I am not social at all, I hate meeting people and networking. Can I be an entrepreneur?

Nida Aslam Co-founder and CEO, Design expert

August 31st, 2017

I have a very limited circle of friends and I do not like meeting people and talking/discussing things. How can I set up and run my design studio successfully?

Paul Garcia marketing exec & business coach

August 31st, 2017

Nida, I suspect that you're not representing yourself accurately with the limited description you gave. It entirely depends on the WHY of your dislikes. Your personal friends don't tend to be your clients, so that means nothing. And it's it seems you are a web/UX designer, so correct us if that's wrong.

I'll split your question into separate parts, because there is more than one question in your original question. The first question you imply is "How will I get clients?" Well, there are lots of ways to get clients that have nothing to do with going to networking events, greeting strangers, and cold calling. It's called advertising. If you're a great advertiser, you may not need an outside sales force, because your ads will be doing the selling for you. It's probably better to have both, salespeople and advertising, but you might be able to rely on just one.

It's easy to understand why you object to networking and talking to strangers. I often feel the same way. I'm a bit Victorian in my attitude in that I don't like to talk to strangers until I have been properly introduced by someone else that I know. The difference is that I'm willing to talk to them once I've been engaged and that seems to be something you're specifically objecting to. I know a couple of web designers that are very introverted, quiet, almost anti-social. They're good at their job, but they're not good with people. One is a business owner, the others are all workers. The difference between the designer who is a business owner and you is that he is lovely to talk to, even if you have to initiate the conversation.

If you are objecting to answering questions, to explaining your thoughts, and to asking questions that will help you arrive at a good design, your clients will hate you or at a minimum they won't trust you. And while you could have a business partner who is gregarious and could run client meetings or drive sales efforts, if you show up and are a lump and don't participate in the conversation, you become suspect with clients and they won't feel comfortable having you working on things that are important to them. How can you possibly fully understand the desired user experience if you don't interact? Eventually every client you get, whether from passive advertising or outside sales, is going to need to meet with you to set up and to run their project.

If you think you want to be a freelancer that other agencies or design groups hire because your skills are exceptional, you won't be escaping any of the client interactions there either, because you still have customers, whether it's through and agency or direct.

Overall, you could successfully get past your resistance to knocking on doors and meeting new people. Having customers land in your lap can happen with excellent advertising or hiring a salesperson. But you will never overcome being unwilling to talk/discuss things with your clients, not if you want to be a business owner, and not if you want to be a worker bee for someone else's company either.

In the broad world, a business owner is always the most important salesperson for the company. Not only because they know every detail about what your company does, but because they have the authority level that gets respect from clients. While in many circumstances the owner is not the one knocking on doors to get new clients, that's rather different when it comes to design and creative businesses. Typically a design business revolves around the design philosophy of the owner, and this requires the owner to be an evangelist for the company. The design company owner who makes sales calls, is much more successful and effective than one who waits for business to show up on their doorstep or uses salespeople to drum up business. The anticipated model for design businesses is that the artist/mind leads the shop.

As a marketer, I expect to talk to the head of a design group that I'm hiring. Without interacting and discussing my needs with the lead designer or owner, I don't trust that when the team leaves the room that the direction I have given will be implemented the way I want across the team working on my project. I have to get on the same page with the lead creative or the head of the team. In my experience this expectation crosses cultural boundaries and applies not only here in the USA, but in other countries as well. And that's why it's important for you to understand this element about your chosen industry from the client perspective.

There are numerous suggestions in the other comments about how you can drive sales efforts without being the person who reaches out. But it's important for you to also understand what the buyer is thinking, the marketing department head who sees your ad and thinks your company might be the right UX design firm to handle their project.

I don't know how companies find designers in your country, but I'll tell you how it happens here to me as the marketing department head. First as the client, I ask my colleagues who they are using when I see an example of design work that I like. Second, on a regular basis I am receiving phone calls from design firms prospecting to see if I am considering any design projects and whether I am satisfied with what I have (collateral, web site, etc.). I'm being actively solicited, and I don't even need to look for ads. But my number one choice, the designers that I make appointments to talk to, are those that my colleagues are already using.

Know that fact. Know it because if you do work for any clients, they are going to be the single most important source of your next project. And you need to ask them to recommend you.

As for whether you can succeed as an entrepreneur in the design business with your attitude, you'll have to decide. And you'll have to evaluate WHY it is that you object to the things you're objecting to. Don't ask why just once, use the five whys to drill down to the root cause and see if that can be addressed. You have every reason to hate "networking" because most of it is useless. But if you object to explaining yourself, answering questions, and discussing things, you won't succeed even as someone else's employee, in my opinion.

Rebecca Witonsky Autistic Entrepreneur and Tax Preparer

August 31st, 2017

I am autistic and I have similar issues with face to face social interaction Nida Aslam. You can be an entrepreneur even with this social skills / interaction deficit or challenge. You can find ways to interact with your clients via phone, email, or skype instead of face to face interaction. You can also concentrate on producing excellent products for your clients while hiring another trusted family member or friend to manage face to face meetings and sales interactions with you. You need to be in a business which doesn't depend primarily on face to face social interaction and where you have a unique niche / skill / talent that is particularly useful to your clients. You can be an entrepreneur even with this particular challenge which I also share.

Alan Duval Cofounder of SocialConsumer (early stage), recent psych graduate (with stats), analyst.

August 31st, 2017

Hire someone that you can tolerate who understands your business and is a schmoozer - let them do the heavy-lifting on the social/networking front while you concentrate on what you're good at.

Alternatively, use social media and position yourself as a design expert for introverts and socially anxious people. I'm sure there is a sizable market of people who want to engage in business, or just hire a designer, but who are not in the personal interaction that comes along with it, and would rather do everything by email.

ronak yadav CEO at Barrister.com/Entrepreneur/Student/Learner

September 3rd, 2017

entrepreneurship is not all about meeting people ,interacting with them,its a type of work that you want to do for own happiness.ofcourse meeting people and interacting with them give new ideas and boost to your ideas but it is a just a factor of entrepreneurship.so if you not so social you can hire a manager for public interactions .because in starting up your business that is design studio have to take care of your customers choice as well as you have to keep an eye what people need so for this public interactions and social networking sites must nedded .

Evan Lai Founder of Asia's first Revenue-Based Financing Service.

Last updated on August 31st, 2017

Good question, my first instinct is to find a co-partner / founder who's more of a salesperson to complement your skill sets.

But I guess you would have done it it if you could, so my second thought would be adopting the LEAN methodology in your socializing.

Just like how people approach product design nowadays, you talk / communicate with people only when you have to, and you slowly gain comfort and confidence little by little every time you speak and talk.

With each loop you'd feel more and more at home with other people and would eventually find more topics to talk about, while not wasting too much energy worrying about those awkward moments in past conversations. (because you're LEAN, you don't talk when you don't have to!)

Hope my 2 cents help! Good luck!

Shivam Tiwari Founder @ Shemari.com | Women's Apparel Store

August 31st, 2017

I would highly recommend accepting your introvertism and trying to at least go out there and meet people and tell about your business. See, if you really want to promote it without hiring a marketing leader, you have to represent yourself. Being an introvert myself, I would recommend approaching one or two people at a time and I ignore big groups of (even 5 is a big number for me) people.

You have to be the face of your business if you really want people to follow through. Also, the advice of @Kate is highly appreciable.

Put your mind aside and strive for making people know about you and your business through your heart.

hemant c #Failed Startups #co founder #Passionate #Developer

Last updated on September 2nd, 2017

Sure you can , Being Entrepreneur is not defined by a fixed set of properties, that means that an individual can tweak some to achieve more or less the same results.

- So in a case like yours there are certain changes that have to be taken into consideration to set you in.

- An Entrepreneur apart from their fundamental properties such as being Passionate , Doers ,Optimistic and so on they have to chose a role that they would like to play in their Business like Key designer, content writer, Business developer etc

- By being not very social a person limits his/her option to take on to a certain set of roles. Now figure out a role from the pool of remaining that you are best at ,then exploit that it to your finest and things should be good to go.

Go , go on and create your own species of Entrepreneur.


Eric Skiff Co-founder at Tanooki Labs

August 31st, 2017

Hi Nida,

I imagine you'll get many different kinds of answers to this, some of which may be helpful and others not. I want to share my experience not as advice, but as another perspective to consider.

I'm a developer, and I love being able to code on my projects with my headphones on. 8 hours of solid, uninterrupted flow are gold, and meetings used to drive me crazy.

I now run Tanooki Labs a 20+ person development shop. I'm in meetings all day, rarely get to code, and am constantly networking. It's 100% opposite of what I would have described my ideal work environment as 10 years ago.

The funny thing is, I love my job.

I get to talk with entrepreneurs about what they want to build and get excited when them as we talk about what's possible. They trust my expertise when I share insights, and some of the best work I've ever done has been on a whiteboard, not in a code editor. I've also found that once I was confident in what we could provide for people, I LOVE sales. I'm not a shill for a product - I'm just talking with people about making their dreams real. It's a stupid amount of fun.

It's not for everyone, and I recognize that I was predisposed to parts of this (I'm at least partially an extrovert), but I would encourage you to see if you find these activities different when you truly care about the topics you're speaking about and feel confident in your expertise in them.

-Eric Skiff


Tanooki Labs

Erin Lehmann Start up marketing manager, problem solver, new blogger, passion for non-profit, creative thinker

August 31st, 2017

Absolutely. You need to surround yourself with partners who will appreciate and respect that about you who can bring complementary skills to the table.

Chris Ramos Founder and CEO @ Simple Concepts LLC

August 31st, 2017

Nida, welcome to my world. I have maybe two friends that are always one sentence away from being not friends. I'm just not a people person. This has made life has a entrepreneur very hard. I've found that most people that are not a friend don't really want to help you, need money up front or make me dumber listening to them. Friends are free but don't know how to help or don't have the skills to help. Starting out you need the cheapest of everything, labor, advertising, equipment, supplies ect. So hiring somebody to make the connections is not an option. So what I have done and is also my advice for you is to set your business up so that people what to come to you. What I mean is, create, design, build and make what you do so appealing people want to talk to you, not the other way around. When people come to you, you have the upper hand, the power in the conversion. It makes it easier to talk to someone that you don't need to sell your self to. It does require more work on your part and it will pay off but for people like us going out of our way to meet people just isn't going to happen. Good luck :)