Freelancing Therapy: How to Make Freelancing Work for Your Personality

Are you struggling as a freelancer? It could be that your personality is to blame.

Of course, there are many types of successful freelancers. So, your personality type need not be an obstacle to your success. But sadly, it often is.

In this post, I’ll list some common personality types and explain some of the freelancing challenges that are specific to each type.

The Perfectionist

You may be a perfectionist if you are constantly finding fault with your own work and the work of others. You tend to have very high standards and are very detail oriented. The little things count and you know it.

When it comes to accuracy and high quality, the perfectionist can really shine. The perfectionist’s high standards mean that a client can count on top-notch work because the perfectionist won’t be happy turning in anything else.

One challenge you have as a freelancer is to let go of work when it’s good enough. Your perfectionist tendency to constantly revise and correct your work can actually cause you to miss deadlines.

The other challenge you face is that of being too hard on yourself. Your critical eye may find faults that are not evident or important to others.

The People Person

You’re probably a people person if you seem to make friends with everyone you meet. You genuinely like almost everyone and they like you. You love spending time with others and seek out the opportunity to meet new people whenever you can.

A people person has a definite advantage as a freelancer when it comes to networking. Most freelancers with this personality type have huge networks, which help them to generate quality leads for their freelancing business.

A freelancing challenge for the people person is to buckle down and get the work done. A people person freelancer may be tempted to spend too much time hanging out with friends at the coffee shop or on social networks.

Another challenge that the people person faces is being too trusting. Because he or she likes almost everyone, they have trouble imagining that someone might not have their best interests in mind. Be extra vigilant about possible scammers and always require a contract even if you don’t think one is needed.

The Rebel

You’re a rebel if you became a freelancer because you couldn’t stand the rules and restrictions of a more long-term working arrangement. Rebels tend to be highly intelligent with sometimes brilliant ideas, but often don’t convey those ideas well and they sometimes lack patience.

Rebels need a positive outlet for their ideas and creativity. Side projects are often the answer. Since a rebel dislikes having a boss or rules, the side project lets him or her move at their own pace and provides a creative outlet.

Generally, a micromanaging client is not a good match for a rebel. If you have a rebel personality type, seek out clients who don’t require much structure and are willing to give you free rein on their project.

Finding the patience to deal with clients who have a more structured approach to business can be a real challenge for the rebel personality. If you find yourself working with a client who demands structure, try to be patient and remember it’s not personal–it’s just the way that client happens to be.

The Controller

Do you freak out if you don’t know exactly what’s going on with your business and your projects at any given time? Do you hate to delegate work? If this describes you, chances are that your personality type is the controller.

Controllers make excellent project managers. They always know where the project is and how to get it to the next level. Their natural organizational skills can be a real asset to their freelancing business.

The down side of being a controller is that the freelancer with this personality type may try to do too much. He or she hates to delegate work to others, even when it makes a lot of sense to do so. If you’re a controller, you may have to force yourself to get help when you need it.

Another struggle that controllers face is dealing with the unpredictability of the freelancing life. As a controller personality, you’ll feel much better if you have a plan to deal with contingencies. An emergency fund is a good idea for all freelancers, but it’s a must for you.

The Shy One

Some people are less outgoing than others. That’s perfectly okay. If the thought of meeting face-to-face with a client or giving a speech stresses you out, your personality type is probably the shy one.

Shy freelancers have a lot to offer. They are frequently sympathetic listeners and can be very loyal to their clients.

As a shy freelancer, marketing is probably a struggle for you. You hate to put your name out there, but know that you have to if you are going to get any business.

Fortunately, there are steps that shy freelancers can take to successfully network and sell. Just be careful not to put off the selling and networking tasks too long or you will have trouble getting enough work to stay afloat.

Your Turn

What personality type fits you? How has it affected your freelancing business?

Share your answers in the comments.

Image by Chi King


  1. says

    When I read the title in my RSS feed, I thought this article was going to be about how to stay emotionally stable and sane when you’re working alone all day and it’s cold and dark and raining outside. I could definitely use that article right now, as it’s going to be a very long 6 months!

    As for my personality type, I’d say I’m part Perfectionist and a little bit Rebel. It’s not that I don’t want to give my clients control, it’s that they’re paying me for my professional opinion and I don’t want them to end up with something that doesn’t look good and professional because they don’t know about design. If the site *does* end up looking bad because of their ideas, it reflects on me!

  2. says

    Hi Allison,

    We do have some posts on freelancing loneliness. Here’s one of them–I hope it helps.

    What’s up with the six months?

    Perfectionist and Rebel–that can be a good combination. The important thing is to understand how you are most comfortable working.

  3. says

    Thanks, I’ll check them out. I just meant that it’s mid-October, it’s already been cold and rainy here since the beginning of the month, and the sun’s probably not going to come out again until April :-)

  4. says


    Ah, I understand. :)

    I know, I love sunshine too. We haven’t quite gotten to the fully cold and rainy days where I am (yesterday was gorgeous), but I know they are coming.

  5. says

    This is a great post. I’ve been really burning out recently with micro-managing clients who pay poorly. A very bad combination!

    I’m a mix of a people person and a rebel. It’s helpful to see this list and I suspect there are other types as well. Another challenge of actually making a living doing freelance is that we work with so many types of clients, and they all have their own emotional styles we have to adapt to as well. Nor do some of them (or even many) bother to get to know us as people so we’re working on technical issues with no sense of the people we’re working for. As a people person, I have really started to see that the best clients for me are people who want to, even briefly and occasionally, connect with me as a person, not merely a vendor.

    I have one editor who actually asks, and means it, “How are you?” That may be less rare outside journalism, but it really makes me want to go an extra mile for him.

  6. says

    Caitlin Kelly,

    There are definitely other types–but I think these are some of the most common.

    I also think that most people are a combination of types. It does pay (and can save you a lot of grief) to understand what your predominant types are.

    Thanks for pointing out that clients have these characteristics too–that’s definitely true as well. :)

  7. says

    I’m the shy one.

    OK, so I’m not shy. LOL. Total people person.

    But many of these descriptions (except for shy) fit me at different times and depending on my current projects. I’m a perfectionist at heart when it comes to filing a polished error-free (we’re talking mechanical and typos) story to my editors and using appropriate style and voice, but I don’t think my perfectionism is at a level that it cripples me as is the danger with this character feature. I’m def a rebel sometimes, too — just not when writing hard medical copy and I don’t think I overdo it. I’m just me and that me happens to push against a culture that pushes hard against me at times.

    Controlling about work and task delegation? Um… no comment (and no fair asking my biz partner ;-))

    Great article, Dr. Laura! ;-) I feel refreshed…

  8. says

    Samantha Gluck,

    Thanks Samantha. I’m glad you could see yourself in the post. And I would have pegged you for mostly a people person too. :)

    I think you can teach yourself some of the other styles for certain circumstances, especially if you are aware of your own natural personality type and your client’s personality.

  9. says

    Hi Ceba,

    I don’t think that you necessarily need to improve your personality. It’s more about understanding yourself and how you work so that you can do a better job. :)

  10. says

    I’m a combination of the first three types. I’ve always been too hard on myself. :-) I love to meet new people and network. And I hated the rules and restrictions. Just ran into that this week.

    My sister’s mother-in-law died Saturday. She was a wonderful, down-to-earth woman; she and her husband were great friends of our family. Every year for the past 20+ years, they’ve hosted our family and friends at their home on a lake for the big 4th of July party. And we spent 3-4 holidays a year with them.

    So of course, I attended her funeral. But my sister had to jump through several hoops at her workplace just to be able to attend the reception afterward. I am SO glad I am self-employed and don’t have to worry about this stuff anymore!

  11. says

    Hello! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any issues with
    hackers? My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and
    I ended up losing quite a lot of months of hard work due to no backup.
    Do you have any other answers to protect against hackers?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>