HSPs have an arsenal of traits that make them ideal to be their own boss, like the way they connect with people.
“Stop overanalyzing and just do it!”
“Why do you need to worry about every little detail?”
“Don’t take it so personally.”
I was no stranger to hearing statements like these at work (before I went off and started my own business). And each time, I felt confused. Why did I take so much time and go through so many emotions to do things that seemed so easy for others? Now that I know what it means to be a highly sensitive person (HSP), I understand why.
As a result, I:
- prepared for several years, doing consulting work on the side before making the leap to go full-time in my business
- felt called to work with coaches and join masterminds (instead of jumping in and trying to figure it all out on my own)
- felt conflicted about following many of the best practices taught by online business experts
- knew it was important for me to learn how to market my business and sell my services with integrity
Even though it took me several years, I’m proud of how I prepared emotionally, mentally, and financially to take the leap. In fact, it’s quite indicative of my highly sensitive nature.
If you haven’t heard the term “HSP” before, it’s a biological character trait that’s found in humans and animals alike. It’s completely normal — and at least 20 percent of the population is made up of HSPs.
What characterizes HSPs are their depth of processing information and awareness of subtle details, among other things. And, as an entrepreneur, I’ve found that there are powerful strengths in being an HSP, including a high degree of empathy, creativity, intuition, attention to detail, and the ability to form deep, lasting relationships.
But these strengths also come with challenges: like a loud inner critic, perfectionistic tendencies, loose boundaries, and emotional ups and downs that can take the roller coaster of starting a business to new extremes.
Luckily, I knew I was a highly sensitive person before I started my business. Even so, I was often hard on myself, thinking that I was too slow in getting things done, and wondering why I struggled to do certain things like everyone else I saw on social media (especially when it came to marketing & sales).
But the more I dug into the research on HSP’s, the more I realized that my sensitivity offered advantages that I wasn’t really harnessing. I was so focused on how the other 80 percent went about building their businesses that I could only see where my sensitivity was holding me back instead of how it propelled me forward. The more I slowed down to embrace and respect my sensitivity, the more successful I became at creating a business and lifestyle that allowed me to thrive.
With the right approach, your strengths as an HSP can make you successful when working for yourself, as well as enable you to feel grounded, balanced, and truly fulfilled in your day to day life. You may not realize that you have an arsenal of traits that are ideal for being your own boss, but I’m here to tell you that you do.
Why Sensitive People Excel as Business Owners
1. You thrive with meaningful work, autonomy, and flexibility.
The 9-to-5 grind, where fluorescent lights, open offices, and overbearing bosses were the norm, was a constant drain on your highly sensitive energy and productivity. And since HSPs pick up on small details in their environment and are easily overstimulated, their physical workspace can greatly impact their productivity.
You probably daydreamed about working in a room filled with natural light and no distractions, so you could focus and do your best work. You wished for the freedom to design your own schedule, where a leisurely morning or a walk in nature in the middle of the workday would be possible. (After all, our highly sensitive souls crave nature!)
Or maybe your previous job was filled with monotonous tasks, and you wanted more meaning in your day-to-day. Aside from deep meaning in your work, you sought deep meaning in your work relationships, too — when that’s missing, no amount of office perks, raises, or promotions can make up for it.
2. You go above and beyond for clients because of your tendency for perfectionism and people-pleasing (but beware of burnout).
The desire to be helpful and reliable can be a great motivator that fuels your drive in business. But it can quickly turn into your HSP Achilles heel in the form of people-pleasing and perfectionism if you’re not careful.
As a highly sensitive type, you might feel a particularly strong impulse to respond to emails late at night, pick up every phone call (even when you are out of the office or away from your desk at home), and never say no to new business (despite the fact that you’re already struggling to keep up with the clients you’ve got).
And if something isn’t going well in the business, it stings to your core — especially when it means letting someone down. HSPs have high emotional responses to criticism, which can lead you to feel like you’re running your business on the defense.
So while it’s definitely an HSP asset to try to please your clients as much as possible — and to try to do everything as perfectly as possible — it’s essential to create healthy boundaries in your business, too (which can be hard for HSPs). Otherwise, it can quickly lead to overcommitment and burnout — turning your own business into something even more suffocating than the 9-to5 you worked so hard to escape.
3. Referrals come naturally because you build trust with clients, colleagues, and friends.
You often notice details in your client relationships or projects that other people don’t, like small facial expressions, tension between coworkers, the mood of a room (even over Zoom), or a tiny error that may have massive implications down the line.
Because of your high degree of empathy and desire to create meaningful relationships, your clients can feel your care for their business, project, and themselves personally. They trust you to keep your word, and to always look out for their best interests — and they feel comfortable recommending you to others as a result.
That’s why referrals are often the biggest driver of new business and growth if you’re a self-employed highly sensitive person. And knowing how to capitalize on this (with integrity, of course) is essential to success.
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4. You are wired for empathy, which makes your approach to marketing and sales unique.
As an HSP business owner, your happy place is serving clients and working with your team, ideally one-on-one or in small groups.
And even though referrals tend to come naturally, that’s not always a consistent client attraction method. Without an employer bringing the clients to you, you face the uncomfortable (but very necessary) task of putting yourself out there in public (or, these days, online) to promote yourself and your business.
And navigating the sheer number and complexity of marketing and sales strategies can make you want to crawl into your HSP sanctuary in the middle of the day and never come out.
And because HSPs have a higher depth of processing, this means they process subtle details in a deeper way than most people (whether they know it or not). They often take more time to process information so that they can make sound decisions. That’s why it can be paralyzing for HSPs when there are too many options to choose from, or if many different voices are telling them to do different things (hello, social media!).
You don’t have to be a particularly sensitive person to notice that most marketing feels pushy, manipulative, and overhyped — and you know you don’t want your business to use those types of tactics. It goes against the very fabric of who you are: a caring, empathetic person who can’t help but foresee how your words will be received by the person on the other side. And yet, you also know that attracting new clients — in other words, doing marketing and sales — is an absolutely foundational part of success in business, so finding the right message and strategy is essential.
When I started my business, I quickly learned that my sensitivity made me great at building rapport with new clients — but it also brought up a lot of self-doubt and inner criticism, especially right before each sales call. But here’s the good news. Once I committed to finding a way to do marketing and sales to grow my business in a way that felt authentic (even if they stretch me beyond my comfort zone at times), I discovered that there are many effective strategies for HSPs to show up powerfully and attract new clients with confidence. Whether you promote yourself on social media, webinars, ads, or networking events, try a few strategies and implement the ones that work best for you.
When you recognize and embrace your highly sensitive nature as a business owner, not only will you be able to fulfill your own desire, but you’ll become the rare kind of leader who shows others what is possible by owning who they truly are.
If you’d like to learn how to attract clients you love and grow your business as a highly sensitive business owner, entrepreneur, or solopreneur, download my free Sales Call Ritual Guide.
Want to get one-on-one help from a trained therapist? We’ve personally used and recommend BetterHelp for therapy with real benefits for HSPs. It’s private, affordable, and takes place online. BONUS: As a Sensitive Refuge reader, you get 10% off your first month. Click here to learn more.
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