The lovely Ruth Poundwhite is one of my favourite people and I am so pleased that she has agreed to be the second interview in the Quietly Extraordinary series. This series aims to demonstrate you that you can create an introvert friendly business. In whatever guise that takes as each of us wonderful introverts is unique. 

Ruth is a business mentor to quietly ambitious humans. She offers one on one mentoring as well as courses on being quietly visible, growing an email list and business planning. 

Why did you decide to start your own business:

It was less of a decision and more something that just “happened” when I couldn’t get a job. I found the wonderful world of online copywriting, and although I didn’t see it as a “business” at first, over time realised I could never go back to a regular job.

Over the past few years I’ve really uncovered what it is about running a business (and supporting others in their own journey) that matters so much to me: to get well paid to do the work we love to do, and to do that on our own terms. It’s a huge privilege. I genuinely believe that the world would be a better place if we were all given the opportunity to work within our unique zone of genius (as cheesy as that may sound!)

What is the number one thing you have done in your business so that it works with your introversion rather than against it?

The practical stuff (like carefully managing my calendar) has been really important, but I’d say the number one thing is becoming hugely self-aware, and not apologising for my introversion. I used to feel guilty if I wasn’t always available to people, or I’d berate myself for needing so much time to recharge after busy periods of ‘peopling’. But the more self-aware I’ve become, the more I’ve learned to accept that it’s totally fine to need what you need. And though that might sound simple, it’s taken years for me to get to this place of self-acceptance.

What introvert super power do think has particularly helped you build your business?

It has got to be the ability to quietly observe. Not only are we good listeners – which is especially useful when you work with people one to one – we are great at reading between the lines and seeing what’s really going on. This serves us well in so many areas of business, from reverse engineering strategies we see others using, to empathising with our clients and listening to our intuition to help us figure out how best to serve them.

What has been your biggest challenge being an introvert in business?

Putting myself out there and believing I have something to say that other people want to listen to. I’m sure other introverts reading this can relate! By nature we have rich inner lives but can often be very private with what we share. And when you’re building an online business based around yourself it can be hard to believe anyone wants to hear what you have to say. But trust me, they do!

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 work week looks like having plenty of time to myself. I like to batch certain tasks (like writing my social media posts, or getting on calls with clients) to better manage my energy. I have quite firm boundaries about when I am and am not available for appointments. And I try to have at least one “free” day per week where I can follow my creativity, though I admit I don’t always stick to this!

Are there any systems you have put in place that have been crucial to managing your energy?

In my copywriting business where I deal with a team of writers, small tweaks have made a huge difference. Things like putting new orders in on fixed days of the month and paying all invoices on the same day really minimise overthinking and back-and-forth emails. I use a project management system (Asana) and keep all communication in there so I don’t get dragged into my inbox. And although this is more of a “philosophy” than a “system”, now that I am the face of my brand as a business mentor I am very intentional about my use of social media. It’s probably the one thing above all else that has the ability to sap my energy without me even realising.

Are there any other introvert businesses that inspire you that people should check out?

Jen Carrington for being quietly inspiring and modelling firm boundaries, self-trust and intuitive business.

Huma Qureshi for beautifully putting into words her experience of being an introvert (among many other things)

Paul Jarvis for always making me think differently about the way I do business, which is crucial as an introvert who doesn’t resonate with some of the traditional online marketing methods.

And I am also massively inspired by the wonderful community of humans I am surrounded by on social media, Instagram in particular. I feel we all help normalise what it means to live and work online as introverts.

Visibility is often challenging for introverts. What is your best advice to help overcome this?

The first thing to remember is that there isn’t just one way to be visible in your business. So your version of visibility doesn’t need to look like anybody else’s.

That said, if you have a feeling deep down telling you you’d like to be more visible but you’re afraid, remember that anything that stretches your comfort zone will be scary at first. So there’s a balance to be found between letting go of certain marketing activities that just aren’t “you” vs. getting over the fear and remembering that, over time, it does get easier.

It might be helpful for you to hear that I never thought I’d be able to put my face out there on live video or Instagram stories, and now I do it all the time without too much thought. I was terrified to launch my podcast but I listened to the feeling behind the fear and did it anyway, and I now consider it to be one of the best things I’ve ever done. Fear alone isn’t a reason not to do something.

As part of your business planning process, do you intentionally think about your introvert energy and structure your plans around it?

Yes, and a big part of that is a really simple weekly planning ritual (based on Kate Northrup’s methodology) that doesn’t just focus on what I want to get done, it also includes how I want to feel, my energy levels and where I am in my cycle. It takes about 10 minutes but the act of doing it each week makes me think about how much I’m taking on and how much time I have to rest.

It comes into more advanced planning too, if possible. For example, I know I have a very busy period coming up at the end of January, so by planning for that months in advance I can schedule time out either side of that to rest and recharge (and I’ve learnt the hard way that even if I don’t plan for it, it’ll happen one way or another)

Why do you think email marketing is such a great way for introverts to communicate with potential clients?

It’s the perfect online version of being able to meet someone and immediately get into a deep conversation with them without any small talk. I love social media, particularly Instagram, but it’s subject to an algorithm, it’s not a platform you ultimately own, and it is nice to take those relationships deeper whenever you can. For me, email marketing is the best way of doing that. Oh, and selling is so much easier and more natural once you’ve built that relationship with people – it needn’t feel “icky” at all, and it doesn’t sap all your energy like social media can.

You can find out more about Ruth and her wonderful business at: http://ruthpoundwhite.com and https://www.instagram.com/ruthpoundwhite/ 

If you would like to have a business that works with your introversion rather than against it, take the introvert business quiz. Not only will you find out if how much your business is introvert friendly, but it will also give you ideas about what you could be doing to make it work better for you. 

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