I didn’t realize I was an introvert until I was well into my 20s. I’m not shy, and I don’t mind speaking up in a crowd if I’m asked a question, so I always assumed I was an extrovert. You can imagine my surprise, then, when taking the Myers Briggs personality test in college yielded the result that I was an introvert. It all started to make sense. I would constantly find myself shying away from social events, although I considered myself social and had many friends, and I never liked any job that included a high volume of social interaction within a day, it exhausted me. When starting my business, one of my biggest struggles became working with my introversion.
First and foremost, introversion does not mean someone who is shy, unsocial, or hates people. And in it and of itself isn’t a weakness that needs to be overcome. Being an introvert simply means that you draw energy from being alone instead of with other people. Because of this, social interaction can be extremely draining both mentally and physically. That's why some introverts can be perceived as shy or unsocial. And while both extroversion and introversion have strengths and weaknesses associated with both personality types, it's important to embrace your personality type and build off of your strengths - while also improving upon your weaknesses as a person.
As a photographer (and in my case, specifically a wedding photographer), I’m in the business of serving people. Wedding photography can be demanding socially, and as a result for an introverted person, their first inclination could be to shy away from anything that is deemed as socially demanding. Here are a few tactics I’ve used to help manage being an introvert who owns a socially demanding business:
Create an Introvert-Friendly Business Environment
Luckily for me, and other introverted photographers like me, the business of photography is really 30 percent shooting and interacting face-to-face with clients, and 70 percent desk time. I thrive off of my desk time. I’ve opted for an at-home office, instead of a coffee shop or studio space, and I hold my at-home alone time near and dear to my heart. Having an environment where I can revel in my alone time, as well as be productive and work on my business helps me to get out every week and create a great experience face-to-face with clients. By the time my one day a week wedding rolls around, I’m energized and all charged up for the entire day.
I’ve purposely created an environment that caters to my introversion because I know I’m in a socially demanding industry. Being self-employed means we have the power to control our business environment and we are in control of the expectations we set with clients. When goal-setting or business planning, put an emphasis on what you’ll need mentally in order to not burn out. This is especially important for introverts.
Online Versus In-Person
Some would argue that in-person sales and meetings are more effective than online interaction. I can’t speak to that argument because I’ve only ever emphasized online interaction. If you’re introverted, online interaction may help with constant client interaction.
The key to good online interaction is creating a great experience for current and future clients. For me, this includes making sure clients feel like they have a good sense of who I am, as well as thoughtful response templates that include a wealth of information that I can send to clients to help make the online interaction feel more complete.
Something else that is key to having a successful business while emphasizing online interaction is knowing your audience. Everyone’s situation is different, and everyone’s target client is different so it is important to know if your target client will feel comfortable with online interaction. In my case, I am based in Vegas, so I get many international clients coming to Vegas to elope or have a destination wedding. They’re my ideal target client, and online interaction tends to be more convenient for them (and me!).
Infusing Your Introversion Into Your Brand
When I talk about running a successful business, I often mention that infusing yourself within your brand is key to building trust with your audience. As an introvert, it is important that people understand who you are and how you interact. It's part of the all-important expectation setting that should occur at the beginning of any professional interaction. As I mentioned above, introversion is not a weakness that needs to be overcome, so its okay to showcase what makes you thrive. If you love curling up and getting lost in a good book, or thoughtful alone time, make sure you mention this in your “about me” section of your website and social media. People want to make a connection with you. Often times its the connection, and not necessarily our great photography, that causes people to book with us.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Lastly, for any person, extroverts and introverts alike, it's important to get out of our comfort zones. Stretching ourselves as people is how we grow. If you’re uncomfortable with social interaction, slowly begin attending networking events. You don’t have to do it often, but definitely, make it a goal to do something you’re not comfortable with. Like any skill, communication and social interaction need to be cultivated and the only way to do that is to embrace uncomfortable social situations and learn from them. Reach out and meet fellow photographers, or strive to find a mentor. There are a ton of ways to help grow your communication and social skills.
Starting a photography business as an introvert is not impossible. For any person, starting a photography business is dependent upon building off of individual strengths. Embracing your introversion, understanding it is not a weakness, and refining an environment that helps you thrive as the person you are will help you to not only build a successful business, but it will also help you to stay mentally healthy as well.
Lead image by rawpixel.com, used under Creative Commons.