Our online project management software is great at helping you track time, plan projects, manage milestones & tasks, send invoices and generally help your freelance business run smoothly - but it can’t help you come up with ideas if you're looking for design inspiration.
Luckily for you, the team here at Thrive are all seasoned creatives of one sort or another, so we put our heads together and compiled a list of unusual tools and techniques to help you tap into your creative psyche and set your ideas free.
If you’re a freelancer, it’s bound to happen at some point. The well of creativity runs dry and you hit a wall. No project management software will help you then. What will is a Thesaurus. If you do any sort of freelance work in the creative sector, a Thesaurus nearby means you’re never short of inspiration. These pocket idea generators are packed full of themes, threads and tropes for you to plunder.
Metaphorically speaking, the trash is a great place to find ideas. If you’re stuck, go through your past work and you might find an old design, clever line or discarded concept that didn’t quite work for one brief but is perfect now. We never throw away old ideas - we keep them to dig through. Occasionally it can save you time, as the hard work and thinking's already been done. It just needs to be tweaked or refined.
A lot of us are most creative at a certain time of day. Learn to pinpoint when you’re at your creative peak, and use that knowledge to maximize your creative output. Some of us are morning people - others, night-owls; whichever you are, set your alarm and get into a routine of doing your design work, photography or writing then. Working freelance, you have more flexibility - make sure you use that to your advantage.
Aleatoricism. How’s that for a word? It’s the incorporation of chance and random events into the creative process. For instance, in 1979 Andy Voda made a movie which he produced by flipping coins and rolling dice. Other ways of practicing randomness include picking ideas from a hat or pulling random words from a dictionary. In short, aleatoricism is a way to introduce new thoughts and ideas into the creative process.
The Off Switch
As we build online project management software, perhaps we shouldn’t say this - but sometimes technology’s the enemy of creativity. It can push you into working in certain ways, making you lazy so you end up using the same techniques over and over again. Every freelancer should make an effort to get old school and pick up and pen and pad if they want to get creative. So hit that switch. Technology can help but it can also hinder.
Kit Kat Bar
Remember the strapline for Kit Kat? Have a break. One of the joys of working freelance is flexibility, take a break and come back to a project with a fresh set of eyes. If you suddenly find you hit a wall or can’t quite solve a problem, stop what you’re doing, step away from our project management Software and come back later. You’ll often find an idea or solution will instantly presents itself upon your return.
Perhaps the greatest creative tool for a freelancer is a set of sticky fingers. To put it another way - steal stuff. There, we said it. In fact, Picasso said it way before us with his line, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal”. So don’t be ashamed of lifting a little inspiration here and there. As long as you’re not blatantly copying. That's how new ideas are born. Be inspired by something, then mold it into something fresh and new.
Working freelance, one of the biggest barriers to creativity is isolation. Luckily it’s easily conquered with your mouth. Get out, talk to friends and involve people more in your work. They’ll come at things from different angles and you’ll generate new ideas from fresh perspectives. There’s a good reason ad-men work in teams of two - it’s so they can bounce ideas off each other, sparking new ones in the process.
Physical activity gets your creative-juices pumping as well as your heart, so to be a success working freelance, swap your time-tracking tool for a stop-watch. A recent study found exercise increases the areas in the brain that govern creativity, and greases the pathways between the prefrontal cortex (the brain’s creative part) and the amygdala - so thirty minutes on the treadmill boosts your brain and helps you come up with better ideas.
Know when inspiration strikes? When you least expect it. Once your subconscious has had time to mull a problem over, it’ll blurt the solution out - but only if you’re nice and relaxed. So run a bath, go for a walk or do anything other than try and crack that troublesome brief. For lots of us here, the best ideas come last thing at night or first thing in the morning when taking a shower (though we don't all sleep and shower together).
This blog post is brought to you by the creators of Solo; your freelance wingman. If you'd like to contribute to the blog, contact us on hello[at]wearethrive.com.