7 tips for introverts building a private practice

Jul 24, 2014 by

angel ornamentI remember being an itchy angel in the nativity scene one Christmas season.

Crooked halo, wings off-kilter, standing in a patch of sparse hay—out in the middle of a Texas “winter” that somehow still managed to be muggy and uncomfortably warm.

One of the joys of living in Houston as a child, I guess.

Growing up, I bet you were in your fair share of recitals, plays or sing-a-longs, too.

Book reports in front of the class.

Presentations about the rainforest.

That sort of stuff.

As an introvert, these projects often terrified me.

I would get nervous and tongue-tied.

Or I’d get really worked up & excited about it, and feel exhausted after the presentation was over.

In either case, it took a bit of a toll on me.

So, I really didn’t know what to expect when, two weeks ago, I gave a presentation on practice building via the Mind Your Own Business conference that was watched by hundreds of people.

It was via webinar, sure, but I could still feel the presence of all the people watching. The only other time I had that much exposure was in my drama club in high school.

You can imagine, I’m sure, how nerve-wracking exposure and publicity can be for an introvert.

stage curtainIn fact, if you’re building a private practice, I am quite sure that you can relate—even if you’re an extrovert.

This is because, as business owners, we are on a bit of a stage most of the time.

Whether we’re meeting a colleague for coffee, or handing off business cards at a doctor’s office, or writing a blog post—we are putting things out for public consumption almost constantly.

Getting publicity is scary for many of us. All that exposure can feel pretty exhausting—particularly for introverts.

And no wonder.

We want things to go over well.

We want to look like we know what we’re doing.

We don’t want to be rejected.

We want to connect.

So, how do you tolerate the discomfort that sometimes comes with putting yourself out there when you’re in business for yourself?

I’ve put together a couple of ideas of things to try, when you’re feeling overexposed, shy, or you’re struggling to get the courage to go out and make those connections.

Make friends with your monsters.

monster masksI’ve written about this in the Fill Your Practice Without a Fight ebook.

We all struggle with practice-eating monsters of one kind or another.

So if you’re holding back blog posts because of perfectionism, make a note of that.

If self-doubt is chewing at the corner of your to-do list, confront it.

If your inner critic is making it hard to do outreach activities, seek support.

Put the lights on, peek under the bed & see which monsters are there.

It’s much easier to deal with them when you can see them and name them.

Be playful.

Try to hold things lightly, if you can.

Maybe consider the worst case scenario—is it truly as earth-ending as you imagine it to be?

What if everything turns out okay, in the end? Or what if things actually go really, really well? Try to have a bias toward the positive.

The Yerkes Dodson law (remember that from Psych 101?) tells us that a little bit of anxiety is helpful for outcomes, but too much will hurt your performance.

Imagine benevolence.

smiley faces

You know what they say about assuming.  But it’s not always a bad thing.

Assume people are happy to hear from you.

Assume people watching your video are pleased with what you have to say.

Rather than worrying what others are thinking, assume the best.

Assume benevolence.

If it really matters, people will tell you if they’re unhappy with something.

Or you can ask for feedback when you’re ready to receive it.

In the meantime, don’t run circles around yourself wondering what others think.

Let them tell you.

Give yourself permission to retreat.

It’s better to do something mindfully, by choice, than to deny yourself what you need and go about sneaking it in other ways.

Let your choices be above board, without shame and without regret.

(We all need a break sometimes.)

If you choose to avoid certain marketing activities because they are too uncomfortable for you, own that.

Recognize how it shapes your business, acknowledge that reality, and make a plan for how to proceed.

Honor who you are.

buddhaI talk about this some in the ebook chapter “Good stretch, bad stretch” – to help you distinguish if you’re trying to challenge yourself constructively in business, or if you’re about to do some icky marketing that you’ll regret later.

There is some icky marketing stuff out there that’s gross by nearly everyone’s standards—but then there’s the stuff that maybe feels gross to you, even if it works for other people.

It’s subjective.

So tune in to who you are and respect your own boundaries.

Honor who you are.  Use your strengths.  Do things to grow your business that you can feel proud of, not ashamed of.

Develop alternatives.

If you put the lid on certain marketing tactics, you should be prepared to step up your efforts elsewhere.

Honoring who you are doesn’t mean avoiding marketing your practice, even if you’re an introvert.  If you do this, your business will suffer.

If you’re stuck in a desperate or procrastinate-y place with your business, you need to seek out support and take a serious look at what’s blocking your path.

Trade one tactic for another.

Size up your skill set & lean into what feels heartfelt and full of integrity.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASometimes you just need a good old-fashioned reframe.

You’re less likely to avoid something if you feel good about it.

Too many therapists think of all marketing as something gross or sales-y.

That mentality will block you from building your practice.

Think instead of how you’re sharing your message in order to help other people.

Clients can’t become your clients if they don’t know you exist.

Come from a place of earnestness & service, and marketing becomes much easier to do.

See if you can reframe certain marketing activities in a different light.


Marketing can be a kind & helpful public service, not something gross or dishonest.

I’m thinking of putting together some support for therapists who are introverts & in private practice.

There are a lot of us, and certain conventional marketing strategies can feel like such a poor fit!

Maybe there’s a dilemma you’re facing in your own practice-building journey.  Would you take a moment to write me and tell me about it?  I’ll see if I can put a blog post together about it (or maybe even a course, ebook, or video, depending on the topic).

I’m always looking for new ways to help, and I’d love to hear from you.

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  1. Hi Ann,

    I enjoyed reading your advice for us introverts. I can definitely relate. I just sent my first newsletter and I feel so nervous about it even though it’s only going to like 11 people! I’m embarrassed to ask people to sign up. I may forward a copy to friends and colleagues I think maybe interested, and see if they’ll join the list that way.

    Anyway thanks as always for the encouragement,


    • Ann

      Hi, Kambria! Thanks for taking the time to comment. Congratulations on sending out your first newsletter! I know how nerve-wracking that can be at first, being seen by that many people all at once. It does get easier with time, I promise! Yes, by all means, forward your newsletter to friends and colleagues. Sometimes people will sign up for your newsletter mailing list if you give away a little something of value, so they can size you up & what you have to offer. (That freebie called a “pink spoon” in some circles, like the little samples you get at Baskin-Robbins). And make sure your sign-up box is prominent on your website, too! I hope you’ll stop by to comment again soon, Kambria. Best of luck in growing your practice!