Sometimes I can spout off thirty high-quality ideas in less than five minutes. Sometimes I stare at my laptop screen in bewilderment and dismay until the sound of drool hitting the keyboard snaps me out of my stupor. Writer’s block is real, and finding worthwhile inspiration can be a challenge of epic proportions. What’s a creatively bereft freelancer to do?
When idea fatigue strikes, it’s time to brainstorm outside the box.
Browse Through Your Email Folders
Marketing often turns into a case of monkey see, monkey do, but just because it’s done doesn’t mean it’s right. Take promotional emails, for example. I’m constantly stunned by what ends up in my inbox. Awful subject lines, typo-riddled content, missing CTAs, Iliad-length sagas that drone on until my pointer finger is throbbing from hours of scrolling… I’ve witnessed it all, and I’ve used every bit of it as fodder for my own work.
When clients come to me asking for help with their email marketing, the first thing I do is subscribe to their email list and those of their competitors. By gauging what’s going right and what’s going very, very wrong, I have a baseline I can use as a starting point for creating a new, far more effective campaign that will engage and convert rather than bore and bemuse.
Talk to Grandma
Demystifying technical topics and making the information accessible to the masses is a real talent. I love putting expert-speak into lay-person terminology, but it’s not always a straightforward task. The more you know about an industry, the easier it is to slip into confusing jargon that requires three industry-specific dictionaries and a very patient interpreter to decode. No one is going to give your vocab-packed blog that much effort.
Demystifying technical topics and making the information accessible to the masses is a real talent. Tweet This!
Whenever you feel yourself overthinking things, explain your topic to your grandma. You’ll probably get interrupted 100 times with questions like, “What’s a Zuckerberg?,” but guess what—Grandma’s not the only one wondering that. Unless you’re gearing your blog towards expert-level readers, it’s dangerous to assume a certain sphere of knowledge. Double-checking the readability of your content always pays off.
Check Out Review Sites
Blogging for a business requires innovative thinking, but you also have to address issues facing the brand in question. Stop by Yelp or TripAdvisor, and see what has guests talking. Make a list—include both the good and the bad—and then draw up a list of topics that builds on your newly gathered intel.
Is everybody talking about the killer tacos? Write about the chef’s lip-smacking carne asada recipe, and tack on some details about happy hour (tacos are just $2 from 5-9pm, dontcha know). Is your client’s service team accidentally disappointing homeowners? Draw up a FAQ so people better understand what to expect from your client’s commercial carpet cleaning company. Are there multiple complaints about the hotel’s lack of amenities? Suggest creating a neighborhood guide that highlights tons of family-friendly activities just a short drive away.
Visit the John
Our brain works in mysterious ways. It’s also rarely allowed a moment’s rest. Even when we’re doing our business in the relative privacy of a bathroom stall, we’ve got our trusty smartphones or a stack full of months-old magazines to keep us company. Try using your potty time to meditate on your workload instead of distracting yourself with someone else’s social media-based political harangue or your third rewatching of that goat-Mariah Carey mash-up video. Leave your phone outside, shut the door, and be alone with your own brain.
Bonus: If you’re copping a squat in a public restroom, listen for sink-side conversations. You won’t believe the things you hear, and those passing bits of dialogue can be creative goldmines.
Inspiration can strike at the weirdest moments, in the strangest places, and courtesy of some fairly unexpected sources. Get prepared for random acts of genius by downloading a note-taking app or carrying around a small booklet. Nobody wants to get caught without a pen when brilliance finally bubbles to the surface.
Alana L is a copywriter, content strategist, and unabashed digital marketing enthusiast. In her previous professional lives, she was a chef, sommelier, and touring musician. These days she uses her laptop-based talents to help companies shape their brand story and make a lasting impact. When she’s not busy creating websites and crafting content calendars, Alana writes for a number of high-profile publications, starting conversations about everything from Cabernet to ecommerce to click-through rates.