Are you an introverted entrepreneur? In other words, are you a freelancer who enjoys your own company and staying in your comfort zone? But have you ever wondered whether this might be holding you back? Do you assume that extroverts are more successful, for example because they’re better at networking and bringing in work? Let’s dispel some of those myths and hear from a fellow introvert who has gone through such struggles herself: Mariella Franker is a former science communicator who has recently started offering productivity coaching for introverts. Read on to discover the hidden benefits of being an introvert.
Many of the language professionals in SENSE – including translators, editors, language trainers and copywriters – would probably identify as introverts, especially the freelancers. What frustrations might they have that you also used to have as an introvert?
Oh, I had so many frustrations, haha. I used to wake up in the morning and hope, just hope, that I was going to get my most important to-do's done that day. I'd start work optimistically but, before I knew it, it was 5 pm and I didn't know where the time had gone. In a way, it felt like I had no control over how productive I was. I would get distracted, eg, by emails, smaller projects, or unexpected calls from clients or colleagues. My work-life balance wasn’t even an issue, because it wasn’t there. I worked almost constantly, always felt busy, tired, and anxious about my performance or that I was missing opportunities. Then, other health issues came up: I nearly burned out, I got pre-diabetes and pregnancy diabetes because I wasn’t eating well, and my body didn’t get enough rest to heal. Usually, I’d slip into a coma on the coach on Friday evenings and sleep the whole weekend, only to start working again on Sunday evening to make sure I could ‘keep up’ the next week. In the meantime, the things I really wanted to do for myself got pushed further and further to the back. I really wanted to write, and I actually have a folder full of blog posts that I never published. I was either too tired to finish them or my perfectionism would get in the way. Other people seemed to get results so easily, so this only added to the frustration and a feeling of failure.
You’ve not been a coach for very long, Mariella. What prompted you to change the focus of your work from writing to coaching?
Yes Sally, that’s true, I changed my focus to coaching in mid-2020. The funny thing is, though, that it feels like I’ve secretly been training for this my whole life. I’ve always been interested in productivity, so I read a lot of research and I tested out a lot of things in my daily life. I started with time management because I thought that if I could manage my time as efficiently as possible, that would be the answer to achieve all my goals and dreams. After nearly burning out several years ago, I realized that I’d forgotten that energy management is essential to maintain productivity, especially because I’m introverted.
What prompted me to make this my business was the birth of my son on one hand, and getting coaching myself on the other. After my son was born, time took on a whole other meaning. Travelling an hour for my part-time job three days a week and taking freelance writing assignments the rest of the time was tiring, and I could barely spend any time with my family. My life was no longer aligned with my long-term goals and I needed to get really clear on how I wanted to live my life. When I went to a coach and discovered coaching in this way kind of by accident, things suddenly fell into place. Even though I’ve only just started, helping other people to achieve their goals and dreams through coaching is already the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever gotten to do.
What are the most important lessons that you have learned from your own experiences with a coach?
I’m learning so much from my coach and mentor, Marloes Bouwmeester. She has over ten years of coaching experience and she was the first coach in the Netherlands to make programmes for introverts. I went to her because I became frustrated when I got yet another performance review saying that I should be more assertive, even though the team was very happy with my performance. The most important thing that I learnt from her is that there is nothing wrong with me and that being an introvert is not a limitation. Without realizing it, I was just trying to fit an extroverted mould and I was working in ways that didn’t match my natural way of working. She taught me how to create space for myself in my work and in unexpected situations in an introvert-friendly way. It was a revelation! When I told her about my business idea around productivity, she suggested that we work together, and I feel really honoured that I get to train with her.
What can your coaching programme offer introverts?
My programmes are designed to play into the way our brains naturally work. I focus on natural productivity, introverted superpowers and easy ways to form habits. Introverts process stimuli differently from extroverts and we have different energy needs. When we play into this, we feel more confident and at ease with who we are, the inner critic is less dominant, and we achieve our goals faster and with fewer struggles. Small and simple changes can have a huge effect here. In a busy life and with so much going on in the world today, it can feel like a real task to proactively set goals. I look for simple solutions and how to make things easy to do, because it’s not the big gestures but consistency that helps us achieve goals.
The online course that I’m developing now offers a practical guide on how to do this, but it’s meant to be tailored to you depending on your personal goals and what helps you to work in productive flow. Think of it as a roadmap that helps you to design a toolkit with the right tools for you to be naturally productive in your life.
If someone reading this wants to know more about it, where can they find more information?
The best way to see if this is for you is by joining my explorative taster sessions. I’m giving away three short sessions where we’ll explore how to create space for your personal dreams and goals by using your strengths as an introvert. Each day at 10:00 CET, there will be a 15-minute lesson via Zoom with a short exercise at the end. The exercises explore how to be productive in a way that feels natural to you. It’s an invitation to start carving out that space for yourself. Recordings of the sessions will also be available so if you can’t join on Zoom, you’ll still get the information afterwards. If you feel pulled in a million directions, don't know what to prioritize, or struggle to balance your ambitions with your energy needs as an introvert, then these explorative taster sessions are for you. You can sign up for free here: https://www.subscribepage.com/atasteofbacktobasics
(Images via Unsplash: Ameer Basheer, Luis Villasmil, Naassom Azevedo, Caroline Veronez, S Migaj // Free taster sessions with Mariella Franker, PhD: photo by Ken Ramroochsingh.)