How Myers-Briggs changed my freelance writing business

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?

Image ᔥ owlex_k
I published a shorter version on this post during the 2011 WordCount Blogathon. Hence the comments below.

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14 comments on “How Myers-Briggs changed my freelance writing business
  1. Took the test. I’m an ENFJ, same as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Maybe I should run for president!

    • RE | GROUP says:

      @Jackie: This is all so fascinating! I work REALLY well with/under ENFJs. My BFF and my stepmom are ENFJs, as is the best boss I ever had.

      I think it might be because they are slightly more structured that I am, but still value my creativity and out-of-the-boxness.

      I always wondered what type Obama was! I am delighted! Though the fact that Reagan, Clinton and Obama share the same type seems odd.

      Famous ENFPs, my type, include Mark Twain and Ariel from the Little Mermaid. Love that this test works for deceased writers and cartoons, as well as Presidents :)

      Ruth

    • Ramsy says:

      thats cool I used to be a architecture major and coludnt take it!!! It was extremely structured, and somehow narrow. I felt boxed in like my creative juices were sucked out of me!I can definitely relate. Now Im majoring in something that provides me with more possibilities, and different routes to achieve my goals Architecture is very rigid, solid, and yes SQUARE-ish

  2. Tia says:

    Jackie, I was also ENFJ! Funny. I’ve never done this test before, but I must admit the personality profile fit me. Now what to do with this new knowledge! Great blog post, I’ll be obsessing over my results for awhile!

    • RE | GROUP says:

      @Tia: Thanks for reading!

      In case you run out of ways to obsess ;-)… I enjoy obsessing over communication styles and how they differ by type. As a process person, I tend to explain things in a pyramid–a lot of small details leading up to a major point. In speaking with STJs, I have to flip that. They want to know the action, the need, the point… and then maybe if there’s time, the process leading up to that. After learning co-workers’ types at my last job, I was able to communicate WAY more effectively and get a lot more buy-in, particularly with middle-aged, male, senior staff.

      Ruth

  3. RE | GROUP says:

    How funny, ladies, I’m ENF too. Usually, that last letter is P for me–but on some days, I really feel the J!
    We need some IST people to balance us out–if there are any IST (J or P) folks out there, come talk to us!
    Kriss

  4. Julie says:

    I love taking these tests too! I took the Myers Briggs for the first time in college and was so surprised by the results. I’ve taken it several times since but not for at least 10 years now so I clicked on your link and took the quasi-Myers Briggs. It said I was ENTJ. Never had the “J” before… maybe that’s my age showing through???

    • RE | GROUP says:

      @Julie: A very strong personality! You must be quite the go-getter. Though I’m consistently ENFP, my results have changed in strength over time. For example, I used to be VERY extroverted, but apparently the older I get, the less I like people ;-) I’m also less “F” than I used to be–no doubt overexposure to my cadre of male NTP cohorts. Thanks for reading!!!

      -Ruth

  5. I, too, am a huge fan of the Myers-Briggs. I’m an ISTJ (and have been since I first took the test in high school), and it pegs me perfectly. It’s also been really helpful to me in understanding other people and why they act they way they do.

  6. Catey DeBalko says:

    @ Ruth, loved your article. I am also an ENFP and a huge fan of the Myers-Briggs assessment….so much so that I went to work for CPP, the publisher of the genuine Myers-Briggs Type Indicator(R) instrument. The link you provided to the “free” version is not actually a version of the MBTI instrument. There is only one genuine Myers-Briggs instrument that has years and years of research behind it. We do have a site where people can take the true MBTI instrument – http://www.mbticomplete.com – and go through an interactive interpretation of their results. It is not free but you have the assurance that it is the true Myers-Briggs assessment.

    So glad to hear that the MBTI helped you find your ideal career path. From what I read, it certainly seems like you are doing what you should be doing.

    • Ruth Terry says:

      Thanks Catey. I took the paper-based test years ago and got the same result on this one. That said, I think I’m really high in each category, so even a flimsy MB version would probably score the same. Thanks for the link. I know a few people who scored borderline bt two personalities, so this is a help.

  7. shelswift says:

    A great happenstance that I came across this post today! Recently, I was not selected for a job I wanted, however it was a great interview experience that allowed me to reconsider the work culture that I fit into. More importantly, it led me to ponder a bigger question….What motivates me? and What do i want to do? At the ripe age of 31, I really should have this figured out but honestly, I have a lot of interests that don’t necessarily fit in one box! I can’t seem to single out a part of my personality or passion to get a grip on a career!
    A tried and true ENF (when I was younger P and now J) I shall revisit my assessment to help steer me towards motivation!

    Thanks for the reminder.

    • Ruth Terry says:

      I’d hardly call 31 a “ripe age” (maybe a freshly picked, nutritious age?) but I definitely appreciate your comment, Michelle! I didn’t know you used to be a “P”! I think “J” implies that you have more structure than us Ps do. It’s really interesting to read the recommended careers by type. I just checked and yours are pretty similar to mine: we have writer, consultant, psychologist, teacher, politician (boo!), sales rep and counselor in common. The ones we DON’T have in common are really interesting though (list below). It’s fascinating that the jobs/volunteer work that I know you’ve enjoyed over the years are great career choices for you. I can see you being an excellent meeting facilitator or corp. trainer and obviously you plan the heck out of an event. Not sure about clergy… though I guess you do run and bike religiously… ;-)

      Facilitator
      Social Worker
      Clergy
      Human Resources
      Manager
      Events Coordinator

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I'm a smart, sassy, globally-mobile freelance writer, content creator, brand journalist and nonprofit storyteller. The world is my office. Email me to find out more.
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