At WriteWorldwide we’ve always put a lot of emphasis on taking action if you want to succeed in the world of freelance writing.
There’s no getting around it – if you want a successful freelance writing career, you have to put yourself out there.
That means marketing, pitching, cold calling and the kind of frenzied activity that most people would associate with a high energy, extroverted personality.
However, there’s an issue that tends to cause friction when the time comes for writers to act like entrepreneurs and build a profitable career from their talent with words: a lot of writers are introverts.
But that doesn’t have to be a barrier to success.
In this article I’ll take a look at the characteristics of introversion, and how this often misunderstood personality type can translate into outstanding, brilliant results for those working in the field of writing – and business.
The introvert misconception
Take a quick poll. Ask the next person you see to define what an introvert is, and you’ll likely get a response that’s a lot like this:
“An introvert is shy and quiet – somebody who doesn’t like being around people, isn’t very sociable, is withdrawn rather than outgoing, and doesn’t need much interaction from others. An introvert is basically the opposite of an extrovert”.
That paints a pretty dull picture of a huge part of the population, don’t you think? If that’s truly all it comes down to, I’d rather be an extrovert, all things considered! (and I’m not).
Thankfully, this simplistic explanation of introversion that has persisted in popular culture misses the mark entirely, and doesn’t hit upon the true definition of this massively misunderstood and much needed personality type.
So let’s take a closer look at what being an introvert actually means – and how you can harness introvert power to take your freelance writing career into orbit.
Which well do you drink from?
The true definition of an introvert is not just a bundle of arbitrary personality traits.
The actual definition of introversion is more profound – and easier to understand – than any of us have been led to believe. It’s all about how you charge (and recharge) your own energy levels.
Imagine there are two wells full of water. One is for extroverts – who draw and replenish their personal energy from being around other people. They feel energised and internally centred around groups of people, and thrive off social interaction.
The other well is for introverts, who feel more balanced, energised and at peace with their own internal rhythm when they are alone or engaged in more solitary activities.
They often love social stimulation as much as extroverts, but simply need greater periods of time in between these situations to recharge.
Ask yourself which well you’d be drinking from, and your answer will tell you if you’re an introvert or an extrovert.
Why introverts make excellent writers
The brain of an introvert is literally wired differently. One thing introverts can struggle with is what’s known as word retrieval.
Although that might sound like the last thing in the world a writer would want to have difficulty with, word retrieval actually relates to speaking.
You know what you want to say, but the pathway from your mind to your mouth is somehow obstructed, and you just can’t get the words to come out the way you want them to, in relation to a real-time conversation.
This could end up being something of an embarrassing stumbling block, especially if it’s the only method available for you to get your point across.
However, the introvert brain has evolved over time to simply divert the issue of this faulty social wiring into a preference for an alternative method of communication – writing.
Introverts often excel at writing because it’s a way for them to express exactly what they want to say, and they’re able to do it in the most precise terms possible – analysing, crafting and redrafting their thoughts and feelings until they’ve conveyed their message perfectly to the external world.
Crucially, writing allows introverts to do this without having the overstimulating pressure of verbal or face-to-face communication disrupt their signal or throw them off balance.
How being introverted can help you in your freelance writing career
Okay, great, so introversion makes for a sharpened skill set when it comes to the written word.
But what good is that in business – isn’t it all fast-paced and face-to-face, where decisions have to be made quickly, with the bluster of extrovert energy?
Not necessarily. Introverts can still succeed in business, and are in fact needed for it to thrive. If you draw energy from being alone, you’ll have lots of time for uninterrupted periods of creative contemplation.
This vital skill can be refined even further through the act of writing – and the place where introversion and writing craft meet is where you can really access your introvert superpower as a freelance writer.
For example, you could:
Compose questionnaires for your clients to fill in
Base these short questionnaires on what services they need from you, and their ideas about the direction and scope of the project you’ll be working on.
This gives you a solid foundation to work on from the beginning, helps you manage client expectations more easily, and ultimately enables you to do a better job.
Write out scripts and questions for client calls ahead of time.
This is a super tactic if, like many introverts, you’re not the biggest fan of talking on the phone.
Scripting your calls ahead of time will help you get into a rhythm and practice sounding like a natural.
It’s also a surefire way to avoid getting flustered or forgetting to omit anything important that you need to bring up during the call.
Hone your listening skills
Introverts have a reputation for being great listeners. If you make an effort to become known for using your ears as well as you use your keyboard, you’ll be able to offer your clients solutions to problems they didn’t even know they had.
This will help you cultivate better relationships with those you work with, and soon they’ll start to think of you as somebody who over-delivers.
Don’t get too focused on focusing
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, conventional wisdom holds that to be successful and reach your goals you must be ultra-focused all the time.
Taking your eye off the ball or letting your mind wander is seen as the gateway to procrastination and distraction – something for wishy-washy daydreamers rather than decisive go-getters destined for achievement and success.
But conventional wisdom can be wrong. In this case, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
In Whiplash: How To Survive Our Faster Future, Joi Ito and Jeff Howe conclude that it takes a balanced outlook to properly thrive and survive in both life and business.
If the universal introvert handbook already existed, the following quote might well be found in it:
“One of the problems is that our traditional educational system – and most of our business training – reward focus and execution, limiting the opportunity to become a ‘visionary’. Too much of our training is focused on solving known problems rather than imagining and exploring”.
To find out where you fall on the introversion/ extraversion spectrum take this test.
How do you harness the power of introversion to progress in your freelance writing career? Let us know in the comments.