Freelancers are continually making strategic business decisions. We have to think long-term about our career progression, make our own career ladders, and ensure that our business stays above water.

We live in an age when “data science” is billed as the thing that will save small and large businesses. We assume that the best business owners and leaders rely on reason and cold hard fact to make strategic decisions.

But according to a study out of Emory University, this is only true of “average” leaders. The best leaders rely on their emotions and intuitions when making hard choices.

“When we examined the best strategic performers in our sample, we found significantly less neural activity in the prefrontal cortex than in the areas associated with “gut” responses, empathy, and emotional intelligence,” Professor Roderick Gilkey found.

People who are emotionally intelligent were also able to occupy someone else’s shoes to see how their decision would affect others. Though researchers focus on how this benefits the leader’s employees, I would bet that for a non-employee freelance business, this emotional intelligence allows freelancers to understand both current and future clients better. Taking into account these “soft” intuitions about how others see your brand value will allow you to make smarter business decisions.

So how do freelancers learn emotional intelligence? Researchers have found that emotional intelligence can be taught -- it just takes time and practice. It involves self-reflection and a desire to connect meaningfully with others, according to psychologist and journalist Daniel Goleman.

How do you make decisions?