I am excited to be sharing the first in a new series on the blog featuring Quietly Extraordinary business owners. To showcase those who have created successful introvert-friendly businesses.
I still see comments on social media about needing to be an extravert (or faking it as an extravert) to have a successful business and the results of my introvert business quiz show there are lots of lovely introverts who feel this way.
What better way to debunk this by sharing with you the stories of amazing introverts who have created business that work with not against their introversion.
The first interview is with the amazing Hira Sameer Ahmed. Hira is an artist, writer and a creative coach. She helps quietly courageous creative humans in finding their focus, cultivating courage and creativity, slowly and intentionally.
To get us started, can you tell us a bit more about your business:
I am an artist, writer and a creative coach. I offer one to one creativity coaching services. I help quietly courageous creative humans in finding their focus, cultivating courage and creativity, slowly and intentionally. It looks like coming up with an action plan to gain more freedom and more confidence to create. More importantly, it looks like owning their stories and living their truth out loud.
I write mostly on the blog and to my community in the form of personal letters. I have recently launched a podcast, Living Your Truth where I am sharing stories of ten creative humans who are living their truth out loud in their own unique, messy and human way.
I love to paint and I sell prints and my artwork via my online shop. I also plan to launch a membership community for creatives who cannot not create to come together, find accountability, grow together and support each other every step of the way too!
Why did you decide to start your own business:
Honestly, I wasn’t intending to. I was simply following my curiosities. I always knew deep down that I wanted to explore the business side. I never really had the time to think more about it or to really explore it while I was still working in the corporate world and then we moved continents.
I came to Denmark along with my husband and we were starting all over again. Now all of a sudden I had all this time in my hands. I wanted to challenge myself and explore what building a business would look like. I am also a fan of learning and starting a business was a perfect excuse for me to keep learning and challenging myself.
Now when I look back, I understand the deeper reasons which were not obvious to me before. I wanted to build a business, a lifestyle and space for my creativity to flourish in a way that would work for me. The introvert in me never really enjoyed those corporate jobs and meetings. I am much happier doing the work from the comfort of my home and having to do it all online makes it so much easier for me to show up and connect on a much more deeper level while managing my energy levels.
Also, I really wanted to take charge of my own hours. It was important for me to have more time to do the things I’d rather love doing, more space to experiment and to simply be. I am a fan of slow and simple living and it has allowed me to embrace a slower yet intentional pace of life. This is why and how it all came to be.
What is the number one thing you have done in your business so that it works with your introversion rather than against it?
After a lot of trial and error, I have developed a work schedule that allows me to show up for my work while honouring my needs as an introvert. What I mean by that is, I mostly work one to one and those conversations demand me to be present. I have two dedicated days in my week for all those wonderful conversations. It takes the pressure off from the rest of the days of the week and it not only allows me to fully show up when I need to but also allows me to recharge on those off days. On those off days I make time to write, paint or do the admin tasks.
It sounds counterintuitive but batching the social interaction has been working very well for me. A perfect example would be me recording the interviews for the first season of my podcast.
Initially, I was doing one interview a day because I didn’t want to overwhelm myself but three days in I realized it wasn’t working for me as I was feeling quite anxious about that one call all day long. So I did a little experiment and scheduled the next three on the same day with breaks in between and it worked like a charm. I was tired at the end of the day but then I had so much done in that flow and I was able to take time to recharge the day after.
What introvert super power do think has particularly helped you build your business?
That would be my observation skills. I am quiet but my observation is pretty strong. It not only allows me to understand the energy around me but also enables me to start conversations which are meaningful and make others feel seen, heard and deeply understood.
What has been your biggest challenge being an introvert in business?
My biggest challenge was and still is visibility. If you want to run a business you most definitely have to show up consistently. That consistency is something you have permission to decide for yourself. And also you can decide what form or medium of visibility you are comfortable with.
Getting visible in any capacity scares me. I’d much rather be the one sitting in a quiet corner with a close friend and having a heart to heart even at a party. I am still experimenting and in search of finding my sweet spot there as my work really is something I am deeply passionate about.
This is reminding of a recent conversation I had with Ruth on the podcast about Showing Up as an Introverted Shy Creative Online Ep. 06 with Ruth Poundwhite (https://www.hirasahmed.com/living-your-truth-ep-06-ruth-poundwhite/). It was a deep chat about introversion and showing up in our businesses in a way that works for us.
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?
An ideal day for me looks like me waking up and having some quiet time to sit with my thoughts and write my morning pages. Once I get everything down on paper, I feel much lighter and ready to start my day. I decide the tasks for the week at the beginning of the week and I usually have days dedicated to specific kinds of tasks. Like Mondays are my writing days.
I touched upon it a little bit before but I am going to expand on it further here. I have two dedicated days for my one to one work but there are a few things that I like to do even on those days which help me in finding my quiet. I take myself out for walks into the woods in between those calls or meditate using the headspace app even if it is for 2 mins. It works for me.
I prioritize my needs and this way I get to show up fully on those times of showing up. This is worth mentioning here that I have non-negotiable boundaries around the kind of content I consume online or offline and how much time I spend on social media. I want it to stay intentional and meaningful instead of tuning into mindless scrolls which I find energy draining.
Are there any systems you have put in place that have been crucial to managing your energy?
Morning pages is a tool I would advice to anyone struggling with managing their energy. It creates a space for me to sit with my thoughts and connect with my inner mentor. I believe we are the best judge of what works best for us. Having some kind of loose structure around my day is what I find helpful. Most of the work I have done in this area has been around the mindset.
For example, setting healthy boundaries even for the smallest things like checking emails after dedicated work hours, replying to DM’s or comments. I have given myself permission to prioritize rest instead of always staying on top of everything. I try to not check my emails until I am at my desk and ready to start to the day. What I am really saying here is to analyse what is draining you of energy and asking yourself what boundaries do you need to have in place to not let that happen? Answering this question always helps me in understanding what is it that I am really in need of.
Are there any other introvert businesses that inspire you that people should check out?
Connection is one of your values but for an introvert too much connecting that can get overwhelming. What does connection look like to you as an introvert and HSP?
Yes, too much connecting can feel overwhelming very easily. This is why I prioritise rest and recharge. And this is precisely why I believe in having healthy boundaries defined for you. For me as an introvert and HSP connection looks like speaking our truth, listening and figuring out ways we can be of service in. It also means sharing our hopes, stories, and ideas and learning from each other’s stories and experiences. Connection to me is also about making others feel safe, seen and heard and less alone in their journey.
Do you think creativity is particularly important to introverts and if you do, how do you encourage introverts to get in touch with their creativity?
I think we are all creative, introverted or not. In my opinion, being creative is not specific to any particular personality type or any particular field of study. That being said, for introverts specifically creativity and finding creative mediums to share and express themselves could be a great way to connect.
First and foremost step to get in touch with our creativity is to give ourselves permission to try. Trying something risky without getting stuck on the outcome. Something risky doesn’t have to be a big thing. It could simply be wearing a colour that you don’t think suits you (for whatever reason) but you are willing to try it for let’s say a day and see how that feels for you. My encouragement would be to allow yourself the space and time creativity needs to come to life through you, slowly and intentionally. One little step at a time 🙂
Where can people find out more about your business:
You can find more about me and the work that I do over on my website: www.hirasahmed.com
By signing up to my letters: https://www.hirasahmed.com/subscribe/ or you can connect with me on Instagram where I like to hang out very often: https://www.instagram.com/hirasahmed/ You can also dive deeper by listening to my podcast: https://www.hirasahmed.com/category/podcast/
Apple podcasts link: https://podcasts.apple.com/dk/podcast/living-your-truth/id1487200216
Would you like to find out how introvert friendly your business is? Take the introvert business quiz and find out.