[noun, adjective in-truh-vurt; verb in-truh-vurt]
Noun: a person who prefers calm environments, limits social engagement, or embraces a greater than average preference for solitude. – Dictionary.com
If you chose to become a freelancer, perhaps leaving behind the chaos and commotion of office life in favour of working from home (of course I’m referring to the before-times when WFH was a tad rarer than it is now), I’m willing to bet you have at least some introvert tendencies.
I definitely do. I am a proud, self-described introvert who has learned to embrace and, yes, love my introverted nature over the years.
“Introverted” doesn’t mean “anti-social” by the way, although we can certainly be seen that way at times. Being an introvert simply means that we become energised by spending time alone – extroverts, by comparison, usually gain their energy by socialising.
We tend to be reflective, deep thinkers who prefer to have a small circle of really close friends, unlike our social butterfly counterparts. The alone time we need will look different for every introvert – we are a varied bunch.
Curling up with a good book and a hot cuppa works for some, while others prefer a solitary stomp through the countryside. A long hot bath, a meditation or yoga session – there are as many wonderful ways to recharge as there are lovely introverts (freelance or otherwise).
For me, a couple of hours in my garden works best. Second to writing, growing my own is my absolute favourite pastime and it never fails to recharge my batteries.
Writing may seem like the perfect occupation for us introverts – “A room of one’s own” and all that. But even Virginia Woolf had to put herself out there, delivering lectures and, more than likely, doing a spot of networking at all those Bloomsbury parties.
The word “networking” may strike fear into the heart of an introvert but we all know it’s necessary, right? (Yes! It is necessary. And thanks to Zoom, even a pandemic hasn’t put a stop to it.)
Making connections with others in business is an amazing way of not just getting more business yourself, but of building the support network you need if you’re to succeed in the world of freelancing. Done right, and over time – don’t expect it to happen instantly – you’ll meet a group of people you feel you can really rely on.
Maybe they refer projects to you that they know are your speciality, or can always be trusted to give great recommendations for accountants/web designers/VAs/whatever it is you need.
The first event is always the hardest but, with some preparation, you can, and will, sail through it and come out the other side a more confident and successful copywriter.
Here are my top tips for networking as a freelance introvert
1. Embrace your nature – You’re an introvert, get over it. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing – it just is. The sooner you recognise and accept yourself for who you are the sooner you can work with your nature instead of against it. And that’s when things start to get a heck of a lot easier.
2. Practice your pitch – Depending on the event you’ll probably have a short time to give your pitch in front of the room, but even at a very informal event you’ll certainly have to tell others what you do. Which can be difficult at the best of times for copywriters… (“Copyright? So you’re a solicitor?”) Practice talking about who you are, what you do, who you work with and your niche, if you have one. Tell them the problems you solve. Write down your pitch. Time yourself. Record yourself. Remember to breathe between sentences to avoid filling the space with ums and ers. Don’t feel you have to fill every second of the allotted time, it’s better to give the necessary information in a concise way than to waffle.
3. Tell people who you are – Start and end your pitch with your name and the name of your business. Put your job title next to your name on Zoom. People’s memories are short and when they’ve listened to 30 people introducing themselves, they will forget your name if they only hear it once. Introduce yourself to each new person you speak to. You want to be top of mind for people so that if they hear the word “copywriter” they immediately associate it with your name.
4. Watch the negative self-talk – Both internal and external. If you have an inner monologue telling you that this is going to be awful and you’re terrible at talking to people and you’re so awkward and no-one will want to do business with you and and and… then guess what? That’s likely to come true. Notice your thoughts and consciously reframe. Tell yourself “I’m feeling anxious, which is natural. I have a right to be here and this will go well.” You can’t control your thoughts but you can control what you say and please, if you take just one thing from all of this, please don’t tell people you’re not good at what you do. If you find yourself babbling that you’ve only been in business a short time and you haven’t worked with any big clients yet and you’re sure they could find a better copywriter to work with… JUST STOP! There’s definitely an element of “fake it till you make it” to networking confidence.
5. Ask about them – People love to talk about themselves and if there’s one thing we introverts excel at, it’s being a great listener. Asking well thought out questions allows you to take a breath and regroup while they talk, plus you’ll find some fantastic professionals who you’ll want to work with. And you’ll become known as the person who really listened when they spoke, which will make them want to talk to you again! If you notice someone is feeling anxious or has tripped over their words, be kind. Putting people at ease in their awkwardness will help you too, as you’ll realise you’re far from the only one to feel that way.
6. Set up one-to-ones – Most introverts are significantly more confident speaking to just one person than to a group, so get yourself on firmer ground by arranging some one-to-ones. This doesn’t have to be complicated, it’s as simple as saying “I loved your pitch, can we set up a one-to-one?” They’ll be delighted they’ve made an impression and they’ll be just as eager to speak to you as you are to them.
7. Follow up – Firing off a hundred “Nice to meet you” emails won’t help and they’ll probably be ignored. But a few well placed, personalised messages can go a long way. Mention what you liked about their pitch, how fascinating you find their niche or send them an article you think they’d find interesting. Connect on LinkedIn and follow their socials. This will help keep you top of mind for them as well as increasing your network.
8. Limit your networking – If you find it really tough you don’t have to go every week. It’s definitely important to be consistent so don’t go once and then disappear for six months, but maybe go every fortnight if weekly feels too much. Make it work for you.
9. Look after yourself afterwards – This is linked to Tip 1. Introverts will need time to recharge after a networking event so don’t schedule lots of meetings for the same day. After the event try to spend a little time on your own, maybe step away from your laptop and go for a walk in your nearest green space. And then give yourself permission to feel a bit knackered for the rest of the day. I always feel as though I’ve drunk 4 large coffees afterwards, and then crash by late afternoon! You’ve done something big so be kind to yourself.
10. Book your next event – Straightaway. Yes, I know I said to limit it if you need to, but booking your next event right after you’ve finished your first one helps you capitalise on the high. You did it! It was hard and you didn’t really want to but you did! That’s amazing and you deserve to congratulate yourself. I’m congratulating you, right now. And next week or the week after that, you’re going to do it all again. It’ll be easier that time, I promise. Networking may never be your favourite thing to do but once you start seeing the benefits, you’ll be so glad that you felt the fear and did it anyway.