It's no secret that running a small business requires focus, discipline and being self-motivated day-to-day. Although I consider myself a very goal-oriented person and passionate about helping clients develop beautiful, authentic visual identities and marketing collateral, if I'm being honest here, it's difficult to be productive and feel motivated 100% of the time. Whether I'm starting to feel creatively burnt out overall or I'm fighting creative block with a specific project, stress and frustration can set in. And with that comes feeling less than inspired.
Finding my go-to sources for inspiration has been hugely helpful for times like this. It has involved getting to know myself better -- what motivates and energizes me, and the time I need to work through the uninspired periods. Sometimes it's a couple hours, sometimes it's a couple days. But giving myself grace and allowing myself space to breathe and get the creative juices flowing again has helped me relax and find my groove month-to-month.
Perhaps more importantly, I've also realized the importance of nourishing my creativity on-going, even when I'm not feeling especially burnt out or creatively tired. Fitting in "inspiration time" during my week is part of taking care of myself and my design business. After all, the success of my work depends on it. My clients depend on it!
Here are some of may favorite ways to nourish my creativity and stay inspired. I'm sharing in hopes it will inspire YOU to seek out your own and find what makes you tick!
LISTENING TO A FAB PODCAST
I jumped on the podcast bandwagon this year (apparently I was living in a hole!) and have fallen in love. There are so many wonderful podcasts out there with hosts who approach topics from unique angles and bring on interesting and inspiring guests. I love listening and suddenly feeling the urge to grab my idea notebook. Or run to my computer and start creating. Or getting new business marketing plans in place. Taking what I've learned and putting it into action.
Feeling motivated throughout my work week is always my goal and there are many podcasts that help me remain so. The ones I've fallen the hardest for are:
If you're ever feeling like you're in a creative rut -- or maybe I should say "when" because it happens to all of us! -- and you need some fuel to get re-inspired, search for a new podcast or go back to an old favorite. Hearing other small business owners talk about their struggles, successes and how they've overcome tough times can be seriously amazing and impactful!
CONNECTING WITH OTHER SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
I've found that making connections and friendships with fellow business owners inspires me and my work, motivates me to make new goals, and reminds me to stay true to me in my business. These are people that GET IT. They have most likely experienced (or still do experience) the same struggles as you and can relate to the ups and downs of running a small biz. That support is priceless.
These #BusinessBesties can also turn into your cheerleaders and you can do the same for them. Because when you develop an authentic friendship with someone and believe in what they're doing, it's hard to not to root for them!
Ways I have successfully connected with other small business owners and LOVED it:
Join Facebook groups to connect daily with other small business owners around the world, ask for advice, feel a sense of community online (#CommunityOverCompetition!) and make a new friends. Some of my favorites:
Heart Centered Biz Bosses
Savvy Business Owners
Think Creative Collective
The Real Female Entrepreneur Tribe
Twin Cities Blogger and Creative Collective - a local MN group but know there are more out there!
Joining local communities of entrepreneurs and going to regular meet-ups leaves me inspired and confident in my business. They also help me step away from my computer screen and learn from others through conversation and connection in a community-focused setting.
Local Twin Cities groups I enjoy include #CreateLounge and The Rising Tide Society's local chapter of Tuesdays Together. I encourage you to do some research and find local communities in your area -- you won't regret it!
A bonus? Joining groups like this are a great way to network and create referral systems with people you make a true, meaningful connections with. Forget the stuffy networking groups... I never felt quite at home like I do with these communities because it's not all about business. It's about building authentic relationships!
GRABBING COFFEE ONE-ON-ONE
I've met some wonderful business friends both online and locally, whom I love staying in touch with during the weeks and months, and whose businesses I love to support (and who lovingly support mine!). Getting to know each other over coffee -- either in person or via a Skype date! -- allows us to relate, talk life and business, and leave feeling rejuvenated.
Again, talking through your business plans with someone who GETS IT and can give you constructive feedback and/or helpful affirmation can make a world of a difference as you go out and make things happen.
Plus, you never know when a great working relationship may develop. I recently collaborated on a client design/illustration project with a Twin Cities friend I met through Instagram and it was such a positive experience! After grabbing coffee a couple times in, our friendship grew and it was a no-brainer when my client wanted a custom illustration done... I went directly to Abby and working together was a dream!
BRAINSTORMING + GETTING INSPIRED BY OTHERS ON PINTEREST (WITH CAUTION!)
As we all know, Pinterest is a never ending source of inspiration. It's helpful when brainstorming for a new project or when you need some guidance on an upcoming venture. I do it for these very reasons and I love to pin great branding and marketing tips, and inspiration for other small business owners on my page!
Pin away and get inspired! But I will caution you:
1. AVOID BEING A COPYCAT
Copyright is a real thing and sometimes it can be unintentional. Whatever you're doing and whatever information you're processing, ensure you're creating original content and staying true to you and your business. Be inspired by others and then become re-inspired by how you can make it your own!
2. AVOID OVER-SATURATING YOURSELF WITH INFORMATION
This happened to me earlier this year, when I kinda boycotted Pinterest and stopped reading blogs all together. I became so overwhelmed by all the info I was processing that it paralyzed me! So, take in information in reasonable doses. There are endless opinions and stats and "this is what you should be doing to be successful" content out there... but remember, in the end, decisions are yours to make. Only you can carve out the direction and future of your business, and you get to determine how you'll do it.
PLANNING A GETAWAY + UNPLUGGING TO ENJOY IT
Magic happens when I give myself and my creativity space to breathe. Away from the regularity of my work week. Away from the pressures that come with running your own business. When I take a step back and put things in perspective, the best ideas seem to naturally develop and fresh new inspiration comes to me.
Scheduling regular getaways is so so so important. Especially for those with workaholic tendencies, like me (and many small business owners, I have a feeling!).
When you take that much-needed break from your work, unplug as much as possible. Plan out your social media posts in advance, put up that out-of-office and know that your clients and/or customers will be there when you get back. The world doesn't end because you're unavailable to them. It's taken me a long time to live by these words, but I can tell you it's changed my vacation time into true vacation time. And I always come back refreshed, re-inspired and ready to get back to work!
READING BIG MAGIC
"Let inspiration lead you wherever it wants. For most of history people just made things, and didn't make such a big freaking deal about it." - Elizabeth Gilbert
Although I've already read it from cover to cover, I sometimes walk away from my computer and read a chapter from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. She says, "If you're alive, you're a creative person" and I truly believe this book is for anyone that wants to tap into that and live a creative life. Do it and thank me (but mostly Elizabeth) later.
TAKING TIME TO REMEMBER WHAT'S AT THE HEART OF MY BUSINESS
Last but not least. When things get extra stressful, when I'm feeling especially uninspired and my vision for my business looks blurry for whatever reason, I get back to the heart of things. Why I do what I do, my business values, who I want to impact through happy, thoughtful and inspired design. Sometimes, I even go back to the Brand Discovery Workbook I completed when I went through my rebrand last year, which helps me refocus and remember... ah, yes, this is what it's all about.
So simple, right? But it's easy to lose sight of those things. If you haven't done much brand discovery lately and feeling a crave for some inspiration, download my Branding Workbook now and cozy up with a cup of coffee! :)
HOW DO YOU STAY INSPIRED IN YOUR BUSINESS?
I'd love to know! Please comment below and share your secrets... I'm always up for new ways to motivate myself and nourish my creativity!