The Born Freelancer on Extroverts and Introverts in Freelancing
This series of posts by the Born Freelancer shares personal experiences and thoughts on issues relevant to freelancers. Have something to add to the conversation? Your input is welcome in the comments.
I was talking with some fellow freelancers the other day when the subject came up: who makes the better kind of freelancer – an extrovert or an introvert?
I thought it was an interesting question.
First, I guess it would be helpful to supply a working definition of our terms. These may not be scientifically exact but they are relevant for our purposes.
An introvert I would define as someone who is most content being on their own – thinking, reflecting, processing. Someone who is not necessarily shy but who recharges their energy when on their own and expends energy when in the presence of others. Someone who may enjoy socializing but who would rather get on with whatever concerns them on their own and in their own way.
An extrovert I would define as someone who thrives on and reenergizes through the company of others and actually loses energy when on their own. This is someone who requires constant external stimulation to feel alive. Someone who loves social interaction, new experiences and as much attention as possible.
So what elements are most advantageous for the freelancer? This might be a useful exercise for anyone thinking of freelancing as a career. Does your personality type match up to the freelancing life?
FREELANCING – INTROVERT ADVANTAGES
Overall, the advantage of the freelance life for the introvert is the fact that freelancers often work self-directed and on their own. There is rarely an office full of peers. The average freelancer can create their own daily schedule. Deadlines aside, their time is their own to pursue as they wish.
Most freelancers find themselves reading a vast quantity of material every day, either as research for pre-existing work or as fodder to inspire new ideas to pitch. Reading by definition is a solitary act. Most introverts would love the the idea of spending hours alone every day in their home or at the public library reading, reading, reading.
Unless you work with a creative partner, most of us write alone. Spending hours on your own, writing then rewriting and rerewriting is part of a normal day for most freelancers. Many of us don’t see daylight when on deadline. It isn’t for everyone. But for introverts this probably sounds ideal.
FREELANCING – INTROVERT DRAWBACKS
The hardest part of freelancing for most introverts is the necessity of self-promotion. Nobody else except you is going to get out there and network, shake hands, negotiate contracts and generally schmooze on your behalf – unless you acquire an agent to do so.
FREELANCING – EXTROVERT ADVANTAGES
The great advantage of being an extrovert and a freelancer is that you are the ideal personality type to get out and market yourself. It comes naturally to you to go to parties, meetings, and indeed any opportunity for social interaction and to use those situations to sell yourself and your services without hesitation or doubt. Extroverts also have the necessary personality to drive successful contract negotiations.
The need to excel at interviewing subjects for a story can make or break a freelancing career. The ability to appear to relate and put subjects at their ease and – with the clock ticking – extract relevant details probably comes most naturally to the extroverted.
This is where extroverts soar in the freelancing game. Any aspect of performance will see them maximize their potential for success. So if your freelancing career requires presenting your own words – or that of others – on camera or on mike or on stage, being an extrovert is an enormous advantage.
FREELANCING – EXTROVERT DRAWBACKS
Working on your own
I knew one extrovert who hated writing on her own. So she chose her freelance contract positions based on those gigs which allowed her to work in an office surrounding by co-workers. Indeed for her and many other extroverted personalities the notion of working alone for extended periods of time without frequent opportunities to socialize is akin to being sentenced to solitary confinement.
Round table round up
I would posit that most people are neither fully one nor the other personality type. Most of us are a composite of both and may even fluctuate between the two according to age and circumstances.
Of course this is wholly anecdotal, but I found that the vast majority of freelancers I spoke with felt that they possessed both introvert and extrovert qualities.
Those who were primarily writers felt their introvert qualities outweighed their extrovert qualities.
Those who were primarily performers, not surprisingly, felt their extrovert qualities outweighed their introvert qualities.
Those drawn to freelancing by their introvert qualities – writing, researching, etc. – also acknowledged the need for extrovert qualities to help function in the freelance world. Indeed most expressed the long held desire for a greater extrovert dimension as the aspects of freelancing requiring it (promotion, marketing, etc.) were potentially exhausting and even painful for them.
Those more drawn to freelancing by their extrovert qualities – performing or interacting more in public – also acknowledged the necessity for introvert qualities in freelancing (writing, researching, etc.) and indicated an interest to be better at them. But none I spoke with expressed any desire whatsoever to become more introverted.
The freelancing world encompasses a wide variety of jobs. Some will attract introverts and some will attract extroverts.
I would suggest that a combination of both extrovert and introvert qualities are needed to function optimally as a working freelancer. The actual balance will vary according to the individual and the specific type of freelancing career.
Those who are more introverted may find aspects of the job requiring extrovert characteristics to be exhausting and even painful. If they cannot cope they might consider finding an agent or creative partner with more outgoing traits to balance their introversion.
Those who are more extroverted may find the aspects of the job requiring introvert characteristics to be boring and may find ways to mitigate them by also collaborating with others more suited to that kind of work.
Based upon my own experience and observations, I would say a balance of around 60/40 in favour of introversion to be the most favourable personality type for a working freelancer who is primarily a writer.
This ratio enables a freelancer to feel happy working alone, to be independent, and to follow their own dreams; but also allows for the inclusion of enough extrovert abilities and skills to navigate the marketing, presentation and real world rigors that a freelancing career requires.
For a primarily performer freelancer, I’d argue for the same ratio but in reverse: 60/40 in favour of extrovert qualities. This gives the freelancer the extrovert’s edge in performance but still enough introvert qualities to withstand the frequent solitariness of the freelancing life.
So what about you. How do you self-identify? What personality qualities serve you best as a freelancer? Do you believe that extroverts or introverts are happier or more successful as freelancers? Please let us know in the comments below.