The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.
— Robert Benchley
In my job as a Turnaround Authority, I’m just like any other freelancer or contract worker. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid. I enjoy holidays and vacation time just as much as the next guy, but my bank account doesn’t grow during my time off.
I’ll go to great lengths to get new business. I once flew to Paris on a day’s notice at the request of a former client who said he needed me to meet face-to-face with someone at a manufacturing operation where he was experiencing a problem.
But there are other times when I’m offered work a lot closer to home. Work that would pay really well. And I turn it down.
Here are a few of the reasons I turn down work.
• I’m being asked to do something illegal or unethical. Not agreeing to do something illegal is an obvious one. But the ethical area is not always so clear cut to people. (I have a great story for that one that I’ll share later.)
• I don’t think the person trying to hire me is really committed to making the changes that will be necessary to meet the desired goals. Sometimes it’s someone who has a big ego and I can tell he or she won’t want to implement the changes I’ll be suggesting. I don’t want to set myself up for failure.
• I sense a personality conflict. I get along with just about everybody, but every now and then I’ll meet someone and I can tell right away that our relationship will not be smooth sailing. Many of my jobs involve working closely with key personnel at a company and it’s much easier to accomplish our goals (and more enjoyable) if we have good working relationships.
• I don’t trust the person who is trying to hire me. Sometimes this is based on just a sense I get about someone when I speak with him or her on the phone or meet with them in person.
Other than being asked to do something illegal or unethical, the rest of these reasons are pretty much based on my instinct. After almost 30 years in this business, I feel like I’ve learned to read people pretty well.
It really comes down to one thing: I trust my gut. If I make a decision against what my gut tells me to do, 99 percent of the time it turns out badly.
George Zachary, a partner with Charles River Ventures who has had more than $1 billion in returns on investments in companies that include Twitter, Trulia and Shutterfly, believes in trusting his gut too.
“Listening to my gut is the right thing to do for me. It doesn’t mean it’s going to work out. But it does mean that’s what I should follow,” he said in an interview recently. “That’s my passion. When I’ve done that it has worked well. When I’ve followed my brain and not my heart it’s resulted in disaster and failure every time. I’ve had no success operating from making a rational decision or a decision based on fear. It’s all come from listening to my gut and intuition.”
The late Steve Jobs shared a similar philosophy during his Stanford Commencement speech. “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
It always works for me as well. My gut told me to go to Paris for a three-hour meeting. And that was the right decision. I didn’t make a lot of money on that trip — I only billed him for the time I spent in the meeting. But 18 months later when that client needed help again? He called me.