because that actually overwhelms people when they hear they have to be out there, have to put myself out there. I say, no, you have to position yourself to be found by those who are looking for what you do.
L: What would be some examples of ways that people could do that? Because I know, you’re saying that this isn't something to fix, which I completely agree with. But as you also said, the business world has kind of been designed for people, it's definitely easier if you're someone who's very confident, selling yourself and chatting to people and putting yourself out there. So how can we position ourselves if we are people who are maybe a little bit quieter, or prefer to spend a bit more time on our own, rather than at networking events, and on social media and things like that?
C: You might have to reduce the amount of time you spend on social media. I'm not saying get off social media at all, I help people use social media in a way that suits their energy flow. And that means that you're not going for numbers, you're not going for the quantity you're going for quality. That suits introverts, you know, to just think smaller, think quality instead of quantity. And yes, be on social media, find the platform that actually feels good for you to be on. For me, it's LinkedIn, but that may not be everybody's. It's an age thing as well, you know, if you're in your 20s social media platforms are more suited to maybe the audience you're trying to reach. This is all something you have to work out for yourself. I say it's not about making these yes or no, it's about managing your energy really. A lot of my clients do not enjoy making videos. And, you know, they're following these instructions saying you have to make videos, and I say, you don't have to do anything. If it drains you, if you've tried it, if you've tweaked it, and it's still not working, and it's still something you dread every day, do not do that. There is no one size fits all. When you go networking, you are never going to be a person who is going to ‘do the room’ as they say. If you manage to make contact with maybe two or three people at a networking event that's energetically great for you. You have to think of strategies that suit your personality and also position you to be found.
L: There's a few different ways that people can think about that then, first of all maybe thinking about where are your clients in the first place, because maybe it turns out you don't need to spend lots of time on social media if your clients aren't there, either. And then thinking about the channels or the formats or the strategies that allow you to claim your space, but in a way that works with your energy. For example, podcasting, you know we're both sitting in our homes, we’re by ourselves, we can have a nice one-to-one conversation, we're not having to engage with lots and lots of different people. Although we're speaking and it seems like maybe it's an extroverted thing to do, actually, it's quite a nice focus thing, that's one of the reasons that I enjoy it. For other people, you know, maybe if you're a writer you might prefer to focus on blog strategy, maybe think about SEO for your website.
C: SEO is a fantastic tool for us when we actually get right. Because a lot of introverts like to write and that's great, but just writing your little blog, and just hoping somehow somebody is going to find it, you're not positioning it to be found. If you like writing, yes write, but you have to make it easy for people to find you.
L: I wonder if you could say a little bit about what you think the advantages might be. So rather than thinking about why does the current business environment maybe not suit people who prefer to spend more time on their own or have a bit more of a thoughtful approach to things, and that's not to say that the more outgoing people aren't also thoughtful. But how can we lean into those more quiet conscientious tendencies, is there ever a time where that's actually useful?
C: It’s useful all the time. You're a freelancer, you are now free to run your business according to your needs. You're now free to align the way you run your business to your personality and to your clients. And when you do that, everything you do will be far, far more effective. You actually start getting into your flow where you are much more productive, doing less, that 20/80 principle. Instead of trying to be on every social media platform, find the one that feels right for you, let the others go. The advantages of doing that are enormous, because energetically you are more productive, you are more aligned with yourself, and you have far more what I consider to be joy in running your business.
L: And it should be fun, shouldn't it?
C: Absolutely. You had a guest recently and she talked about doing fun things. And I use the word joy for introverts, not to say that what Kirsty said isn't true, but fun is a kind of the moment you do something and it's great. But joy is something when you're running your business from a place of deep alignment with yourself, there is this synchronicity about what you do. The great thing about the advantages of just owning who you are, is there is space in this world for everybody. Wherever you are, once you identify it, once you own it, you will find your tribe.
L: That's such a powerful message. I'm wondering if you have any tips on how people can advocate for what they need from other people or from their clients. You know, if you are trying to claim your space and lay down some boundaries so that you can work in a way that allows you to stay in the flow and find your zone of joy, which I've talked about before. How can we make sure that we speak up for that when we're dealing with clients, who maybe for example, let's say they're used to getting on Zoom calls hundreds of times a day and that's not something that we want to be doing. What sort of conversations should we be having to make sure that we find a way of communicating that works for both people?
C: Clarity, be upfront about how you work. My clients know I'm only available on LinkedIn as a social media platform, I'm available on email, I don't have any other way of engaging with people, because that's very manageable for me. The people who respect other people's boundaries, have no problems with that. When you own who you are, and I mean make it known to your audience how you best work, this is how I can do my job most effectively is this, this, and this, 90% of people will absolutely respect you. And actually, you're giving them permission to own how they also want to be in the world as well, because you're modelling a way of taking care of yourself to people, and that empowers people to do the same for themselves. I think it's a very important thing to do that you don't have to follow conventional guidelines. Actually, an awful lot of marketing was designed for medium and big companies, it doesn't even suit small businesses, micro businesses, or freelancers at all. Take the time is my advice to everybody. Pay attention to what comes easy to you. What gives you a sense of joy, what drains your energy, and then adjust accordingly. That's what I would say.
L: I think that's so important because especially the point about traditional strategies being designed for bigger organisations, when you are your business you're also potentially the single point of failure. If you're trying to force yourself to do things that don't necessarily work for you, then that's only going to lead to burnout. I think that's a really good place to wrap up. I really appreciated your insights, Carmel, thank you so much. It's really interesting to rethink what it means to show up as yourself and find your zone of joy, even if and maybe especially if, that's something different to what we're taught or shown in mainstream business culture. Thank you so much for your time.
C: It’s a pleasure talking to you, Louise.
L: Thank you, if people would like to chat to you some more about this and find out more about your work where is the best place to find you? I know you mentioned LinkedIn.
C: Yes, LinkedIn and email firstname.lastname@example.org.
L: That's brilliant, thank you, we'll put those in the show notes. Thank you so much, I hope everyone has found this as thought-provoking as I have and I'll see you next time. Happy freelancing.
You've been listening to 15 Minute Freelancer with me Louise Shanahan, freelance health copywriter and content marketer at thecopyprescription.com. If you enjoyed this, please hit subscribe, leave a review or share it with a freelance friend. And if you've got a freelancing question you want to be answered on the podcast, find me and say hi on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram. Thanks, and until next time, happy freelancing.