Today’s guest post is by Carla Watkins of carlalouise.com
These days, when I mention a new business idea, I know I’ll be met with some rolling of eyes and muttered comments of “oh no, not ANOTHER one” from some people.
I’ve planned, tested and scrapped more businesses than most people will ever run, had seventeen jobs in nine years, have driven my loved ones up the wall with my inability to pick one thing and stick to it, and am still justifying to some people the decision to close my web design business, when it was on track to make enough money to let me quit my day job.
But if you’re also an introvert, a scanner or both, you’ll know that money had very little to do with that decision, and that choosing a career and working my way up it over a lifetime, particularly if that involves being in an open plan office, was more like my worst nightmare than a way I would choose to spend a large chunk of my life.
The signs were there early on, though I didn’t actually discover why I always felt like the odd one out until three or four years ago.
A legend of my childhood relates how, aged around 4, I was playing in my Wendy house by myself, and so absorbed in my game of pretend that I was oblivious to my Dad calling me to come in for lunch. When he also couldn’t see me (I was hidden in a corner), he called the police in a panic because he thought I was lost or kidnapped.
At school, I was happy to read instead of play Bulldog at break. I had lots of friends but preferred spending time with them individually or in small groups rather than in a crowd. I hated all team sports with a passion and I loved all kinds of dance, but eventually got kicked out of ballet class for my refusal to give up horse riding and rollerskating, which were developing my muscles in an undesirable way.
In my teens I found and instantly adored line dance, until I’d qualified for and competed in world championships in Nashville – and then much to the surprise of those around me, I stopped. Fifteen years later, I have taken up line dance and rollerskating again.
And I have always been happy to be by myself for extended periods of time.
So it shouldn’t really have been a surprise when, in the years following university, I decided something drastic had to change as I handed in my notice to my ninth job in five years. I’d done well at all of them, but got excruciatingly bored quite fast, and changed career each time.
While my friends spent their early twenties moving steadily upwards in their chosen fields, I flitted from newspaper design to tutoring to stable management to temping to insurance to the enquiry desk in a public library.
And as I wrote my notice letter for the library, which I had always assumed would finally be my Thing, I realised that ultimately, I was going to have to create a career that fitted my personality, and not force myself into a pre-existing box.
The London job I was starting was shortlived, disastrous and taught me everything I will ever need to know about how not to run a company. Putting the colourful, imaginative and introverted me into an open plan office full of people in suits talking about money was like putting a happy vocal peacock in a very small cage with about eighty pigeons. I stood out like a sore thumb and was extremely unhappy.
But every cloud has a silver lining, and once the controlling CEO had been sacked for fraud and harassment, I found myself able to spend lunchbreaks in the local library, immersing myself in new ideas and firing my imagination.
Libraries are pretty much perfect places for us – quiet, no one questions you spending hours sitting by yourself with your nose in a book, and full to bursting with knowledge on every subject you could ever wish for, waiting to be borrowed (free!) and read.
With a four hour daily commute, I had plenty of time to read, and I discovered there was another way to make a living – a portfolio career. At the time I’d just chosen to live by myself, which was lovely but expensive, and I knew I’d need some kind of day job while I set up my businesses.
I took some courses (and through them met a group of amazing likeminded people who have inspired me and kept me sane on this journey – Kathryn is one of them), and taught myself to code while taking my blogging more seriously.
Those things led me, in four years, to my current portfolio: a full time day job, five minutes from home; a growing blog; three very different businesses and a burlesque troupe. I also have a monthly column in an online alternative magazine and I run a craft collective at work.
Though I still have some tweaking to do, I have never been happier with my life– and for the first time I am embracing the scanner and introvert parts of my personality wholeheartedly and side by side.
Are you an introverted scanner? Here are my tips to help you succeed.
- Have somewhere (digital or paper) where you can catch all your ideas, to revisit and review later
- Trust that there will always be a time for the best ideas – even if now isn’t quite right
- Be open about your need for solitude or recharging time – people are often more understanding than you’d expect
- Give yourself guilt-free time to play, daydream and imagine (schedule it in if you need to)
- Don’t just accept, embrace the fact that your interests are constantly changing – it makes you intriguing!
- Don’t be afraid to stop something you no longer want to do, or that no longer serves you
- Don’t accept the received wisdom that you must be a specialist to succeed – I promise it’s entirely untrue!
PS: If you want to develop a business that brings all your interests together in one place, we can highly recommend checking out Renaissance Business. In this online guide, you’ll learn how to use your diverse interests and need for variety so that instead of it being an obstacle that holds you back, it becomes fuel for income. Find out more here.
About the author
Carla Louise Watkins is a writer, photographer and dreamer who believes in magic and the gorgeous rebellion of making your life absolutely your own.
Having transformed her own life by eschewing convention and embracing creativity, Carla now inspires others to discover their inner sparkle. Her unique and empowering alter ego programme Unfurling Your Wings helps women step into their brightest and best selves, changing the way they see and think about themselves forever. Find Carla online at carlalouise.com