There’s no ideal way to work – just an ideal attitude to adapting.
The gig economy has led to more and more of us working short-term jobs, often remotely and/or with teams of strangers. Some choose to work this way, but for many, it is becoming a necessity. In fact, it's reckoned that freelancers will dominate the US workforce within the next decade. As things stand, around a third of free agents work this way because they have no other choice.
It can be intimidating to make the leap, but for some types it can make a massive positive difference. Everyone has a different set of soft skills, and those you’ve developed in a shared workspace can be powerfully redeployed in a new context.
To the introverted personality type, for example, working from home might sound ideal. No more commute. No more office small talk, or time-wasting meetings. Your energy will be your own to apply as you see fit to the tasks that you value.
For some types, it’s this self-definition that is most appealing. INTPs tend to view organizational structures as a necessary evil. The protocols of a regular workplace can feel pretty restrictive when you’ve a full-time desire to think outside the box. If you’re an INTP, working freelance will allow you to sidestep the regular corporate ladder and carve a niche for yourself.
But with these advantages come a host of obstacles specific to the INTP who works from home. You’ll already be thinking about how you can adapt your rare skill set to these challenges. So, let’s have a look at some issues to consider.
Your home is a social hub
A busy home can be more socially-demanding than an office.
If you have kids, a partner, or roommates at home all day, they can demand your attention. You're likely to get irritated if repeatedly interrupted from your train of thought – and you're not entirely at fault if you do.
But for the sake of each other’s feelings and your own ability to excel while working from home, it can be profitable to define your boundaries before you get lost in your work – and set a reminder to pop your head up into reality every couple of weeks to reassess the situation is working for all parties.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep. If you plan to have lunch with your husband or roomie, do so. If you know you’re going to want to work through that break, or you need some time alone, be clear that you can’t commit.
Just as some folks don't recognize that an Introvert isn't being aloof when they snub a social encounter, it takes others a while to acknowledge that your home office is a workplace, and your hours there are valuable. You'll be free for household stuff when you're done.
But dividing your day between “work” and “play” can also be tricky.
In the office, you may have been tolerated for genius-type eccentricities such as never tidying your desk, or keeping the janitor back 15 minutes while you perfect your latest theory. At home, it’s your nearest and dearest you’ll offend by working through dinner and turning your spare room into a nest lined with Post-Its, print-outs, and dirty plates.
If you don't know how to switch off without physically leaving your place of work, figure it out before you make that place of work your home. A great tip is to arrange activities in advance. Book a yoga session at the gym for 6:30p.m., and you'll not only be committed to logging off at six, but you'll also come back home physically and emotionally rebooted.
And here’s another top tip: put your initial freelance energy into designing a workspace with plenty of space for shelves, files, and pigeonholes. But don’t forget to set yourself a deadline to stop planning and actually build the thing.
The loneliness loop
If you live alone or the house tends to be empty during the day, you may be looking forward to bathing in all that me-time.
But with no reason to meet anyone face-to-face, you'll spend less and less time with people – which makes it more difficult when you do need to meet. If that obsessive, addictive part of your personality is likely to prevent you from ever leaving your home workstation, you may be better off sticking with the discipline of the shared workspace.
That’s not all. You’ll know that far from being a misanthropist, your need for alone time is balanced by a desire for meaningful, creative interaction. It’s easy to fall into the trap of forgetting to feed that latter part of your personality, so you wind up at best uninspired and at worst depressed by a level of solitude that superficially seems ideal.
You’re a cooker-upper of great solutions. Integrate issues such as the ‘loneliness loop’ and the need for creative collaboration into your freelance strategy from the start, and you can pre-empt problems before they occur.
Networking and self-promotion become more intense
All that stuff about alone time is true to a degree. But being a freelancer requires self-promotion and networking, which can be more socially intense than nurturing the long-term relationships of a regular workplace, and will need an extra push of motivation at critical moments.
Here’s the good news: Introverts may be better at making those new connections when they are able. You will benefit from following your instinct to create strong, lasting working relationships with clients rather than burning through each one in a networking inferno. Sometimes the Extravert desire to make new connections and opportunities can be valuable – but at others, it comes at the cost of loyalty or meaningful long-term relationships.
The research trap
INTPs are notorious for getting sucked into the pleasure of research and deep thought without the external discipline to make sure they cover every base.
One advantage of working at home is that you’re not getting judged by how many words you type or spreadsheets you file, and are free to dedicate time to the legitimate work of reading or sketching without being made to feel lazy or indulgent.
Unfortunately, that’s not always a good thing. Being freelance means there’s a much sharper edge between your responsibility to deliver concrete results, and your employer’s willingness to continue working with you.
More often than not, clients allocate money for a freelancer to solve a specific problem – not to raise questions that hadn’t previously troubled them! Of course, as an INTP, your superpower is that once you’ve solved that initial problem for a client, you can draw their attention to more unique ways you can help their business.
This actually applies to your status of ‘being your own boss,’ too. A lot of the research you'll need to do as a freelancer will have very little to do with the nuts and bolts of your area of expertise and a lot to do with the cold, hard work of finding gigs.
As an INTP, it won’t take long until you have 10 Excel tabs and a mindmap portraying the potential clients and opportunities in your sector, and a notebook full of ideas for freelance assignments that nobody’s ever thought of before now. And it can be fascinating to work through these ideas as your savings dribble away.
Buttoning your shirt and writing straightforward, crowd-pleasing proposals for clients who know full well how they like things done is part of your job as a freelancer – at least as long as you’re starting out.
Still thinking about it? Ask yourself these questions
Before you go any further, sit down with a pen and paper and a long deep breath:
- Why do you want to go freelance? If you’re running away from problems at work, you might not be in the right mindset to make that leap right now. If you’re running towards new challenges with open arms, that’s a pretty good sign to go ahead.
- What are your individual superpowers? Think about how your special talents relate to what you want to achieve. A comfortable day-to-day work situation is not to be undervalued, but think about how it affects your ability to realize your potential.
- Can you afford it? If you’re still struggling to find clients in a year’s time, it may be difficult as an Introvert to confront re-entry to the regular workforce. But as a freelancer it becomes your responsibility to seek ‘revenue.’ If selling is a dirty word for you, you better have the resources to play the long game.
- Is freelancing compatible with your private life? Think about your workspace, the people with whom you share your home, and the way you allocate your personal time. For example, if your only exercise is the walk to and from the office, you’ll need to factor in new opportunities to take care of yourself.
Freelancing as an INTP comes with its own set of issues – but nobody's better at finding solutions to those problems than you if you have the desire to change the way you work.