First starting your own business and working for yourself means that you gotta wear a lot of hats: creative director, stylist, photographer, bookkeeper, social media manager… you get the idea.
My primary duty, however, is being the creative director. Each day, I’m coming up with new ideas for both my clients and myself for creative, high impact images that drive our audiences to engage with our products and services.
I often get asked from my Instagram community how do I come up with creative concepts for all my images. Do I have a team to bounce ideas off of? Do I get burnt out coming up with lots of ideas at once? Or, what do I do if no ideas are coming to me at all?!
I do all my creative concepting on my own, which can be nice, but can also be challenging. When you’re presented with a 20+ photo project and you need to come up with 20+ individual concepts quickly, it can get pretty overwhelming.
Throughout the years of running my own business solo, I’ve developed a rhythm that helps keep my ideas flowing. Learning how to stay creative is applicable to ANY business—it helps our minds stay sharp and helps us find solutions to tackle new situations we haven’t been faced with before.
I always find it interesting to dig into other creatives’ minds, so I thought I’d share with you a little into my process and how I keep my ideas flowing.
Whatever business you may be in, try these tips to help keep your mind relaxed and creative.
1. Limit your social media intake
As much as I love scrolling the ‘gram, I find social media to be extremely distracting for my creative mind. If I need to sit down and do some concepting, then you likely won’t find me on social media.
There’s so much information our minds are trying to intake as we’re scrolling Facebook or Instagram, and I feel it inundates our mind and, at least for me, stresses me out! If your mind isn’t relaxed, those ideas aren’t going to come to you.
2. Create a list of words
I’m a very hands-on, visual person. So when it comes to generating ideas, I *always* have a blank sheet of paper and pen in front of me. I’ll very briefly summarize on that paper what the project is about and the general feel of what the client wants based on our discovery session, or creative brief.
With that information right there on the paper, I start thinking of words and colors that come to mind that reflect the creative brief.
There’s no wrong or right ideas at this point. Whatever pops in my mind, I write it down. I’ll sketch rough ideas at this point as well, to help me put them into perspective.
I also do this first thing in the morning, everyday, after writing my blog. I find my brain is in a post-lunch daze in the afternoon and tends to be more creative in the morning.
3. Constantly be in mood board mode
Visual search engines like Pinterest or Designspiration can be a great start for making a mood board. But whenever I find images on the internet, or in magazines, or even an ad or color scheme somewhere out in public, I’ll snap a picture of it and save it to a folder on my computer so I can always reference it later.
In fact, I still have photos from my college trip to Budapest years ago that I still reference. Always keep that creative part of your mind open to ideas and save them when you can—you’ll never know when they’ll come in handy.
4. Take breaks often
I used to think that working into wee hours of the morning, taking a nap, and getting right back to it was the way to catch up on all that work. Nope! A stressed mind isn’t going to give you ideas. It just doesn’t work out that way (and you lose out on a lot of sleep).
Take plenty of breaks when you’re coming up with ideas. I noticed that a lot of my ideas come to me when I’m in the shower, which isn’t the most ideal time for writing them down. I also get lots of ideas when I’m eating or playing with my dogs.
The reason that happens is because that’s when I’m most relaxed. Pay attention to when ideas come to you and use those activities for helping to create ideas later.
I give myself plenty of time to brainstorm when I can, but sometimes clients are on a fast turnaround. Even a brief 10-minute tea time can do wonders for relaxing your mind.
5. Find someone to bounce ideas off of
When you’re first starting out, it can be tough not having a team of creatives to bounce ideas off of. But you know what? You already have a team and they *don’t* need to be in a creative field. In fact, sometimes it’s better if they aren’t. So ask your friend, partner, or mum what their thoughts are.
More than likely, they’ll suggest some off-the-wall kinda ideas that may spur a fresh, unexplored concept for you. No opinions or ideas are ever wrong when it comes to creative concepting. Let those ideas evolve into more refined concepts.
This is also good for getting feedback on something you may have overlooked. Maybe there’s an idea that may have some darker underlying (and unintentional) meaning that you weren’t aware of.
Your brain is so much more powerful than you think. You don’t always need a creative team to come up with ideas, just a little social media discipline, self-care, and rhythm that works for you. You train your mind to think creatively, and after exercising and nurturing your brain day in and day out, coming up with ideas will start to become second nature.
My best bit of advice? Always remember to take breaks and let your mind be relaxed. Take notes whenever an idea pops into your head and staying creative will be easier than ever!
What do you do to stay creative? I’d love to learn about it in the comments below!