Networking is one of the best ways to build brand awareness and credibility as a freelancer. However, it isn’t without its challenges. Especially if you’re a naturally introverted kind of person. Many of us prefer to work independently or with a small circle. However, if you want to grow your business and expand your client base, you must branch out a bit. This can sometimes be tricky for introverted people. In this post, I’ll look at how to network as an introvert.
By putting some of these tips into motion, you might find that networking becomes a bit easier. It won’t happen overnight, but with a little effort and a shift in your mindset, networking might not cause quite as much anxiety.
The idea of networking and putting yourself out there to make new connections feels daunting to most people. For introverts, it can be borderline exhausting. However, it’s important to know how to manage this feeling and not let it hold you back.
How to network as an introvert
If you work by yourself, it can be really easy to avoid networking altogether. Sometimes, you can become so engrossed in your day-to-day workload that you completely neglect your social and professional relationships. It’s a convenient trap to fall into, but it can leave you in a bit of an isolated bubble, whether you realise it or not.
Making the effort to network, even as an introvert, is really important for growth. Not just in terms of building your brand, business or income, but in terms of your social wellbeing. Maintaining positive professional relationships is key to avoiding that lonesome bubble self-employed people can sometimes find themselves in.
How do you go about this when the thought of approaching new people causes anxiety though? Here are a few things I’ve tried to keep in mind when figuring out how to network as an introvert.
Take an interest in others
All you really need to do is ask a few genuine questions of others. Show an interest in what they do, or what they’re up to in their lives. Ask how things are going for them, and actually take an interest in their answers. Ultimately, new people are still just people. Being curious and interested in their skills and ideas is the bare minimum it takes to begin building a relationship.
Think of some questions you’d be happy to answer if someone approached you for the first time. If you really struggle with initiating conversations as an introvert, make a list of these questions first. Commit a few to memory and practice breaking the ice a bit with them.
You don’t always have to go straight into professional mode either. “Have you been watching (a TV series)?” could work just as well as “So, what do you do?”, for example.
Just remember to be a person about things. Show an interest in people’s lives and try not to overthink things too much, if possible.
Sum up what you do in a couple of sentences
It can be hard for introverts to succinctly convey the value of their work to others. It’s also hard for some introverts to establish why they’re worth making a connection with. When feelings of panic or pressure kick in, it’s easy to start rambling or putting yourself down without realising it. It’s important to try and avoid this, even though it can be tough for introverts.
The best way to get over this particular challenge is to work on your elevator pitch. I don’t mean the full minute-long shebang, but a smaller variation of the idea. You want to practice a short, clear and confident way to present yourself to others. It’s also important to make this authentic. Don’t pack your mini-pitch full of business jargon if that’s not how you speak in reality.
Practice summing up who you are and what you do in a couple of sentences. This might take longer than you think to get right, but it’ll be worth it. Keep it simple but make sure you get a bit of your personality across too. Don’t be afraid to be yourself!
Explore your current network first
A great starting point for introverts who want to get better at networking is to look at who you already know. Explore your current network of family, friends and work contacts. Can anyone in those circles help you out?
Maybe you’ve got a friend who can put you in touch with someone they know who works in your industry. Perhaps someone in your family has a contact who’s looking to hire someone with your skillset. It’s never a bad idea to ask your existing network if they can help you out with making new connections or recommending you for work to the people that they know.
Doing this takes some of the pressure of approaching new people out of the equation. It’ll help you expand your network without feeling too uncomfortable.
Find common ground with people
Building relationships with professional contacts is ultimately about developing trust. To do that, you’ll want to find common ground with people and explore your shared interests and goals. If you’re an introvert, the chances are there are just as many other introverts out there who feel exactly the same way as you.
If you find networking tricky, then it’s fine to admit that. You might be surprised at how many other people also find it challenging. Try to explore communities and professional platforms where you have shared interests with others. That way, you’re more likely to make connections with people you have common ground with. In that sense, networking doesn’t necessarily have to feel like networking.
You’re just having conversations and developing relationships with people based on aligned ideas and interests. If they can help you out professionally later down the line, then great, but it’s most important to actually forge high-quality, long-lasting relationships built on mutual respect, trust and shared interests.
Quality over quantity
As with the last point, those high-quality relationships are what you should prioritise. You don’t need to have hundreds of different connections to network successfully as an introvert. Far from it. Focus instead on finding a few of the right kind of people that you can have an engaging conversation with.
You’ll also find it less taxing, as a naturally introverted person, to put your time and effort into relationships that feel more authentic to you. Having fifty surface-level conversations is a lot more exhausting and stress-inducing than having one or two in-depth discussions with someone on a topic you both find compelling.
Identify people who you think you can make a genuine connection with and your networking efforts will feel a lot more comfortable.
Become more visible online
One easy way to network as an introvert is to deeply develop and establish your online presence. Designing and sharing relevant and engaging content can help with this. In addition, use platforms such as LinkedIn, Pinterest and Reddit to post your thoughts and ideas on industry topics and relevant events. Sharing your valuable knowledge and insights is a great way to naturally attract like-minded connections.
Other ways to become more visible online include joining and participating in relevant communities and forums. Don’t overload yourself with this though. Whilst it’s tempting to jump into a number of different Discord servers, Reddit subs and social media platforms, try and stay focused. Make sure you only involve yourself in online spaces that you can regularly contribute to and feel comfortable in.
Quality over quantity applies here too, so don’t spread yourself too thinly.
Other ideas about how to network as an introvert
Networking as an introvert doesn’t have to be scary. Thankfully, it’s also no longer all about in-person events, and there are plenty of ways to develop connections online. By leveraging the network you already have, developing and sharing regular content and finding the right kind of people to share common interests with, you’ll find networking much easier.
Shifting your mindset is also the most important aspect of how to network as an introvert. We’re all just people, at the end of the day. If you stay calm, communicate clearly and remember that the person you’re talking to is just another human being, you can do it. Take an interest in others and they’ll take an interest in you, so be yourself and be genuine in your approach.
I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got any other advice about how to network as an introvert. Let me know in the comments. If you’ve found this post helpful then please give it a share or pin it on Pinterest. You might also enjoy this post about banishing impostor syndrome, as well as my Pinterest board on tips for running your small business.