Creativity is the result of how you think. Practicing the habits of creative thinking allows you to break the barrier of what's achievable. Better freelancing skills, better clients, and the ability to get through tough situations are just a few of the things creative thinking brings.
According to a global study by Adobe, "only 1 in 4 believe they are living up to their creative potential." That's a sad fact due to what's truly possible. But what's the good news here? Well, freelancers know how important the strive for creativity is. Plus we have the opportunity to create all day long.
We may sometimes be interrupted by invoicing a client or getting organized but creative minds always find time to be creative.
Whether you're stuck in a creative rut or you want to maximize your creative thinking potential, here are the habits of creative thinkers to learn from.
1. Learn Something New Every Day
There's one simple fact you need to know in order to succeed. In order to have the life you want. To live beyond the confined space of so-called life. And to spark your imagination so you can do the best work possible.
Here it is.
"Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. You can change it. You can influence it. You can build your own things that other people can use." - Steve Jobs
Well said Mr. Jobs. Well said.
Creative minds don't let other's achievements affect their own creation of something remarkable. If you think you can't do something - write a novel, code a website, or make a product you believe people will need - think again. Think about the fact that everything you see right now was created by someone. Did they have some sort of superpower?
No. They were a creative thinker who practiced the habits of creative thinking truly and passionately.
Developing creativity means learning something new every day. Go to Explore our library to find new tutorials and articles posted daily on topics relating to your freelancing niche. Take time between working on projects and running errands to acquire a new skill. This could also mean experimenting with new techniques for the stuff you're already working on.
Here's an example for you. My friend is a photographer and has just recently starting drawing. Every day he makes sure to draw something - a sketch, a concept, a character, anything. What he told me is that the more he draws, the more interesting his art becomes. New techniques and approaches to drawing lines helps expand the creativity of his work. You know what happened next? His photography became more interesting too.
Creativity happens when you make the effort to learn or try something new every day. Pretty soon it will become a habit. Have good creative habits and your mind will be happy.
2. Connect the Dots
Steve Jobs talked about it in his famous commencement speech. He said that creativity is just connecting the dots. Creative thinkers produce ideas by finding the relationship between facts. Facts merely on their own are useless until one sees the connection between them.
When you see the connection between facts, you're able to create something different.
This is what your clients are expecting. Even if they aren't aware of it, they're really going to you because they rely on a fresh perspective.
Developing a wide range of skills is a great way to discover the connection of ideas. Don't just stick to what you're "naturally" good at. If you're a web designer, spending some time learning how to code will make your designs better. Why? Because you're opening up new venues of creativity based on technical aspects you weren't aware of. For example, you may have never thought to design a website with vertical text. But with a little exploration into HTML and CSS you learned not only how to technically create vertical text with CSS - but it opened your mind into the possibilities of using vertical text for web design work.
The connection between ideas doesn't happen unless you explore a little. Start enhancing your natural gift with the skills that complement it. Writers can learn about photography, designers can learn about development, and developers can learn about design. Clients will thank you for your ability to see above and beyond. You may even spot something they weren't aware of and offer your advice.
3. See the Potential and Make a List
Don't stop thinking just because the technology, money, or support behind your idea doesn't exist yet. It will someday. Reality is the result of imagination. What you put into the machine of creativity is the actual product or innovation you'll get out.
You can create your best work based on the amount of vision you put into a single idea. Even Einstein famously said, "Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
Some tend to think lists are too constraining for the creative mind. But this only partly true. A list telling you mundane tasks to do at a specific time sure can be limiting to creative thinking. But good list-making is about more than simple task management.
Creative thinkers use lists as mental roadmaps. As a place to see all their ideas before they get overrun by another wave of creative thought. Thomas Edison, John Lennon, and Leonardo da Vinci are among some of the creative thinkers of history that have used list-making as a creativity tool. Designers and illustrators can either make lists of concepts or keep a sketchpad to quickly draw out their ideas. When a new project comes up, it's easy to be inspired when you already have all your creative thoughts written or drawn in front of you.
Here's what you should do. Make a list of the things you want your freelance business to do, to be, and to achieve. Without editing, without thinking too much, and without believing something's impossible - just write a list.
Now take a good look at your list. Keeping in mind the habits of creative thinking, what is stopping you from making the things on your list a reality? Remember that reality is what you create. Think creatively and you'll find solutions to the issues that may come up when you're working freelance. Besides - clients are trusting you to be a good solution-finder.
4. Don't Shut the Door on Creativity
We all know it's important to listen to other's feedback. But if someone is telling you something can't be done or shouldn't be done without hearing the full story - don't listen to them. Create without interruption. You don't want someone knocking down your ideas before those ideas flourish.
When it comes to being a freelancer though, we have to sometimes tone down our creative mind from getting too wild. But don't do this right away. If a client asks for a logo with very specific requests, don't immediately follow those rules.
First, design with your initial instincts. What could you do with their concept that they hadn't asked for? Then tone it down to meet their requirements. Perhaps you could even include this concept design in your preliminary draft. It may even inspire your client to think of something they would want to include in the design. But if you're going to do this, make sure most of the work you present them follows what they asked for. The point is to keep the door to creativity open. When you write, don't stop to edit. This is when you lose all the good thoughts that prompted you to open a blank document in the first place.
Create now and edit after. Who knows where your creative mind will go?
5. Keep a Broad Perspective
As a business person (and that's what you are as a freelancer) you know that the nature of business is to constantly evolve. Roll with the punches, adapt to demands, and carve out a new path in the direction of what a client wants. If you're going to achieve all that, you're going to need to think outside the box. Come up with creative ways to take one person's vision and make it a well-rounded piece.
Many artists throughout history have displayed the effort to think beyond a one-way street. Picasso went through many stages of different styles of art. He had the Blue Period, the Rose Period, and the Surrealist Period, among others.
Over time he evolved. He changed his art to reflect the outside situations he felt and experienced.
As a creative freelancer, you need a broad perspective. Creative minds are curious about how the world works. They find various topics fascinating. This is especially important when it comes to working with your clients. The types of clients we work with vary. Many probably aren't like you, but you need to know how they think in order to write the best copy, design the best website, or take the best photos for their type of business goals.
6. Say No a Lot More Than You Think
Sifting out the stuff that doesn't work is just as important as keeping the things that do work. Saying no to clients is actually an important aspect in preserving your creativity. Getting overloaded by requests for extra work will reduce the quality of the work you already have on your plate. But it's not just about saying no to clients. Saying no also means refining your creative ideas....eventually.
First, let your imagination soar. Write without editing and design without rules. But after that, reel in some of the crazy concepts you caught. Refining the results of your creative thinking and revising out the parts that don't fit is what creates a solid piece of work.
7. Share Your "Ah Ha!" Moments
Two minds are better than one. Collaboration is key to developing ideas and taking them places you hadn't thought of before. This habit goes hand in hand with connecting the dots.
Sometimes an idea flourishes when you talk about it with a friend, co-worker, or partner. Other times, you (and the people you're talking with) end up with a long list of new ideas that strayed so far from the original thought. This is good. This allows you to connect the dots between all those ideas which, really, has more substance and depth than a singular concept.
Imagine a blank whiteboard on the wall. How many creative ideas could you write down in 5 minutes? What would that whiteboard look like? Now think of 5 creatively-minded individuals (you included) writing down all their creative ideas in the same 5 minutes. You get a different image in your head about what that whiteboard looks like now, don't you? There's more to explore and expand upon. It's like picking fruit from a tree that grows apples and pears and bananas and mangos all on the same branch, instead of picking an apple from an apple tree. The variety of possible creative connections gets you drooling.
Freelancers have the great advantage of collaborating with other freelancers. Not only does the work of individual freelancers improve that way, but the entire value of freelancing in general goes up because we've just helped each other reach prime creative levels. People choosing to go the freelance hiring route will feel more secure in their decisions knowing that what they can expect from the freelancing community is a high standard for creativity and effective results.
Putting in the Creative Effort
Inspiration doesn't come from the sky above. It doesn't come from spending countless hours on social media sites. It comes from you.
Put in the effort to develop creative thinking habits and the quality of your freelance skills will grow.
Right now I'm looking at a painting on my wall. Don't ask me what it is. It's way too bizarre to explain. All I can say is that this artist created a completely different world. A world so different from the one outside. It took guts to create the kinds of creatures he did and to imagine the type of landscape they flourish in.
It may take some effort to get your creativity flowing, but as soon as it starts it doesn't stop. Just practice the habits of creative thinking and you'll become a better freelancer. Not only will your skills improve, but all the other hats you wear will improve too. That's what creative thinking does.
Editorial Note: This content was originally published in 2012. We're sharing it again because our editors have determined that this information is still accurate and relevant.