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You can be a successful creative entrepreneur and an introvert. It's all about finding the best way of working for your personality and your business goals, as I discuss today with Cat Rose.
In the intro, I talk about the importance of thinking long-term, both about your creative projects, but also about building assets and making sure your writing is not just about short-term cash flow.
Check out Dean Wesley Smith's article on day job thinking, his book, The Magic Bakery, and episode 332 on the importance of intellectual property for writers who want to make a sustainable income for years to come.
Today's show is sponsored by Draft2Digital, where you can get free ebook formatting, free distribution to multiple stores, and a host of other benefits. Get your free Author Marketing Guide at www.draft2digital.com/penn
Cat Rose is an author, podcaster, and creative coach. Her latest book is The Creative Introvert: How to Build a Business You Love on Your Terms.
You can listen above or on iTunes or your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below.
- The definition of an introvert and how it’s not the same as being shy
- Working freelance and finding clients before other streams of income begin to flow
- The importance of consistency in podcasting
- Tips on how to pitch to be on a podcast
- Surviving and thriving at networking events
- Reasons creatives fail at doing what they love
- Identifying what your pay-offs are to make the hard work worth it
You can find Cat Rose at TheCreativeIntrovert.com and on Twitter @CreativeIntro
Transcript of Interview with Cat Rose
Joanna: Cat Rose is an author, podcaster, and creative coach. Her latest book is The Creative Introvert: How to Build a Business You Love on Your Terms. Welcome, Cat.
Cat: Hi Joanna. Thanks for having me.
Joanna: It's great to have you on the show.
Tell us a bit more about you and how you got into writing.
Cat: Writing has actually always taken a backseat for me to visual forms of art. For most of my life, I've been into drawing. Illustration was my dream job for many years until I tried it and actually decided it was better as a hobby than a job for me personally.
It wasn't until I started blogging in 2013 that I really decided that I loved writing, at least non-fiction. I've never been much of a creative writer, but I basically started blogging because I was reading lots of them and I wanted to passive-aggressively argue with my boss about veganism. That's basically how I started blogging.
I blogged in the health and fitness world for maybe three years before I turned to writing about marketing and how to get your art out as a creative introvert. And I've been writing ever since.
Joanna: And you got into doing it full time because you weren't enjoying your job, right?
Tell us about how that happened.
Cat: That's it. My job was on paper brilliant. I was fresh out of university and I landed a job in the heart of the West End in London doing web design and a bit of marketing. But for whatever reason and it wasn't like the colleagues it wasn't necessarily the clients. It was just the environment, I worked out, that was not very conducive for me in terms of my productivity or my just general happiness.
It took a few years. I think I say maybe three years and this is all around the same time so I quit at a similar time as when I started blogging and started realizing that there is a whole online world and that freelancing and all of these different opportunities for people working from home for themselves was out there.
Joanna: So you found your environment not so happy. And you talk about that in the book.
Let's get into introversion. I talk about being an introvert a lot on this show, and I've been on your show talking about being an introvert.
Just in case anyone is unclear, can you define introvert and how it's different from being shy?
Cat: Sure. This is a big misconception that people had. And actually, that I had when somebody said to me I think you're an introvert.
I was like I'm not necessarily shy. Please explain more. And he did.
So the definition that I go on now is based on Carl Jung’s work and the Myers-Briggs and it's basically somebody who gets their energy from spending time alone and processes information more slowly and deeply.
There are other aspects to it, like we didn't get the same high dopamine hit, which is just like a happy brain chemical, that extroverts get from social interaction. So for this reason, a lot of introverts can come across as shy or aloof purely because we don't get like that happy, excited puppy effect from being around people.
Joanna: Which I substitute with alcohol.
Cat: Right. Yes. That works.
Joanna: Instant extroversion. And I would say I’ve used it to get that slightly more interested vibe. That's why I have a drink at events because I don't think I can get there otherwise.
That's the first time I've heard about the dopamine thing that's really interesting.
Cat: It is. And once I understood that I stopped beating myself up for being awkward in social situations and wanting to leave before some of my friends did.
Joanna: I think that's so important. And I think we've both been impacted by Susan Cain's book Quiet, which came out what must be five, six years ago. Maybe even more than that now. It definitely changed my life because I read that book and I realized oh, my goodness, that's me.
Cat: Exactly. And I think that was the first thing my friend pointed me to. And that's when I started looking around me and thinking, a lot of these creatives that I tried to meet up with – there was an illustrators meetup group that I used to attend – and again we were all relying on alcohol to socialize and to come across as normal humans.
I realized everyone here is probably an introvert. And that's what started the creative introvert blog essentially.
Joanna: Let's get into the business model because similar to you I found in the last day job I had I was working in an open-plan office with a couple of hundred people and ended up with migraines. I really suffered. I put on loads of weight, comfort eating all the time and I just couldn't stand that business model of a day job in an open-plan office.
Part of the reason I do what I do is because I'm an introvert. I like being on my own. Let's talk about your thoughts on creating a business that works for our personality type.
What should we keep and what should we throw away?
Cat: First of all, it's determining what your needs are. I say that this starts just in general with self-knowledge, which is not a new concept. People have been studying the self for a very long time.
But for me, this is things like what your values are and what drives you? What scares you and in what environment do you thrive? What time of day are you most productive?
There is loads of information about how you can work these things out online. But I say for a lot of people it's just experimenting, especially when I started freelancing. I knew it was a test. I knew that this whole working from home thing would be a test and there would be other challenges to it. And I played around with a lot of things like my schedule where I did work and stuff like that.
[From Joanna: Year 1 was a challenge for me! You can read about my lessons learned here.]
It's a constant process. This thing of working out what you need and how, when and how you are at your best. It can mean that there is a line that I realized that you can cross into self-obsession and the longer that I'm in the self-help space the more I'm seeing that is a real danger. But for the most part, I do think that most of us could do with a bit more self-awareness or self-inquiry.
Joanna: In that first year, what fears did you tackle and what did you experiment with that didn't work or ended up working?
Cat: One thing that I hear a lot of freelancers do and I was definitely victim to this is just working a bit too much in those early days or months. Even and working purely from home and sometimes purely from my bed and sometimes not getting out of my pajamas.
I realized fairly quickly that that was not conducive to my health or happiness either. So things like I need to get out of the house to do a bit of work. I remember we spoke about this before, but go into a coffee shop and doing a bit of work in a quiet corner of a coffee shop seems to be like particularly conducive to writing.
Joanna: Absolutely. I write my first drafts in a coffee shop but I have to wear noise-canceling [BOSE] headphones, so it's a bit both. It's tuning out the noise and I play rain and thunderstorms but equally, I still like being in an environment where there are people even though I'm not interacting with the people.
Cat: Yes. That's there. And as soon as a mom with a screaming baby comes in, I'm out. I'm tapping out. That's me done for the day.
But in general, it's having just the right level of stimulation. I think that's it. And also shifting your environment. I think a lot of creative people thrive with a level of change. I think if we're just in the same environment all day, which is like an office job right. That's one of the problems there. We seem to do better work. We change things up.
Joanna: You're an author but you're also a coach and you have clients. A lot of people when they leave a job need to do some kind of freelance work. So certainly, when I first left I did more speaking and freelance stuff because I didn't have the recurring income from other sources. That's getting out there and finding clients. And as an illustrator or a freelance writer that can be challenging for introverts.
What did you do in those early days to pay the bills?
Cat: A lot of it was continuing on web design but doing that in a freelance way and that wasn't easy. And I really must say it was because I left my previous job on good terms that occasionally they would throw me a bone. Basically, it's like hey we've got some overflow here some work, but that was a big thing for me. It was not turning something down because it wasn't as sexy as another job at that point.
I really just had to take everything I could get and some people will say you have to only take the work that you truly love. But really to pay the bills, I honestly had to do pretty much any crummy design job. It's only been very recently that I've stopped doing design work so that's always been the kind of bread and butter for me.
Joanna: I think you have to have that ramp down of one thing and ramp-up of another thing and that's something that people often don't recognize with the idea of a business model. It's not like, “Oh I quit my job and then I make 100 percent of my money from book sales” for example. There has to be a changeover period.
How long did it take you to shift into where you want to be?
Cat: There's always room for improvement and I mix things up a lot. Last year I was particularly focused with The Creative Introvert. But this year I've stopped creating more things. I don't feel the need to create a new course or a product.
Right now, for example, I’m continuing on with the League of Creative Introverts, which again has grown very slowly over the past I would say three years. But I still haven't hit my goal there either.
There are definitely a lot of areas which I'm still developing and in a lot of ways I'm trading my productivity with other lifestyle factors currently. I mentioned to you before we started recording that I'm traveling at the moment. So that has kind of taken a bit of a hit on my work output but has definitely upped the quality of life. So there's always a bit of a push and pull.
Joanna: I'm the same. That travel aspect to me is filling the creative well. So all the things that go into your brain while you're traveling and out there experiencing other things at some point you will bring back and put into your creative work, I'm sure, although you're probably too busy right now.
Cat: It's been interesting juggling things but that's another thing that I discovered is that I thrive with a lot of different projects on the go. And we talk about people being multi-passionate or having lots of different interests and I don't think that's a bad thing as long as you're getting something done in each of those areas.
Joanna: You have your book, The Creative Introvert, and one of the things that I get asked a lot is how do introverts do book marketing?
What have you found successful in marketing your book as an introvert?
Cat: I definitely even still struggle with self-promotion. This is something that I'm constantly learning about and I teach it partly as a way for me to drill it home myself and hold myself accountable. So I'm definitely not going to say that I find book marketing easy.
One thing that has helped me with this particular project is that I'm genuinely proud of the book and I can't say that about everything or even most things that I do. I think that's also a classic introvert thing or a creative thing is that we might be overly humble about something that we've done and that makes it harder to get the word out.
That's what I started to see is that a lot of us, we know what we have to do to tell people about our book. At the same time, we've got this other voice enough that is giving us all of these words that it's not good enough or whatever other excuses that we come up with.
For me it hasn't really been so much the tactics, it's really been reminding myself that this is something that I'm proud of and that I can tell people about it. So it's more like the inner work, this self-confidence thing, as cheesy as that sounds, and that's been helping me with marketing.
Joanna: Right. But people still want to know about the tactics.
Let's talk about your blog. How does blogging sell books for you?
Cat: My blog now is really more my podcast. I'm writing a blog and effectively reading it out and obviously having guests on as well.
That has definitely changed my business in the sense that before I started a podcast I wasn't really selling anything. And about six months into starting the podcast things started picking up and so I've really seen that the podcast has helped me massively.
I have a weekly newsletter so that's a great way of keeping in contact with people. And that's how I first started talking about the book. Something else I did when I first launched the book was I offered a six-month book club. So after the launch, we've been sitting down every month to talk about a different part of the book.
Definitely, when it came to the launch I was trying to encourage people to get those preorders in. And I think that definitely helped.
Joanna: How did you publish it? Is it traditionally published or self-published?
Cat: Self-published. And that was an interesting experience as well. I remember thinking if nothing comes of this at least I've learned the process of getting a book on Amazon, which was interesting.
Joanna: Any lessons learned from that, for people listening who might not have done one yet?
Cat: Don't give up if you get frustrated. Because I definitely did. I thought I'd be fine because I've got a bit of a background with book design and using software. But I struggled a lot with.
Little formatting problems and stuff like that so, honestly, I was trying to find information about that. I really don't think it's a great user-friendly service at the moment. I don't know what you think about that.
Joanna: I pay a designer to do it to do my print design. So I didn't do that but I just do the uploading. So I think you can make it simpler for yourself but because you're also a designer that's probably it and you do you have a lovely design for the book. I think it's really good. But I wouldn't recommend most people do design themselves right.
Cat: Right. And just I guess like figuring out how things work with Kindle Direct Publishing. KDP. I feel like getting your head around that and asking for help if you need to, a lot, I think is a good piece of advice.
Joanna: It's interesting because, of course, you have a blog. You have a podcast. You do illustration and software. You've obviously learned these new skills over time. Coming back to podcasting, for example, many people are scared of podcasting because actually it's got just as much of a learning curve as say self-publishing.
Any tips for podcasting successfully?
Cat: For sure at the beginning, have a plan. Have at least 10 episodes planned or under your belt because I see a lot of podcasts start and peter out or they're not consistent. I've been pretty consistent from the get-go. I've had one a week at least since I started.
And something else I let myself off the hook for was not have to speak off the cuff because as an introvert I really struggle with that. So having notes really helps for even those first few episodes. They were existing blog posts that I basically read aloud. So definitely make it easy for yourself as much as possible.
Editing is something that I still do and I'm not quite sure why because I could easily hand that off to somebody else but it's again it's picking out the parts of podcasting that are not in your wheelhouse and trying to hire out. Sites like Upwork have been really helpful for odd bits like that.
Joanna: Absolutely. I still get heart palpitations before I call someone. I am not someone who enjoys calling. And also I don't like pitching and in fact, you helped me with some pitching for a while.
Why do introverts struggle with pitching and what are some tips if listeners would like to get on podcasts than would start their own.
Any tips for pitching for your podcast interview?
Cat: I've learned definitely how not to pitch from the kind of pitches I receive myself. And I'm sure you've received hundreds and hundreds of pitches that are not particularly thoughtful.
So I think in the first place really get to know and love the podcasts that you're pitching. That does help. I think a lot of people who write to me won't have used my name or call me something strange like, ‘Hey team the creative introvert’. I'm like oh come on it's clear that I'm not a team.
But anyway, it's lots of little things like that make it easy for the host.
Something that I do is I will bullet point the speaking points that I can speak about and try to match them with your podcast hosts and their show and what you think that they might need or find useful or at least what their audience would.
Definitely take your time with that and that doesn't mean you can't have a template. Have a very, very short bio, like one paragraph, that you might want to put that at the of the end of the pitch but always start with something personal.
As a rule of thumb in terms of the mindset around that, because I think that's the other part. Like I said, you can write an email but actually, hitting send is another matter. So it's forgetting about the reply or even there is any kind of response really because in a lot of cases you won't get one.
So preparing for that in advance and seeing it. I think there was a game I used to play with myself that I learned from somebody else which is how many nos can I collect today?
Without being linked too negative about it, it's like just go for it without focusing too much on getting the answer that you want. Just try to send those e-mails. And at the same time don't overwhelm yourself. I've definitely learned that it's better to send one or two a day rather than try to do you like 20 in one day.
Joanna: It’s funny because I feel like half the time I start things myself because I don’t want to pitch. So I'll start a podcast myself and then eventually people would just pitch me and that's essentially what has happened for me is generally I get pitched to be on podcasts or to go and speak without having to do that.
And I guess in the same way with self-publishing you don't have to get rejected by anyone because you're just in control of your own stuff.
What did you did mention? The League of Creative Introverts?
Joanna: Community is really important. But I find networking conferences are absolutely exhausting, but also necessary in some way. So let's just talk about networking in person or events in person.
What can introverts do to network without suffering too much?
Cat: Stay home. No, I'm kidding!
First of all, it's getting clear on why you want to go to the event in the first place. I think a lot of us if we don't really see the purpose of it, it's really hard to remind ourselves why we're going through that, and the anxiety beforehand.
But get your reasons why. If there's something that you want to talk about to people or specific people that you want to meet, that's all going to be a lot more helpful. And in advance try to find out as much as you can so you know what to expect.
This is something that has really helped me because it's not necessarily related to introversion but I think a lot of us do suffer from some level of social anxiety. And part of that is just the uncertainty of what's this event going to be like. So if you can get in touch with the organizer and ask any questions that you have in advance, do that.
But the other thing that I found helpful is if you can find out people who are attending, which I'm finding is happening more and more. I used to sign up for events on Eventbrite and other services. And often you can get in touch with attendees.
The advantage of that is that you'll have somebody to talk to that you can kind of scope out when you first get to the conference. And this happened to me, recently, I was put on a room sharing list at a big conference and that was really great because my roommate was awesome and we were a tag team for the conference, which really helped me.
And then if you to get yourself into a conversation with somebody who you really wanted to speak to, I would recommend focusing your attention and your energy on them. Asking good questions, rather than stressing out about pitching them, so that way you can basically make it about them. I think that really goes a long way, even subconsciously, when you're talking to somebody if you were the one doing a lot of listening, which a lot of introverts are more comfortable with. That's not a bad thing. And then you can follow up with them the next day. Definitely, do that.
Joanna: And I’d probably add two more things. One is set intentions in writing. Everyone's a writer on the show, so writing down what you want to achieve from that event. Because I feel like as our introvert brains go deep in one area and the overstimulation can make it really hard. So if you write down your intentions, that will help you tune out the things that don't serve you.
And obviously, be open to serendipity. For example, I will make sure that the sessions I go to are about working towards my intention for it.
Cat: Yes, and that's what I meant with getting clear on why you're going. I love the idea of writing it down because that makes it more real, doesn't it?
Joanna: And I think there I'm almost writing it as an affirmation. I write in that positive forward-thinking way and I use gratitude as well. I don't often talk about this, actually, but I'll say “thank you for the opportunity to meet someone who will help me do x.” And really just look at it that way.
Cat: So you’re being grateful before the thing has happened.
Joanna: Yes. So that is an affirmation.
Cat: I really love the touching on gratitude. That sounds pretty helpful.
Joanna: It really is and I also do that before I speak in public. I've talked about that in my book on Public Speaking but I write a whole page of thank yous that everything's going really well and thank you that people really enjoy.
Cat: Thank you for the standing ovation.
Joanna: Yes. Thank you for all the money that's going to arrive. It's not a prayer in that way, it's just an affirmation.
But then the other more practical thing that you mentioned was the guest list. I will often use Twitter or a Twitter hashtag. There's usually a Twitter hashtag for an event and if you find people's Twitter handles in advance.
First of all, you can have a look at their website, see what they're up to. And you can potentially tweet them beforehand. I really like that because it means people might come up to me actually and say oh I saw you on Twitter and I see what you. So as an introvert I much prefer people coming up to me, rather than me going up to other people.
Cat: Yes. And it's like having an excuse for us to talk to somebody. I think a lot of us struggle with that. That first introduction. But with Twitter or however you found somebody you've got a hook, or you've got something to say.
Joanna: I think the other thing about introverts, apparently, is that we don't like small talk, which is really funny and only when I read ‘Quiet’ by Susan Can I discovered that. I found myself talking to people about things like have they done their will. The first conversation I've ever had with someone and it’s about death. Okay. You need to get some small talk going.
If you know what people do beforehand, then you have a topic that is more interesting than just small talk.
Cat: Well, that's it. Small talk is painful and the quicker I can get to the juicy stuff the better.
Joanna: On your website, as well as in the book, you have a thing about many creatives fail to make a living doing what they love for various reasons.
What are some of these reasons that creatives fail?
Cat: I feel like there are many but one that springs to mind is persistence because it's hard. If everyone could make a living doing what they love they would but naturally we won't love every single thing we do. And honestly, I don't love every part of my business.
But the payoff has to be worth the challenge. So for me, it's that feeling I get if I do go on stage that's worth the anxiety beforehand and I think a lot of people don't get to the point where they've identified what that payoff is.
And again, going back to what I was saying about self-knowledge. You can work these things out, it just takes some experimentation and that takes persistence.
So keeping going I think is one of the hardest parts of it really.
Through experimenting, I found a bunch of things that I loved, which I wouldn't have found if I just thought I'm building a pet portrait business. That was the only way I could have a business I loved. It turns out that that wasn't what brought me joy and that these really unexpected things brought me joy like podcasting.
Joanna: You talk about building a business you love. So yes have a life you love, but the fact of a business is, as you say, there are things that you won't love.
I've been going through my year-end with my accountant and I love money but and I love working out all of that. But I don't particularly love going through all the paperwork and finding all the receipts and all of that kind of thing.
I feel like one of the reasons that creatives fail is because they don't do the stuff that is not creative and they feel that if you can have a creative business or creative life then you shouldn't be doing that type of thing or working out how to use KDP or going through the frustration of something technical because that's not creative.
Do you think it's not learning that practical stuff?
Cat: Completely. When I was banging my head against the wall with KDP, I had to keep reminding myself of what would be the end result, which would be having published my first book all by myself, which I really I could kind of get into that feeling place and be like yes I want this. This is worth it.
So that’s what I mean about getting to the nub and the thing that is bigger than the struggle and reminding yourself of that.
Joanna: Tell us about what your business looks like right now.
What business model do you have and what are your multiple streams of income?
Cat: The League of Creative Introverts is the online membership community. This is a monthly paid subscription so that's the core of the creative introvert.
Then I've got the coaching side of things; so that's one-to-one conversations with people.
And I sell a few products like T-shirts other designs are using Red Bubble which there could be a better solution to that but Red Bubble is doing fine right now for me.
And then there's the book. As for speaking, that's like as and when I can. I haven't been doing much of that in the recent months but I'm still getting my chops up with that. But ultimately, I would like to be doing the paid speaking rounds and workshops.
Workshops was something that I started doing when I moved out of London and I moved to Brighton and that community seemed really conducive to kind of holding workshops and getting involved there as well.
Joanna: That's fantastic. And I think so often again creatives fail because they think that they will just do the one thing. They'll just have the one book or they'll be an illustrator and they won't have to do different things but I love that you're doing multiple things right now.
You've also got plans for future stuff, which is great because I feel like there are a lot of introverts speakers, by the way, because it's actually easier being on the stage than it is in a crowd.
Cat: Yes. 100 percent.
Joanna: Where can people find your book and everything you do online?
Cat: Everything is at TheCreativeIntrovert.com. And if you do search for the creative introvert on Amazon. That's pretty much where I'm selling it now, unfortunately. I'd love to have it in stores but not yet.
Say hello to me on Twitter or Instagram @CreativeIntro.
Joanna: Fantastic. Thanks so much for your time Kat. That was great.
Cat: Thanks for speaking to me.
Lee Evie says
Oh Joanna, what you said at the beginning of this podcast resonated SO MUCH with me that I had to stop playing it and come here to comment.
You said at your day job you sat there thinking if you could only dedicate all that time to your own brand, to building your own assets, instead of another company’s…. I am feeling exactly the same way right at this exact moment at my desk listening to you as I build someone else’s brand all day.
I am at the beginning of my self publishing journey, I am trying to build everything slowly and strategically for the long term (using all your advice) and still working at my day job in the meantime as I hope so very badly that I can make this work and find my own audience for my fiction one day.
It is so very frustrating to spend the bulk of my time building a brand for another company with my hard work, but it makes me feel so encouraged to hear you felt the exact same way before you left your job and made your dreams come true.
Thank you for your podcast and all your weekly advice. Honestly this will sounds cheesy, but you are my hero. Your endless optimism and positive attitude make me believe that if I work hard enough I can get myself out of my awful day job and do something better with my life.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks so much, Lee. I’m glad it resonated 🙂
I know it can be done, as I have done it — but it does take time in order to be sustainable. I worked 2006 – 2011 in my day job while working on this business in the early mornings, evenings and weekends, but have never gone back. You’ll get there!
Nothing like starting off my day reading and learning about something cool. Your blog post accentuated my breakfast perfectly! Thank you 🙂
Jason Youngman says
Been somewhat of a dilettante for many of year. Jumping around with the gusto of a seasonal circus clown. Thankfully the sheer act of writing is a reward in and of itself. Nevertheless my desire to bring more fire to my art grows as though winter is coming. My want has been ignited somewhere along the way it seems. In fact this is my first podcast on writing to have naturally carried me along from beginning to end without any effort or need to press pause. It was as though an old forgotten room in the basement suddenly opened providing intel on the property’s former owner. So in a way you have created new imaginal space within me by which to extend my thought freely. To want something without exercising intention, that is ‘tending’ towards some actual thing, is no different from wishing. Therefore I feel as though the candle is blown out, the cake is served and now it’s time to make my wish real. Much gratitude Joanna for your words of wisdom and a warm thank you to Cat for her contribution. Surely the magic between you two makes the faeries quiver. Furthermore your style of narration is nothing shy of sensational. Even if that was your only talent, the world would be all that more wonderful. More words to follow should you continue to reflect the sun’s light as the luminous moon that you are. Lots of love, JY
My heart goes out to all the introverts out there in the world. I honestly don’t think I have an introverted bone in my body.
How can we extroverts help? What is the one thing you wish we knew, and would do?
Joanna Penn says
We are very happy 🙂 I love being an introvert! It is my super-power as a writer.
As an extrovert, the main thing to do is allow people to be introverts and not judge us for being quiet or wanting to be alone.