From biological anthropologist Helen Fischer’s Why Him? Why Her? to 5 Love Languages, I love a good personality test.
But my all-time favorite is Myers-Briggs. I first took the official version of the test in college at age 15, and my results have stayed consistent for 15 years.
In fact, Myers-Briggs completely changed my career.
You see, in 2010 I revisited the ole’ M-B when I was considering the freelance switch. I was surprised to find that my personality profile confirmed my choice. Turns out all the things that didn’t work for me at work—structure, boredom, office politics—didn’t mean I was a bad employee.
They were clues to the kind of job and work environment that I thrive in.
I could finally stop beating myself up—classic ENFP behavior—because I never got used to getting up early, going to seemingly pointless meetings and sitting for eight hours straight, and start directing that wasted energy toward building a freelance business.
Fast forward two years… After about a month in Carol Tice’s Freelance Writers Den, I’ve realized that we writers are quite a mixed bag—especially when it comes to what motivates us.
Some writers are motivated by acclaim, so the prospect of one day breaking into the glossies keeps them going. Others are motivated by competition, challenging themselves to set ever higher goals. Higher pay, task completion and upping ROI are also powerful motivators—unless, of course, you happen to be me.
These days, the Myers-Briggs test is helping me zero in on what motivates me, which ultimately helps my business.
First and foremost, I am motivated by The New—new ideas, experiences, people, places, foods, technologies… On a related note, learning, problem-solving, brainstorming and creating win-win situations also get me going.
Sounds fun and it usually makes for good writing, but from a business perspective…? Recipe for disaster. For example, because I’m more motivated by exciting new experiences than cold hard cash, I gravitate toward start-ups, new media outlets and nonprofits—groups that often have more passion than budget. I also need an extremely high level of stimulation or I get bored. After boredom comes paralysis which makes it hard to finish outstanding projects, write solid copy or market my business—much less do stuff like bookkeeping or tax prep.
But this is where knowing personality type comes in handy: coming up with workarounds. Because I get swept up in the enthusiasm of passionate people, I avoid face time with prospective clients (especially from nonprofits) until after we’ve traded a few emails about their project, budget and expectations. I’ve stopped trying to schedule my work day and started scheduling my breaks to keep myself from getting bored.
To be fair, Myers-Briggs may resonate more with some personality types—ENFPs love this sort of thing—than others (folks with “T” in their type). Still, if you’re a freelance writer struggling to determine what marketing strategy is right for you, how to be more productive or even just where to start, Myers-Briggs might help. It certainly won’t hurt, so take a free version of the test here, and then find more about your type here. And don’t forget to report back!
What have you learned about yourself from personality assessments and how has that affected how you run your freelance writing business?
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I published a shorter version on this post during the 2011 WordCount Blogathon. Hence the comments below.