How to succeed at freelancing if you’re an introvert

If you think you’re not cut out for freelancing Tom Albrighton’s new book The Freelance Introvert might convince you otherwise

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If you’re thinking about starting a new life as a freelance in the new year being an introvert might be seen as a drawback. Not so, according to Tom Albrighton, author of The Freelance Introvert.

The Freelance Introvert book cover

Many working dads will inevitably be considering a new you and a new career in the new year. Among all the bad things in 2020 many working dads enjoyed having more time with their family during lockdown. Going freelance ought to be a consideration. It offers huge flexibility to fit around family.

Some working dads will unfortunately face redundancy this year and freelancing might be an option for their next steps.
Of course that same dodgy economic outlook might put some off. And others may think it’s just not for them. If you’re at all shy and introverted the thought of pushing yourself forward to win business may seem a big no-no. But working dad Tom Albrighton’s here to put you right. A self-confessed introvert and a successful freelance he’s published The Freelance Introvert at the tail end of last year. It’s full of tips on how to succeed without compromising who you are.

He told us about his life as a dad and a freelance and how he hopes to help more folk like him.

What family have you got?

I’ve got a partner and one daughter, aged 14. We wanted to have more kids, but it wasn’t possible for us.

What’s your background? Why did you go freelance?

I worked as an editor in a publishing house and a design studio. Then I got made redundant and decided to give freelancing a go. I’d always been quite envious of freelancers’ lifestyles, as I explain in the book, but I wasn’t sure how, or even whether, I could make freelancing work for myself. Fifteen years later I’m still here!

Has freelance life fitted well with your family life?

It’s been a huge help. In fact, when I stop and think, there are many aspects of our family setup that just wouldn’t have worked if I’d been doing nine to five.

Because my hours are flexible, I’ve been able to do loads of school runs, transport to clubs and so on. Once I had to go into school during the day to administer eye drops to my daughter, because the school couldn’t do it. That sort of thing would have been a nightmare with a regular job.

I’ve also had time for some nicer stuff, like going to the park after school. In general, I’m just around more, and that’s been great.

Of course, for a lot of parents, the parenting bit is actually harder than going to work! That’s what makes people hide behind their jobs, and use them as a way to escape from home pressures. But now my daughter is a teenager, I really miss those early years  – they flew by. So I’d encourage other dads to really make the most of that time.

Why did you write The Freelance Introvert?

My first book, Copywriting Made Simple, was intended to be an authoritative introduction to the work I do. So there wasn’t that much of me in it. With this book, I wanted to do something more personal. I also wanted to show other introverts that freelancing is possible and can be profitable – but it does take some work.

Are you an introvert? If so, how has that impacted your career as a freelance?

Yes, absolutely. I’ve always needed a lot of solitude and I prefer working on my own. In terms of freelancing, I think it’s just affected the choices I’ve made. For example, to build new business, I’ve done things like blogging and article writing instead of networking in person. I’ve still been successful, but I’m fortunate to have done it on my own terms.

Over time, I’ve started honouring my introversion a bit more. For example, I kept a landline for about 10 years because I thought a business ‘should’ have one. But a few years ago, I decided I never wanted to be phoned up out of the blue, and just got rid of it. It was fine.

Can an introverted person be a successful freelance? Is it just easier if you’re an extrovert?

Absolutely yes – you can be a ‘wintrovert’! You just need to work on certain feelings and thought patterns that might hold you back, particularly if you’re not aware of them. For many people, just realising that they are an introvert is massive.

I can’t speak for extroverts, because I’m not one. But I imagine they would find certain things, like networking and self-promotion, a lot easier than introverts. However, their extroversion might also hold them back. For example, it’s really important for freelancers to listen very carefully to what their clients say, so they can deliver what they need. If extroverts keep jumping into the conversation or relating it to themselves, that could prevent them from getting a clear sense of the brief.

What particular advice do you give in the book to help ‘freelance introverts’ to succeed?

Well, it’s crucial that you don’t try to become an extrovert. That’s why the subtitle of the book is ‘work the way you want without changing who you are’. If you’re always trying to live up to some external standard, you’ll never really enjoy freelancing. Instead, just learn to recognise the things you enjoy, and can do on a sustainable basis, and avoid the things that drain your energy. Then build your freelance workstyle around those preferences as best you can.

There are some things you just have to get used to. For example, every freelancer needs to be able to introduce themselves, and describe what they do. Introverts don’t really like revealing stuff about themselves up front, so I advise them to write a short ‘personal elevator pitch’ that they can bring out whenever they get asked this question.

What would you say to someone who is introverted and is considering going freelance?

Well, certainly don’t rule it out just because you’re an introvert! But do reflect on what it will mean to be a freelancer in your area, and what will be involved. Be honest about what you can and cannot do – not just once or twice, but as part of your everyday working life.

I’d also suggest buddying up with another freelancer, probably another introvert, to get some support. Even though introverts prefer solitude, we’re not complete hermits or sociopaths. A little chat here and there can really help you through the hard times. Things like pricing, difficult clients and drumming up new business are a challenge for every freelancer, introvert or not, and it’s great to get some feedback and reassurance about them.

What feedback have you had since the book was published?

It’s been really positive! If you go on Amazon, you’ll see several male freelancers (who I believe are also dads) giving it five stars.

In the book, I emphasise that introversion is a strength, not a weakness. But as we know, there’s still some stigma around men admitting to self-doubt, low confidence or anything else that could be seen as ‘weak’. That could be even worse if your image of fatherhood is tied up with traditional images of a strong provider. So if I help anyone to move past all that, I’ll be happy.

You’ve also published a book called ‘Cash Money Freelancing’ – what’s that about and what tips can you share from it for successful freelancing?

It’s all about the commercial side of freelancing – setting prices, negotiating, being more entrepreneurial. I guess it was a reaction to ‘The Freelance Introvert’ in a way, but it’s still material that I believe in, and that has helped me in my freelancing.

Probably the most important tip is to understand the unique value you offer as a freelancer, and build everything on that. That’s the key to pricing, promotion, business development, the whole lot.

Should more people/working dads consider going freelance?

Well, I think so. It could make you happier in your work, and happier in your home life too. If it suits your character, and you get it right, it could make your family life work in a completely different way.

People say that freelancing is insecure. But what they really mean is that it’s uncertain. I mean, if you have a job, you’re secure in one sense – but you could still be made redundant at any time, especially now. As a freelancer, you have to hustle for work – but you’re not dependent on one boss, or one client. So while it’s a lot harder to make predictions, you can actually enjoy more security than you would with a job.

The Freelance Introvert is available now from Amazon. Tom’s other two books are Cash Money Freelancing and Copywriting Made Simple. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

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