Introverts get a bad rap. Just type “introvert” into Google and the first result you’ll get is from Oxford Dictionaries that define introverts as “a shy, reticent person.” Even worse, introverts are also considered anti-social, secretive and disengaged.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Marti Olsen has a better description of introverts in her book The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, Olsen writes that introversion is …” a type of temperament. It is not the same as shyness or having a withdrawn personality, and it is not pathological. It is also not something you can change. The strongest distinguishing characteristic of introverts is their energy source: Introverts draw energy from their internal world of ideas, emotions, and impressions. They are energy conservers. They can be easily overstimulated by the external world, experiencing the uncomfortable feeling of ‘too much’… they need to limit their social experiences so they don’t get drained.”
Extroverts, on the other hand, are, “…energised by the external world -- by activities, people, places, and things. They are energy spenders.”
Because of these differences, many assume that introverts aren’t cut-out to be successful freelancers. In reality, introversion and freelancing are a match made in heaven for the following reasons.
Introverts thrive in solitude.
Introverts not only crave their alone time, that’s also when they are able to do their best work. Unlike extroverts, introverts are able to brainstorm, draft, execute, and present projects completely on their own. They don’t need feedback from their team. They’re self-motivated. They don’t go stir-crazy after being alone for hours on-end in their home. They prefer to work in an environment that is free of distractions - even background music can have a negative impact on introverts and their cognitive performance.
And, it’s been found that solitude can increase creativity and efficiency.
As writer, cartoonist and musician Elizabeth Wagele put it perfectly: “We introverts make good friends for ourselves.''
Introverts can read social cues and listen.
Studies have found that introverts are actually pretty good at reading facial expressions. That may not only sound surprising, it could actually be an assist when building relationships with clients.
If you’re able to know what your clients are secretly thinking by reading their emotions from facial expressions and body language, you can better understand their anxieties, goals, and learn how to speak their language.
Besides reading nonverbal cues, introverts are excellent listeners. When discussing a project with a client, introverts listen, ask relevant questions, and reflect deeply so that they can understand the client’s approach or needs. These introverted behaviors make for more effective selling. Which is why introverts are better at sales than their extroverted counterparts.
Social media is empowering introverts.
Technology and social media have now given introverts a major edge when promoting and marketing their services since it fits their communication style. Introverts can now select when and where they want to communicate online. For example, if you’re more of a succinct communicator then Twitter could be your preferred social media channel. If you’re focused on only networking professionally, then you would use LinkedIn. If you don’t mind sharing more personal information, then make use of Facebook.
No wonder Adam Rifkin, an introverted computer engineer, was named as the best networker in Silicon Valley in 2011. Social media gave him a platform to effectively network based on his personality.
According to Adam, “Look for opportunities to do something for the other person, such as sharing knowledge or offering an introduction to someone that person might not know but would be interested in knowing. Do not be transactional about networking. Do not offer something because you want something in return. Instead, show a genuine interest in something you and the other person have in common.”
Freelancing allows introverts to control their career.
Finally, freelancing allows introverts to pave their own career paths in a way that aligns and embraces their introversion. As a freelancer, you get to work wherever you like, schedule your own hours, and accept gigs from the clients or projects that interest you. And, in most cases, when you do have met with a client, theses are typically one-on-one meetings and not a large conference room setting.
Introverts can promote and market themselves painlessly.
Even though you’re a talented freelancer, one of the most important aspects of this type of work is promoting and marketing your services. This may make introverts a little uneasy, but it’s a necessity.
There are ways that introverts can effectively promote and market themselves painlessly.
Change your words. If you’re really bothered by self-promotion and marketing, then change your marketing terms. Instead of ‘building a list,’ it’s ‘building a community’ and ‘networking’ becomes connecting with fellow freelancers who can support each other.
Choose the right setting. Instead of meeting a prospective at a conference or noisy bar, meet them in more intimate and quiet settings like a cafe or dinner.
Use online networking to your advantage. As mentioned above, social media allows you to select the right channel to network with others in a more one-on-one setting.
Let your website do the talking. Your website should contain a portfolio, description of services you provide, experience, and how you can help clients solve a problem.
Plan for time to recharge. For introverts, being surrounded by groups of people can be exhausting. If this is unavoidable, space out meetings and sessions so that you have some alone time to recharge. Additionally, being a freelancer means that you’re expected to be “on” 24/7. Set boundaries, like not responding to phone calls or emails after 8 pm, so that you can discount and recharge your batteries.