Staying creative when working in isolation
Whether you’re a veteran home worker or new to the remote working club, at one time or another we will all be faced with the dreaded creative block. When working in isolation – either as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic or by choice as an independent business owner – remaining creative in delivering services, developing products, pursuing new strategies or finding solutions to problems can be particularly challenging. It’s all down to you.
But you are not alone.
While the responsibility of being creatively engaged rests squarely on your shoulders, there are numerous sources of inspiration, potential business partners and opportunities for collaboration out there.
Do not underestimate the value of research. Whether directed research for a specific project or wider reading around your industry, your market or your customers, this is time well spent. Through research you are broadening your understanding, developing ideas and honing your approach.
Plus, research can take multiple forms – from reading books and articles to listening to podcasts, interviewing experts and collecting visuals that inspire (such as art, photography, films). Grab a notebook, start a note on your phone, open a voice note or create a folder on your desktop, then listen, learn, read and record.
Challenging times – such as those we are currently experiencing – can impede creative thinking by flooding the mind with worry. Frustratingly, difficult times heighten the pressure to be creative and for that creativity to yield returns – and so we find ourselves spiralling downwards in a creativity vortex.
Being playful and experimental alleviates this pressure. Play gives you creative freedom, but also freedom to fail. When experimenting with ideas for new products or new services, the pressure to succeed or to create something of “worth” is removed. You’re simply being creative for creativity’s sake. But play isn’t frivolous; it allows you to explore new ways of working and develop new ways of thinking.
Find a business buddy who can act as a sounding board for ideas. The very process of talking through thoughts and explaining ideas can clarify approaches and formulate new opportunities.
While it is beneficial for this buddy to be a business owner themselves, they do not need to operate in the same industry or line of work. Indeed, working with someone outside your industry removes the temptation for assumed understanding and instead challenges you to communicate ideas clearly – just as you would to consumers.
Use customers and (dare I say) competitors as colleagues. If you want to ascertain whether an idea is worth pursuing, pitch them to your customers; trial and test ideas, invite feedback, then refine. Your
customers are invested in your business, they care about what you have to offer and how you can improve, so why not involve them in the creative process?
As well as a source of motivation, competitors are a source of inspiration and, if we’re honest, admiration. Many established business owners are generous with their time and advice for fledgling freelancers and start-ups, so look to competitors as business coaches. Conversely, there is a lot that established businesses can learn from those new on the scene, so ask! Partnership working between competitors not only supports the industry as a whole, but provides opportunities for collaborative working and development of new ideas.
MENTA offers support for new and established small businesses in Norfolk and Suffolk. For those new to business, our range on Start-up business support offers invaluable advice and information in an informal, remote and live video setting. Plus, it’s fully-funded!
For established business owners looking for guidance during these challenging times, we offer one-to-one sessions with experienced business coaches.
About the author: Lucinda is a seasoned communication specialist and owner of Bird Media, a marketing and communications agency specialising in PR strategy, content writing, graphic and website design, and brand development. Find her on LinkedIn - linkedin.com/in/lucinda-sloane