Freelancing for introverts: How to succeed as a quiet professional

by | 13 Apr 2023

Are you an introvert who feels stifled in the traditional workplace? Do you crave solitude to work in your way, on your own terms?

Well hello friend, I’ve been there. I hear you.

The good news is that freelancing could be the solution you’re looking for. In fact, introverts and freelancing can be a match made in heaven.

And with stats showing that freelancing is still on the rise, paired with introverts’ natural strengths playing well to the demands of the gig economy, this could be our time to shine. ⭐️

In this article, I explore how you can thrive as an introverted freelancer and explain the benefits and challenges you might face along the way.

But first, here’s my own introverted freelancer story

I’ve often felt that most workplaces seem better suited to extroverts.

Let’s face it, the people who speak up confidently in meetings and network with ease are more likely to get noticed and climb up the ranks.

I worked in corporate communications for many years, and while I was good at my job, I knew my introverted nature meant I was unlikely to be considered management material.

And here’s the thing – I didn’t actually want to manage people anyway. Shock horror!

Like many introverts, I knew I could make the biggest impact in the world when it was just me, my thoughts and my keyboard. But in the corporate world, that equation equals career stagnation.

As I hit 40, I realised there was no next rung on the career ladder without moving into people management. I was stuck. I didn’t want to be doing the same thing at 60, managed by someone half my age.

So in 2020, I walked away from the world of stable yet stagnant employment and launched myself as a freelance communications consultant and content writer.

I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a massive learning curve. But I don’t regret it. Not one bit.

Carla working in quiet solitude

Me, working in peaceful solitude

The upsides of freelance work

If you’re skilled in what you do and there’s demand for your work, becoming a freelancer could make you the best version of yourself. Freelancers can use their skills to live a life they love.

Who doesn’t want that?

Here are some of the perks of the freelance career for an introvert.

Flexible work schedule

As a freelancer, you can work whenever and wherever you like, provided you meet your clients’ deadlines and expectations.

This means you can structure your workday to suit your needs and those of your family without adhering to a traditional 9 to 5 schedule.

You can create when you’re most productive, take breaks when you need them, and handle the admin when your brain is fuzzy.

Heck, you can even go travelling and take your work with you if you’ve got the means (and the WiFi). No leave forms required.

Ability to choose projects

When you first start out, you may have to accept most work that comes your way to build up your portfolio. But as you get more established, you can choose to work with clients and projects that align with your values and interests. You might call this your niche.

This means you get to keep doing lots of the work that lights you up. It’s magic.

Calm, focused environment

Instead of attending endless, energy-sucking meetings and navigating office politics, imagine working in a quiet home office where you can power through your work without interruptions or distractions. For many introverts, this is everything.

Of course, freelancers still have client meetings. But guess what? These meetings are usually enjoyable, productive sessions with a clear purpose and focus.

Say bye-bye to awkward ice-breakers and irrelevant team updates. Hallelujah!

Independence and autonomy

As a freelancer, you have complete control over your workload. You are autonomous and you don’t have to run your work past an army of internal stakeholders who want to leave a territorial mark on everything you do.

Working directly with your clients and ensuring they love your work is all that matters. It’s a beautiful feeling.

 

Freelancers can use their skills to create a life they love.

 

The downsides of freelance work

Freelance work is not all peaches and cream.

You’re now the boss, the marketer, the accountant, and the person who does the specialist work. It can feel overwhelming, especially in the early days before sound systems are in place and you can afford to outsource.

Here are a few of the biggest challenges to keep in mind.

via GIPHY

Inconsistent income

For many freelancers, income can be inconsistent, and workload may fluctuate.

The first two years can be especially slow as you get established. It helps to create a budget and have a plan in place for the slow times.

Isolation

Even if you prefer to work alone, it’s important not to go it alone.

Find ways to stay connected with other freelancers, such as joining online communities and attending training events.

Requires self-discipline

Working as a freelancer requires self-discipline and motivation.

Creating a routine and structure for your day to ensure you stay productive is super important. Without a boss or colleagues to hold you accountable, staying on track is down to you.

Lack of benefits

As a freelancer, you’ll probably wave goodbye to corporate benefits such as paid time off and superannuation contributions.

Yep, you have to pay for these expenses out of your earnings. And if you get sick, you either have to work through it or not get paid.

The self-promotion

For many introverts, myself included, blowing your own trumpet feels just yuck. But unless you already have a bottomless pit of connections, you need to get comfortable with self-promotion.

You might need to regularly promote your skills on social media, venture out to networking events, or create a website to showcase your work. You might even need to do all of the above.

Honestly, I still cringe at every self-promotional LinkedIn post I write. But I do it anyway because I know it brings me work.

Even if you prefer to work alone, it’s important not to go it alone.

via GIPHY

Top five tips to get started as a freelancer

Freelancing can allow introverts to thrive in their career while staying true to themselves. So if you’re an introvert keen to give it a go, here are my top five tips to get started:

1. Determine your skills, services and ideal client – What are you good at, and what do you enjoy doing? Who is your ideal client, and how can you solve their problems better than your competitors?

2. Create a portfolio – Build a portfolio of your work to showcase your skills and experience. You can use platforms like LinkedIn, Upwork, or create a website to showcase your work.

3. Set your rates – Determine how much you want to charge for your services based on your experience and the value you provide. Research what others in your field charge to ensure your rates are competitive. Remember to factor in the costs of running your business including paying taxes. Many freelancers only pay themselves around 50% of their earnings.

4. Find clients – Network with people in your industry, attend events, and reach out to former colleagues and potential clients to find work. To this day most of my work still comes from people I’ve worked with in the past.

5. Start small – Success doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll need to build your business gradually. Try not to compare yourself to others in your field who’ve been doing this for many years.

Aussie employees are quiet quitting en masse, with disengagement estimated to cost the country over $200 billion a year.

These shocking stats fuel the importance of internal communications to connect with and engage employees rather than simply broadcast.

The truth is, you can splash your strategy across dazzling slide decks, videos, intranet sites and emails until everyone chants the company mantra in their sleep. But if your messages don’t connect the dots in a relevant, relatable and engaging way, why should employees care?

Effective internal communication is not about playing the tune repeatedly until it’s stuck in your employees’ heads. It’s about making them want to dance to the music in the first place.

If you need to check whether your internal communications are in tune, an audit is a great place to start.

Facing up to any disconnect you uncover allows you to craft content that genuinely resonates.  

Here’s my five-step guide to conducting an internal communications audit as the springboard for an impactful strategy. Let’s get cracking.

audit internal comms

1. Map your channels

Take a little stroll across the employee communication landscape. It’s time to examine all the ways your people find out information.

Obviously, hit up email, intranet, social channels, internal events and even the kitchen posters… but look beyond the usual content pushed by the communications teams.

Are business unit leaders sending team newsletters? Are rogue town halls happening in some parts of the business? Have online communities formed around projects or interests? Dig deeper. 

Catalog every existing touchpoint to unearth hidden disconnected fragments. Like an archaeologist assessing a dig site.

Next, critically evaluate whether each channel and message authentically supports the business strategy in an engaging way.

Hot tip: Slyly rope in eagle-eyed outsiders like marketing pros or external comms advisors to validate content quality. An impartial squiz means more honesty and less smoke-blowing.

2. Analyse your metrics

Take a big spoonful of data soup.

Dive into:

  • Intranet analytics
  • Email open and click rates
  • Event attendance
  • Video views
  • Social content reach and engagement

Pick out patterns. Map the hits and the misses. Do some emails get high hits while others don’t make it through the gates?

You’ll soon get a good feel for what content works and what doesn’t.

3. Pick some brains 

So you’ve got your list of current channels and performance data.

Now, it’s time for some direct audience opinions to cement how your internal communications are currently landing.

Whip up a survey, run focus groups and one-on-one interviews with people across the business to understand your employees’ perceptions.

Ask people:

  • Where and how they source information
  • If they feel connected to the company vision and their leaders
  • What content and channels they find most useful
  • What content they tend to disregard

Engaging external consultants to facilitate focus groups and interviews can eliminate bias and assure confidentiality.

4. Study your market

Cast a cheeky side-eye at competitors and speak to peers in adjacent sectors using wow-worthy communications. Where are others raising the bar?

Explore channels and formats that set industry peers apart.

And tap people outside your bubble. What can you learn from vendor partners, agencies, consultants and conference speakers? People who cross between organisations can offer revelations.

Of course, it’s important to amplify what makes your culture distinct. But stay open-minded to piloting initiatives successful elsewhere that could translate or be tailored to your teams.

Ideas borrowed and bettered from broader viewpoints demonstrate commitment to continuously enriching the employee experience.

5. Create next-level experiences

Next, look at your findings. You may have discovered some channels firing on all cylinders alongside some gaps that need some spark.

Now is the time to get a succinct strategy down on paper.

Start by mapping out the ideal future state. What do you want your internal communications to achieve?

Now, use everything you’ve learnt to manifest the vision. 

Look for quick wins you can implement right away. Then, lay longer-term foundations for improvements that will take time to build.

Focus on strategies that map to your objectives. And sprinkle in temperature pulses to measure progress. 

Keep your research findings about your employees’ preferences top of mind, and tailor your communication strategy to meet their needs.

Establish clear ownership and a process for everything you’re proposing. Stay ambitious but be realistic given constraints like team bandwidth.

Speaking of bandwidth

I get it. The team is so busy doing the do that you don’t have the capacity to step back and declutter your communications.

As an internal communications specialist who loves to simplify complex messaging legacies, I’m happy to advise or lend outsider objectivity.

If you’re too swamped to tackle a content audit yourself, get in touch

Need another set of hands?

It’s time to craft communication that engages and converts your niche tribe into happy customers or employees.

I’m a freelance communications consultant and content writer for busy teams. Let’s chat about how I can help you create content that wows.

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2 Comments

  1. Catherine

    Thank you for articulating feelings about the workplace I have every day. Although (somewhat ironically) I lead change management work for a living, I yearn to embrace my true self as an introvert and get back to my roots. Writing was always a joy for me, particularly in my younger years, but these days it is an unfulfilling task in uncaring corporate environments. I am not ready to make the change to freelancing 100% just yet, but thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience, it is truly inspiring!

    Reply
  2. Carla

    Thanks for sharing your thought Catherine and I’m glad the article resonated with you. I hope you find a way back to your true introverted self, whether as a freelancer or within the change management world.

    Reply

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