This is something that I have gone over a lot in the past because I am a fellow introvert. When I first started my virtual assistant business, it was hard for me to network and find clients. It is a little easier now through online marketing and different strategies for finding clients online. But one thing that I still struggle with, and I know a lot of introverts will struggle with this too, is how to actually network in person.
If you’re at a business conference, business event, how do you connect with people and network authentically in person? It is a different beast when it comes to being an introvert, it’s a lot more difficult to network in person, but there are ways that you can get better at networking in person if you want to. I’m not saying that you have to network in person, I know that I still try to avoid it whenever possible. But there are ways that you can make networking a little bit easier for yourself as an introvert.
Networking as an Introvert Entrepreneur
1) Start with people you know
Take a look at your friends, family, college friends, or anyone else that you know, in general. You want to look at the people that you know first because this builds up courage and amazing connections can be made from just talking to people that you already know. And then they, in turn, can possibly mention you to people that they know that are need of your services. Having those conversations and putting it out there to people already in your circle that you are a virtual assistant, or you’re a graphic designer, or you’re a website designer. Putting that out there into the world and having those conversations with people you’re already friends with and already have open communication with – that will make it a little bit easier for when you do network with people that you don’t know at a networking event or a business conference, for example.
2) Timing matters
This is very important and I know for most introverts, it’s something that we can struggle with. I know for me personally, I always feel a little awkward starting a conversation or joining in the conversation.
You just want to make sure that when an already lively conversation is going on between people, that you don’t try to force your way into the conversation or jump right into it. You want to smile and listen for a few seconds until you can pose a question that actually involves their conversation. This way you are naturally working your way into the conversation. You’re not just jumping in with something that’s often in left field of what they were talking about previously.
This is gold for an introvert because usually we aren’t the ones that are talking about themselves and we do more listening. When you were listening with genuine interest and then talk when needed, it shows that you’re actually paying attention, and you are engaged with their side of the conversation. This is where, actually, networking as an introvert can actually be more well-received than if you were a completely bubbly, outgoing personality. Sometimes that might be too much or too overbearing in a networking setting or intimate conversations in a business setting. So being able to listen first is very important.
4) Always be yourself
I know everyone says this and it’s something that is a little common sense, but it’s good to have it here as a reminder. So it’s true and you definitely want to keep being your authentic self. Even if you’re a little awkward, own it, and don’t apologize for it. It is who you are, it’s what makes you amazing and special, it is just a part of you.
So embrace that awkwardness and shyness and just go with it.
5) There’s always time for networking
No matter where you’re thinking about networking, like I know I mentioned business conferences or business events. That’s a huge one and one that generally comes to mind when we talk about business networking. However, there are also other options.
If you are passionate about books, you could join a book club and network with the people in your book club, as you get more familiar and more comfortable with them.
For another example, if you’re a gamer, then you could go to a gaming event.
At these events, or parties, or celebrations, or any in-person event, you never know who there has their own business, or might require your type of services. They might even know somebody else who is starting a new business and might be interested in your services.
That’s what networking is all about, it’s not about the immediate connections. It’s about putting yourself out there, putting what you do out there into the world, and planting seeds. So while you may not find it beneficial right away, networking is more of a longterm game.
For example – you could go to an event and connect with somebody named Sally. Sally doesn’t have a business, but you talked a bit about other interests that you have in common, and then you also included in the conversation that you’re a virtual assistant and the type of business owners that you help. And then three months later, you get an email from somebody saying, “Hi, I was on your website, I was referred to you by Sally. She told me that you do this kind of work and I’m really interested to talk to you and see how we can work together.”
That’s something that in the long run is very beneficial, but it’s not an immediate thing. So don’t go into a networking event thinking that things are going to happen for you very quickly. It may be a longer process, but it’s definitely very valuable.
And one final note that I will add for all of my very introverted folks like myself, you do not have to do in-person networking events. You do not have to push yourself so far outside your comfort zone just because you feel like you have to. Networking events can be very beneficial, but they aren’t absolutely essential in running a business.
You can do all of your networking online, you can do it through marketing, through Pinterest marketing, content marketing, email marketing. You don’t have to do in-person events if you don’t want to. I will say, if you do choose to do networking this way, it does get a little bit easier. But again, if you are super introverted as I am, you might want to skip the in-person networking events, too!
The Introvertpreneur Club
That is exactly why I created The Introvertpreneur Club. Within the club, you connect with other like-minded introverts who are running an online business, and I show you how to market your business in a way that isn’t stressful or overwhelming! Learn more and join the club.