“Intuition (is) perception via the unconscious.”
All of the topics in this section so far describe factors upon which to logically assess and evaluate whether a project is likely to be worth pursuing as a freelancer. Some, like budget, are specific numeric figures to consider, while others, such as interest or enjoyment, are more intangible. But they are all specific factors that you think about, evaluate, weight and combine to make a rational decision about how you feel about a job.
However, there is another side to judgment: intuition. As the famous psychologist Carl Jung put it, intuition can be considered a form of analysis conducted by your unconscious mind. Intuitive assessments come to you in the form of gut feelings or a general sensation of mental comfort or discomfort about something. These feelings can seem to “come out of nowhere” or have no rational basis behind them.
In our modern, scientific world, there is a natural tendency to discount anything that we cannot rationally deduce or explain. I consider myself a very logical person, and I’m also very much of a skeptic: I’m not into religion or mysticism or pseudoscience of any sort. As a result, for many years, I was particularly prone to simply ignoring my own intuition, thinking that if I couldn’t connect the dots to explain where the feeling came from, it couldn’t be valid. But I’ve learned since then that intuition is not mystical in nature, and it is a powerful tool that should be respected.
When it comes to freelancing projects, I find that intuition comes into play most often as a very non-specific feeling that “something is wrong” with a project or client. This doesn’t happen to me very often, but when it does, it can be quite disconcerting. Usually what will happen is that I’ll assess a client or project, looking at all the tangible considerations such as budget, how much time it will take to do, how well written the project description is, and so forth, and decide that this job meets my criteria. Yet despite this, I’ll have a nagging suspicion that something is just not right, even though I cannot put my finger on what it is. This is intuition in action.
For the first six months or so that I freelanced, I tended to ignore these feelings, believing that they were occurring just due to my own lack of experience at being a freelancer. What I quickly discovered was that in most cases where my rational mind told me a project was a good idea and my intuition told me it was not, my intuition was correct. Invariably there would turn out to be something I had missed, but just wasn’t able to identify; some sort of warning sign I had missed on the surface but had noticed without even realizing it. It wasn’t always the case: there were some projects I proceeded with despite a bad feeling and it all turned out fine. But the majority of the time, I would have been better off to respect my intuition.
Sometimes intuition isn’t even about your unconscious noticing something your conscious mind did not: it’s just your brain fighting against itself. We all sometimes succumb to stubbornness or plain old greed, which can cause us to be less than honest with ourselves—to discount obvious problems or pretend they aren’t there. On more than one occasion I’ve decided to take on a project despite knowing that there was something wrong, simply because I really wanted to do the job or just to earn the money. I convinced myself that I could ignore the warning signs, even though part of me was screaming that it was a mistake. And in nearly every case, I ended up wishing I could make a different choice.
Similarly, intuition also comes into play in dealing with ethical issues. There are a fair number of unscrupulous clients on freelancing sites who want to hire you to do work that’s of dubious ethicality. Sometimes even good people will try to talk themselves into thinking it’s okay to do something that’s a bit morally dubious, perhaps again lured into that view by the prospect of making lots of money. Yet even as they are trying to convince themselves that what they are doing is okay, there will be something gnawing on their minds. I suppose you could call this guilt or conscience, but it all really boils down to the same thing: a part of your mind doesn’t feel comfortable with what you’re doing.
I urge you to pay attention to your own intuition when you’re evaluating a project. If it seems like the project meets all of your requirements but something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Remember that no matter how good a project seems, it is only one project and there will be others. Missing out on the occasional good job due to being overcautious is unfortunate, but it is worth doing this once in a while to allow yourself to also avoid the real nightmares. Trust your own instincts, and do only what you feel comfortable with.
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