It’s a common question. If you’ve ever struggled with writer’s block or been stuck on what to design next, then you know exactly what I mean. The right idea can make the difference between a successful freelancing project and a failure.
In this post we’ll show you a few places where you can find good ideas for your freelancing business, and we’ll also give you some tips on how to generate your own winning ideas.
Create an Idea Folder
Every freelancer should have an idea folder. An idea folder is a place where a freelancer stores items and information that interests them and may serve to inspire them in the future.
I’m calling it an idea folder, but it doesn’t actually have to be a folder. It could be a computer file, a drawer in your desk, or maybe even a box in your office.
The point is, when you run across interesting or inspirational material, don’t just look at it and then forget about it. Save it as a possible source for stimulating future ideas.
Once you have your idea folder in place, you will need to find some ideas for it.
Where to Find Good Ideas
Ideas are all around us, if only we know where to look. Here are ten good sources of inspiration:
- News stories — Be aware of what’s happening in the world around you. The news impacts how we live our everyday lives. Think about how news stories impact your audience. For example, has a great tragedy occurred? You could design a graphic or write an article that reflects that sadness.
- Works of Art — Great art and great literature have long been recognized as good sources of inspiration. For example, one of the best ways to become a better writer is to become a better reader. To use art for inspiration, familiarize yourself with both past and present works of art.
- Forums and social media — Pay attention to these online gathering places and after a while you’ll notice that they are hotbeds of ideas. In particular, look for questions that are being asked frequently or problems that people are discussing often.
- Classes — Getting additional training does more than just build your skills. A good training class can give you new ideas for your own projects. To get the most of a training class idea-wise, be sure to jot down ideas that occur to you during the class.
- Books — For writers, books are an invaluable source of ideas. However, non-writing freelancers can also benefit from reading books. Depending on the type of book you are reading, a book can either train you or inspire you as a work of art.
- Other people — Surprisingly, even your non-freelancing friends and family can be a good source of ideas for your freelancing business as well as an occasional sounding board for your ideas. Pay attention to what the people around you are doing and saying. Jot down any comments or discussions that might be relevant to your business.
- Nature — Another well-known source of inspiration for ideas is nature. If you have access to a park or garden, take the time to visit it regularly. Spending time in nature is not only a good source of ideas, it can also help reduce your stress and help you to relax.
- Blogs — Reading blogs, regardless of whether they relate to your field of expertise, can stimulate ideas. Often a blogger asks a question or poses a problem that you may not have otherwise thought about. It’s a good idea to copy down the URLs of thought-provoking posts and keep that information in your idea folder.
- Competitor’s work — You should always be aware of what your competitors are doing. If nothing else, you should be looking at your competitor’s work and asking yourself the question, “how could I have done this better?
- Trends — Fads and trends are another great way to get ideas. When you observe a fad or trend, you have two choices – either follow the trend, or buck the trend. For example, if everyone else is incorporating the color silver into their designs you may also wish to start adding silver to your own designs, or you may decide to buck the trend and avoid using silver.
How to Generate Your Own Ideas
While filling your idea folder with sources of external inspiration, it is also good to generate some ideas of your own. Even if you don’t have time to immediately act on these self-generated ideas, you can jot a few words on paper or make a rough sketch to stick in your idea folder for later use.
Here are some steps that you can take to generate your own ideas:
- Solve a problem — Are you faced with a problem? Solving that problem could enhance your freelance projects. A great recent example of this is the new site CMP.ly, which addresses the concerns that many bloggers have about the new FTC regulations.
- Share your knowledge — Are you an expert on something? Share what you know on your blog or by conducting a training session. Sharing knowledge helps your freelance business by establishing you as an expert in your field.
- Save some time — Have you figured out a unique way to do something more efficiently? If you answered this question with a “yes,” then you may be able to develop your method for saving time into a marketable product or service. Consider creating classes to teach others your technique.
- Get to know yourself — Knowledge of your own strengths and weaknesses can be used as a guideline for generating ideas that are more likely to succeed. For example, if you know that you excel at programming user interfaces, you can come up with ideas that leverage that strength.
How Do You Generate Ideas?
In this post I’ve shared the places where I find inspiration as a basis for my ideas. I’ve also showed you some techniques that I use to generate new ideas.
Now, it’s your turn.
How do you come up with ideas for your freelancing business? Share your thoughts in the comments.