Study Explores Top Personality Traits Among Successful Freelancers

Being a career freelancer is a lot more involved than just doing some gig work. People who make their living as freelancers more often than not run it as a business and take on all the challenges that come with that. There are downsides to running your own business but also some serious upsides. For freelancers, many get to decide their schedule and workload. It can be a lot more of a hustle, as running a business as a freelance worker often requires interfacing more with potential clients and having to be more public-facing than some traditional employees.

Freelancing isn’t for everyone, especially considering the type of person it takes to really have a go at doing it full time. What are some of the differences in personality traits between freelancers and traditional employees, and what do these qualities say about these individuals? Skynova wanted to find out and did just that in a new survey where they gave nearly 400 freelancers and over 500 traditional employees the Big Five Personality Test.

Much Different Personalities

If you assumed that freelancers and traditional workers had very different personalities, you’d be correct. The personality test showed that the average score for personality traits, ranging from 0% to 100%, varied between traditional and freelance workers. Freelancers averaged 66.1% for agreeableness, while traditional workers averaged 58.7%. Conscientiousness was much closer between each type of worker, with freelancers averaging 70.2% and traditional workers averaging 67.2%.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, freelancers were shown to be much more extroverted than traditional workers – with freelancers averaging 56.9% and traditional workers averaging 39.3% when it came to extroversion. Freelancers are also apparently much more open, averaging 70.1% for openness, compared to 54.4% for traditional workers. Non-freelance workers, according to the test, scored much higher, on average, when it came to neuroticism – averaging 74.5%, compared to 57.6% for freelancers.

Attracted to Freelancing

The Skynova study also asked the 397 freelancers about their reasoning for going the route they did, as opposed to taking a more traditional path of employment. The biggest question was whether they went the freelance route out of necessity or by choice. More than 3 in 4 freelancers surveyed said they did it by choice, compared to 24.7% who said it was out of necessity.

Interestingly, the median income for those who freelanced by choice was $50,000 per year, while the median income for those who were doing so out of necessity was $32,000 per year. When it comes to job satisfaction, the numbers were similar – 57.6% of freelancers said they had high job satisfaction, compared to 56.8% of traditional workers. However, 62.3% of freelancers said they were more likely to say they had a good work-life balance, as opposed to 55.2% of traditional workers.

Among freelancer respondents, 36.3% said that autonomy was either extremely or very important to them in their working life, while 16.9% found it somewhat important, 9.1% said it was a little, and 1.5% reported it was not at all important. Flexibility was also a priority among freelancers, with 47.4% labeling it as extremely important, 33.2% saying it was very important, 12.8% finding it somewhat important, 5.5% saying a little, and only 1% citing flexibility as not at all important to them.

Creating and Sustaining a Business

It’s certainly not easy or quick to create a viable, income-generating business out of freelance work, but over time, with enough dedication and focus, it can be accomplished. There are many avenues to start your freelance journey and find work – what are some of the top ways to find work among the freelancers surveyed in the Skynova study?

Social media was by far the biggest contributor in people finding work, with 40.6% saying they found work through various social media platforms. Nearly a third said referrals contributed to their workload, while 29.5% attributed word of mouth as a top way of finding work. Sites like (28%), Fiverr (26.2%), Freelance Writing Gigs (24.4%), and FlexJobs (21.9%) were also popular destinations for work among freelancer respondents.

Of course, the kind of freelance work you can get depends greatly on the kinds of skills you possess. Research was a top skill utilized among the freelancer respondents (46.9%), as was writing (45.6%), social media (45.6%), and marketing (37%). Other skills utilized by freelancers included graphic or web design (31%), development or IT (27%), financial expertise (25.4%), SEO (19.9%), and translation (19.6%).

Sustaining business as a freelancer is an entirely different challenge, but the freelancer respondents seem to generally have a firm grasp on maintaining this – the average percentage of clients that freelancers had that were long term or recurring was 50.7%. And interestingly enough, freelancers said they enjoyed working with, on average, 60.7% of their clientele. Overall, an overwhelming number of freelancers (87.2%) said they currently had the bandwidth to take on new clients.

Working Your Own Schedule

Of course, part of the allure of freelancing is, more often than not, getting to create your own schedule. Of course, this depends heavily on what type of work you do. If you’re a writer or designer, for example, it’s often much easier to create a schedule where you can work at whatever time of day makes the most sense for your day-to-day life. That’s not to say that every freelancer is working late into the night, though. In fact, 46.6% said they’re early birds, compared to 35.3% who said they were night owls, and 18.1% who said they categorized themselves as neither. Early birds, notably, earned a median annual income of $3,000 more than those who identified as night owls.

The vast majority of freelancer respondents (78.8%) said they typically worked on weekends, while just 21.2% said they did not do any work on the weekends generally. That said, 62% of freelancers who said they regularly work weekends felt it was worthwhile either most or all of the time.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 77.8% of freelancers said they work at a designated space in their home, while 33.8% said they work at a local public space, 25.7% said they work on-site at a client’s location, and 21.9% said they work at a co-working space. Just 12.6% said they rent office space.

The Future of Freelancing

While freelance work isn’t for everyone, it’s most definitely a great way to create a situation where you answer to yourself, create your own schedule, and make your own money. It can take a lot of work, determination, and patience to make it happen, but if the Skynova study shows anything it’s that those who have gone the freelance route are satisfied with what they do and, on average, make good money doing it.

With remote work becoming more accepted than ever, there’s no doubt that freelance work will become much more ubiquitous as time goes on – especially for those who have a certain skill set that lends itself well to such a structure. A career as a freelancer might seem like a difficult thing to aspire to, but if you have certain personality traits, then you might just have what it takes to make it a reality.
Read next: Hybrid Work Could Result in Increased Employee Burnout According to Microsoft Study
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