How do you network and grow your business when you have social anxiety?

I am an entrepreneur because I fail as an employee. I have been working as an online freelancer for nearly five years, and an online-based entrepreneur for the last 6 months. I provide content and consulting services. For the last year I have been unemployed and making just about poverty level for my family size (which is higher than I ever made as an employee) working from home. My income is about 50% from freelancing and 50% from my businesses.

Since I have been able to survive for a year I would like to grow my business into something viable. Recently, I realized that I would need to network if I was going to grow my business.. since advertising was doing nothing for me. I have a fairly decent online network and do well communicating from behind my screen, but I have found that face to face networking (or at least video) is what’s needed nowadays to seal the deal…

Here’s the problem. I have severe anxiety when speaking to people. I become tongue tied, lose my thoughts, and start to sweat. I’m not shy. I even have trouble doing videos (if it involves talking about myself). I’ve tried going to networking events, but consider it a success if I manage to not vomit while talking. Needless to say, I stumble on my words, and try to clean it up later with an email. I didn’t used to have this problem – it is has been part of a developing medical problem that costs me traditional work. I am not looking for medical advice.. that’s a whole other issue!

My questions are:

  • Is viable networking through the internet dead
  • Should I focus on social media and save up for an advertising budget
  • Could in-person networking actually be hurting me

I am perfectly fine with not talking to people, but I am afraid that my business will not survive if I don’t. Can I truly run a business without opening my mouth?

Thanks for any help.

  • We all have weaknesses and the key to success is to do something where there is a synergy between what you know the best. This way your weakness won’t matter.

    In your case, if you have social anxiety, you need to build a business which sells cheap product or service to many people rather than sell expensive one to a few. This way your social skills won’t matter because your customers won’t expect to talk to you.

    What you can do? You didn’t say what you are good at…

  • I’ve found good work through blogging. I’m shy and have trouble making sales call but the content of my blog shows I know what I’m talking about so I get business that way. So you “can” get business without networking of you focus on a niche and create content for it.

    I’m not making a ton of money though so i don’t know how scalable it is though I make a decent living.

  • Please answer this question: Are you a heavy drinker ?

    If you follow up on emails and try to sort out what you’ve said
    this shows insecurity. To resolve this you’ll have to face some real
    down and dirty issues here. Especially if it has to do with mingling and
    networking with human beings. Remember this one phrase.

    “People won’t always remember what you say, but they’ll remember how you

    made them feel”..

    If you have to become the best listener in the world this holds more value than

    fumbling for words and not being confident.. I only give this advice because

    I’ve been there where you’re at .I also bring up the alcohol because I’m a recovering alcoholic ,and even the small benders I used to go on during the weekends brought on anxiety during the week, because my mind and body were withdrawing from the poison I put in my mind all weekend.

    Final thoughts would be , just go into these networking events and don’t put any pressure on yourself. if you have to be stealthy and have the coolest business card or pamphlet and just hand it to someone , this holds more value than coming off fidgety or nervous. Nobody wants to do business with a nervous person.this is just how society operates. You’re better off developing a no care attitude than ” I care about every little detail ” attitude. Just go in there and gather your information. .. Wire your mind that there’s nothing in these networking events that can harm you. If you get asked to plug your product, just say I’m not prepared , or you’re just eves dropping. Be cool. I’ve over come what you’re talking about by just not caring so much about all the details and hang out and enjoy being in the same room with people you have a lot in common with. Repetition and re-wiring your mind –with mini successes is how you over come this. Not running home and squaring things up over email. Get your message out in a creative way. If it has to be a card or pamphlet that’s fine.

    If you’re a wizard behind the monitor.. Be known as the quiet -shy wizard . Not everyone can be Gary Vaynerchuk. Good luck ..Hope I wasn’t too brash … Get out there and not care so much. Wing it. and Enjoy./

  • Social anxiety is the most common and treatable anxiety disorder. For now, I would suggest you continue your “non-social” work and get treatment. (counseling, possible medication). You do not want to be the helpless victim of something that you can manage.

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