Working on your business constantly will leave no room for inspiration to happen. The order of events should be: creative inspiration (also known as a lightning bolt or burst of energy), research, design and iteration, implementation (doing the thing), and improving it based on feedback and results.
There are many of us that get caught in the mentality of “the hustle” and in the DOING that we don’t leave ourselves room for that first part: creative inspiration. It is so vital to our livelihood, but we can often neglect to nurture it properly in our day to day lives, especially as we are getting started or trying to grow.
Unfortunately, this can be a product of conditioning. We grew up in a time (well, if you’re over 25 anyway!) where everything we were taught was to better productivity for an entity, not ourselves. This leftover model is not the way you should be treating yourself or your creative business.
Your business will only thrive if you are there to carry it on, and in order to carry on, you have to make room for inspiration to happen to you. This won’t happen as you’re bent over your work space for 10 hours or answering one more email.
Here are some ways to make room in your business, and your mind, for inspiration to strike.
Get your work schedule and processes in order. If you are swamped with working, ask yourself why. Are there parts of your business that could be automated? Are you spending too much time on little things that really don’t matter?
Are there tasks you are repeating over and over and over that you could up to happen automatically?
Take a look at your client onboarding process. What happens when you receive a new client inquiry or order for your product? Do you have a system in place to take care of this so you’re not re-inventing the wheel each time?
Some ways of doing this are:
Make it easy to hire you. To ward off too many inquiry emails, make sure your website is set up to attract your people, introduce what you do and who you do it for, and answer any preliminary questions they may have. This cuts down on you always being in your inbox, and makes you look super professional!
Create a custom intake form. Do you find yourself going back and forth over email the first time someone is interested in working with you? Think of all the information you would like to have before speaking to a potential client and put questions to get these answers on your “Work With Me” page or other form on your website. If you offer free consultations, have the response email send them a link to schedule this with you through a service like Calendly. That way, you’re not spending any of your time until you get on the phone or Skype call with them!
Use Canned Responses in Gmail. You can save routine correspondences you have with your clients during your process with this feature, then load them up and personalize them when you need to. No more typing out each email by hand! Here is a super easy tutorial too get you started with Canned Responses.
Are you spreading yourself too thin doing lots of little things that in effect don’t get you closer to your end goal? This is common, especially with new entrepreneurs. I’ve been guilty of this line of thinking in the past, for sure. “Oh, look! This shiny article said I should do this and I’ll get results. ” Before you know it, your energy is spread all over the place trying ALL THE THINGS, but no real results are happening.
The only way to create a road map for your goals is to determine what major accomplishments would actually move your business forward.
Here’s a method for doing this:
Take out a piece of paper. Now brain dump all the overarching ideas you’ve had for your business lately. This could be ideas for a new collection, a new skill you want to learn, or step you want to take to grow your following more. Write it all out without worrying about filtering at this point.
Now pick the 3-4 items that would make the biggest impact on your business. These are big-picture things that will surely transform your business growth or will set in motion your energy to flow where you want it to go.
After you’ve selected your most important items, think about the best chronology for them to happen. What would be best to accomplish first, so that you will be better prepared for the next, and the next? List these all as blocks or circles on another sheet of paper in the order you want them completed.
For each of these larger goals, list out the tasks that you will need to complete in order to see them come into the world.
Now you have a plan of action for getting closer to where you want to be, and you know what to be focusing on in your business to really move it forward, instead of spinning your wheels with little tasks that don’t matter in the end.
*Tip: If you are at the beginning stages of creating your livelihood online, my free email course Your Creative Business, Up & Running is a calm and focused method for taking you from idea to online presence. No more spreading yourself thin reading all the advice articles that weren’t right for you in the first place.
Now that you have some extra time on your hands and a more focused approach to creating your livelihood, remember to take breaks regularly to get out there and get inspired. Whether it’s taking a walk and snapping some photos, going to the bookstore and browsing for a new favorite, or meeting up with your friends that stimulate you, remember that work isn’t always about the output.
Working for creatives looks differently than it does for a lot of other professionals. A huge part of our process involves making space for new ideas to form and for inspiration to enter our realm. You have to take time to listen and keep your eyes open for the signs. I promise they will make themselves visible to you, as long as you step away from the computer screen or worktable.
I do this in my own world by having what I call “Boss Days.” The entire reason I became an entrepreneur was so I could explore the world and actually live my life when I need to. That’s why when I don’t have client work or other pressing matters (this is also up to you to not take on too much, charge what you’re worth, and start saying “no” to offers that don’t serve you, but that’s for another article), I take a day for myself to relax or go have some fun. Hiking, visiting an art exhibit, or seeing a new movie are some of my favorite activities.
Remember to take time to have some quality input to your output in your entrepreneurial life. This is the way inspiration is created, when you’re just living and not looking for it!