If you run your own business, you’ll have probably had many Google sessions asking questions like: ‘How do I get more followers on Instagram?’ and ‘Getting people to sign up to my newsletter’.
We’ve all been there.
And the answers will be something along these lines:
- To increase your Instagram following, create a regular posting schedule. Daily, preferably. Post at 7pm on Wednesdays, because that’s when most people are on Instagram.
- If you want to get people to sign up to your newsletter, launch a competition on social media, and ask people to sign up to your newsletter to enter. Put a link to your newsletter in your social media bio.
These tips are fine. But if everyone was posting on Instagram on Wednesdays at 7pm, that would be a lot of content to digest. And if everyone launched a competition to gain new email sign-ups, it would become obvious that this was a ploy.
This is why taking a more intuitive approach to running a business is becoming increasingly popular. You don’t have to post at the same time each day, or even post every day. You follow your gut; go with your energy.
If you’re feeling inspired and have a great idea: post it. And then be available to respond to comments. After all, this is more likely to get the Instagram algorithm favouring you than the unspontaneous post you scheduled last Tuesday.
When we’re starting out, though, it’s tempting to copy what others are doing, if they’re getting the results we’re after. So we follow the rules. But there’s always scope for originality and for changing things up.
Here are some examples of using your intuition to guide you in business…
So a non-negotiable, right now, is that having a social media presence will benefit your business. But how you use it is up to you.
Social media coach Vanessa Rinaldi advises her clients to listen to their gut before posting online. “If it feels uncomfortable for you to, for example, post pictures of your kids—don’t do it. Your business doesn’t rely on it.”
Coach Nicola Gibbs agrees that if you hesitate or pause before going ahead with a business decision—that could be posting on social media, or deciding whether or not to go ahead with a project—it’s a sign that shouldn’t be ignored.
“It’s useful to check what that might be, says Gibbs. “Where is the hesitation coming from? It could be fear. And then it’s worth checking whether to push through or if it’s a fear we shouldn’t be listening to. It could also be intuition whispering that what you’re about to do isn’t quite right.”
Every day, there are decisions to be made when you work for yourself. You have to decide what the day’s focus should be, prioritise tasks, decide whether it’s more important to get to a networking event or to plan content for the coming month.
When life coach Rebecca Caution isn’t sure about a decision that needs to be made, she meditates. “I do TM [transcendental meditation], twice a day for 20 minutes,” she says. “If I’m not immediately sure of something, I let it lie, forget about it and relax. The answer usually comes either whilst I’m meditating or straight after. And then I’m sure.”
Yoga teacher Emily Hoyle (@emily_nourishyoga) focuses her attention on her body before making decisions. “How does it feel in your body? She says. “Give yourself a few moments to take some deep breaths, and tune in to how a decision or a partnership feels in your body. It can take some practice but it’s so reliable.”
With a product or service to sell, market research takes you to a certain point – what are others charging; where do you want to sit in the market—and then it’s up to you, as the business owner, to decide what price to put on it.
Maisie Hill, author of Period Power, uses her intuition to decide on how to price up her courses, paying close attention to where she is in her menstrual cycle. “[Intuition] is how I price everything,” she says. “And of course, I also use my cycle to help me tap into it and make decisions.”
So does writer, educator and coach Eloise Rickman. “I’ve always followed my gut on pricing,” she says. “I’ve been told so many times that my courses are too cheap, but it works for me and I feel comfortable with it. I also don’t do anything (blogging, social media etc) on a ‘schedule’ even though you’re ‘supposed’ to.”
People to work with
When it comes to deciding on whether a client is right for you, or if a case study will help—not hinder—your article, project or investigation, intuition can be powerful. But it’s not always easy, especially when it means potentially turning down good money.
Business coach Alice Jennings tries to follow her instinct but says we’re so well-trained to “take the money” that it can be hard to turn down a perfectly good client— on paper— “who you know deep down will cost way more than the fee you are going to charge.”
“I used to just quote ludicrously high prices,” she says, “but this backfired when someone said yes then was more demanding. Now I just refer elsewhere. Still hard, though, and you have to trust that another, more suitable client will come along.”
Freelance writer Heidi Scrimgeour teaches journalism and says she not only follows her own gut about work decisions, but teachers her students to as well. “That case study who seems great on paper but just feels ‘off’ somehow or the dream client with a great budget who nonetheless makes you feel anxious when their name appears in your inbox – those senses are telling you something.”
She says she has never regretted walking away from an opportunity or piece work because of a gut feeling, but has “deeply regretted ignoring those instincts”.
Psychologist Dr Sam Akbar (@mindsshe on Instagram) explains that from a psychology perspective, intuition is based on listening to your experience and knowing what you’ve learnt from similar situations in the past.
“So if you’ve worked with tricky people before,” she says, “you can listen to what your mind and body say about when the next tricky person turns up and you feel full of stress about taking them on but your mind talks you into it,” she says.
“Usually it’s because you think you need the work so you choose behaviours from a scarcity mindset which usually is not in-line with your values. The trick is to be really aware of your cognitions, emotions and motivations.”
The internet is swarming with brilliant articles on the best daily routine to optimise success—usually starting with a ludicrously early start—but business and lifestyle coach Julia Davies has different ideas about this. “In business I’ve found it’s so important to make your own rules,” she says.
“Each of us is different so having that trust in yourself that you’re doing things the right way for you is essential. It takes practice to trust yourself. Instead of listening to society’s rules on when you should be at your desk, for example, listening to your energy levels throughout the day and doing tasks based on how you’re feeling leads to a happier, healthier business.”
A new project comes up and you’re not sure whether or not to get involved? Coach Roo Davies recommends honing in on your values, to see if it fits. “By nurturing an awareness and understanding of your values you can unlock the connection with your intuition,” she says.
“Values can act as an anchor for your thinking and behaviour to be authentic. A valuable tool when there can be conflicting feelings from within and input from others.”
PhD candidate Anna Faye Bosworth Woolf uses intuition when she feels she may be taking on too many projects. “Sometimes, you need the guts to say no” she says. “Even if it seems like a good project. If you are good, people always come back—trust that more work will come your way.”
But what if you simply can’t hear what your ‘gut’ or intuition is telling you?
Stylist Aleksandra Olenska believes you can tap into it by looking at other aspects of your life and how naturally you follow your instinct—like with fashion. “It’s always incredible to see how we are intuitively drawn to colours and styles that align with our values if we allow ourselves,” she says.
She advises her clients to let go of ideas about what they should wear and to instead make a vision board of their dream version of themselves—how they look, what they will wear—in great detail. She believes that starting from this “place of fantasy” helps them to reconnect with their intuition.
Of course, not everyone agrees that intuition is the best way to make decisions in business—and sometimes there simply isn’t time to meditate your way to the right decision.
That’s why coffee makers Perky Blenders have the in-house motto: ‘Don’t think, do!”. Founder Victoria Cozens says: “You can always think about it more later but you may miss the opportunity. You know you need to do it to grow, expand, scale up, it’s daunting but just do it.”