Why To Trust Your Gut Instinct

Gut Instincts Are Like an A

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Somebody on Quora asked: “What is your advice to an aspiring freelancer?”

And I answered:

Accrue experience and then trust your gut.

In general I don’t claim to be the knower of all things.

However, when it comes to being able to detect potentially problematic clients — my instincts are off the charts accurate.

Unfortunately a problem that dogged me for years has been my lifelong habit of second-guessing myself.

And inevitably, at least when it has come to business, this has had negative repercussions.

E.g. a year ago a client approached me asking about a writing project.

I saw an immediate cluster of red flags.

Subtle verbal nuances in the brief that indicated that they held freelancers in very low esteem. Something very close to the effect to “you need to do this absolutely pefectly. We will be checking!” — which is a veiled threat in a brief. And a budget that I felt was insufficient for the project, which was an exceptionally complex piece of writing about a highly technical topic.

However, in that particular moment, I felt like being a bit more positive. And I was tired of spotting these things and turning work away (note: this isn’t really something to get tired about and is a necessary part of running a sales funnel; however, if it happens too often you probably need to just your marketing).

So I decided to run it by a friend. “Seems like a fine budget,” she enthused, as she encouraged me to be just a little bit more flexible and just try one project as a pilot.

That one project was an absolute nightmare that derailed my business for two weeks.

The client was atrocious to deal with and their process — which they promised was hands-off and easy-going — turned out to be the complete opposite, effectively decimating my hourly rate on the job. They were horribly disorganized. And even got aggressive and abusive with me when I at one point suggested perhaps using somebody else for the job. This was a fist for me.

My instinct was 100% accurate and I was a fool to doubt it. For the rate that I ended up making, I would have been much better off just saying ‘no thank you’ and finding other uses for my time.

That’s not actually that amazing, though.

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There’s actually science behind gut instincts.

Like machine learning models, they get better the more underlying data they are fed.

In other words, past experience allows you to form that visceral impression that usually steers you in the right direction when it comes to making difficult decisions about your business.

So my advice is:

Don’t make the mistake that I have made far too many times.

Accrue enough experience to develop a good gut instinct. But once you have that basis of underlying data upon which your AI model can turn (let’s call it ‘autonomous intelligence’), be very reluctant to change it — only making small adjustments to it here and there as your experience evolves. Like actual AI models, gut instincts also get more accurate as the pool of underlying data they are based upon grows. Therefore, you should actually be much more reluctant to ignore them as your experience amasses.

Also: don’t get in the habit of asking others for their input about your problems too often. General guidance is fine (what’s a good rate for X?). But be wary of any advice that is predicated upon understanding something that is very specific to your circumstances and prior experience. Because the people offering their two cents won’t have that underlying data to steer their decision-making.

If you do let people make decisions for you, as I did, after a short phone call then you’re just getting their input based on facts — without that pool of experience to color it with essential nuance. That doesn’t make much sense. And if you do this continuously (and I often did), then you’ll also be constantly buffered about by people’s opinions, which frequently differ. It makes a lot more sense to develop your own built-in decision making engine and deploy it whenever the application of simple rule-based logic doesn’t yield a clear-cut answer. We might refer to this as ‘mulling it over’. But often all it means is that the answer is going to have to be derived from our prior bank of experience rather than a presentation of the cut and dried facts of the situation which calls for a decision. By calling that an ‘instinct’ we are actually allowing ourselves to be misled into thinking that that instinct (do X, do Y) is something capricious and unreliable. In fact, it is the exactly opposite of that.

For the above reason, it’s also important to optimize for experience.

Ideally in addition to optimizing your business for income. But if you’re in a position of great privilege you may be able to optimize for just experience for a while.

That experience has great potential value in terms of giving you sharp intuitions that can guide you through the jungle that you will likely encounter when you step out into the world of sales and marketing.

If you’ve gone to the trouble of garnering the experience necessary to develop a strong gut instinct, then wasting it by not applying it is actually a pitiful waste, if you think about it. You betray yourself every time you choose to ignore it (at your own peril).

If you do use it, it has the potential to save you enormous time and frustration.

So my advice:

All my most painful freelancing experiences happened when my gut instinct reared its head up and I chose to ignore it nevertheless.

Make the smart decision. Accrue the experience needed to develop a strong gut instinct. When you have that done, deploy it to your advantage in the marketplace.

Originally published at https://www.danielrosehill.co.il

Written by

Nonfiction ghostwriter. Thought leadership for B2B technology & public affairs clients. Site: DSRGhostwriting.com. Book: amzn.to/2C3jkZS

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