Introverts love working alone, which is why freelancing can be perfect for them.
Working a standard 9-to-5 job can be tough on introverts; although the consistency is nice, the constant interactions, distractions, and emotional labor are not as nice.
As you may know, most introverts prefer plenty of alone time to think things through — like that work project — versus suddenly being put on the spot in a meeting. Plus, in an office setting, coworkers may often knock on your door or want to make small talk, both of which tend to drain introverts.
But freelancing allows introverts to get more of their coveted alone time, control their own space, and shape their working lives around their character. However, it also requires them to develop some new skills, which will help them excel as freelancers.
The following ideas are taken from my new book, The Freelance Introvert, available now in paperback and ebook from Amazon.
7 Skills That Freelance Introverts Should Learn
1. Set new career and monetary goals
When you’re starting out as a freelancer, you need to overcome your natural caution and set ambitious new targets for yourself. As an introvert, you may be less inclined to do so, but it’s important to get clear on what you want from freelance life. Otherwise, you’re embarking on a journey without knowing the destination.
The work you choose doesn’t have to fit into a job description. You can mix work types and combine all your skills to build a whole new role. For example, if you were working as an event planner and are interested in cooking, you could start a pop-up catering business that combines your skills and also allows you to spend more time alone.
It’s the same with money. Whatever you were paid before doesn’t necessarily reflect what you’re worth as a freelancer. You can, and should, set new financial goals — aim high.
2. Have a personal pitch ready
When you’re a natural wallflower, blowing your own trumpet just feels … wrong. But unless you’re remarkably lucky with referrals, you will have to get used to self-promotion.
Your personal pitch can really help. It’s simply a short written statement of what you do, who you work for, and the value you offer. For instance, I give this example in my book:
I’m a freelance web developer who builds beautiful, hardworking websites for small business owners. If you want to reach new customers and make sales online, I can help. I believe every organization can benefit from great design, and I want to use my skill to help your business succeed.
Your pitch can form the basis of many of your marketing activities, from writing your website’s home page to creating social media profiles.
Once you’ve memorized it, it can also be an amulet that protects you when venturing out to networking events. Instead of anxiously clamming up, or frantically overtalking, you can just use your pitch.
The same goes for online networking — you can add your pitch to the personalized messages you send to prospective clients.
3. Set and enforce boundaries
One of the hazards of freelancing is that your work may seep into the rest of your life. If you’re not careful, you start working, or thinking about work, more than you should. Then you get stressed and overtired — introverts tend to get overstimulated easily — and that leads to substandard work.
To prevent that, you need to establish three types of boundaries around your work.
- Physical: Have a clearly defined work area that you leave behind at the end of the day. If you work from home, it should be far from the busiest area — usually the kitchen.
- Temporal: Keep regular hours, and don’t work evenings or weekends without a good reason. Whatever time you borrow from yourself, you’ll surely have to pay back — with interest.
- Psychological: As much as possible, don’t think about work unless you’re actually working. This is particularly common among introverts, who tend to turn inward, overthink, and sit with problems. When you notice thoughts of work arising, acknowledge them, then gently “put them down” and choose to think about something else.
4. Work alone, but don’t go it alone
You may like to work alone, but you’ll still need a network of friends and contacts who can offer you support and encouragement.
Friends and family are the most obvious candidates. However, they may not have full insight into your situation — so give them a break if they can’t relate to every detail of your new freelance life.
If you’re coming to freelancing from an in-house role, your former colleagues could be a great source of support — or even paid work.
And don’t forget other freelancers! Even if they’re technically your competitors, you might be surprised at how much valuable knowledge and advice they’ll be happy to offer. And, when you approach them, your personal pitch will come in handy.
5. Learn to say no
As a freelancer, you can pick and choose your clients — right?
It sounds fine and dandy in theory. But when it comes time to actually turn down work, you’ll realize how hard it can be. Saying no is a real skill — and one that every freelancer needs. And since some introverts are people-pleasers, they may find it particularly difficult.
When someone asks you to do some work, it’s like being invited to their party. Obviously, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. But that doesn’t mean that turning them down will be easy or consequence-free.
Sometimes, turning down work is the right thing to do. But when you do it, you swap your positive feelings about the project (like excitement) for negative ones (regret, guilt, or self-reproach). For introverts, who tend to hang onto valued relationships, it can feel like stepping off a cliff.
So, to avoid those bad feelings, some freelancers simply say yes to everything. But in their eagerness to please, they end up taking on too much, letting people down, and ultimately burning themselves out.
That’s why saying no is vital to safeguard your business, the quality of your service, and, ultimately, your own wellbeing.
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6. Know your explanatory style
When significant events happen, different people interpret the causes in different ways, depending on their explanatory style.
If your explanatory style is optimistic, you tend to blame others for negative events and take credit for good ones. You also assume that negative situations will be temporary, and that they only relate to certain things.
If you have a pessimistic explanatory style, it’s the other way around. You often blame bad events on yourself, and give all the credit for good ones to other people. You tend to think that negative situations will be around forever, and that they’ll affect everything.
Often, extroverts have an optimistic explanatory style for positive outcomes, while introverts may blame themselves when things go wrong — even when they’re not really their fault.
Once you’re aware of your explanatory style, you can aim to change it. Notice your negative thoughts and self-talk around the big events of your freelance life. That means challenges like tough price negotiations or criticism, but also nice things, like positive feedback. Are you taking too much blame for the bad and shrugging off the good?
7. Choose positive beliefs
When it comes down to it, a freelancer is always alone — you are the captain of the ship, and no one else can truly understand what you’re going through.
Introverts usually love their alone time and independence, but can still struggle with the emotions that come with it. That’s why it’s so important to choose positive, supportive beliefs.
More precisely, you need to pick up beliefs when they’re useful and put them down when they’re not. It’s not about living in a fantasy — just choosing interpretations that work for you.
For example, consider the belief that “everything happens for a reason.” It can help you identify the learning in every situation, good and bad. But if it tips over into self-blaming (because of your explanatory style), it’s time to let it go.
Tips on How to Get Started
When you first start out as a freelancer, it can be hard to see where your work and clients will come from. Here are a few tips on getting started:
- Work for people you already know: former colleagues, friends, family members, and so on
- Seek referrals from other freelancers
- Partner with other freelancers who have complementary skill sets
- Work with a firm or agency
- List yourself in an online directory
- Use direct marketing, where you introduce yourself through email or flyers
- Consider attending networking events or networking online
- Share your work, thoughts, or expertise (through a blog or social media) to build your profile and attract more clients
- Get new enquiries from website visitors
Obviously, some of these techniques will hold more appeal for introverts than others. So aim for a marketing mix that you find sustainable — just do one or two things every day, or every week, to keep yourself moving forward. In no time, you’ll excel as a freelancer.
You might like:
- 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Quitting Your Job to Freelance
- I Found the Perfect Introvert Job
- These Are the Ideal Careers for Each Introverted Myers-Briggs Type
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