This is a guest post by Amy Boyington.
I’ll readily admit that I’m an introvert and it’s one of the most prominent factors in my decision to become a freelancer. I had this idea in my head that I’d work alone in my office, happily communicating with clients and team members over emails and Slack messages, typing away the rest of the day without needing to worry about phone chats or group meetings.
What I learned after becoming a freelancer, though, was how un-introverted the job really is! There are so many social components to freelancing that you might not be prepared for mentally or emotionally.
You can make it work, though, (I’m proof!) if you want it badly enough, but you need to go in as prepared as possible. In fact, being an introvert can work to your advantage once you realize your hidden strengths. Here’s how to work with your introverted quirks to succeed in your freelancing career:
Problem 1: Finding and Communicating with Clients as an Introvert
Not to burst your bubble, but you won’t make it far as a freelancer if you’re not willing to hop on the occasional phone call, video chat over web conferencing software, or send numerous messages back and forth to land clients. Communication is vital as a freelancer, but it’s enough to carry an introvert’s anxiety through the roof. How do you mesh the two?
****You practice.**** The first time I scheduled a phone call with a potential client, I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown. I kept thinking the worst: "What if I sound nervous on the phone? What if I forget everything I want to say? This client is going to HATE me!"
I grabbed a notebook and started jotting down information, like things I wanted to remember about the client’s business and ideas I had to help it grow. Then, I role-played the phone call the way I thought it might go, writing down any new questions and answers I thought of during the mock call.
The call was successful and I'm still working with that client two years later. As an introvert, your social anxiety can be the kick in the pants you need to prepare for some of the scariest parts of being a freelancer. It forced me to practice (and practice, and practice…) the call before I got on the phone, which helped me sound more at ease and in control during the call, even though I was still a bundle of nerves.
Remember: faking your calmness is always okay if you come across sincere! No one needs to know about the knots in your stomach.
Problem 2: Collaborating with Others
Introverts generally prefer working alone, which is why freelancing seems like such an ideal career. Most of the time you might be solo, but freelancing usually requires a reasonable amount of networking and collaboration to make everything go smoothly.
For example, several of my clients have other freelancers they work with for different parts of their projects. We all need to occasionally communicate with each other to make sure each part of the process gets finished. I also regularly connect with other freelancers in Facebook groups and on LinkedIn to help grow my network; this comes in handy when they might have projects to pass onto others.
Most introverts can get straight to the point when they communicate rather than dragging a conversation out for longer than needed. Use this skill to your advantage!
Do you have an upcoming group meeting? Jot down essential talking points beforehand so that you can communicate what you need to effectively. Are you sending connection requests on LinkedIn? There’s no need to send long-winded messages; let the person know what you do and why you’d like to connect. Short and straightforward communication is not only best for you, but it’s also an effective strategy for networking.
You might also want to join a few Facebook groups for freelancers. Spend time browsing questions and offering your two cents where you feel comfortable. Over time, you’ll get to know a few people and will likely feel more at ease helping others and asking questions.
Problem 3: Promoting Yourself
Marketing yourself as a professional in your industry will be an essential part of building your business. However, the thought of putting yourself out there and touting your skills is probably enough to send chills down your spine.
No introvert likes to be the center of attention, but when you promote yourself, you’re basically putting yourself front-and-center for potential clients to take notice.
The thing is, when you have dry spells in your business, you’ll end up with even more anxiety related to your business, making it even more challenging to focus on picking up clients. The trick is to get into a marketing groove to consistently build your business instead of hitting extreme highs and lows that will lead you on a roller coaster ride you never wanted to be on.
Introverts have an uncanny ability to focus when they’re alone. That’s when we feel comfortable, relaxed, and ready to take on the day. Use your alone time wisely to create a productive marketing strategy for yourself.
Schedule uninterrupted blocks of time to work on self-promotion, whether it’s publishing articles on your business blog or LinkedIn, sending out cold emails, or connecting with business owners in Facebook groups. You’ll use your best energy where it matters most to help scale your business.
Also, don’t forget to utilize social networking as a promotion tool. It’s much more behind-the-scenes than phone calls, speeches, and other marketing tactics, but it creates the potential for future clients to learn more about you.
Problem 4: Preventing Burnout
Introverts can be more susceptible to burnout than other freelancers, and here’s why: The social aspect of freelancing can be a double-edged sword. Freelancers get lonely. They go from having a boss and co-workers to working alone most days, and the lack of social interaction can lead to an overwhelming feeling of loneliness, or even depression. Introverts can feel that way, too. Although we crave alone time, being alone day after day can have adverse effects on the brain.
And then there’s what happens when we do need to communicate with others for work purposes: We feel so anxious about it that it physically and mentally wears us down. Is it possible to strike a social balance?
Yes, and it’s all in the time you make for yourself. Introverts need to have a good amount of solo time each day to recoup, and even more if they’ve had a lot of communication that day. After you get off a phone call, go take a walk. Spend half an hour reading a book or journaling. Connect with yourself in some way that relaxes your body and mind, so you can go back to work with a clear head.
Be sure to connect with others in ways you enjoy, though, like grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend or visiting a nursing home. It’s crucial not to isolate yourself in the name of introversion. Freelancing is a fulfilling and rewarding career, but to reap its benefits, you need to take care of yourself, not just your business.
Amy Boyington is a freelance writer and blog manager for lifestyle entrepreneurs and businesses. After working a few unfulfilling 9 to 5 jobs, she took it upon herself to create a career path that meshed with her family life. She now works with clients all over the world in a flexible freelance career that helps her be both a businesswoman and mom to her two children.