We ended last week with the first 2 myths about “freelance introverts,” so it only seems fitting to start this week with the rest of them, especially if you have a networking event to attend this week. (And if you don’t yet, go find one!)
Myth #3: Introverts lack the social confidence of extroverts
Reality: Extroverts have different social anxieties
An extroverted in-house designer in my local AIGA chapter recently took a job with a new agency. He was very excited about the new firm, a highly-respected company with prestigious clients.
My friend was accustomed to working in a “bullpen” environment with lots of joshing and back-and-forth conversation—an extrovert’s paradise. But on his first day in the new studio he found himself in a room full of introverts working in silence, each plugged into their own iPod-driven audioscape. He quit this “dream job” after a week.
The dark underbelly of extroversion is an ongoing craving for social engagement and validation. Some extroverts become extremely agitated without it. Sitting alone in a room with an extrovert for 15 minutes without saying anything can lead them to worry that you’re angry, upset, or have some reason to dislike them, assuming they can last that long without trying to start a conversation—any conversation—to break the silence.
photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Myth #4: Introverts need to act like extroverts to succeed
Reality: Playing the “extrovert game” isn’t the only way to win
One of the most successful freelancers I know built his career by mail in an age before the Internet. He’s also made a name for himself as a speaker, and gets great exposure when he appears at events—even though he spends most of the rest of his time working alone in his hotel room.
There’s no question extroverts are more comfortable at conferences and crowded networking mixers, and developing extrovert-like skills will serve you well in those situations. Plenty of research has proven introverts more than capable of mimicking extrovert traits when something they care strongly about is on the line—whether it’s a cause, a loved one, or simply the need to pay the rent. But as the example above suggests, building a business model that plays to your strengths also has a lot to offer.
Technology now makes it easier than ever to open doors this way. If quick repartee isn’t your forte, social media and email now offer places where you can take your time crafting thoughtful responses. Have something to say, but get tongue-tied in front of a crowd? Try online video, where nobody needs to see the out-takes.
Don’t ignore the value of networking events and conferences, but don’t feel compelled to scream on cue for flashy keynote speakers, attend every session, or be seen at every party. Know what type of people you want to connect with, and go looking for them—with an eye toward shifting conversations to the coffeehouse, online, or other channels you find more comfortable after you break the ice. Some conferences are even starting to offer advance networking features that allow you to set up face-to-face meetings with good prospects ahead of time.
Being an introvert is not a flaw, a disadvantage, or a mental health problem.
It’s a perspective that brings gifts of concentration, patience, careful preparation, endurance, insight, and follow-through—not to mention a temperament that makes a person well suited to the ups and downs of a freelance lifestyle. If you’re an introvert, embrace it, and find ways to make it work for you.
Tom N. Tumbusch writes copy that creates action for designers, creative agencies and green businesses. He publishes a free writing tips newsletter each month and periodically shares more casual wisdom on the WordStream of Consciousness Blog. His tiny solar-powered corner of the Internet can be found at www.wordstreamcopy.com.