Marketing for Introverts: Boundaries, Privacy, and Sharing

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How to set boundaries as an introverted entrepreneur..

This blog is about privacy, sharing, “oversharing,” being an introvert, and honoring quiet periods in our lives.. as introverts who still need to run a business and be visible online. 

I admit it took me a while to write this entire blog series. I’ve been tempted to edit it many times but decided to keep the concepts intact. I’m not assuming that all introverts think, feel, and function the same way I do. 

When I wrote this, I had INTJ/INTP and a bit of INFJ in mind. I’m no expert on these personality types but I’ve found that we do have some common ground. 

I’m also aware that there are other types of introverts and that this blog isn’t speaking on behalf of these types. In the end, the goal was about striking a balance between expressing my own personal experiences, what I think I have in common with other introverts I’ve met, and being open and curious to finding out if “it’s just me or do others also find this to be true.” 

I also have many friends who are extroverts. I have nothing against extroverts. What I do want to speak up about is the bias towards the extrovert culture, which I still find to be a bit of a pain in the ass. I also want to talk about specific scenarios that exist that can feel like a challenge for many introverted entrepreneurs, including myself. 

This blog also isn’t about “marketing tips” for introverts. I’ll do that in another blog.  Here, I wanted to dedicate some space to things I think need to be talked about first. 

Let’s get to it..

I’m less and less inclined to share personal information these days. It isn’t necessarily because I’m an introvert, although it does play a role.

Here are a few of my theories about boundaries from my own experience as an online entrepreneur:

1. I’m a private person. I empathize with celebrities who may have been forced to share their private lives. The general public or even our chosen audience has not earned access to our private lives. Period.

2. Sharing a thought or opinion doesn’t always feel “safe.” (or rather, worth the risk) On one hand, I think that it’s important for us entrepreneurs to share our point of view (perspective) as part of our personal brand.

The flip side is that this takes energy, and when it comes to deeply personal information, to me, and to many introverts, it can often feel like too much. I find that I need to keep my personal life more private lately.

I go into more depth on this in my next blog.

3. I live in a place where boundaries are very loose.  People knock on doors and if there’s no answer, some will just enter if the door is unlocked.  Many ask about private details of one’s life. I’ve also noticed a tendency to gossip. I call it the “dark side” of having a local community.

This creates a lot of anxiety for me, as an introvert that values privacy. Yes, I keep my doors locked and ask people to text me first, but it’s a THING here, and people forget.

4. I need time to focus on both interacting with clients, but also time for uninterrupted “deep dive” work. Some may be fine with constant multitasking and never really focusing on one thing long enough to get good results, but I’m not one of them.

I also honor that I am not great at “switching energy” quickly, nor do I want to at this stage in my life and career.

Note: Those job descriptions for “fast-paced environments” and being able to “juggle multiple tasks” are framed as admirable attributes for the applicant to have, but in reality this language almost always translates into the fact that the CEO/management doesn’t have their shit together and wants to hire some cheap newbie who hasn’t figured this out yet.

Isn’t it better to just set things up so that they are done correctly in the first place? And to focus on important, not just urgent tasks? I think so.

I know a few HR experts who agree with me on this.

So instead of being my own shitty boss, I make it easier for my inner employee (who is also, surprise, an introvert) by blocking out time slots for different types of tasks, documenting every step in a complex process, making decisions and sticking with them, and managing my own workflow.

The fact that I don’t prize myself on being frantic and putting out fires and wasting time by juggling multiple tasks instead of laying down a solid foundation in the first place doesn’t make me a less skilled or valuable employee. It makes me a more skilled and valuable CEO.

And I’m definitely more interested in that.

It’s stunning how so many startups working with far more cash flow than I do don’t bother with any of this, but dump their incompetency on the shoulders of their new employees that they probably cycle through on a monthly basis.

This is a soapbox that I often step on.  I want to mention this because I have another soapbox: Introverts are not low-functioning people with “special needs” that interrupt a productive workflow. In fact, I think the opposite is often true. High-functioning starts from the ground up, usually by people who are able to see the big picture. And introverts are quite good at this.

Boundaries in networking and collaboration

One of the reasons I don’t often “get out there and mingle” with other online entrepreneurs is that I don’t really like the “hidden agenda” culture.

To me, it’s perfectly fine to talk about business and just say that you have an offering to sell.  That’s what we’re here for, not to add another “friend” to a list of 1000 people we can’t possibly keep track of and “connect” with. I get very, very irritated that this is the corner we’re often painted into, because honestly, I need to network too in order to make a living.

So I’ve had to come up with ways to filter in the good and filter out what I don’t want and be super clear about the expectations of our connection, especially if we’re agreeing to spend time together on a call.

Let’s say I meet another entrepreneur online and we decide to meet for a Zoom call to “connect” or collaborate.

Coaches are notorious for this: They forget to turn the dial from “coach” to
“colleague” and will start asking me questions first, when there is no implicit and mutual agreement that I’m there to answer a series of questions.

If I’m not careful, the tone is set from the first moment not by me, but by someone whose agenda is to dominate the conversation, take notes, and use the information they gathered about me later.

Now, I will only answer questions if at least one of the following criteria is met:

  • It’s a coaching or mentorship relationship in which I consciously have chosen to acknowledge a shift in the power dynamic because I’m asking for help.
  • There is an actual need to know any particular details about me
  • I also get to ask questions

You can see what this looks like.. it’s an actual page on this website.

This filtering process can be pretty straightforward if it’s about direct contact with an individual:

“Hey, do you want to get together for coffee? I can show you what I’m offering because I think it might be a great fit for either you or your audience/clients. I’ll be making a pitch that will focus on why this thing I’m offering is super important/time-saving/ultra cool, regardless of whether someone buys from me or not.

Then I would love to hear yours, because maybe we can refer to each other or be a guest on each other’s podcast, especially if we share the same philosophy.”

Friends having coffee together

If someone actually worded it this way, there’s a VERY good chance I would say “Sure!” (But if you don’t have a website or YouTube channel or podcast or something I can check out..  I won’t bother)

Online, in my opinion, can be trickier because at least for me, approaching someone via text just never comes across the way I want it to.

That’s when we may be tempted to use fake language like “Let’s connect.”

It’s also easy to feel weird about asking why many of us even bother keeping in touch with hundreds of people on social media.. which is of course, obviously, to earn a living, not about some popularity contest that’s already rigged. (The elephant in the room)

As an introvert, I have a hard time wrapping my head around why on earth anyone would think that trying to forge a real connection with hundreds of people is anything but a chore. So I prefer to be honest about that.

On the other hand:

1. I don’t expect interesting people who also love to share ideas to just fall from the sky.  It takes some work. 

2. Choosing to not try to be everyone’s friend doesn’t mean that I can’t also be approachable.  I’m a real human who enjoys real connections. I’ve also met colleagues that I admire and was shy about approaching them.. and they turned out to be not only “real humans” but cool people I enjoy talking to as well.

I, too answer every email personally, and most messenger requests. Like a real human. 

3. I don’t mind when people reach out to me personally. Not at all. Many think that some types of introverts are cold (especially my type, INTJ/P) but we’re actually pretty loyal. If we already feel a connection to someone, that person is far less likely to get “replaced” than perhaps they would by a lot of extroverts I’ve encountered.  And honestly, part of it is because it’s just easier that way.  (In addition to when I like someone I do enjoy their company)

Many introverts tend to avoid the work it takes to make new friends. I’m speaking for myself here, not everyone, of course. 

I don’t mind, however, putting work into expressing myself as precisely as I can. For this reason, don’t mind reading longer texts.  I do read them, and enjoy them. 

I’m sure I’m not the only one who prefers to express themselves verbally. It’s the way my brain works. This is also how I understand others. 

I also keep in touch with a closer circle of friends via messenger, because it’s easier for me than using my phone as an actual phone. There’s a practical reason for this. Paying for phone/data plans here (I’m currently living in Bosnia) is a waste of money and the connection isn’t reliable enough for my business.

About talking “on the phone.. “

(Big surprise here) I, like other introverts, don’t particularly like”talking on the phone.” When I had a local business, I had to, which is fine. Today, I have a booking system in place and hours set aside specifically for client calls.

Speaking to someone directly isn’t what I dislike. It’s the fact that it interrupts whatever I’m doing, and I’m expected to drop everything to attend to it immediately. Messenger, on the other hand, doesn’t need a real time response.

This means that if I’m there in the moment, I’m happy to respond immediately.

Or get my thoughts together to summon a proper reply

Or at an appropriate time in my own time zone

Or attend to it in a few hours

Or at least wait till I can go to the bathroom and make some coffee first.

Or even ignore it if I want. (This is rare, but I have that option)

I also don’t require or expect  immediate responses.

There’s another reason I don’t like “immediate response” channels of communication: It makes me anxious.  If I can get the job done without unnecessary anxiety, I’m down. 

When I see Messenger notifications it’s usually something I look forward to. I’m in a different mindset when it comes to email, which is all business.

Granted, I have the kind of business that allows me to do this. In my brick-and-mortar acupuncture practice back in the US, it’s absolutely critical to have a method for phone inquires to be addressed immediately. That’s why I loved our extroverted receptionist (and gave her free treatments)

Oddly, I actually prefer talking in real time to friends. Usually via Zoom and a cup of coffee or glass of wine so that I can give them my undivided attention.

If you are reading this and we have communicated via DM, I am honored and hopefully do my best to balance real connection and respect for space and privacy. Since messenger to me is more private, I try to be very respectful about how I use it.

I’m also getting more into other platforms like Discord and Mighty Networks.

Your preferences may be different. In the end, I think it’s important to think about these individual preferences, both for ourselves and for our audience/clients, and honor them, rather than use a particular channel just because it’s the next hot thing.  (Chatbots, I’m looking at you, and you have a LONG way to go)

It’s also important to be realistic about what’s required for a business. If it’s a brick-and-mortar business, I don’t think that ignoring the phone because we don’t like talking on the phone is gonna fly.

I know that this is a lot of information simply about the ways (channels, methods) we choose to communicate, but I also think that getting this right and designing our business and workflow around a way that works both for us and our clients is often neglected, and needs MORE thought put into it, not less.

Then we need to actually write a policy, and stick to it. (This would also include office hours and turnaround time for replies)

On social media in general, it gets a bit fuzzier.

Sharing on social media as an introvert

Lately, I’ve found myself filtering out who can read updates on my Facebook timeline.

I admit, I have not really been wanting to share anything on social media lately.

However, I have to also consider how this might impact my business and visibility. I’m isolated, physically, and visibility is pretty important in order for me to create a sustainable source of income.

I do go into more depth about this in another blog about storytelling for introverts.

I think many of us go through periods in which we really don’t want to be sharing a lot, even when we know that being consistent about how we show up online is important.  Do we just force ourselves to do it? Do we give up? Whose advice do we follow when there’s so much out there? (Including mine)

Let’s talk about that.

Some valid reasons for sharing SOME information:

1. People can sniff out BS pretty easily

Just like a book or a movie.. if there’s  no backstory, exposition, plot, or character introduction,  it’s likely to fall flat and seem hollow, preachy, out of touch, lacking in empathy, or even made up.

A brand today needs to stand out from the crowd and attract an audience that it truly resonates with, instead of settling for a boring, safe message that ends up attracting a non-committed and non-engaged audience that will only pay attention if there isn’t something more compelling to see. Which will be just about anything else after about 2 seconds.

So that means that avoiding sharing because it may rub a few people the wrong way isn’t a valid excuse to avoid sharing. (For me, anyway)

This isn’t just about standing out. It’s about credibility and trust.  If we can see that someone’s message is consistent over time, that’s a good sign. If it changes constantly, that’s not a good sign. It’s like that guy we knew in college who told us whatever we wanted to hear just to get into our pants.

If all of this sounds a lot like dating.. it’s because it is.

Bottom line: I don’t trust people who aren’t willing to tell me about themselves. And I’m likely not the only one.

From the nosy neighbor to the coaches who want to “connect,” if I don’t have information about them that I can at least research, I’m probably not going to interact, at least not on a business level.

Today, yes, this means having a website or YouTube channel or blog or podcast or something your audience/potential ideal client can see and get a feel for who you are and what you do.

2. Consistency.

As I say this, I have to mention something else I know is true: Consistency is key when it comes to creating a sustainable business. So I must find other ways to remain consistent when I don’t feel like sharing in a way that still honors my need for space, privacy, and doesn’t exhaust me. (More on that later)

Another aspect of consistency expands on the point I made above. It’s about having a cohesive message, story, and brand in place.

Have you ever come across a coach that has a certain vibe in her social media posts, and a completely different message and design in her sales page? Or maybe her emails and checkout pages look like something thrown together in 2010, because she “hates tech” and balks at spending any more than $15 per month on her marketing.

And it shows.

This is what I call “all over the place” branding. Often, the quality is poor and amateurish, and it screams “sketchy” or untrustworthy.

I’ve seen entrepreneurs who have built a solid brand and foundation with very little cash flow.  They invested time.  As they grew, they hired people or invested in software/infrastructure to take them to the next step. And the next.

The difference is that they take their business and their brand seriously.

So far, I’ve talked about reasons why it’s important to share online. Again, be sure to check out the next blog in this series where I go into more depth about sharing your story online as an introvert.

Are there some very legit reasons NOT to share online? What might these boundaries look like?

Let’s take a look.

Reasons I may choose NOT to share:

1. When I have a goal or dream that isn’t yet fully formed

Telling people about a goal before it happens means that some are going to choose to shoot it down. Even if it’s one person, the benefit of sharing something that hasn’t even happened yet may not outweigh the potential negative impact of just one naysayer. (For me, anyway)

Much of this will depend on the kind of support system in place, but I’m a believer in keeping lofty dreams to ourselves, protected and incubated like a newborn, until the time is right.

When the goal is met, THEN I may choose to share.

2. Personal struggles: When it just feels too raw right now

Whether it’s about health, mental health, finance, relationships, I’m less and less into sharing this kind of information on social media or in any content I write. At least for now, and at least not in detail.

Later, the struggle may very well turn into a perfect story that mirrors the Hero’s Journey. But not while I’m currently walking through Mordor.

This is primarily about honoring myself.

woman looking at long road ahead of her with storm clouds

3. To keep up appearances

When it feels exhausting to try to “keep up appearances” it’s probably going to be obvious. (especially on video)

I’ve heard that showing up “raw and vulnerable” helps us to be seen as trustworthy and real.

On the other hand, showing up during low periods can just as easily repel. Attractive people with good lighting, nice surroundings, and shiny happy faces who talk about how they overcame a challenge tend to fare better online than the ones who look battle-worn and are reporting from the front lines.

Or trying to, while wishing they could just take a freaking break.

For example: Depression.

Struggling with depression is real. (I’ve experienced it firsthand and have been speaking up for years about the stigma and the toxic “Positivity culture” for years now)

If one chooses not to show up on camera during a period of depression, it could be that they need time and space. They may need more privacy and time to shift the focus inward.

I want to add that this can also be true for introverts, although again, one of my pet peeves is when introversion is pathologized.

Introverts are not functioning at a lower level than extroverts.

One could even argue the opposite can be true. We’re VERY high functioning and our superpower is all about not wasting time on “throwaway stuff” and trivia.

Introverts often create thoughtful and in-depth content, but in exchange, showing up every day in ways that may suit an extrovert (Say, live streaming or dancing on TikTok) may be too distracting or exhausting for an introvert, especially if they are going through a major challenge.

This will likely detract from their ability to create the high quality content they could be focusing on.

The result will probably be low-quality content.

While the previous reason was more about honoring ourselves, this reason is about how we appear when we try to put on a mask and cover up what’s really going on. I think people can see right through this.

4. Gossip

I’m bringing this one up because it’s seldom talked about, even though it’s everywhere and has been around since humans have existed.

Sometimes people share online with an agenda: To make themselves look or feel good, possibly at the expense of someone else, or to “get even” with someone in a passive-aggressive manner.

I don’t want to participate in it or pass it on, even though I’ve been guilty of it before, to a mild degree. I also don’t want to be talked about or a source of entertainment so that others can feel better about themselves. I’m especially wary of people that seem to enjoy talking about others online or that seem to have no filter.

Note: I’m not talking about holding back on a “rant” about the things that drive us crazy as business owners. I’m talking about singling out and naming someone. I talk all the time about stupid shite I see in my industry.. including things some of my colleagues say and do, false assumptions/myths, and even crappy clients.. without calling any one person out.

I do this if if passes the 10 criteria I talk about in depth in the next blog.

However, if I want to share something positive, I may name or give that person credit.

This may seem obvious, but in social media, the boundaries aren’t always clear and obvious. Gossip is a very old human trait and it’s not going anywhere, so it’s a good thing to recognize and choose to stay away from.

5. Endless questions

This is a cultural thing, but I’ve seen it show up online, particularly with random coaches who want to “connect.”

Where I live, people start right in with asking personal questions. Are you married? Do you live alone? What do you do for a living? Ugh. I used to feel obligated to answer these questions. It’s exhausting enough when I have to do this in English.

It irritates me that I’m put in this position because I don’t want to appear rude, when what I REALLY want to do is say “That’s none of your business” and keep on walking.

Same goes for the online world. Being the one who leads with questions is an icky way of dominating a conversation, unless it’s mutually agreed upon that questions will be helpful.

5. When sharing kills the “mystique.”

Recently, I’ve taken the Fascination quiz (Sally Hogshead) and managed to guess which type i was before even taking the quiz. My Type: The Secret Weapon.

Which makes sense. (If you get a chance to check out Sally Hogshead’s book., it’s.. well. fascinating and helpful)

Many of us are inundated with information about how to be “passionate” and vulnerable and likeable.

We’re pressured to reveal more about ourselves than we feel comfortable with, and the answer to this is sometimes to “get out of our comfort zone” by trying to be a completely different type.

This applies to us personally, but also our brand. I’m studying this more and more.

Some questions that came to mind for me:

Aren’t people also attracted to those who maintain a sense of mystery?

Isn’t it sometimes more exciting knowing that you don’t “Get to” know everything about someone?

Or, on the other hand,  are given the honor of being trusted with intimate information?

Here are some things we can say when people try to “pry” information from us:

  • I don’t feel like sharing that.
  • I know you are curious, but I don’t feel comfortable sharing that information
  • In my culture, we don’t talk about personal things.
  • That’s really none of your business.
  • Before we meet, let’s agree on the agenda beforehand
  • I think/feel this conversation is headed in a different direction than we had intended. Can we go back to the agenda?
  • Julie Odler.  Airman First Class. Serial Number…
  • Now can I ask YOU some questions?

Other things we can do:

  • If I notice that people tend to gossip, I avoid them.  This is more of an issue in the small towns I’ve lived in than online, but I’m still cautious.
  • Sometimes it helps to change the subject (and balance the power dynamic) by asking questions.
  • Be mindful in advance. I can’t count how many times I’ve let people ask me questions I didn’t feel comfortable with just to avoid confrontation. Much like moving out of the way for people that take up space in public places, I tend to do this on autopilot
  • I need to remember that I don’t owe anyone any information about me.

That’s a wrap for this blog!

Check out part 2 of this blog, where I give 10 tips on sharing and storytelling as an introvert and dive a little deeper into the concept of sharing online as an introvert.

A business strategy that works for introverts

A lot of marketing advice comes from extroverts: Lots of time on social media, too much sharing, low-quality “small talk,” and what feels like a waste of time for us introverts.

There really is a better way.  My goal is to help as many brilliant introverted entrepreneurs succeed on their own terms without the external noise or pressure to show up a “certain way” online.

I offer both 90 day coaching packages and 2.5 hour strategy sessions to get you started on a business that actually works.

Hi! I’m Julie. 

I’m a self-described nerd when it comes to branding, marketing, and websites. I’m an INTJ/P who loves working with “thinking” introvert entrepreneurs who are also passionate about their ideas and serious about their business.  Feel free to explore a topic or search for something specific. 

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