Before I elaborate on the most important things, that will help you move the needle, allow me to make a statement, that I find crucial.
OK now, we all have soft skills and hard skills. The former are personal or interpersonal skills, that help us navigate our life, profession and business. The latter are things we have learned at school, university, or on our own as part of our personal and professional self-development (like for example marketing, managing people, and making business plans).
You need both sets of skills to make it happen. This section will talk about how you can fix your mindset to make it work.
“Wait a minute, is it broken?” you might ask me. Sorry to yes but most probably yes, it is. As was mine before I found out how to embrace my introversion and let it bring out the best of me with my business.
Is mindset the #1 issue with introverted solopreneurs who want to grow their business?
You see, instead of trying to get rid of your introversion or -even worse- hide it, it’s much better and more sustainable to make friends with it, understand how that affects your behaviour, boost your strong points (super important) and work on your weaker points.
Based on my experience, the weak point that is common among most solopreneurs or entrepreneurs working alone is their mindset.
Your mindset is literally how you set your mind to work. It’s a set of beliefs and self-perceptions that guide your behaviour and subsequently your actions.
As you understand, we are just talking about beliefs, not reality. Your mindset is about what you believe you are or have or what you are not or lack. Some of them might be true but, trust me, most of them are distorted.
Take, for example, the last challenge I talked about in the previous section: the fear of inadequacy and the fear of missing out. Because of all the reasons I explained, you believe you don’t have what it takes to make it work with your business or that you are not cut out for becoming a solopreneur or entrepreneur.
This is your mindset. Can you now see the connection between the challenges you have and your mindset? I am still not sure if facing the challenges builds that distorted mindset or the other way around. Most probably the latter but I can’t swear. Actually, it doesn’t really matter.
What matters is to see the links and try to break them. Below, I will explain how to do it, without losing yourself. Being yourself and accepting it for what you are is crucial.
Let’s get started!
5 ways to fix your mindset
#1 Understand the importance of focus and prioritization
Our world is chaotic. And working on our businesses seems chaotic, too. To our surprise, technology has not made things much simpler. Instead, it made them more complicated. I am a tech pro, no doubt. However, I must admit that new technologies like the internet or instant messaging or even AI-powered software enabled us to do gazillions of new things easier and faster.
But this overload of data and information has made people (especially us introverts) get stuck with a bunch of things we can indeed do by ourselves, every day. Why hire an accountant when you can use this application at a fraction of the cost? Why need you outsource your website’s development when WordPress has made it extremely easy to do it on your own? There are many more questions like these.
These are all dilemmas that new technology poses on us, expecting us to nod and go for it. I agree you CAN use WordPress to build your website while at the same time logging into your accounting app to register expenses and manage your finances. But at what cost?
You see, there is more than just the monetary cost of things. Have you heard of the opportunity cost? It’s non-monetary, in a way. Or we can say it’s indirectly monetary. It’s about the opportunities you may have lost because you chose to do something else.
Let me give you an example: you can use WordPress to build your blog and website, almost free. The monetary cost is close to zero. However, if you want to make it neat and polished and have all the necessary widgets and functions you find important for your business, you will need a lot of time and energy to spend. You may lose 30 or 40 working hours to do it and the result might sometimes be not the best one or the one you have dreamt of.
I have been there myself. When building the website for Allthingsnordic.eu, one of my other businesses, I tried to do it on my own. WordPress is easy, I had done it again. Then I started playing with the templates, and then with setting them up. All good. I needed to customize them though and this is where the problems started. I found it hard to understand the logic sometimes. I had to search the internet for solutions and how to apply them. Found some, and tried to apply them, didn’t work. Trial and error. Long story short, I went through this process quite a few times before I realised it’s neither effective nor efficient. During all those lost working hours (plus frustration and disappointment), I could have worked on my core business, to find new clients and produce more content. I had a huuuge opportunity cost, which I hadn’t accounted for.
This is why it is important to understand the power of focus and prioritization.
Let me get this straight: the focus is the opposite of multitasking (should it actually exist). Instead of doing a million things at the same time, believing you perform at capacity and achieve more, opt for focusing on one thing that really matters at a time. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to do one thing the whole day.
Quite the opposite. You must put focus on one important thing at every given time in your daily calendar. Do the first, then move to the next one and the next one. Remember to have a to-do list every day. I have a weekly to-do list, that includes both trivial and essential tasks. You need that to put everything into perspective. Include everything because skipping the trivial ones may derail you from the daily mundane tasks that you need to accomplish (like posting on LinkedIn once a day or sending that email to clients). It’s also crucial to have the important things on your list, too. Otherwise, you get lost in the day to day routine and your big goals drift further away.
Also, keep in mind that work stretches in time as much as you allow it. If you schedule to write and publish a post on Linkedin and allocate 1 hour for it, you will need 1 hour to do it. It’s way too much of a time to spend on a single post, isn’t it? On the other hand, it will never be a 5-minute work. So, for every task allocate just the right amount of time. As the Swedes say “lagom”, which means not too little not too much, just the right amount.
In order to be able to do all the above and put the right focus on things in your life and work, you should adopt the basic principles of prioritization. I am sure you are good at it as an introvert, because (not to brag) we are observing and realistic people, seeking meaning. So, we know how to put things in the right perspective, right?
Anyway, some extra help and guidance might also be of help:
- As I mentioned above, make lists. Opt for a monthly one, then break it down to weekly and daily ones. This way you can make sure you do the right things and you move the needle with your longer-term goals (the monthly ones).
- Separate the tasks into clusters based on these two criteria: urgency and importance. Not everything is important and urgent, trust me. In fact, only a few are. Be realistic with this grouping of tasks.
- Prioritize execution of urgent and important tasks. The rest you can outsource or schedule at a later time that is more convenient. I know it’s hard for you to do this as an (introverted or not) solopreneur or entrepreneur working alone but give it a try. Practice makes perfect.
- Don’t make looong daily lists. Keep it to 10 list items or less. Otherwise, you might get lost and start multitasking again. You are an introvert, stick to the things that are meaningful.
- Be mindful and realistic. I know you are down to earth (more than necessary sometimes but that’s OK, I appreciate this trait in people). Calculate or estimate how much time you need for every task in a realistic way. If needed, take out tasks from today’s list and put them in tomorrow’s one. Keep in mind that these tasks have to be non-urgent and non-important ones. If you have an important and urgent task that you keep pushing from one daily list to the other, this is a sign of procrastination. Also, allow for breaks in your calendar. You can’t simply work from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. non-stop. Breaks do you good, more than you can imagine.
- If you feel you can’t prioritize the IMPORTANT tasks (too many on a weekly or a daily list) then assign them weights like A, B, and C where A is the top priority and importance, B a little less but still important and C the must-have priorities. I like to put AAA for the top urgent and important tasks and allocate the rest among A, B and C.
- Start your day with the AAA task or the one you find most challenging or is important but you seem to procrastinate. Choose to do it during your most productive hours, be it in the early morning (first thing in your work day works well) or in the evening if you are a night owl. I did the same with this guide. I procrastinated for quite some time until I decided to put it as an AAA priority and start my day with it, at 8 a.m., writing two pages, every day. Do the maths!
- Make the best of your time. With everything on your list, take some time and think: it may be resourceful (= requires quite some time and energy to do it) but can it save time for me in the future? Think long-term (I know you do it well, as an introvert). For example, you may have the following task on your list: do online research and prepare a thorough structure for your next ebook. It sounds resourceful but the time you will spend on it will save you enormous time when writing the ebook. You won’t need to distract yourself and head over to the search engines to look up extra information or inspiration. Prioritize the tasks that can also benefit you in the longer term.
All in all, there are two important things to keep in mind, in any case: be as realistic as you can with your priorities. Hitting the end of the day and seeing you’ve crossed off all things in your list is very rewarding. But even if you have a couple left (OK, only one or two), it’s still OK. You are a human and not a robot. Treat yourself with kindness and don’t be judgemental. You have enough on your plate, nail most of them and you deserve a pat on your back.
#2 Let go of perfectionism
As introverts, we observe things constantly and introspect a lot. We process loads and loads of information and stimuli from our external environment.
That usually makes us very self-aware. We know what we want and how we want it. And this is a good thing. However, there is a fine line here, between self-awareness and perfectionism.
It’s good to know your status and set high standards for yourself and your work. But holding on to unrealistic goals and expectations can only prep you for failure.
Here is how it works: you set very ambitious goals (nothing wrong with that) but you are missing to tie them to your resources. We only have 24 hours a day and I am sure most of you don’t have a money-producing tree in your garden.
Then comes energy. Because of our introverted nature, our energy is depleted very fast, especially in “loud” environments and with other extroverts around. So, you also have to manage your energy.
Setting up too ambitious goals without having the necessary resources to achieve them is a sure-fire path to failure. And it is perfectionism to blame.
We all want our work to be meaningful and offering very high-standard quality work for your business seems the only way forward. I agree, it can work wonders given we can sustain it.
In order to sustain it, we need to sync with our resources. And to sync means to find the balance between our desired end result and one that is realistically good enough.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of poor quality and this never be your goal or daily compromise. What you need is to sense (I will explain this right below) what is that “good enough”.
Your goal should always be high quality and meaning in everything you do. But high-quality can’t always be 100%. Perhaps 90%, or 80% or even 70% might suffice to say it’s good enough. Sometimes even less than that percentage.
And it all depends on the importance of the task. You shouldn’t spend 1 hour on a single social media post. Be creative, plan ahead and execute swiftly. 15 to 20 max are more than enough for a good enough daily post (given you have done your homework and planned your topics ahead).
Writing a presentation for your pitch though is super important and should allocate the necessary resources. It must be very well-prepared so that your presentations end well. You don’t need to hurry and compromise with a low-quality pitch.
The key takeaway is this: pick your battles and fight for the ones that can help you lead the “war”. Being good enough is in most cases just right. Not every little thing you do has to be perfect.
Besides what is perfect is something very subjective. You may find something not good enough while your clients believe it’s on point! This is usually the case for perfectionists: they have low self-esteem and are not aware of their worth.
Most of the time, doing your best suffices. This is a fine line you must draw and say “This line is my “good enough” standard. Anything above that tends to be flagged as perfectionism. Anything below that standard is not acceptable”.
In a couple of lines above I used the verb “sense”. This is crucial to understand, especially as an introverted person. Thank God, we introverts have impeccable observation skills and receive a lot of external stimuli.
That makes us very self-aware as well as aware of our surroundings and other people’s feelings and behaviours. We do this all the time without even realising it.
The good news is that this endless process running in our mental background builds another excellent skill of ours: gut feeling or intuition.
Our brains process all this data and information, turning them into insights that in turn make us wiser and let us be very responsive to what is happening.
Have you ever said this? “I knew it. I was certain this was going to happen”. Well, this happens to everyone but this background wisdom as I like to call it is much more advanced in us introverts.
#3 Be open-minded and flexible
As I explained in the challenges section, solopreneurs or entrepreneurs working alone often struggle with their business growth. That is a few clients coming in. Or even worse, no clients. Or a stream of clients with quite a few extreme ups and downs (no clients for quite some time, then a few coming in at the same time).
This is partly due to the lack of a business niche and the right business model. But allow me to say it’s also part of a narrow-minded mindset. Let me explain!
Especially when we start off as solopreneurs, we have a sort of ideal client in our minds. The ones we believe can make us so happy working with them. Perhaps these personas are tied to some of our passions and as introverts, we ABSOLUTELY want to work on our passions and lead a meaningful business.
The bad news is that there is no ideal client. Surely, you need to work on your personas and focus on the right targeting, no doubt. It’s an absolute must. But you may never find that persona in a real client. There will always be some traits or characteristics that don’t look ideal to you. Perhaps you targeted the US but leads and some clients come in from Latin America. You may think that women are your best audience but men seem to be interested in your services, too. Let me clear with this: this is not about discrimination, of course.
It’s not that you prefer some PEOPLE over the other. It has nothing to do with prejudices or anything else like that. It’s actually not at a personal level. It’s at a PROFESSIONAL level. We are talking about your clients and their characteristics as buyer personas. So, don’t feel guilty about it. I’ve happened to come across a lot of solopreneurs who sit on either edge of this spectrum. Many of them feel bad about it and guilty, that they do something wrong and don’t appreciate people for what they are. Others feel embarrassed to turn away from the clients that don’t fall into their buyer personas that they take them on.
The truth is somewhere in the middle, as always. You see, you don’t have to take on clients that are completely out of your business’s scope. But you must also not reject clients that are not your ideal ones, either.
There is nothing unethical or immoral with the former. There are too many missed opportunities to learn and grow with the latter.
All this is to suggest that while you target the right audience, based on your research, needs and business scope, you can also be flexible and open-minded enough to take on new opportunities when they arise.
I will give you a recent example with a client of mine. He was very much into the Asian culture (Japan and the like). So, he wanted to target Asian expats mainly while geographically limiting it to some countries only (not worldwide) . The thing is that this is a very niche market in terms of size. Yes, he might have come up with the perfect client (perhaps one or two as his coaching programmes were high-end) but that would take quite some time to happen (if at all). Sometimes, we believe our ideal clients are right for us but for reasons we may not have unearthed yet, we are not exactly right for them. So, my client had to wait for long, until he realised that yes, that might have been his ideal client but he would soon go out of business (because of too few clients). So, we worked together and expanded his targeting to include other countries as well as broaden his buyer persona a little bit, without losing the niche element.
This also happened to me at the beginning. I am so much into the Nordic culture that I really wanted to work with people from the Nordics. I believed that would be so much more fun and our collaboration would be smoother as our mindsets would sync. Indeed, I had a few clients at first but the flow of leads was not steady enough to support my targeting (and pay my bills). Although there were leads from other parts of Europe, I quickly dismissed them as not relevant. That was a mistake I made and that cost me some money, time and missed opportunities. Now I know.
It’s crucial to keep this in mind at any point: it’s about your audience’s needs and how you can help them overcome their struggles and get on with their lives in a better way. It’s not about you (what you like or dislike) when it comes to helping clients solve their problems. It’s about them. It doesn’t matter who they are, where they come from or what their culture is.
What matters the most is to focus on their pain points and help them become what they dream of. Let go of categorizing leads into YES or NO groups. Yes, you need to stick to your niche targeting but be open-minded enough to see where you can really be of value.
I assure you there is nothing more fulfilling than having a happy client who is thrilled with your work and how you helped them solve their issues. This point’s happy end comes with my client who eventually found some exciting new clients himself from places all around the world, he could never imagine he could work with.
Open your mind and heart, be relevant and useful and enjoy your work with people you can help improve their lives.
#4 Opt for harmony, not balance
As I mentioned before, balance is a good thing for diplomacy but harmony is a much better thing for your life (personal and professional).
Way too often, solopreneurs and entrepreneurs working alone complain about their work-life balance (should there be such). From my experience, the underlying reason for feeling this way has to do with setting boundaries and getting out of your comfort zone. Or better, to find the right combination of these two. Let me elaborate on this.
You may work from home and quite often feel isolated or disconnected from the outside world. You may be too focused on delivering your service to your clients that you skip resting, going out and enjoying your daily life. Usually, you work too much and that has an impact on your family or loved ones. This is a very common pattern with introverted solopreneurs or entrepreneurs.
And this pattern is a repetitive one that makes their lives quite miserable. It doesn’t have to be that way, trust me.
Of course, you need to work hard. I am not going to lie about this. If you don’t work hard, you will hardly have any big wins or gains. Hard work is a prerequisite in today’s business.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Working hard is not the same as working long hours or becoming aloof, distant, and detached from real life.
On the contrary, it means you need to work smart and do the hard work in an effective and efficient way, but without losing yourself. This is why it’s essential to set your boundaries. Make a list of things that make you happy and cater for them. Find time to do them even when the going gets tough. In fact, I would suggest scheduling them in your calendar.
I love the outdoors (usually by myself, like having a walk and listening to my favourite music). I also love to learn new languages (em, the Nordic ones) so I enjoy spending some time on my favourite apps or watching a show in the original nordic language. Plus, I have to take care of my health as I am prone to gaining weight during hectic times. So, I always schedule time for these activities in my daily calendar. I admit I may not tick all these boxes every day but still, I tick most of them and feel happy I spent some time on things I love doing. So should you.
On the other hand, you NEED to allow for some getting out of your comfort zone. It can do you good. It does. More than you can imagine. But what does that mean? Isn’t stepping out of your comfort zone unpleasant and very extroverted?
Again, I will stress that most things or activities are neither extroverted nor introverted. It’s the way we do it and the approach we apply that make them one or the other. For example, networking is regarded as an extroverted activity. Essential but predominantly enjoyable only for extroverts. You know, talking to people, one after the other, doing a small talk (I know this hits a nerve!) and getting to know dozens of new people. Yes, most extroverted people may do this.
But you can also do networking in a more mindful and introverted-friendly way. You can set a goal that is realistic and won’t deplete your energy (or make you want to run away in the middle of the event). This goal can be to meet exactly two new people you are really interested in, after having gone through the participants’ list thoroughly. You can also decide that it’s OK to stay in the background and watch people doing what they do in the event, without the guilty feeling that you ought to participate in the same way. Making the occasion a meaningful one for you, tailored to your needs, without succumbing to the extroverted way of doing things, can be a real game-changer. This is the perfect way to step out of your comfort zone.
By now, you must have realised how important it is to aim at the right thing, that is to find the right combination of both worlds: stepping out of your comfort zone every now and then without pushing yourself to your limits. There is a fine line and I am very confident you can find it with a little trial and error.
When you set your boundaries (so that you do what you have to do for your business while enjoying your life) and schedule going out of your comfort zone on a regular basis (you decide how regularly) you will understand the meaning of harmony in your life.
Instead of opting for balance (50%-50% just because it has to be that way), you can opt for harmony, an orderly (because you love this) but pleasing arrangement of the things in your life.
My story now: when I started off as a solopreneur, working from home 100% was a dream come true. I enjoyed it so much and my introverted nature was so pleased with it. After a while, I realised I had lost myself. I kept staying home because I worked from home (I had to justify everything with it) and that had an impact on my physical and mental well-being. I gained weight because I sat the whole day on a chair or couch, going out only for the basics (like shopping or to the cinemas on weekends).
I was in a vicious loop of staying at home – losing myself. It turned out that I focused on all the wrong things at work because I lacked external stimuli completely. I was very calm and happy but in a bubble that was not sustainable. I had to find a way around it but I could not even realise I needed to.
At some point, I made one mistake after the other, that cost me and my loved ones a lot (both in monetary and non-monetary terms). I was not well and up and running. Until I had to be shaken and feel I had to deal with my isolation and disconnection. What I had missed was harmony. My work-life thing was one-sided.
Now, I’ve come to find a harmonious way to live my life, expand my business, and be happy and content with my work, without losing myself and feeling detached from the world. I work from one of my client’s offices a couple of times per week and this also helped us expand our scope of work together, too. Now, I receive the right amount of external stimuli to keep me in the loop and up and running, while staying true to my introverted solopreneurs lifestyle.
It’s important to say NO but sometimes it’s good to say YES, too. You just have to pick your battles, set your boundaries and at the same time let yourself sneak out of your comfort zone once in a while. You will see that more ideas for your business will come up. You will find smarter ways to do your work, find new clients, and try different things. It’s your call.
#5 Be mindful with your business
Mindfulness is a new trend but I never use words or suggest practices that are just that, trends. I always try them out and share my findings with my audience.
I got into mindfulness via a client of mine. She is a successful language coach in Switzerland and ever since we got started working together I had been intrigued by her “mindfulness”.
At that point, I didn’t know exactly what that was. You see, most people (like me until one year ago) associate mindfulness with yoga or religious practices from Asia. In fact, they are related and can work best if combined.
But mindfulness is a positive mental -I’d dare say- approach to life. I won’t dive into it, I will just point out the three most distinctive principles that can change your life, forever.
First, it’s about living in the present moment. This is somehow controversial but I will explain it in detail. Second, it’s about knowing who you are and where you want to go, in a realistic way. Third, it’s about treating yourself in a kind, non-judgemental way. All these elements make up the mindful approach, more or less.
What does mindfulness have to do with your struggles as a solopreneur or entrepreneur working alone? Well, if you recall, one of the main challenges (if not the biggest one) is fear.
The fear of inadequacy and the fear of failure. They are both very dangerous for your mental health as well as for your work. Let me explain how mindfulness can help.
As I pointed out earlier, the fear of failure comes from sticking to the past. You actually project what happened in the past to the future, assuming history will repeat. Well, it does sometimes but this happens only if we let it. It is not necessary or automatically correct that if we failed in something this will keep happening forever.
First of all, as mindfulness preaches, you need to be kind and gentle to yourself. There is no need to beat yourself up every day for the things you did wrong or went wrong in the past. What’s done is done. There is no way to correct it yet (unless they invest in the time-travel machine). Keep in mind that you need to learn from your mistakes and failures. And the most important thing is this: remind yourself every time you fail in something that the more things you try out the more failures AND victories will happen.
If you keep feeling afraid, you won’t try out new things or ways of doing things. For example, you may have decided to go after a certain target audience but despite your efforts, it won’t work and clients won’t come in. In 90% of the cases, solopreneurs quit. They believe they will fail again if they try out something new (like for example redefining the targeting or changing the niche).
I have changed my targeting and redefined my niche quite a few times already. My first two iterations were a failure and indeed, I doubted myself and my abilities. But I did not let fear guide my efforts.
The choice was clear: I had to go back to my 9-5 work OR fight again and find what can work for me. The first option was dreadful, by no means did I want to go back to my old life. So, I had to fight back.
I’ve recently seen a rather eye-opening chart on my Instagram feed so I will try to share it here. It’s 100% the truth.
OK, the one axis of the chart was the number of attempts and the other axis was the number of successes and failures.
So, the matrix actually described two situations:
- The first one was no attempts/activity / trying out things that lead to 0 failures (how nice!) but also to a “n/a” sign for success
- The second one included many attempts and trial and error, that lead to many failures but also a couple of BIG WINS to take you to the next level.
It’s your call, you choose wisely.
Fear is demonstrated emphatically in the first situation/scenario. Why try out things if you will fail? Most probably you will fail so what’s the point? But also, you will never know if you could have made it. There will be a million “What if” scenarios played out in your mind.
So, treat yourself kindly and don’t judge. Failures are part of your solo/entrepreneurial journey. Big wins shall come if you try out things until you find what works for your case (business, brand, audience, business model).
The fear of inadequacy mostly comes from worrying too much about the future. You feel like you never have what it takes to make it and this sucks up all your energy and dreams.
Being mindful reminds you to live in the present moment and appreciate what you are capable of while planning to improve what you may need in the future, in a realistic way. To me, realism is one and the same as mindfulness.
You need to know where you stand and be fully aware of the present situation, what you already have and what you may need to improve. Then setting realistic goals is the best way to execute your plans and achieve your goals.
Self-awareness is absolutely essential. But don’t focus only on what you lack but also on what your strong points are. Appreciate them and make them even stronger.
Every new client is a new learning experience. Do it as small children do. Approach things with learning in mind, so you can enjoy the process as well as the end result. Be mindful and treat yourself in a kind and empathetic way, so that you let go of the fear that holds you back.
Now it’s your turn! What do you say? do you face some of these challenges yourself? Which one do you feel is the most painful one? Share your stories below.
In the meantime, if you feel you need help (consulting or coaching) with your content and marketing as an introverted solopreneur or entrepreneur still working alone, drop me a line or book your free Discovery Call here.
It’s 100% free and with no obligation. We will talk about your challenges & how you can reach a breakthrough and grow your brand and business sustainably with the power of content.