My Journey from Shy Girl to Confident Self-employed Introvert

People tell me they wish they knew more about how I ended up where I am today, as a full-time coach, making it work, doing things my own way that aligns with my introverted nature and my strengths and values.

I think I should share more of that journey with you. I don’t want career discovery or self-employment for introverts to be such a mystery.

We need visible role models for making a living doing what you love and doing what serves a true need in the world. That’s what I call a SOULpreneur journey. It’s possible. I’m doing it and so are others.

Val Nelson - coach for introverts

Let me start with a snippet from the early days of my coaching business, and then I’ll give you the longer story.

Recently I found this happy note in my journal from 2009 when I was starting to offer coaching: “I now have 2 coaching clients. I feel like I’m fulfilling the dream of being paid to be me!”

I can still feel the inner happy dance of that moment in 2009, and I still get how huge that was, to step into that feeling after so many years of waiting.

I’m glad I actually stopped and noticed that milestone. It can be easy to miss those accomplishments in the early days when so much lack is staring us in the face, maybe in the form of a very low bank account. It’s not easy, but the journey to our true path is so worth it, even if bumpy.

OK, now I will share a longer version of my story — from shy girl, through career exploration, growing confidence and honoring my introverted self, and then becoming a self-employed coach specializing in helping other introverts live their true callings.

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Introvert Solopreneurs Q&A: “I hate adding to the noise in the market. What should I do?”

I’ve been preoccupied lately with trying to help where I can in this crazy time, including hosting some free gatherings for caring solopreneurs.

It has felt so good to do that, and it inspires me for what else I can offer.

This morning I decided to record a Zoom conversation with a fellow introverted solopreneur about this question I am hearing a lot lately from folks like us. I’ve got the video recording for you below.

The question I’m hearing goes something like this:

The market feels so full of noise and free offers. I hate the idea of adding to the noise and it seems like nothing will work right now….”

It’s a crazy time for sure. So many unknowns and worries. Those big hearts of ours can’t help but want to keep helping, but it’s confusing too.

There is a way to navigate in these strange waters, even while steadying ourselves.

With the help of my friend and colleague, Liesel Teversham, I addressed this concern, including what’s helping me, and what I think will help our kindred spirits too.

You can watch the conversation here:

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Managing the Whirlwind of Feelings in a Whirlwind World

Dear Val: “Sometimes feeling all this stuff in the world and in my own life, and the people around me can feel like too much. All these feelings moving through me…. Sometimes I want to hide under the covers. But I also care. I’m not sure how to find the right balance sometimes.” ~ A highly sensitive introverted woman.

I’ve heard many versions of this same concern. As a sensitive introvert myself, I get it. I have now designed a life that doesn’t usually overwhelm me, even with all the feelings inside and around me, and that is so different from in the past. It still happens that I feel overwhelmed at times, I mean, this life, yowza! Whoa. But I can see that my choices and some daily habits are making it so much easier. #Grateful

If you’re like me and well, like all humans, you’re feeling a big range of things— from gratitude and love, to confusion or loss— all in this one moment. Seems strange but that’s life I think. And yet…

What if it feels like too much?
AND it’s also worth asking:
What if it opens you up to something wonderful?

I’ll share how I think of it.  Continue reading

Introverts Often Hate Meetings. Here’s Why and What To Do.

Oh my, if you ask introverts one of their biggest dislikes, it’s meetings. And yet, if we stop going to meetings, we risk losing the chance to have a say in the things that effect our lives. Plus we have valuable ideas to add. It matters to the groups we’re part of, and to the greater good.

So… then what if we hate meetings?

I’ve discovered over time the problem is that most meetings are poorly led and that makes it a problem for everyone. It’s just that it’s mainly the introverts who notice the problem because meetings work poorly especially for us.

I ended up explaining my thoughts about meetings and how it can be easier for introverts, and for the good of all, in this advice column.

Meeting hell for introverts

Dear Val,

How do I survive the “theater of meetings”? As an introvert, I don’t feel comfortable with the real-time verbal sparring and arguments.

I don’t have the snappy comeback, the rhetorical parlor trick that sways the boss or wins people to my side. My head gets so full of various ideas that I’m just not ready to pull it together in a neat package of words. And by the time I might be ready to share something, the conversation has moved on.

Because of all this, I don’t like meetings, and it shows. People can probably sense my discomfort. So what should I do about meetings when I am so uncomfortable?

–Miffed about Meetings

Dear Miffed,

I’m so glad you wrote about your struggle with meetings because just about every introvert I know has described a similar problem. After networking angst, it’s probably the top concern I hear. So we need to talk about it!


I’ll explain and provide for some meeting survival tips for introverts.
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How Introverts Can Have More Ease in Online Discussions

Introverts want to have a say in things, at work and in the world. Even if we seem to stay quiet sometimes.

Communicating online, such as social media, can be one of the easier ways for us to share our opinions. But it can also be hard for a lot of introverts. I want to make it easier for you because I know your voice matters!!

In fact, introverts have superpowers for online discussions! (And other kinds of communication too.) And there are some simple ways to make it easier.

I explained this in an advice column answer:

Dear Val,

I’m an introvert who has been working on my presentation and communication skills the last few months. I’m now comfortable talking with people in small group meetings, and I’m getting better at presenting to larger audiences, but I’m still struggling in one area.

When the conversation moves from in-person to online discussions, I have a hard time participating.

I find that I’m more hesitant to post or share anything online. I don’t like that I can’t see my audience. I don’t really know who or how many people have seen my post, and it’s harder to get a sense as to how my words were received.

In-person discussions are much more comfortable for me, but my peers (personal and professional) seem to be using online discussion spaces more and more. I don’t want to miss out on discussions that are important to me. Plus, I know it will be increasingly important for my career.

I’m in my 20s, and I’m in a technology field, so there’s pressure to be good with the online world. I’m comfortable with technology—just not online discussions.

How might I become more comfortable participating in online discussions with my peers?

– Cautious in California

woman under stress online

Dear Cautious,

Congratulations on the progress you’ve made with presentations and speaking in meetings! That’s great news that you’re finding your voice in those arenas.

That success tells me you are closer than you think to facing this next frontier—communicating with your audience when you can’t see it. That’s a challenging situation for most introverts.

I’ll explain our introvert challenges and strengths for online discussions, along with some tips to make it easier.

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