‘See I am an introvert. Deep. To the snot’. That’s how American writer and producer Shonda Rhimes describes herself in her book, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person.
Like Ms Rhimes, I’m an introvert too. Before I’ve even left the house, I start looking forward to getting home, slipping into my pyjamas and making a selection from my Leaning Tower of Books. So I was intrigued by Australian copywriter Kat Tate’s The Quiet Copywriter: An Introvert’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving in Business.
Tate perfectly sums up how I feel about my introversion in relation to working as a copywriter: ‘The business world wants us to be more extroverted. Basically, it wants us all to be [alpha-preneur and self-help author] Tony Robbins’.
She’s right. It does feel like an unrelentingly shouty echo chamber that assumes you’re fine with constantly putting yourself out there.
Thankfully, Tate doesn’t trot out the elderly ‘fake it till you make it’ line. (Although at one point, she does say ‘I don’t believe in mistakes, I believe in lessons’. Which sounds like something the lead in a heavy-handed movie about Triumphing Over Adversity might say.)
Instead she encourages quiet copywriters to:
- embrace their introversion (instead of treating it like something that needs to be overcome, or fixed)
- be honest about it
- make it work for them and their businesses
Tate opens the book by sharing the story of how she went from being a ‘sensitive’ kid at school to a freelance copywriter (via working on a Sunday newspaper and in PR).
After that, it splits into 2 halves. The first introduces introversion and what it looks like. The second is home to all the practical stuff – ‘…tips and tricks to help you succeed as a solitude seeker’. And Tate shares her own experiences throughout.
In the opening section, she mentions, but doesn’t highlight, the main thing that distinguishes introverts from extroverts, which I found a bit odd.
To paraphrase Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking, introverts get their energy from being on their own. (That said, they’re not necessarily society-shunning types who hyperventilate if they have to speak to more than 2 people at a time.) Unlike their limelight-shy cousins, extroverts get their energy from being with people. And ambiverts share the traits of both.
My favourite parts of The Quiet Copywriter were the ones about knowing your worth, networking, and managing clients. They made me feel like Tate had peeked into my brain, found out my introversion-related anxieties, then gave me doable strategies to deal with them. That’s one of this tiny e-book’s strengths. It doesn’t just tell you what to do, it tells you how to do it too. And most of it’s applicable whether you’re a taciturn soul or not.
For example, when it comes to networking (the horror!), Tate’s advice includes:
- scanning the attendee list for interesting people to meet
- asking questions about people’s experiences of working with copywriters and other creatives
- asking more experienced networkers for feedback on your meeting and greeting skills
She also stresses how important it is to look after your physical and mental wellbeing. Tate describes her separate ‘happy and healthy’ account, where she saves 5% of every invoice so she has a stash of cash she can spend on activities that help her look and feel good. Because as she rightly points out, when you work for yourself, you are your business, so protecting and maintaining your health’s a must.
Tate does make a couple of generalisations that I didn’t agree with though. The first is about the internet and social media. For her, the latter is ‘…a safer, gentler approach to marketing your business.’
Social media can help you build relationships with potential clients and other copywriters without the need to speak face to face, or on the phone. But, as we all know, it comes with its own problems.
Even if you’re minding your own business and following intelligent, curious and self-aware people, you can be exposed to ranty, bigoted nutjobs who are quick to lash out and criticise. And Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn etc. can feel just as noisy as the world offline.
The other generalization Tate makes is, ‘introverts love one on one time’. Not necessarily, for this introvert anyway. In my experience, one to ones can be every bit as draining, and buttock-clenchingly awkward, as having to spend hours as part of a gregarious group.
I also thought the book might have benefited from some short case studies, to add other introverts’ voices into the mix.
Because of my personal interest in the subject, I willed The Quiet Copywriter to be good and, apart from the couple of minor things I wasn’t sure about, it is. None of the other business books I’ve read bother to acknowledge introversion. But this one not only focuses on the topic, it deals with it in a helpful, funny and self-affirming way.
In one of his recent email newsletters, author and designer Paul Jarvis said, ‘I’m an introvert which I don’t use as a crutch not to do things I should, I use the term as a lens to make decisions for what’s best for how I like to work.’
If you’re a fellow introverted copywriter, Tate’s book is a great resource to help you do this.