Introvert or Extrovert? A Freelancer’s Guide to Balancing Social Interaction
For a lot of us before we became freelancers, we daydreamed about a life where we could wear pajamas to work more than most of us daydream about making out with Idris Elba or Jessica Alba. Flash forward a couple of months into #freelancelife, and the elastic waistband has become less of a choice and more of a safety blanket. You've stopped shaving completely, talk more to your barista than your so-called friends, and have forgotten your Dad's birthday even though you know that Pam Beesly's is March 25th, 1979 because you put "The Office" on repeat for background noise while you work.
Introverts and extroverts take to freelance life differently. Introverts can crawl into the snuggly warmth of their beds and be fine when the invitations to Friday night cocktails come to an end, whereas extroverts can find themselves telling their servers about their childhood trauma in casual conversation.
You might think that working solo allows you to comfortably lean into your introvert tendencies, but, the truth of the matter is that you need social interaction; It's science. Being alone for prolonged periods of time can have a negative impact on your overall wellbeing. Your immune system can suffer, you can develop feelings of paranoia, and your overall happiness can take a dive. Sure, you probably don't miss a thing about going into an office everyday and having mindless conversations in the break room about the weather, but work did make it possible for you to actually interact with humans, and now you don't have a reason *shrug emoji*.
"My neighbors are luckily designers, so I will walk the dog with them and have a chat when I need a second opinion," shares Jessica Salinski, owner of Sugar Doilies and freelance introvert. "Sometimes it feels like you have to be ‘on’ all the time in meetings, so I like to keep calls to a minimum and stress that emails are the best way to get in touch with me. Setting boundaries and holding my space makes me feel more relaxed...that and therapy."
So, how does one live the freelance life successfully and avoid becoming a hermit? Here’s a quick guide to including more social interaction into daily life for Introverts:
Schedule time with friends like you would a work meeting. You will feel more prepared, know the time parameters and won't get overwhelmed.
Cultivate a small group of friends that you trust and check in with them via text message, make sure you share good news and when you're particularly proud of a project, success is so much more fun when you have someone to share it with.
Exercise. Keep the endorphins going and your dopamine level up, bonus points if you work out with a friend.
Meditate, even if it's for 20 minutes. Before and after you socialize, it will clear your head and fill up your tank so that you make the most out of your social interactions.
Embrace social media. You can pick it up and put it down whenever you want, so it's low commitment, but can be inspiring and make you feel connected.
If you don’t consider yourself an introvert, you probably miss the camaraderie of an office setting like you would a lost limb. You're probably convinced everyone is hanging out without you, engaging in meaningful conversation, and it's beyond evident that no one cares about you anymore. Extroverts need their social needs to be met, but living the freelance life can be remarkably lonely.
“I actually add spending time with people to my ‘to-do’ list. The same way I have task like ‘pitch this publication’ or ‘edit this article’ I also make it part of my job to reach out to mentors, friends, and make coffee and social dates a necessity,” says Erica Hawkins, journalist and self-proclaimed freelancing extrovert. “I get my energy from conversation and interacting with others. Luckily, I have the pleasure of interviewing and chatting with interesting people as part of my job, but when I’m not doing that I absolutely must make being social a priority. If not, I’ll end up wearing tights as pants for days and re-watching The OC for the millionth time.”
Here are a few ways to stay social while keeping your eye on the prize.
Socializing can be your self-care, so schedule it like you would a hair appointment, manicure or trip to the spa, and don't feel guilty for "wasting time hanging out" since this is how you recharge.
Use Skype or Facetime to talk to your clients as the eye contact can make you feel like they're in the room with you.
Co-work. Find other extroverts who work independently, and work alone-together, that way you can bounce ideas back and forth and talk things out when you need to.
Read. Marcel Proust once said that reading is “that fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude.” Seems legit.
Remember that the only real difference between introverts and extroverts is that introverts think to talk and extroverts talk to think. Not all introverts are socially awkward, aloof or cold; they need time to think before they act. Not all extroverts are loud, annoying and have to be the center of attention; they just need to process externally. However, no matter what end of the spectrum you reside on, the common thread each personality types has is an innate need for connection. So stop fighting it or forcing it; you can find a balance, I promise.