Those two words are two of my least favorite words ever.
And yet, for most of my 8-year journey as an entrepreneur, I went to them. Lots of them. At night. Way early in the morning. Over the weekends. I would put on pants that were definitely not as cozy as yoga pants, straighten my hair (that definitely preferred to stay in a messy bun), do my 5-minute makeup routine and somehow or another convince myself to leave my apartment. Sometimes, I was successful. Other times, I simply surrendered to what I really wanted, threw my hair back up in its messy bun, washed the makeup off my face, got back into pajamas and breathed a huge sigh of relief. I never really wanted to go.
But I felt like I had to -- as an entrepreneur, living in New York City at the time, there were so many events you could go to, meet-ups that were happening, mixers that were scheduled. If you wanted, you could go to multiple events every night of the week. One time I made a commitment to go to two-a-week and it was like trying to wear a size 4 dress when you've always been an 8 -- it just doesn't fit.
And yet, I would squeeze myself into it uncomfortably, tell myself this is what I "had to do" to succeed in business, scrunch up my face in frustration and hail a cab. This went on for way too many years. I would feel supremely uncomfortable if I went to the event and really guilty if I stayed home. It was a losing battle no matter what.
Only recently did I come to this massive realization: I'm an introvert. This is why I don't like networking events. There's nothing wrong with me. I don't have social anxiety disorder. I'm just an introvert. It was one of the most beautiful and relieving aha moments I've ever experienced.
Once I came to terms with my introverted ways, everything made so much more sense to me. And hopefully, when we know better, we do better. So now that I knew that I didn't thrive energetically at networking events, I had to shift my focus and direct my energy and time elsewhere. I began to think about where I already spend a lot of my time, where I already have more than enough energy, where I already am socializing with ease. Facebook. I was always on Facebook. And I loved it. I had more than enough energy, I connected with hundreds of people, and being engaged in that space lit me up. It was a no brainer.
For me, being an introvert means that I don't really love leaving my house (I'm a homebody too). So once I realized this, I began to think about all of the ways I could connect with my potential clients without leaving my house -- all of the ways I could still run a successful business without makeup, with a messy bun, and while still wearing pajamas.
Here's what I did (and still do):
1. I committed to writing a weekly newsletter. I had felt a lot of resistance to writing weekly newsletters because I wasn't sure what to write about. Then, I realized that I just wasn't opening my eyes to all of the things I could write about. I could share stories from my life and the lessons that I've learned from them. I could write a list of different ways to solve my ideal client's biggest problem.
2. I started contributing to other blogs more often. I thought about what blogs I could write to that would be a really great fit for my audience. I reached out to people who worked at the blogs. I shared possible topics with them and ultimately published several articles.
3. I created my own free Facebook group. In October 2014, I created a free Facebook group with my wife, Gena. At the time, this wasn't a business strategy and I still don't see it as one. That said, I can say that I have definitely connected with potential clients as a result of building a community of over 1500 women (and growing by the day).
4. I made new friend-preneurs. It's always nice to connect with like-minded people, and I wanted to get to know more people in my community. So I reached out to people to learn more about them and tell them about me. While this isn't a direct business strategy, the more people you know, the more people who know you and know what you do, the more likely they'll connect you with potential clients when the time is right.
5. I shared a lot of free stuff on social media. People want to get to know you, but they want to see what you're about before they open up their wallet. They want to get a sense of your vibe, see if they connect with what you stand for, and the way they can do that most easily and quickly is when you share gifts with them. Create a PDF of a top 10 list, write a free "how to" guide for them -- anything that will benefit them in some way.
Now the reason I do these five is because they all feel really fun and energizing to me. Otherwise, I wouldn't do them. Perhaps these five speak to you, and if so, great! If not, and you're still looking for other ways to connect with potential clients as an introverted entrepreneur, here are some other ideas:
1. Offer a free call
2. Lead a free webinar
3. Host a free google hang out
4. Invite a small group of people to come over to your house
5. Offer to do a free call for another entrepreneur's community
Whatever you do, be sure to choose something that feels good and fun and energizing to you. After all, if the journey isn't fun, it won't be sustainable, and it'll take you a lot longer to get to wherever you want to go.