Next in the Quietly Extraordinary series is Eli Trier. I am particularly excited to share Eli’s story because of her work focussing on supporting fellow introverts to run online community projects.
There is a misconception out there that as introverts we hate people. Which for most of us is so far from the truth. We love people. But like that delicious bar of dark chocolate I have sitting in my desk draw, it is all in moderation. Too much chocolate and we start to not feel so good.
Along with her business story, Eli shares below why community projects are ideal for introvert business owners and how they actually help with allowing that space we crave as introverts.
Why did you decide to start your own business:
This is actually my fourth business (I’m a bit of a serial entrepreneur)! My first was running a small guest house by the sea in Cornwall, England, after which I was tempted back into traditional employment and ran the marketing department of the largest hotel in the area.
But in 2008, I decided that I didn’t want to work for anyone else ever again and struck out on my own. I ran my own marketing consultancy for a few years, then transitioned into a combination of freelance illustration and creativity coaching, which was where I started experimenting with running community projects. They were a huge success, and I completely fell in love with them.
I was becoming more and more disillusioned with the coaching/illustration work I was doing, and kept thinking that all I wanted to do was run community projects (whilst simultaneously fielding multiple emails from people asking me how I made my projects so amazing), and I’d even explored sponsorship and all sorts of ways to monetise them. But it wasn’t until six months after I’d closed down my coaching/illustration business that it dawned on me that I could help other people run these projects!
A week later I had a website up and a beta client to test out my methodology, and I was off.
What is the number one thing you have done in your business so that it works with your introversion rather than against it?
Setting up excellent time and energy management systems! Most of my admin is done by robots, my calendar is super strict about when I am available to the outside world, I don’t work evenings or weekends, and I have regular ‘CEO weeks’ where I don’t speak to anyone. I also take the whole of December off for deep work and rest, and have an ‘existing clients only’ policy for April and August which means no newsletter and no calls except with existing clients. Rest, health, and self-care are my top priority at all times, and that means being super protective of my introverted side.
What introvert super power do think has particularly helped you build your business?
The ability to really listen and pay attention to people. It helps me to be one step ahead of the game with business development, create content that really resonates with my community, and makes me an excellent soul-led salesperson. I think a lot of introverts in business don’t realise what a rare gift it is to be able to listen and observe, and we do it so naturally!
What has been your biggest challenge being an introvert in business?
Dealing with my need to withdraw regularly has been a challenge, for sure. I’ve dealt with this in two ways – firstly, I make sure I’m ahead of myself with content (the further the better) and pre-schedule as much as possible, so even if I feel like hiding there’s still activity in my marketing channels. Secondly, I actually plan for periods of withdrawal, such as taking ‘CEO weeks’ every 5 or 6 weeks (where I am completely unavailable and can deep dive into work), and longer breaks spread out over the year. I mention these often to my community so they know when not to expect stuff from me.
What does a normal (or ideal) work week look like and have you been intentional in this set up to support your introversion and need for quiet?
I only work three (short – 4 to 6 hours) days a week, with two half-days spent in conversation – virtual coffee dates, discovery calls, podcast interviews and client sessions. The rest of the time is mostly writing and admin – I write a weekly newsletter, which I adore, about all things business, and then there are client action plans and web copy and the odd blog or Instagram post. I have been very intentional in setting this up so I can have long periods of uninterrupted time. My husband and I don’t live together (he’s an introvert too), so when I’m not on calls I get to fully indulge my need for solitude.
Are there any systems you have put in place that have been crucial to managing your energy?
Oh yes! I could not live without my systems – affectionately termed my friendly business robots. I automate as much as I possibly can in my business with systems like Dubsado and Zapier, and I’m always looking for ways to improve and refine my systems, or take new things off my plate.
Basically everything that can be automated, has been automated. That frees my energy up to focus on being creative and actually talking to people.
Are there any other introvert businesses that inspire you that people should check out?
All of my clients are introverts, but they’re also incredible badass women doing amazing and inspiring things and deserve your attention – you can find them all on my site.
Why do community projects work so well for introverts?
Oh gosh, so many reasons! But to give you a bit of an idea: a lot of introverts find being visible online uncomfortable, and being in the spotlight in the way that traditional marketing requires is really tough. Community projects ‘spread the load’ between a whole bunch of people, so you’re not in that spotlight alone – you get the opportunity to showcase your ideas and values rather than you as an individual, which is much more comfortable. These projects also give you the opportunity to dive really deeply into a topic (introvert heaven), and because they’re so long, you (and the people taking part) have the opportunity to process and implement the information as well, so they can be real catalysts for change.
What is the biggest challenge that introverts face in running a community project?
These projects are HUGE. Both in the sense that they have a lot of moving parts and require some careful project management, but also in the way that they become entities in their own right, independent of the person hosting. That can feel really overwhelming and can also bring up a lot of fear and imposter-complex feelings for my clients. But that’s why they come to me for help.
How do you help people overcome this challenge?
By taking them through my tried and tested methodology. When clients work with me, we not only break everything down into tiny, manageable pieces so they only need to focus on what’s in front of them, I also provide them with a whole host of done-for-you elements like Trello boards, graphics templates, pre-written emails – all sorts of stuff. I provide the structure and timeline, so they can focus on bringing their best creative self to the mix.
There’s also a strong element of coaching involved as well. We’ll cover aspects of running the project, such as: how to show up as a host, how to manage the community, what to do if things go wrong etc etc, so that they can feel completely confident the whole way through. I’m always on hand for pep talks and calming the odd freak out too!
Where can people find out more about your business:
Would you like to create an introvert friendly business for yourself? Click here to take my quiz to get you started. Not only will you find out how introvert friendly your business it but it will spark ideas on how you can get started.
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