9 Top Brainstorming Tips for Freelancers and Other Creatives

Young woman writing on sticky note in bright creative office

Oh no! You’re stuck for ideas again. What will you do?

If you’re a freelancing creative who makes a living from your creativity, running out of ideas can be a serious problem. Your income could be at stake.

There are plenty of great tools to help you brainstorm, including the free tools Coggle and FreeMind. But where do you start?

In this post, I’ll provide nine places to start your brainstorming sessions. I also invite you to share your own tips and techniques for coming up with creative and fresh ideas.

If you liked this post, you’ll probably also like the DesignM.ag post, Improve Your Creativity & Problem-Solving with these 7 Brainstorming Techniques. You may also like this FreelanceM.ag post, My Best Ideas for What to Do When Your Freelancing Creativity Fails You.

9 Brainstorming Tips

Brainstorming can be an effective way to come up with new and creative ideas. If you ever tried it, though, you know that it can be difficult to get started.

Since I know that nobody wants to spend a morning staring at a blank piece of paper (or computer screen), I’ve come up with some tips to help you start brainstorming.

If you’re looking for ideas to start your brainstorming session, here are nine excellent ones:

  1. Swipe File. Many freelancers keep a file of sites, articles, and images that inspire them. The purpose of a swipe file is not so that you can copy the idea, but rather so that you can analyze what worked about it. Looking through your swipe file for inspiration is a great place to start brainstorming.
  2. Silly Ideas. Your silly idea may not be so silly after all. Think about some of the products we have now that might have seemed silly at first. For example, years ago when all clothing was fastened by buttons or laces, the zipper might have seemed somewhat silly. Yet look at the popularity of the zipper today.
  3. Word Association. To brainstorm using word association, write your main term down and quickly record every word that comes to mind when you look at it. For example, if you are trying to design a website that appeals to youth, you might start with the word “young.”
  4. Answer a Question. This approach is especially good for writers and bloggers who are trying to come up with a topic to write about. The Internet is filled with questions. Look for questions to answer on question and answer sites, comments on blog posts, social media sites, and in forums.
  5. Record Your Emotions. How does your client’s product make you feel? Are you excited about it? Envious of those who have it? Proud of it? If you can translate your feelings into design or copy, you may have a powerful idea that will reach your target market.
  6. Personalize Your Target Audience. You probably know the demographics for your target audience, but to you they may just be bland statistics. Try creating a fictional person who represents your demographic. Then, tailor your design, writing, or idea to that fictional person.
  7. Solve a Problem. Ask yourself, what problems need to be solved for this client? If you can come up with the true problems that the client faces, your chances of actually solving one or more of those problems increases dramatically.
  8. Improve Something. Your past work can be a great place to start your brainstorming session. Look at what you’ve done in the past and ask yourself how you could do a better job. Then, proceed to do it. Improve upon your past work.
  9. Teach Someone. For writers and bloggers, there is a huge market for tutorials. If you are an expert at doing something, consider creating a tutorial. To start this brainstorming session, write down everything you would be comfortable teaching someone else.

Now that I’ve provided some starting tips for your brainstorming session, you should be almost ready to begin. One other matter that needs your attention is your brainstorming environment.

Your Environment and Some Final Tips

A few other tips to make your brainstorming session more productive:

  • Get comfortable. If you are more creative when it’s quiet, then make sure you are in a quiet place. If music or activity stimulates your creativity, then play your favorite tunes.
  • Minimize distractions. Choose a place where you are least likely to get distracted. Interruptions during a brainstorming session can hamper your creativity.
  • Time yourself. See how many ideas you can come up with in an hour or two. Set an alarm if you need to. Timing your session can help you stay focused.
  • Relax. You can’t do this wrong. You may not use everything that you come up with, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include everything you think of.

Your Turn

What are your brainstorming secrets? Share your tips in the comments.


  1. says

    Once individual ideas have been generated, have each person read off their ideas one-by-one. Initially, let everyone express their ideas without discussion or critique. As each idea is read, put the idea up on a wall. We would also document ideas digitally in the form of a diagram or mind map, which could be particularly useful if we’re working with anyone remotely.

  2. says

    I certainly use the “swipe file” idea.

    I’m always emailing myself links of websites I like or taking photos of ads or graphics I see.

    Obviously not to copy but to use as inspiration as and when I need it.

  3. says

    I wanted to give some examples of places to implement the ideas you mentioned in this post. They are great ideas.

    Swipe file meaning like Google Reader right? Everyone should have some type of Google reader where they can see all their favorite fees in one place.

    I like Quara as a question and answer site, and yes I also like this idea of finding out important questions that are floating around the internet when brainstorming.

    I like the idea of creating a tutorial, but even better, create a tutorial using slide-share and slides. The reason why is because with slide-share people then can embed your slides and this gives you a back-link to your site.

  4. says

    I am a designer. i like to design logo,t-shirts. when i design i always want to design different.

    I want to express my happiness, sadness, love every emotion through my design. your brainstorming tips will help me get more attached with my work.

    Being comfortable, improvising my work skill, getting some new ideas(but not copy paste).


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