By Joey Phoenix
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” Mahatma Ghandi
Quite frequently I speak to rising creative professionals who seem to struggle with one thing: how to market themselves. They have difficulty sending cold e-mails, approaching people at networking events, and promoting themselves in general. In fact, they admit, even thinking about doing any of these things brings an onset of anxiety that’s difficult to manage.
Unfortunately, as a creative professional, not putting yourself out there isn’t an option. You have to meet people, and actually (shock!) talk to them, if you want to see your business grow.
As an introvert who has dealt with similar struggles for my entire life, this difficulty doesn’t come as a surprise to me. I’d rather walk barefoot on ice than address a room full of people, especially if I have to talk about myself. Self-promotion has never come easy, and many times I have to psych myself up quite a bit before I can do anything significant.
Growing up, I dealt with a frustrating speech impediment. I have TMD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder) which causes my cheeks and jaw to lock up, making many words difficult to pronounce. Ultimately, some days are much worse than others. Since this wasn’t diagnosed until my late teens, talking when I was growing up was something I struggled with. My parents and family members, who were just trying to help me out, would tell me to enunciate (drawing out every syllable “E-Nun-Ci-Ate” as they said it). They also took a trial by fire approach, enrolling me in high school level speech classes when I was 11, and signing me up for young entrepreneurial courses and leadership conferences, where I would have to give short talks that were nothing if not humiliating.
As Susan Cain points out in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, as a culture we have been programmed to accept that the ones who do most of the talking are the most worthwhile leaders. We tend to think that success will come only if we can give charismatic and stirring speeches, acquire thousands of friends, and attract business leads without much effort. Extroversion has been praised, introversion has been ridiculed.
Society’s tendency to attempt to mold introverts in to extroverts is as futile and wrong as trying to train a left handed child to write with their right hand. Instead of enhancing these kid’s natural strengths, these “molders” try to make the child a replica of something else, and often cripple their development in the process.
Fortunately, thanks to the modern world, you don’t have to give into these outdated standards. You can embrace your introversion and use it to its full potential. Some of the world’s most successful creators, innovators, and entrepreneurs were quiet, and yet, the things they were able to accomplish are inspirational. If they did it, so can you.
So what do you have to do as a creative professional that will play to your strengths as an introvert? Here are some tested strategies which will help bring you closer to your goals.
1. Recognize the Strength of Listening
“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” ― Ernest Hemingway
In a world full of people always talking, it’s the listeners who are needed most. By listening you are able to pick up on what people are really saying, and what they say is telling you what they need. When you listen, you can get all the facts, and then come up with innovative solutions to meet those needs.
When you listen to someone, they begin to feel like you value what it is they have to say. Dale Carnegie, a master influencer, said it best: “If you want to be a good conversationalist, be a good listener. To be interesting, be interested.” So when you meet someone for the first time, or make a new business contact, don’t be tricked into thinking that you have to immediately start talking about yourself. Instead, ask them questions, let them do the talking, and start the conversation on that footing. They will feel valued, and that will give them cause to remember you, and make them want to work with you – which is the whole point of marketing.
2. Use Social Media to Your Advantage
“Social media will help you build up loyalty of your current customers to the point that they will willingly, and for free, tell others about you.” - Bonnie Sainsbury
Although it may seem counterintuitive to hide behind your computer screen when you’re getting your creative business off the ground, it can honestly be one of your biggest marketing tools. In today’s world, people spend countless hours in front of screens. It’s how many people connect, get their news, and learn about new ideas. Also, it gives you the chance to promote what you do without having to do the scary thing of meeting people face to face.
However, because social media is so ubiquitous, you’ll have to think up creative ways to stick out in people’s minds. Pay attention to what your target audience is searching for, and stay up to date on current trends. The trick is finding the balance between your own uniqueness and popular demand.
3. Focus on One on One Relationship Building
"To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others."– Tony Robbins
If you’re anything like me, being in large groups of people isn’t conducive to you sharing your ideas. I tend to be a wallflower at company meet-and-greets and networking events. Yet, when it comes to one-on-one relationships, I shine. Talking to someone one on one creates a safe place to build a business relationship. You don’t feel the pressure of all eyes on you, and you can more easily tease out what the other person is feeling and expressing.
Additionally, seeking out people individually makes the experience much more personal. So not only does this strategy feed directly into an introvert’s comfort zone, it’s also proven to be more effective in the development of long-term relationships.
4. Have a Showstopping Website
“The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.” -Bill Gates
If you are introvert, your website needs to become one of your most effective marketing tools. A well-thought out, professionally designed website often does more for your credibility than having great conversational skills or making perfect first impressions. Also, unless you’re taking huge risks to overcome your introversion, it will probably be the first thing people see of you and your work. So unless it’s engaging, you’re missing a chance to really impress potential clients.
With that website too comes the chance to connect with your clients on a regular basis through blog posts, newsletters, and video marketing – all of which you can construct and deliver from the comfort of your couch.
5. Do the Thing that Scares You
"What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?" - Vincent van Gogh
Although you should embrace your introversion and ignore anyone who tries to convert you, don’t take it as a get out of jail free card when it comes to taking risks. There will be times in your journey as a Creative Professional where you will have to do the uncomfortable thing. You’ll have to approach someone you don’t know in a crowd of people and strike up a conversation, because you need that connection to move forward. You’ll have to send cold e-mails to people, telling them about what you do and why it’s worthwhile. You may even have to stand in front of a group of people and attempt to say something significant.
When these situation arise, the tendency is always to procrastinate. Don’t. Instead, do the thing that scares you. You don’t have to do it often. You don’t have to put yourself through undue stress by continually ending up in difficult situations. But when the chance comes your way, and you know that it will open doors that will otherwise stay firmly shut, follow through. Then, once you’ve done the difficult thing, reward yourself with a night in (or several) with a glass of wine and an excellent book, because you deserve it.
Looking for a little more support from fellow creative professionals or want to get in early on some exciting things coming in the near future.. Shoot us a message and introduce yourself.