What do Eleanore Roosevelt, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, J.K. Rowling, Einstein, Chopin, and Steven Spielberg have in common?
Answer: They’re all introverts.
Introverts make up one-third to one-half of the population, depending on which study you look at. We’re everywhere. And yet, we live in a society that highly values our personality’s opposite: the extrovert. Extroverts dominate public life in entertainment and in business. Corporate America especially values extroverts over introverts.
Introverts are often described as “shy,” “taciturn,” “serious,” or “reserved.” However, introverts have a lot more to offer than those unflattering labels. Introverts are deep, creative thinkers who are able to sit and focus for long periods of time in the right environment. Additionally, introverts often make excellent entrepreneurs because of the very tendencies that get them overlooked in other situations.
As an introvert, you might be dreaming of leaving corporate America and starting your own business for the freedom, the chance to work in quiet solitude for awhile, or both. If so, you’ll dramatically increase your chance of success if you choose a venture that’s suited to your unique personality type.
Why It Pays to Understand Your Personality Type
Many people know, at least on some level, some of the nuances of their personality, likes, and dislikes. You probably know if you’re a “people person” or if you prefer spending time alone. You know through past experience if you like to work under tight deadlines or if you need time and space to really do your best.
However, when you understand your personality on a deeper level, it gives you greater self-awareness and heightened emotional intelligence. This understanding can provide insight into all areas of your life. It can help you play to your strengths, work with your weaknesses productively, manage your time better, resolve conflicts, and find a career you truly love.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test is arguably one of the best and well-known personality tests in the world. According to Forbes, it’s administered 3.5 million times each year. The Myers-Briggs test organizes personality types into 16 lettered combinations, which are determined by how much you like or dislike interacting with others, how you like to process information, how you make decisions, and how much structure you prefer in your life.
It’s important to keep in mind that while taking a personality test is useful, it can’t and shouldn’t entirely define who you are. You are much more than an introvert or extrovert. These are labels, and labels are limiting. If you do decide to take a personality test, keep in mind your label is meant to be a helpful guide, not a box.
The Unique Power of Introverts
So what does it mean to be an introvert? There is no set definition, mainly because psychologists constantly argue about what being an introvert really means. The simplest explanation has to do with a person’s energy orientation. Introverts get their energy by being alone, while extroverts get their energy from being around other people.
Other signs you might have an introverted personality include:
- You’re a good listener.
- You prefer spending time alone versus in a large group.
- You often communicate better in writing than talking.
- You generally dislike parties. After a while, you feel so drained, you begin to shut down. It takes you a long time to recuperate and recharge the next day.
- You feel drained after too much visual or audio stimulation, especially in social situations.
- You dislike being the center of attention.
- You hate small talk.
- You have no problem concentrating for long periods of time.
- You have a small circle of friends you’re very close to.
- You often think carefully before you speak.
- You hate multitasking. You’d rather focus on one thing at a time.
- You enjoy working slowly and with focus, rather than finishing a project quickly “just to get it done.”
In her best-selling book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” author Susan Cain argues that introverts are dramatically undervalued in the business world. After all, people who are more extroverted are often the ones who get noticed. They’re more sociable, more outgoing, and more willing to be in the spotlight. They’re the ones pitching the big ideas in the meeting room or getting the team roaring with laughter during a stressful project.
In short, extroverts are often preferred in corporate America because many people assume they make the best leaders and business owners, make the best decisions, or bring in the most sales. To be fair, extroverts are important. They have plenty of their own unique gifts, and we need both extroverts and introverts for the world to thrive. But as an introvert, you have a lot to offer the business world too.
Introverts often make good entrepreneurs because they have the focus, persistence, and creativity required to keep a business going when things get tough. However, your success and happiness depend on choosing the right business for you, one that plays to your strengths instead of your weaknesses.
Best Business Ideas for Introverts
Whether you’re looking to earn extra income in addition to your day job or a create full-time career, these business ideas are well-suited for your introvert nature.
Introverts make great freelance writers. Writing requires you to sit alone doing research on your computer for hours on end. For many extroverts, that sounds suffocating. For an introvert, it’s a dream come true. Need some extra motivation
There are many different types of freelance writing you can do. You can freelance for blogs or magazines, start your own blog, be a commercial copywriter for businesses and websites, or write and self-publish a book on Amazon. Just make sure you learn how to set freelance writing rates so you don’t shortchange yourself.
Two of the best platforms for finding freelance writing opportunities are Upwork and Mediabistro. You’ll likely find higher quality opportunities on Mediabistro, but they often require solid writing experience and an extensive portfolio. Upwork is often better suited for those starting out in the field.
Editing and proofreading are great side gigs for introverts because, like freelance writing, they require solitude, attention to detail, and the ability to focus.
Editing and proofreading opportunities are plentiful, in large part, because so many websites and blogs need help polishing their articles. The rise in self-publishing has also increased demand for good editors.
You can find editing and proofreading opportunities on Upwork and Mediabistro as well.
Pro tip: If you’re interested in starting a proofreading business but not sure where to start, consider taking an online course that will teach you the basics.
3. Amazon Seller or Delivery Person
Amazon is an introvert’s dream because it provides so many different ways to make money working from home.
One of these opportunities is called retail arbitrage. In retail arbitrage, you buy a product at a low price, either locally or online, and resell it on Amazon for a higher price. You can either ship products out yourself when they sell or ship them directly to Amazon and let them handle sales and customer service.
To get started with retail arbitrage, you’ll need to download the Amazon seller’s app. It can help you start learning which products will sell best on the site, as well as give you an overview of current prices so you better understand what you should pay for each item to make a profit.
There are other ways to make money with Amazon besides retail arbitrage. If you have a car, you can deliver packages for Amazon with Amazon Flex. Pay is competitive, and you get to work alone.
You can also make money on Amazon reselling used books. As an introvert, chances are you have tons of books you could resell anyway, and you probably already know when all the used book sales are in your area. You could be monetizing this knowledge.
If you decide to start your own blog, you can earn additional revenue as an Amazon Affiliate. Every time you mention a product Amazon sells, you embed a custom link that takes readers right to Amazon. If a reader buys something on Amazon using your link, you get a portion of that sale.
4. Online Instructor or Tutor
Many introverts thrive in helping others do their best. When you combine this strength with the opportunity to do it alone or one-on-one, then you have a formula for success. That’s why being an online instructor or tutoring kids or adults one-on-one can be a great side-gig or full-time business for an introvert.
Platforms like Udemy and Teachable can put you in front of millions of potential students. If your course is good, you can make a great living as an online instructor. VIPKid and Education First let you tutor Chinese students in English online on your own schedule with their premade material and lessons. Sitting behind a computer may be less intimidating than teaching a lesson in front of a classroom in person.
You can also choose to tutor in person. Tutors who can offer specialized help, such as helping high schoolers prep for SATs or write a winning college essay, earn a premium.
5. Car Sharing Host
When you work from home, your car sits in the driveway for a good part of the day. You could be earning during this downtime with Turo or Getaround, a car rental service that allows people, known as hosts, to rent their car directly to other people who need it for the day.
If you have a particularly unique or useful car, like a Tesla or Ford Superduty truck, you might be able to earn $1,000 or more per month renting out your car. And best of all, you just drop it off where it needs to go.
While this income won’t meet all your financial needs, it can be a lucrative side gig while you’re earning money with another business venture.
6. Business/Life Coach
Introverts are naturally good listeners. They think carefully before they speak, enjoy working with people one-on-one, and often have a strong desire to help others live better lives. Because of this, becoming a business coach or life coach can be a great career for this personality type.
One of the biggest challenges to this business venture is that you’ll have to promote yourself through advertising, social media, or even offering group classes or talks to people in your community. However, investing in life coach training and certification, and getting better at public speaking, can boost your confidence and credibility and help you learn how to work publicly with groups.
You don’t have to go this route, though. Many business and life coaches find clients using a wide variety of different channels, including starting a blog and using social media.
7. Virtual Assistant
More people than ever are working from home, which means there are plenty of opportunities to be a virtual assistant.
A virtual assistant is someone who provides administrative help to entrepreneurs and other professionals remotely. A virtual assistant might help with:
- Online research
- Scheduling travel and meetings
- Database entering
- Creating presentations
- Screening and managing email
- Managing social responsibilities (such as writing holiday and thank-you cards to clients or employees)
- Researching business opportunities
- Managing social media accounts
- Keeping up with industry news and trends
- Performing customer service
- Managing a blog
All it takes is one client, and you’re in business.
Many virtual assistants go into business for themselves and find their own clients through social media and platforms like Upwork. However, there are virtual assistant firms that will hire you and then find clients to match your particular skills — for a fee, of course. Some of these are Belay, Fancy Hands, and Time Etc.
8. Dog Walker/Pet Sitter
If you love interacting with dogs more than you do people, then starting a dog walking business might be a perfect fit for you.
It’s a great low-cost business that allows you to get plenty of exercise and work on your own with animals. However, it can be challenging to find clients when you’re first starting out. After all, people have to trust you enough to give you a key to their house and, more importantly, take their beloved dog out on a walk while they’re gone.
Another closely related business is offering pet sitting services out of your home. It could be on a daily basis for people who want their pet to have company while they’re at work, or longer stays for people who want to board their pet in a home while they’re on vacation.
When you first start out, you might need to offer friends and family free services to get some testimonials and references under your belt. You can also join Rover, an online platform that connects dog walkers and pet sitters with pet owners.
9. Social Media Consultant
Many businesses realize old-school advertising, such as running print ads or commercials, is no longer the best way to reach potential customers. Today, businesses must have a social media presence if they’re going to thrive. However, many businesses, especially small to midsized companies, don’t know how to use social media successfully.
If you have marketing experience and know how to use platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook to create a following or build brand awareness, you could become a social media consultant.
An Introvert’s Tale of Entrepreneurship
The type of business or side gig you start plays a huge role in how successful and happy you’ll be. I know because I learned this lesson the hard way.
Entrepreneurship appealed to me at a relatively young age. I started my first business when I was 23 because it was something I could do on my own. I wanted to work alone yet help people at the same time. However, I made a big mistake early on by choosing the wrong business to start. I started freelance writing in college — a great fit for an introvert — and then decided to start a professional organizing business.
On the surface, being a professional organizer seemed like a good fit for my personality. I could work with people one-on-one and help them live a better life. However, while I enjoyed working with one person at a time, I found that going into their homes and dealing with overwhelming amounts of clutter was far too stimulating for me. Decluttering and organizing was also a highly emotional experience for my clients, and while we worked, they would often share deeply personal stories and feelings with me.
After hours of this, I would come home so drained and emotionally overloaded it took days to recharge. When my business became successful and I worked with one client after another, day after day, it became too much. I decided to close the business simply because I had no time to recharge after each session, and I was miserable as a result.
Fortunately, my freelance writing took off at exactly the same time, so making the transition to solitary work was a welcome relief. Now, almost 20 years later, I have a successful writing business that allows me to live and work exactly how I want. I love what I do because writing aligns perfectly with my energy, values, and natural rhythms. I never finish work feeling drained or overwhelmed; I feel happy and rewarded because I still get to help people but on my terms.
Understanding the nuances of your personality can help you avoid making a mistake like I made. Introverts have a lot to offer the world, but you can only do your best work in an environment that fits your unique strengths.
Choosing the right business to start plays a huge role in how happy and successful you’ll be as an entrepreneur. As an introvert, there’s a good chance you’ll be unhappy in a business that requires you to make frequent sales presentations or rely on a network of people you don’t know well.
Cain sums up the importance of knowing yourself: “The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk. Use your natural powers — of persistence, concentration, insight, and sensitivity — to do work you love and work that matters.”
Do you have an introverted personality? Would you consider starting your own business? If you’ve started one, what is it?