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Do You Have The Right Personality To Freelance? A New Survey Sheds Light

By News Creatives Authors , in Small Business , at October 31, 2021

What does it take to be a successful freelancer? Personality may be important, according to a recent survey that compared freelancers and traditional workers on five personality traits. 

The survey by Skynova, a provider of invoicing templates, used the Big Five Personality Test to survey 397 freelancers and 508 traditional employees. It found that freelancers, on average, had an average score of 

·      70.2% on conscientiousness, compared to 67.2% of traditional workers

·      70.1% on openness, versus 54.4% of traditional workers

·      66.1% on agreeableness, versus 58.7% of traditional workers

·      57.6% on neuroticism compared to 74.5% of traditional workers

·      56.9% on extraversion, versus 39.3% of traditional workers. 

Neuroticism, in case you’re wondering, was defined as being very sensitive to environmental stimuli and “overstressing” about daily activities, like a conversation with a colleague or an email they sent and whether it was perfect. 

Based on my own experiences as a freelancer, this data makes a lot of sense. Many types of work require strong soft skills for success. Freelancers get hired based on the quality of their work—and know they won’t get called back again if they mess up—so they may need to bring an extra level of conscientiousness to their projects for their career survival (though, it’s worth noting, the gap between freelancers and traditional workers on this front is not very large). Freelancers work on new projects with brand new teams regularly, something that takes openness. I remember discussing the “ideal” freelance personality with another longtime freelancer. We decided that it was someone who could walk into any type of social setting or party and feel comfortable talking with the other guests. At the same time, freelancers have to sell their services regularly, something extroverts may find easier than introverts. 

Freelancing isn’t for everyone, of course. The survey suggests that those who desire a freelance career and aren’t forced into it by circumstances tend to earn more. Among the freelancers surveyed, more than three-quarters actively chose independent work, instead of doing it out of necessity. The top lures were flexibility and autonomy. The average income of this group was $50,000 annually. (Interestingly, freelancers who describe themselves as morning people earn an average of $3,000 more per year than night owls.) For the quarter of freelancers who were pushed into freelancing by necessity, the average income was $32,000. 

The top skills the freelancers surveyed use in their work are research, writing and social media. More than half of the freelancers (50.7%) had long-time or recurring clients. And the freelancers said they genuinely enjoy working with nearly 61% of their clients. 

Fortunately, there’s opportunity in the workplace for people who prefer both ways to work. Levels of job satisfaction for freelancers (57.6%) were similar to those for traditional employees (56.8%).

Although freelancers reported better work-life balance than traditional employees (62.3% versus 58.6%), that may be in the eye of the beholder. Among freelancers, 78.8% reported working on the weekends, and 62% said it was worth it. 

Many companies now use personality tests in their hiring. It seems like taking the Big Five Personality Test—and trying to line up a few freelance projects to see what independent work is really like—could be a good way for would-be freelancers to see if they are likely to be happy and successful in self-employment. It’s all part of making an informed decision about the next steps in your career.


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