In many ways, freelance life is highly desirable for introverts. The comfort of working independently, freedom to cultivate a routine that facilitates energizing “deep work,” and ability to express ourselves in a chosen medium all make it attractive work. However, it’s not without its challenges; among the most notable is finding new work opportunities.
After years of building relationships and watching as fellow freelancers embark on the process, I’ve learned, and now want to share, tips to make the process easier and less draining.
Schedule time to dive deep
A major perk for me has been building my days around when I’m most productive. That means setting time aside to “dive” into gig hunting, leaving meetings and follow-up calls for later in the day. A schedule that prioritizes the energy a task will take—rather than the time—is important for me as a professional with a workload to balance, but also someone who needs to manage energy effectively.
As you set this up, consider: when are you most energetic? What tasks give you energy, and what tasks drain it from you? I tend to leave gig searching and pitching for my morning work block, scouring sites while my brain is fresh; as energy lags, I’ll move on to another project. Building a work life with awareness of your style in mind will help you make the most of your time and efforts.
For follow ups, “schedule your bravery”
Even if you craft a schedule that aligns with the ebbs and flows of your energy, some tasks will challenge that. Job searches tend to do this because stakes are high and freelancers are attracted to projects they care deeply about. That level of caring can take a lot of energy!
When I talk to freelancers, one of the moments that seem to drain the most are follow-up communications: attempts on following leads, jogging the memory of a prospective client, or prompting a teammate to deliver a piece of a project. I fretted about these draining tasks until I decided to borrow from Paul Jarvis’ playbook and “schedule my bravery.”
Say a prospective client expressed an interest in booking me but hasn’t followed up. It takes bravery to send that “just following up…” email. Temper it by composing the message in a Google Doc or Notepad, pasting it into an email, and saving the draft. Come back to it later and hit “Send.” I’ve employed this strategy with “check-in” texts, blog posts and newsletters. It seems roundabout, but offers peace of mind for “scary” encounters on your to-do list.
Seek out communities
A major misconception I contend with is that introverts don’t like or seek to avoid people. Let me be clear: this isn’t true. Introverts appreciate, and benefit from, meaningful relationships and deep connections—not just personally, but also professionally. This is why I strongly recommend seeking out community as a freelancer.
Finding freelance work can feel like a horserace, where we compete for a finite pool of gigs. But spending time to learn the styles and personalities of others can assuage those fears. We’re all different, and have unique things to offer clients. Whether relationships develop in person at co-working spaces and local events; or online through Twitter, Trello or Slack; these are the relationships that can help us grow our skills, provide collegiality in the absence of co-workers or even lead to work referrals. Think about it: how often have you seen a gig you’re not right for or can’t take on, but know the perfect person for? A community of fellow freelancers makes that process easier.
The pressures of finding freelance work can feel like a horserace—especially for introverts. Click To Tweet
Job hunting can be a stressful process, and for freelancers it can have the added burden of feeling lonely at times. But by setting up the process to maximize energy, minimize fear and stress and take place in community, you’ll pick up new gigs with less trouble and more excitement than before.
What tips have worked for you as an introverted freelancer? Any success stories to share?
Editor’s Note: Amma Marfo is a published author and expert on navigating a successful collegiate and professional life as an introvert. You can pick up her new book on job hunting for freelancers here.