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Have you ever had an idea that was so good you wonder why nobody else had thought of it?

I had one just the other day.

I was so excited by this brainwave that I immediately started writing notes about how I could turn this into a book, a podcast and a series of articles.

Then I started to do some research when I discovered plenty of people had already thought of it.

Which rather took the wind out of my sails.

So, What Was This Stupendous Idea?

It was to write a series of articles (or a book or a podcast) about personal branding for introverted entrepreneurs.

I had this thought because I am going through a personal branding project for myself, and I am also a fully signed-up, card-carrying introvert.

In particular, the idea of a personal branding photoshoot featuring myself – a renowned gargoyle with a face for radio – is something I’m not particularly looking forward to. Indeed, it’s going to take some serious photographic skills to ensure that my future marketing doesn’t scare small children or passing horses, should they stumble across it.

But it needs doing.

What is an Introvert?

I’ve resisted the urge to write about being an introvert before, mainly because I don’t like it being used as a label or as a box to put me in.

But it turns out there are plenty of people who have no idea what an introvert is. In fact, I didn’t know myself until I was 52.

So here is a very quick summary of some of the traits that we introverts possess. I apologise if I have missed some.

Introversion is sometimes thought of as a personality type, but it’s really about energy and temperament. Introverts tend to analyse and think before they talk, and they are reflective and focused. They are usually self-reliant and value their privacy.

It’s often by comparing introverts to extroverts that you see the difference. Extroverts often gravitate to jobs like sales, where they are happy to talk and take energy from being with other people. Introverts are the opposite. Introverts dread activities such as networking and attending trade shows and conferences, finding them mentally and physically exhausting.

While extroverts are happy to chat, party and promote themselves, introverts tend to favour prior preparation, research and in-depth one-to-one conversations.

Networking for Introverts

I discovered I was an introvert after purchasing a book called Networking for People Who Hate Networking by Devora Zack. I bought this book because, having been a networking substitute for other business owners, I discovered I didn’t really enjoy it. I found it tiring and stressful, and I wanted to know why.

I understood that, as I was running my business, I could not avoid networking forever. Therefore, I needed to get on with it. And so, in true introvert fashion, I bought a book and did some research!

In the book, there is a simple test you can do that puts you on a spectrum from extrovert to introvert. I took the test. If I remember rightly, the scale went from +36 (highly extroverted) to -36 (highly introverted). I scored -33.

So I dug deeper into what it actually means to be an introvert. Some of our character traits are that we are naturally deep thinkers who tend to turn inward rather than outward. We’re problem solvers, and we’re good at strategy. We’re hot on attention to detail, and we prefer to have deep conversations rather than engage in small talk. We also prefer our own company to being among crowds of people.

When I look back on my life and career, I can identify many of those traits, a lot of which were useful in the jobs I’ve had. As a graphic designer working in marketing, you need to be a problem solver and have a keen attention to detail.

When it came to sales, I developed my own system. Before I knew about being an introvert, I turned away from using traditional sales tactics.

The idea of cold calling was (and still is) horrific to me, but I was much more attracted by the ideas of inbound marketing, which is where you attract people to you (rather than push out sales messages) by giving away useful content. That content tends to be in-depth and well-researched, which is an introvert specialism.

If you’ve ever worked in HR or in corporate positions, you may have encountered the Myers-Briggs personality test. The first pillar of that test is introvert/extrovert. (ISTJ, if you’re interested.)

Personal Branding for Introverts

Going back to personal branding, as a designer, it’s natural for me to first think of branding in terms of visuals. In fact, in my design agency days, that was all we had to worry about – designing visual branding was something we did, day in, day out.

But now that I run my own business, I am much more engaged with the wider elements of branding – working on things such as values, messaging, goals, authenticity and story-telling.

Visual branding is still important, but those other elements, which can be loosely described as your “why”, should be things introverts are more comfortable analysing than extroverts. Thinking deeply is, after all, in our wheelhouse.

But I shy away from the “showing off” side of personal branding – a.k.a. being in front of the camera, having my face on the home page of my website, wearing the correct clothes, and possibly even smiling (the horror!).

I have used DIY personal photos before, but I think it’s now time to get the pros involved. What I didn’t realise is that the personal branding shoot comes with a 26-page pre-shoot questionnaire!

As someone who can go for quite a few days without ever looking in a mirror (many times I have jumped on a Zoom call to discover my hair looks like it’s on backwards) and who would happily wear the same t-shirt and jeans forever – being asked about my wardrobe and favourite outfits (!) is a new experience.

And, having done some research (introvert, nach), I discovered that men my age aren’t meant to wear the types of clothes I do.

Apparently, I’m supposed to have a coordinating wardrobe of “essentials”.

These include three styles of quality knitwear (!), smart-casual chinos, and classic tapered shirts (whatever they are) in pale blue, navy or pink. They are all accessorised with merino wool scarves, silk pocket squares and a “great” pair of shoes. (A cardboard box to hide in apparently doesn’t count.)

I also mustn’t forget a statement piece like a perfectly fitted sports jacket or a Savile Row suit!

How I have managed to make it to my mid-50s without these essentials is quite something.

But I’m sure my photographer/miracle worker will try their best to make me look presentable.

I wish them the best of luck!