This is the year of listening to my gut! Growing up with a mum who’s got Crohns Disease and Colitis (and who’s worked tirelessly over the years to remove the stigma from those illnesses, yes, you’re fab, Mum!), I’ve been surrounded by discussions on guts for what feels like forever. But I’m not talking about biology now, I’m talking about something that feels so amorphous that you can’t always believe it exists. Your gut instincts.

Not sure about a prospective client? Going back and forth on whether to work with someone? The answer’s in you!

What can your gut tell you?

So, you’ve gone through a brief with a potential client but something just doesn’t feel quite right. Ignore your gut instinct, to cut and run, at your peril. Ignoring that base feeling can mean you end up:

  • Not getting paid;
  • Involved in a never ending project for not very much money;
  • Finding yourself at a moral dilemma about the work you’re being expected to complete;
  • A combination of all of the above.

Your gut will be the first to react so listen to it.

So, you’re chatting to a prospective client, they want some work done, you’re talking through Budget/Timescale/their audience/their style or tone of voice/how many pages/how many words (You are asking those questions, aren’t you? If you’re not, then you should be!), what are some pointers that should have your gut up in arms?

“I don’t have a [marketing] budget”

You can try to get round this zinger by asking them for a ballpark figure, for example, “roughly, what are you looking to spend?” Carol Tice ran a great webinar with Ed Gandia, all about qualifying prospects*. Work out your own ballpark figure for the kind of work you’re discussing and see if it fits with theirs.

“What do you charge for a or b or c?” and expecting a response from you straightaway

You want to be pushing the Value in what you do, not the Price. You are not selling widgets or sprockets, you are selling your experience which is all kept in your brain. Brainspicture of jello brains shouldn’t come cheap! Don’t feel pressure into giving an immediate answer to any briefing conversation.
Tell them you’ll get back to them then take the time to look over all of your notes from the conversation (you have been taking notes, haven’t you?), work out if the project is something you want to do and have the time to do, work out your quote and then send it to them in writing, along with your Terms and Conditions so that they get a really good view of how you work.

“Mildred [not her real name] used someone from [the Philippines; China; various ‘freelancer’ job sites] and she got the same thing for £50 so that’s what I’m looking to spend”

Other freelancers, much greater than I, have spoken out about the low cost outsourcing that plagues us all. Don’t stand for it. Politely, always politely, let them know that your rates and high quality of work reflect your experience. If they want to go to any of the above, let them. Sometimes, you’ll get them back again when they see what a truly awful job they receive for that kind of money.

“I’m not sure what I want but I know what I don’t want”

There are many, many instances on Clients from Hell where freelancers didn’t listen to their gut at the briefing/prospect stage. They’re then subjected to repeated conversations throughout the long and dragged out project, usually along the lines of “well, I know I said I wasn’t sure what I wanted, but it’s not what you’ve done for me”. If, with some prompting and ideas from you in that initial conversation, they still don’t know what they want, then JUST SAY NO.

There’s a heap of other warning phrases so comment below if you want to add some of your own zingers.

There’s also just that feeling, about anything to do with the prospect, that just makes you feel queasy or fluttery in your guts – acknowledge that feeling.

So, what will listening to your gut do for you?

In the long run, it’ll save you

  • Time;
  • Money;
  • Face – let me give you an equation for this:
    Not listening to your gut and taking a potentially troublesome client on + time wasted trying to give them what they want and failing (as they don’t know what they want) = the best you can do for them < what they wanted (but didn’t know they wanted) = unhappy client + networking/contacts/social media = them badmouthing you about what a poor job you did for them = your reputation going downhill
  • Your other clients;
  • Your sanity.

Can you wish for anything more in life? All, just from paying attention to those guts of yours.

So, do you listen to your gut instincts and always say no when you start hearing or seeing these warning signs or do you march on regardless? I’m always interested to hear about your experiences so comment below and tell me more.

*This webinar is no longer available but Ed’s International Freelancers Academy series is definitely worth signing up for! And no, I’m not an affiliate of his or Carol Tice, I just think they both give great advice.

Embroidered guts by Hey Paul Studios with Creative Commons
Jello Brains photo by SkPy with Creative Commons