Trusting Your Gut: A Writer’s Imperative

This time last year was all about my gut. While taking a writing class, I turned in a creative nonfiction piece based on a childhood experience. My peers and instructor all pointed out that I referenced experiencing my emotions through my stomach. Still water. Image courtesy of stock.xchng®

At the same time, I was working with a naturopath doctor on some food allergies and she educated me on the true science behind “feeling it in your gut.” She also firmly believed that listening to your intuition was important for emotional and digestive health.

In this last year as a freelance writer/ business owner, trusting my gut has served me very well. It certainly hasn’t been easy—especially since it’s meant turning down work.

Early last spring, after working with a new client for a few months, I realized that she was expecting me to respond to e-mails late at night and on the weekends. She was on the East Coast, so I tried to accommodate her schedule. I thought the main issue was mine: balancing my West Coast clients (the bulk of my work) with East Coast hours.

But when I woke up one morning to a string of e-mails that began at midnight and ended at 8 a.m. with the client upset that I had not completed the request made in her 12 a.m. message, it made me rethink the entire situation. Being responsive is an important part of my business—but this was too much. The client was in hyper start-up mode, launching several new companies all at the same time. I wanted her to succeed, but not at the expense of own business. She wanted me to devote 100% of my time to helping her grow. It was a compliment, but just not in line with my own goals.

Despite trying to continue the relationship and attempting to set a more limited availability, it just didn’t work. The new arrangement wasn’t what either of use needed, so we parted ways. It was an amicable split, but still difficult to see the work go.

About a week later, I got an e-mail from someone in my network offering me an on-going project. The work was more creative that the work I’d lost—and I wouldn’t have been able to do it had the East Coaster and I not parted ways.

Then, earlier this summer, a local company contacted me about a long-term newsletter project. Having a local, regular client sounded like the perfect addition to my business! But when I accepted an invitation to discuss the company’s needs in person, I was shocked to learn I’d just signed up for a panel interview with three people and I would be one of several writers being interviewed. When I tried to get more information, the response was “well, you can look at our website.” Something seemed off.

Several factors concerned me:

  • I couldn’t get them to share their expectations about time commitment.
  • They wouldn’t clarify if they wanted the work completed on-site.
  • They were trying to replace full-time headcount with freelancers.
  • It was an industry I don’t specialize in and they were asking me to present very specific solutions in the “interview.”

After a week of wrestling with myself about this—I wanted the work but couldn’t quiet that nagging “don’t do it!” voice—I finally decided to decline the interview. And I felt so much better!

To make up for not pursuing that client, I reached out to my network, letting people know that I had an opening in my schedule. Within two weeks, I started a writing project that I’ll be on until early December.

While I still want to grow my client relationships and add a few new ones to the fold, I love my current mix of companies and projects. I know that I’m very lucky to have been selective, especially this year, and I owe it all to listening to my gut.

Have you turned down work because it didn’t feel right? Were you happy with the decision or did you regret it? Have you ever gone against your gut?

3 thoughts on “Trusting Your Gut: A Writer’s Imperative

  1. Liz ~ I love finding a blog posts that feels timely, almost like it was written just for me. Or so I can pretend. 🙂 I hope it helps you!

    @2inspired – That you for reading. I’m glad you found my blog. You’re so right about it being a struggle to turn down work when you need the money. As a freelancer, I can’t say money isn’t a factor–it always is! I’ve been very fortunate to have a support partner who encourages me to listen to my gut. And, thankfully, the money has followed, too!

  2. Hi! I just found your website and feel like I’m going through the same thing. Good for you that you listed to your gut! I definitely need to do this more often. I too, have a client like the one you are talking about. It’s a constant battle for me between taking work cause I need the money and not taking work because my gut tells me not too. I think it’s courageous of you to listen to your intuition.


  3. Very timely post for me. Thanks, Jesaka! I’m in a situation at the moment where I think my gut is saying one thing but my head is trying to wriggle in a different answer.

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