Success for the introverted freelancer
I spent years politely arguing with my father about why I didn’t want to get into management. Yes, there was more money to be made, but I was happier as an individual contributor. Neither the title, prestige, nor the power/authority were big draws for me. Even when I got to the point of being a proposal writer with an employee reporting to me, I didn’t stay in that situation long and soon shifted back to my individual contributor role. Now that I’m a freelance writer, I’ve got customers/clients to support but no employees and no plan to acquire any.
Success, for me, means seeking maximum autonomy. And while I’m certain I’ve made less money than I might have otherwise, my current work situation is the result of conscious decisions I made. For me, success is predicated for the most part on my ability to maximize my freedom to work where and how I choose. And yes, keeping my bills paid is part of that equation, but not the primary part.
How do you define success?
As you’re working out your career path, presumably you have goals or aspirations that you wish to achieve. Is your goal to maximize your productivity? Creativity? Income? Authority? You know which sorts of situations motivate you and which ones feel like quicksand. Different drivers will require you to pursue different paths.
You can’t always determine your career path. Sometimes your particular set of skills will put you into environments where you thrive, thereby opening other opportunities you hadn’t considered. It’s also entirely possible that your personal aspirations are not career-focused but more driven by family needs: spending more time with your parents/kids, paying bills, saving for someone’s university degree, etc. You know what drives you. You might be into making a lot of money. Or you might be driven to support or advance a cause.
How do you get there?
The question then becomes: are you taking the right steps to get where you want to go?
If you’re a creative person, you’ll need to seek out opportunities to work in highly creative environments like marketing or graphic design. If you enjoy keeping busy all the time, you’ll probably need to find jobs that require a constant hustle, like proposal writing or technical publications. If you’re interested in management, you’ll need to identify opportunities for advancement and develop your leadership skills.
Regardless of which path you pursue, the methods of getting where you want to go include learning the appropriate skills and yes, networking. And let’s face it: unless your goal is unemployment, you’re going to have to put in the work to make your definition of success become a reality. That means putting in a suitable level of effort.
So as you work your way into 2016, give some thought to where you want to go and what tools you’ll need to get there. Your path and your destination are up to you.