As an introvert who freelances, you can be more in control of the jobs you accept, as well as have plenty of alone time.
Back when I was in third grade, I lived and breathed candy. One day, it suddenly occurred to me that I could share the love: What if I sold candy to the kids at school? Not all of them lived scootering distance from a liquor store like I did. Nor did all of them have parents who would let them leave the house unsupervised. I was in a position to serve as a real bridge here. Kids had a need, and I could deliver. It was in that moment that Candyworks was born.
Every day after returning home from school, I’d clamp on my lime-green helmet decorated with animal stickers. Then I’d scooter down the block until I finally reached the corner store to stock up on a wide array of sugary snacks.
Sour Skittles were a top choice among everyone, from frequent to more sporadic customers. The CandyWorks Newsletter, printed on my parents’ 95 HP desk-jet printer, shared fun facts about candy, the history of common favorites, and raffle opportunities — “Buy five bags of Warheads and you’ll qualify to win a king-sized bag of Butterfinger BBs!”
Falling in Love With Freelancing
About a month in, however, word of my business endeavor got out and disgruntled parents began complaining to the principal. Candyworks may have dissolved for good that day, but my entrepreneurial spirit didn’t. The experience offered clues as to my independent nature, hinting that I was perhaps suited for the freelance life.
A few years later, I started delivering newspapers. As an adult, I started driving for Lyft, as well as working as a freelance writer and a medical interpreter (English/Spanish). When I think about it, I can see why I gravitated toward this freelance lifestyle as an introvert. In fact, many introverts choose to do gig work, certain Myers-Briggs Personality Types more so than others.
Are you an introvert considering freelance life? Here’s what you might gain from it, as well as some of its drawbacks.
3 Pros of the Freelance Lifestyle for Introverts
1. Freedom and flexibility — you can often choose your hours and your “office.”
Even though introverts generally love structure and routines, all of my early endeavors came from a part of me that eschewed rigid structure and didn’t function well under tight regulation. They came from a part of me that had always been somewhat restless; a bit of a lone wolf, a creative soul.
In fact, two years ago, The Myers-Briggs Company conducted an online survey of people in both gig and regular jobs. When gig workers were asked about the best, and worst, aspects of their roles, it was discovered that 67 percent mentioned autonomy, freedom, and flexibility as the best thing about their job vs. 3 percent of those in regular jobs who chose this.
Selling candy, I could establish my own prices and work on my own time. Driving Lyft, I could set my own hours, stop at a café to write, work when inspiration struck, and follow my mind and body’s natural rhythms. So I still have some structure, but it’s definitely more flexible than if I had a 9-to-5 job.
2. Variety — you get to try your hand at different jobs.
Lyft passengers come from all walks of life, not limited to any one socioeconomic, racial, or religious group. Driving different people in various cities and neighborhoods provided me with a wide demographic with varied perspectives. I also got the opportunity to engage with people I may otherwise never have come into contact with.
I’ve found similar variety as a medical interpreter. Within the same day, I’ll go from interpreting an in-person physical therapy session to a talk therapy appointment. Some days, I interpret at chronic pain centers, with classes ranging from meditation to nutrition to art and dance therapy. Other days, I interpret at psych wards.
As introverts, we tend to spend a lot of time inside our heads. Sometimes it’s nice to be taken out of them, and variety helps with this.
3. You can be more in control — which introverts prefer — as well as have plenty of alone time.
As a freelancer, every day, it’s up to me to take responsibility for myself and be in control, allocating a sufficient number of hours in the day I’ll need to work to meet my financial goals. This can be reassuring for introverts because it helps us feel like our life is in our own hands. We may be wary of handing over that responsibility to someone else, or resistant toward no longer owning our minutes.
Also, it’s (sadly) a given that extroverts are often more valued at the workplace than introverts. So this is more incentive for the introvert freelancer to be self-directed. Plus, many self-employment opportunities lend themselves to plenty of alone time, which is an introvert’s dream come true…
Now, what are some cons to consider when freelancing as an introvert?
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3 Cons of the Freelance Lifestyle for Introverts
1. You’re in charge of making your schedule (every day).
It’s up to you to bill and schedule clients. You’re in charge of paying your taxes. You’re in charge of keeping all your times, patients, and changing locations straight. This can require significant cognitive labor. If you’re not on top of things, stress can easily result.
Since the location of my work changes every day, one time I mixed up the addresses of two assignments. I ended up arriving very late to the appointment, which resulted in a lot of anxiety and stress for all parties involved.
That said, it’s really important to stay organized when self-employed (which happens to be an introvert strength).
2. Your salary is often unpredictable.
For my translation job, if students canceled a class more than 24 hours in advance (and they did, often), I didn’t get paid for it. This made keeping a budget difficult. For the most part, this hasn’t affected me too significantly. It generally works for me because the money I make supports my lifestyle.
Freelance life also involves some level of uncertainty on an ongoing basis. In the beginning of my time as a medical interpreter, I really had to snatch assignments up as soon as they were offered if I wanted to collect enough to cobble together a decent salary that week. Sometimes, even when I had responded 30 seconds after the offer came in, it had already been assigned. That uncertainty can be unnerving at times.
3. You’ll likely lack coworker community.
Even as an introvert, there’s something to be said for having the consistent presence of familiar faces on a regular basis. Some days, I do wish I had this.
In fact, a study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review discovered that the relationships you have at work might be even more important than you think. Across a variety of job sectors, they analyzed the relationship between how socially comfortable people were at work and their health.
In essence, if you and your coworkers really feel like a community and have a warm rapport, the more likely you’ll feel psychologically and physically healthy at work. Pretty amazing, right?
However, there are ways to fill this potential void if you’re craving the company of coworkers (even sparingly). You can get connected with people in your industry by attending conferences, connecting on LinkedIn, asking friends for introductions to people who do similar work, and so on.