creative business

Ideas On Demand // How To Be Creative When You’re Stuck In A Rut

By Alice McKenzie

For those in the creative industries, it’s a familiar feeling—you can almost hear the clock ticking down to to your deadline, but there’s just nothing going on upstairs. I’ve dabbled in writing in all of its glorious forms, with a background as a copywriter for the advertising industry.

While musicians have songs, and authors have books, my ‘creative currency’ was ideas. If I didn’t come up with a strong idea, then I wasn’t bringing the goods. Talk about pressure. But this wasn’t a problem that I was alone in facing. The more advertising folk I got chatting to, the more I realised that everyone had their little secrets to trick their brains into coming up with something surprising.

You see, the first thing to understand is what an idea really is. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel for every campaign. You don’t have to come up with an entire app that’s going to change the way that people see/use/buy x.

Ideas are just new ways of looking at the world, or specifically, new connections between known things. It’s the ‘known things’ part that few people appreciate. In order to really click, to get people to get it, ideas need to be partly familiar. They need to share a common thread with an audience, a requisite base from which to introduce something new.

So, what do these insights mean?

a) You can draw inspiration from the world around you.
b) Fresh stimulation is going to help you find new connections.
c) Those connections could already be lurking in your untapped subconscious.

It should be noted that while these tips lend themselves to creative copywriting, there’s wiggle room to adapt these ways of thinking to solve just about any business or branding problem. After all, advertising is just solving businesses’ problems, right? Before you can implement any of these methods, you need to be armed with a robust creative brief.

Knowing about the product/service/company is great and all, but at the heart of it should be a unique selling proposition (USP). You know the ones:
X car brings families together.
Y cologne makes you irresistible.
Z paint lasts a lifetime.

One ad or piece of writing should equal one selling point.

1. Just get it down
If you’re not afraid to feel like a total idiot, and can accept that seemingly silly steps are all part of the sacred ‘creative process’, then this one is for you. I’m a fan of the good old Sharpie and A3 sheets of paper, but use whatever brainstorming materials that work for you. Draw 10 blank boxes on your page. Don’t worry about a ruler; these are for your purposes only. Write your USP at the top of the page. This should always be displayed prominently so that you never veer too far off-brief.

Now you want to fill your boxes with the first things that come to mind for this brief, no matter how obvious or stupid. If your mind is racing, fill out 50, or 100. They could be words, drawings, whatever. Your boxes don’t need to resemble print ads; this is just to segment your trains of thought. This method has a number of benefits. Most obviously, it flushes out the cliched first thoughts. It’s a well known truth that you can’t get rid of these niggling thoughts by just ignoring them; after a few hours they’ll return and start to seem like good ideas. Just get them out and put them in the pile.

Secondly, by drawing or writing your ideas, you’re helping your mind to see them as physical things. Shape, colour, texture, spelling, placement—these things can all be the springboard for new connections, which would otherwise have been lost in the depths of your mind. By forcing yourself to fill all the boxes available, you are encouraging yourself to look at things differently. Time restrictions can be a useful (albeit stressful) tool in coming up with new connections.

2. The dictionary method
Flip open the dictionary to a random page. Close your eyes and drop your finger somewhere on that page. This word, no matter how bizarre, is now your central focus: one of your known things. Within thirty seconds of finding your word, start writing. Anything. First person, third person. Fiction, non fiction. Don’t let your pen leave the page for 5 minutes. It will feel dumb. Your writing will most likely be completely senseless, but sometimes that’s all it takes to find something new.

Wade through that shocking excuse for writing, and just see where your brain goes. A slight twist on this method is a personal favourite of mine. If you’ve been given an impossible brief, vent it out through a pen rather than bashing that precious brain against the wall. Using the same non-stop writing approach, write about why you hate your client, what they want you to do, why it’s difficult with that product etc. There’s no greater motivation to write quickly than pure rage, and you might just find that letting emotion in could be the new perspective you needed.

3. Stimulate the senses
It’s quite remarkable how much of a role our senses play in our thinking. If you’re trying to market a particular product, it is a worthwhile idea to see it, touch it, smell it. Use it how it is intended to be used. Try to understand why the USP was chosen. Reading a brief can only give you so much information. It takes a little on-the-ground research to make up your own mind, and come up with genuine ideas. If you want to help the process along, introduce new things into your routine. Walk home via a different route.

Go to a different shopping centre to do your grocery shopping. We tend to filter out the everyday parts of our lives, so stimulating your mind and body with new places can help to spark creative thinking.

4. Give up (briefly)
Only recommended after a few days of solid brainstorming, this is less of a method and more of a necessary step. You’ve been furiously scribbling, and you have piles of paper to show for it. You may have hallucinated once or twice. You’re no longer sure of the difference between a good idea and a bad idea, and oh God you need sleep.

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the point where you’re officially allowed to give up. It might be a few hours, it might be a day, depending on your deadline. You’ve tuckered out your little brain with product overload, so now you need to trust it to do its thing. Do something totally unrelated to your brief. Take a shower. Read a book. Draw. Work on a menial task.

The theory here is that while your brain takes a much needed break on the surface, the cogs are still turning in your subconscious, ready to burst forth with your idea.

Alice loves ideas and hates incorrect apostrophes. She’s the one woman army behind Beetroot Creative, a copywriting service for little brands with big stories to tell. Stalking is encouraged on Facebook and Instagram, or make yourself comfortable at beetrootcreative.com.au.

5 Tips To Free You From Obsessive Social Media Scrolling

By Tess Bartlett

Several weeks ago I found myself in a slump. I was so tired I felt like I’d hit a wall. I was doing far too much and knew something had to shift. It was during a coaching session with a lovely client that I became acutely aware of how reliant I was on my phone, social media, and the internet. It was the last thing that I did before switching my phone off at night and the first thing I did every morning. My alarm went off and I would reach for my phone and start scrolling. Waking up to images of models on Instagram would immediately put me in the “not good enough” mindset and I would start comparing myself to other people I didn’t even know.

Every time I had a couple of minutes spare I was flicking that damn thumb down the screen, my eyes glazing over and staring intently into nothingness hoping that something of interest would pop up and change my existence. It never did. I was lost in an online world and not at all present in my life. This was definitely not my happy place.

When I logged onto Facebook I noticed that my heart started beating faster and there was a spike in my anxiety. When I shut down my screen I would let out a sigh of relief. It was literally sapping the life out of me. Not only this, there seemed to be a spike in my anxiety every time I logged on. It was after becoming aware of how social media was affecting my mind and my body that I made the decision to beat this social media frenzy and bring space, calm and connection back into my life. I have worked a lot over the years on creating healthy relationship boundaries with those around me, where I am honest, assertive, and where I make sure my needs are being met. The same is needed for social media and the internet.

If you want to live in a world where you have meaningful connections with those around you, where you are at peace and feeling creative and inspired then there needs to be space. In order to make this space you need to have boundaries

These are the steps that are going to free up your time. They will give you energy to feel creative and inspired to write, where you feel calm, energised and relaxed.

1. Be mindful
When you use social media be mindful of how it makes you feel in your body (download your guide to meditation here). Notice where your mind goes and the stories you are telling yourself. If you find yourself going off into comparison or judgment with stories of “I’m not good enough” or “look what they have” then maybe it’s time to rethink your social media use. Do you notice any change in your breathing? Become curious about any change in your state – are you agitated, frustrated or is there negative self-talk? Or, are you using it as a way of connecting, sharing, and being generous and kind to others?

2. Invest in an alarm clock
Rather than having your phone by your bed and waking up to a boring alarm with instant access to social media and the internet, go out and purchase a snazzy alarm clock. I bought a cool little blue clock with a radio alarm and today I woke up to music. Now that’s what I call an ideal wake up call.

3. Have designated social media times
If you have a business and you use it as part of your marketing strategy, then have a strategy. Instead of checking it whenever you feel like it, allocate times to check it when your fans/clients/readers are most likely to be online and use this time to respond to comments, like posts, share articles and write posts. Allocate 2-3 times a day to do this and leave it at that. No ceaseless checking. If you don’t have a business but find yourself feeling shite after you have looked, then maybe check in with how often you are using it and create some allocated social media times throughout your day. It will feel liberating and freeing to know you have so much time outside of this to do WHATEVER you choose and you will be much more productive when you log on. I schedule posts at night for the next morning and that way I am not thinking about social media when I wake up. It might suit you to schedule posts weeks in advance.Personally I have found that I tend to feel inspired in the moment and so post that way, just find something that works for you. Doing this will free up so much of your time! How many times have you gone to check social media and looked at the clock only to find that 20 minutes have passed?

4. Log out 
Once you have finished using social media, log out. Remove Facebook from your phone and only check it on your computer. It’s about being in control of your phone, not having a phone that is in control of you. Here is a great post from Nectar Collective on turning your phone off during the day. Logging out means that every time you want to check social media on your phone you have the added steps of logging on and you can choose not to.

5. Technology free after 6 pm
Being technology free after 6 pm means refraining from surfing the internet while the TVs on, or checking your emails or social media. Doing this allows you to relax and have space to breathe. It gives you down time and your mind, body, and soul will have the opportunity to slow down and be present to what is going on around you. Night time is about switching off and giving your mind and body the rest it needs to recuperate.

Tess Bartlett is a writer, speaker and Director of Tess Bartlett Holistic Coaching where she leads coaches, consultants and creatives who are Catalysts for Change and ready to refuel their passion for their craft and tune into their own superpowers. Tess gained her credentials in Life Coaching from The Coaching Institute, Australia and is a certified Meta Dynamics practitioner, incorporating mindfulness and self-compassion into her coaching practice.

Tess' writing has featured regularly in The Successful Coach Magazine, Happiness and Wellbeing Magazine, Blog Society, and on her own blog Whisperings of the Mind. She is also undertaking a PhD examining the experiences of fathers in prison.

Tess Bartlett

3 ways to solve problems like a designer

By Calli Reynaga

As a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and blogger, I write about things that I’m passionate about: technology, starting a business, marketing, organizations, people, behavior, leadership, productivity, and goal setting. I am always learning and expanding my knowledge base and skills.

For those who are looking for something fresh, and written from a different perspective, keep reading.

My appetite for information is vast and constant. I like to read blogs that teach me something, are entertaining, and well written. I also try to write about interesting topics within my expertise. For those who are currently reading this article, we are going to define UI and UX in technical terms so you can say you learned something and then apply it to solving problems with design for people.

UX Design is another way of saying User Experience Design, while UI Design means User Interface Design.

In general, design is like a blueprint or a plan or rendering to show the look and function of a product (digital). Both are crucial elements to a product and work closely together. UX is more analytical and technical whereas UI is what we mostly know as graphic and visual design.

If the digital product is a human body, the bones give structure just like code, and UX design are the organs measuring and optimizing for supporting life functions. UI design are the cosmetics of the body - presentation, its senses and reactions. You can read more about this relationship. in a layman’s guide.

The best-designed solutions happen when we truly understand the underlying needs. Problems are actual challenges while solutions allow people to understand something. Designers have to cut through the clutter to create a solution that can be communicated to users.

There are a few things you can do to think like a designer. Design thinking is about empathy. This empathy goes beyond knowing and responding to how a person feels. To approach problems through the eyes of a designer or design thinking, empathy is the starting point in a process for innovation. This often leads to better insight into human behavior and inspiration.

In psychology, there are three types of empathy. The first is purely cognitive. This is being able to understand things from another person’s point of view or perspective. This is what UI designers do. The second type, personal distress, is to literally feel another’s emotions. The third is emphatic concern. This type is what most people refer to when they say, “empathy.” It is the ability to feel another person’s emotional state or to feel in tune and show appropriate concern.

All three definitions are what a good designer feels in order to design for people and create solutions to design problems. They must practice empathy and design for people by communicating and with creative problem solving.

Just like a designer, I can use empathy to catapult innovation. By observing, analyzing, and interviewing to create a process, the information I’m gathering will lead to a solution.

Here is a real life problem: my desire is to target a specific demographic of women for an online campaign. After reading about empathy and innovation, these are the 3 steps I plan to use:

1.     Observe

  • Use Facebook groups for ideas and to get in touch with my target audience.
  • Look for and at women’s forum’s to see what they are saying.
  • Go to a group (in-person) for the women you want to talk to.

2.     Analyze

  • Calculate
  • Try to identify patterns in the way people behave.

3.     Interview

  • Use Facebook groups to reach out to women.
  • Message or email to connect, add friends
  • Survey monkey
  • Face-to-face
  • Email
  • Ask how they feel and how to improve their situation

We start with individual needs because designing this way leads to greater awareness and inspiration. The best solutions come from insights into human behavior. I will get a good idea of what my audience thinks, feels, and behaves by observation and through interaction.

What I’ve determined is that I would like to wear the design hat more often. As a creative I can relate to being empathetic and writing to your audience. What I appreciate about designers is the power to solve problems systematically and with creativity. It has given me an efficient way to think through and address problems as they come.

The most useful thing I’m taking with me from this is to feel what your audience feels, whether it be joy, frustration, enlightened, or unsatisfied. You can better relate to their pain points and success. This is crucial when solving problems and creating digital content.

Calli Reynaga is Zen master – a Silicon Valley founder, and creative force behind EVOLVE OS. 

She brings innovation and perpetual improvement to her content, communication strategies, and marketing. She is passionate about helping start ups and individuals communicate articulately both visually and narratively. She has recently consulted with companies, curated web content, and produced copy for corporate stories. Her specialty is messaging and branding. She has studied arts and humanities and is a Communication Specialist at Innowest. Follow her on Twitter and her blog.

Getting started in business

By Torie Jochims

Getting started as an entrepreneur is shrouded in mystery and filled with far more questions than there are answers. When I decided to start my writing business, I loathed this lack of clear-cut information. I wanted a how-to manual and I couldn’t find one anywhere. As I developed my business idea and dug into making that dream a reality, though, I realized WHY there wasn’t a manual. The lessons I learned in my getting started journey play some of the most important roles as I grow my business.

So, I won’t offer you a manual, because there isn’t one. But I want to share the big lessons I learned, because they will make the first steps of this crazy wonderful entrepreneurship thing feel a lot less lonely.

You know what you want your business to be, but what’s next?

When I took the first steps toward Wild Spark Creative’s launch, I felt like I was barely keeping my head above water in all the information I was consuming. Then, about a month into researching and note-taking, I realized that I wasn’t actually DOING anything. Yes, I had read three novels worth of articles on starting and running your own business, but I wasn’t any closer, tangibly, to starting my company than I was before I spent a month digesting information.

Research does not equal action

Ifyou’re anything like I was, searching for the magic formula before taking action, be warned. There is no ABC to building your business, there is only the groundwork that needs to be done and the rest is educated trial and error my dear friends.

That’s why there is no manual. It’s why can’t ask for someone else’s journey and expect to replicate their success. Your secret sauce is going to be different than anyone else’s because (hopefully) your business is different than anyone else’s. But here’s what I know WILL move you closer to creating a clear path toward success.

Dot your t’s and cross your i’s, legally, before you do an ounce of business

Register your business name with your government. Get an EIN and set up a business bank account. No, you do not need to be rolling in the dough to do this. I registered with my state for $20 and my business checking account was literally free to set up.

Look around for a bank or credit union that best suits your needs, but do this up front. It will make you far less prone to Kim K ugly crying come tax time.

Now, you’ve got a foundation. How you build your success on top of that foundation is up to you.

That’s right, I said it. Your success is up to you.

I’m still struggling with that sentiment. I want to follow a roadmap. I want someone else’s answers to be my right answers, too. But all you have to do is ask a business question in a particularly large Facebook group to realize that everyone has different right answers.

I’m a firm believer in standing in YOUR truth. That means making the decisions you feel are right for you and your business, and it means owning the mistakes you will inevitably make as a business owner.

Mistakes are your best teachers

Heaven knows this lesson is not an easy one for this perfectionist of an entrepreneur to internalize. But it’s necessary to understand. Don’t get caught in the useless hamster wheel of mourning the views you don’t have and whining about the traction you’re not getting. Understand that there is a certain amount of being unknown that will come with starting a business. Commit to it anyway. If, months in, things are still not working, don’t blame the universe. Instead, adjust. Consider where you may have gone wrong and be open to learning from that.

When we are too stubborn (let’s be honest here, stubbornness is a trait rampant among entrepreneurs. It serves us well sometimes. Sometimes.) to acknowledge we’ve misstepped, it hurts our business. Learn to set aside the stubborn streak in these situations.

Become a community member

This might pertain to the physical city you live in, but it might also be a virtual community you choose to get involved with. Maybe you do a little of both (I highly recommend a little of both. Being keyed into your physical community is extremely valuable.)

Truth be told, if it weren’t for amazing Facebook groups like Being Boss and Savvy Business Owners,  Wild Spark Creative wouldn’t exist yet. Because I joined that group of entrepreneurs, I learned a lot quickly.

I took a chance at being vulnerable and asking for help, and I offered advice and expertise whenever I could for others. In return, I received tons of support and resources that helped me build that foundation, and blindly feel my way through some of the murkier waters until I could grasp onto that moment of clarity.

When you become a community member, whatever form that takes for you, remember these two things. Ask when you truly need direction, and give 10x’s more than you ask. Be there to support and encourage your fellow business owners, help each other through the crazy roller coaster and swirling corn maze that is this journey we’re on together.

Being a steward of the communities you join and genuinely showing up makes a difference. It will make a difference in the quality of relationships you build as a business owner and it will make a difference in the quality of clients and customers you attract.

You learn a LOT in your first month of business, and none of it is what you expect to learn. Taking the plunge without the manual and figuring it out as you go along is the best feeling. Remember to be kind to yourself, to expect the unexpected, be ready to pivot, and celebrate your wins, especially the small ones as you get started.

Torie is the over-caffeinated wordsmith at the helm of Wild Spark Creative. She's passionate about helping small business owners and creative entrepreneurs create content that ignites their brand and authentically connects with their ideal audience. She's a believer in people. She's also a hiker, a mountain climber, a runner, a makeup enthusiast and a lover of craft beer and good desserts. Find her on Instagram and Facebook. 

Ready to learn how to market your biz like a boss? Our Digital Bravery Ecourse is open for enrolment now!

Marketing for the New, Confused or Overwhelmed Entrepreneur

By Marrissa Stewart

Alright.

So you’ve got your business. Your brand new, shiny, beautiful business.

You’ve got all your ideas ready to bring to fruition.

You’re excited. Passionate. Stoked, you even might say. You’re ready to get out there and mingle.

You rub your hands together, put your hands to the keyboard and begin your Google search: “How to Market my Business Online”.

1,000,000+ search results come up. “Well,” you think, “at least there are a lot of options and resources for me.”

You begin the trek through the results.

As you begin absorbing all the information, you start to realize your options are infinite:

  • Social media marketing
  • Paid ads
  • Email marketing
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Experiential marketing
  • SEO, video marketing
  • Livestreaming
  • Webinars
  • Content marketing
  • Networking at events

…your head starts to spin as you see the options add up.

You think, “Well damn, where the hell do I start with my marketing?”

How do I know which strategy works best?

How do I know where to find my potential clients/customers?

The answers seem endless – and you immediately close out the browser to avoid the overwhelm.

Marketing is overwhelming when you first start, there’s no doubt about that. You’re not sure where to start, what strategy is best for you and what actually works.

So if this is your first time dipping into marketing yourself (or your biz, more specifically) or you’re experiencing the familiar “marketing overwhelm” scene above – I’ve made a little guide for you to breathe easy.

This of this as “A Marketing Guide for Beginners, Newbies & Overwhelmed”.

1.    Identify your ideal client. Now, I could probably write a whole book on this – and I’m sure whole books have been written on this – but simply put. Identify who your ideal client is. Who are they? How old are they? Where are they located? What does a typical day look like? What are they going through? What problems do they have that you’d like to solve?

2.    Find out where your audience is hanging out. One of the best ideas to knowing where to start is finding out where your ideal clients and customers are hanging out. You can research this! It’s easy. This will help set the scene for the next step you need to take to actually decide which marketing strategies you’re going to employ.

3.    What kind of marketing sounds fun to you? There are a PLETHORA of options for every personality type. If you’re someone who does well with meeting people or connecting with others, affiliate marketing, video marketing and networking events might be perfect options for you. With #2 in mind, think about what sounds really exciting for you, pick 2-3 and stick with those.

Do more research in those areas to see what sounds like something you would actually do. If you won’t actually do things you need to implement a particular marketing, don’t pick that strategy!

4.    Pick 1-2 strategies, ONLY. As a business owner, especially as a beginning one, there’s so much you already have to do: business management and administration, customer service, client care, accountant, graphic designer, copywriter …the list goes on and on. Picking 1-2 strategies secures your chances at success and the best quality going into these marketing efforts. Plus, it keeps the overwhelm down. :)

5.    Begin implementation of strategy 3 months prior to the launch. Most strategies take A LOT of time, tasks and energy to complete. Consider the copy, graphics, implementation, technology and software that you will need. Consider the customer support that you will need during launch. Strategies of the one-man or woman variety especially will need a lot of time to complete this – give yourself a buffer.

6.    Walk through your own marketing experience. If you want to know what people are thinking when they experience your marketing, walk through it yourself once you’ve completed all the pieces necessary to complete the strategy. This gives you an idea of the glitches and/or experience your customers go through, and you can make tweaks along the way.

And while this is by no means the end all be all of your marketing techniques, this IS a great starting point.

And to step even further into supporting you with the marketing overwhelm whether you’re old or new to this marketing thing – I’ve made you a little checklist to use to make sure you follow all the above steps.

You can print this checklist out as a step-by-step list for making sure you’ve lined up all your ducks in a row and dotted all your “I”s.

Easy peasy, you got this! 

Marrissa has had the gift of persuasive communication since birth which was honed to a skilled trade when she started her own Online Business Management company in 2013. Through her clients, she was able to help build multiple businesses and manage a plethora of launches. This experience has given Marrissa a unique and unparalleled working knowledge & obsession with marketing strategies that help business owners stand out & profit. When not helping build companies or writing sassy and refreshing copy, she’s a craft beer lover, devoted entrepreneur, gamer, and proud cat momma.

Ready to learn how to market your biz like a boss? Our Digital Bravery Ecourse is open for enrolment now!