Don’t allow your creative blocks to take over and stop you from creating great content.
What is a Creative Block
We are all busy with too many things to do, and scheduling time for creating new content is always a challenge, especially for our own business. So how do we professionals get past it? It’s certainly a challenge. I can tell you many ways I am able to procrastinate and avoid working when the block rears it’s ugly head. But, clients don’t wait for your creative juices to start flowing. Deadlines mean we have to work past that foggy start and get ourselves going with haste.
Here are a few things I always try to get my creating game on.
#1 Clear your Space
A cluttered and crazy space does not allow for creativity. And I hear you when you say, “when I have a deadline I suddenly need to clean”. It is definitely a way to procrastinate, but there might be good reason for that.
Harvard Business Review states, “our physical environments significantly influence our cognition, emotions, and behaviour, affecting our decision-making and relationships with others.”
It’s no wonder we can’t focus because my desk is too loud.
Space can be from anything that you find distracting or a frustration:
Your computer – close those tabs, shut down the emails – micro focus on the work.
Your head – meditate your way to clarity.
Give yourself creative space. Go work from a cafe, or a library. Clean up your hard drive so it feels organised. Or maybe just take that 20min nap to brain defrag, and start the afternoon fresh.
If you haven’t heard of the Pomodoro method then this will be a game changer.
Using the Pomodoro method works like this:
Work out what you need to work on and be ready to start, removing all other work or distractions from your workspace. I shut down Microsoft Outlook, Chrome, and anything else I don’t need for that task.
Turn all your devices to “do not disturb” or do what I do and take them out of the room so I can’t look at them.
Set a timer for 25 minutes, with a break afterwards for 5 minutes. I use an app called “Pomodoro” which has it all set up for you.
Press start and get going on your task, avoiding getting up or getting distracted for the full 25min.
Take your 5min to go to the loo or make a cuppa, anything to stretch my legs and get the blood flow happening. I do this for about 4 cycles (or more if your brain stamina is better than mine).
Give it a try, you’ll be surprised how much you can achieve.
#3 Move your Body
Some of my best ideas come to me when I’m out for a run. Get out in the sun, amongst nature. Go to the gym. Whatever you do to get yourself moving, do that. The endorphins that run through your body and your mind allow you move the fog on, and find clarity in what you are trying to create.
#4 Just begin
Sometimes you have to let go of the perfection of how you imagined writing your own content should be, and just get started. The first draft will be rubbish, accept it. But once you start the ideas will flow alot faster.
You can’t get somewhere from a standing start. There is no way you are going to write, capture or create that masterpiece by sitting around waiting for inspiration to hit.
You have to go get it yourself.
Create a framework that works for you. As a creative the one thing that took me the longest time to work out (hello, 15 years of running a business), is that structure and familiarity allows for creativity, it doesn’t hinder it. It creates the space amongst the chaos for you to create with clarity and conviction.
Have a content list and just work to it. Somethings won’t work, and that’s ok. Just keep going through the process anyway, the good stuff will come.
Have a creative time scheduled in each week and a content plan, and boom you suddenly have time & ideas to create.
Template your creation and you will find they ideas will flow.
Don’t get bogged down in the block and let it take over your mind. You have bigger fish to fry. Just let it go and your creative time will suddenly become a place of solace rather than dispair.
“Inspiration exists but it has to find your working.”
As a copywriter, I have noticed a pattern over time as to what usually lands with your audience and what it is that has you ending up with crickets.
To help you write better content that is going help you kick your business goals, here are some of my top copywriting truth bombs. By paying attention to these things you are going to connect with your audience and show up in a far more helpful and authentic way.
Work out who you are talking to
Firstly, with every piece of content you create, whether its words or photography or video, work out who you are talking to and how your product or service is going to help them. There is no joy in speaking French to a Mexican. If you don’t know who your audience, let’s chat and we’ll work it out together. Your copy wont work without this key piece of information.
Perhaps your marketing person is a junior, 22 male into football and likes to drink beer with his mates on Friday and hit the beach on Sunday.
Your business supplies eco -conscious, anti-aging cream skin care.
Your now 22 year old male needs to learn how to talk to and think like a 45 year old, mother of 3 teenagers in the suburbs. He needs to work out her pain points, and talk to her about how your product is for them.
It is essential you talk directly to your audience in a language that they will not just understand, but they will relate to. They need to feel heard and seen, so look them in the eye and talk to them directly like you mean it.
Talk benefits not features
As a consumer have you ever wondered about what sort of handle a saucepan has? Or do you want to just know you can use it in an oven up to 220deg?
Before you write, think about how your product or service can help solve problems for your customers – speak to that.
When writing copy, use language that encourages your readers to trust you. Some ways to build trust are:
Be conversational. Talk to your audience like they are friends, not income streams. Customers need to feel like you are talking directly to them.
Talk about your social proof, without trying to sell it.
Be consistent. Customers need to know what to expect from you. If you suddenly go off brand and your audience isn’t ready they will not respond with trust, they’ll respond with caution.
Trust is the key to any relationship, make sure the language in your copy allows the space for that trust to build for your audience.
Less is often more
Have you ever started reading something and you simply have to look away, it’s all just too much to take in?
Quality over quantity with copy is king. Always look to see if you can say what you need to more efficiently. The more efficient the message, the stronger it is. When you are paying a copywriter to do this work for you, you are paying them just as much for what they don’t write, as what they do. When I write copy for a blog, or a landing page for a customer, I will spend much more time on the taking away words than do on adding them. Customers don’t need noise, they need a clear and concise message.
Like a watered down G&T, it’s just not right and it won’t land well in your audiences mind.
“You can get all the help you need…”
They are there for how you can help them, so focus on them. Talk to their pain points and needs without making the conversation about you.
Primarily, think about having conversations with your audience. Rather than giving them a speech about how great you are, talk about how great they could be.
I bought a cookbook. Nothing really remarkable about that. I do like a good cookbook. What was intriguing for me, was how I bought it. Not the credit card I used, or the counter I walked up to, but how, at that moment, I chose to pick up the book and carry it to the counter.
I was shopping with my kids. I’d just bought them some afternoon tea and remembered something I wanted which was an insignificant, less than $10 purchase, but I quickly walked into the department store while they sat outside and waited.
As I was looking for the kitchen area, I walked past the cookbook section. And not just out of the corner of my eye, but directly smack bang into my face was the cookbook with this idyllic scene of a lady and her dog on a country style lane, and I instantly had to have it.
Throughout the entire transaction process, I knew it was an unnecessary purchase. I didn’t need the book, my groaning bookshelf in my kitchen was testament to that. And hello, google, who needs another book??
But logic was not making this decision for me. This decision was about emotion, who I was, and who I wanted to be.
I wanted to be the lady in the picture.
She was healthily glowing. She was outdoors. She had a dog.
Trifecta right there for me I guess.
Right now I’m those things, but maybe not feeling the healthily glowing bit, so perhaps that was the deal breaker bit, the bit that was sealing the deal.
The point of my story, is that the image sold it for me. I didn’t even know what sort of cookbook it was. I didn’t pour over its pages before I bought it. I didn’t know the author and think, “oh I need to have that one.” I didn’t even know the price. I simply picked it up and wanted to buy it because of the photograph on the cover.
It turns out its about plant based eating. Conveniently, I have a teens experimenting with vegetarianism, so that actually was quite relevant to me. However, I didn’t know that bit until I’d waved my credit card over the reader and carried it outside the store.
That is the power good photography has on a product and on a brand. Photography that is relevant and connects with the audience. When an image draws someone into the narrative and puts them in the picture, the brand story is all about the customer and how they view themselves. That’s a successful brand story right there. The brand is reaching out of the product, grabbing the customer’s hand and saying, “how can we help you?”
The big part of this story is, not only does the photography have to be decent, it has to speak to your customer. Your customer avatar needs to be at the forefront of your mind, when you are communicating with your clients, whether visually or using words. I wanted to be the girl in the picture, so the image spoke to me as a customer.
Think about your customer each time you speak to them, think about how they will connect with your brand and what message you are sending them about who you are and how that matters to them.
After all, a brand is nothing without a customer who is ready to talk back.
Say Branding headshots or linkedIn profile picture or your “about me page” and most people will cringe and run away.
No one enjoys being photographed. Unless you are a model or model material, there are very few people who get a kick out of standing in front of a camera while someone “sees” you. It’s not in our nature, and particularly not the Australian way. I photograph Branding and Lifestyle Headshots in Brisbane, Australia. For most of my clients the first thing they communicate is, “I really don’t like being photographed.” I’m here to change that, but that’s another story.
So when the time comes to get it done so you can move on to other things, what are the key things to think about when getting photographed? Let’s break it down. Firstly, let’s look at when.
Why do I need a professional branding headshot image?
Lets break this down further, “Why do you need a headshot?“
Your image either in print or on a screen is the face of your brand. You may not like to have them out there in the open for everyone to see, but the faces and the people behind your business are who your audience want to connect with. They want to purchase from people, not a bot, not something automatic, but someone real. They can’t connect with someone they can’t see.
Why does it need to be professional?
For the same reason someone has a professional logo or a website, or a professional does their taxes or their books. Because a good photographer is going to recognise the qualities you want your customers to see. They will talk to you about your brand, how your images fit in with the message you are getting across to your clients. They aren’t just standing with a camera and photographing what appears in front them.
A good photographer, will ask the right questions and ensure the end result it what you are wanting your customers and your audience to see.
When should you update your image?
As a photographer, I would like to say, “well you are meant to replace your mascara every 6 months, so maybe at least that often.” Only joking, half. On the other end of the scale have you ever been to an open house and you don’t recognise the real estate agent from their advertisement as their photo was taken long enough ago that they look completely different? I’ll say at least somewhere in between would work.
Your profile shot/brand image should be up to date. Yes, you may have less wrinkles in that shot from 10 years ago, but it is so disconcerting from a customer’s perspective when you can’t recognise the person you are dealing with.
On a side note…
And this goes for that crazy softening filter you asked your photographer to add to the image as well which removed 10kgs and softens the lines on your face to the point you look like you should be in a toy store. Natural is good. Customers want to see experience and who we are dealing with. If it feels like trickery, your clients will see right through it. We want to walk into a room and know exactly who you are straight away. I’m not saying we don’t all deserve some good lighting and a little something to soften those harsh lines, but don’t stop your audience from connecting with the real you.
Following is an example of what I mean. I’ve photoshopped the image of me on the right using all the things that people usually want or ask me for. Skinnier arms, soft skin, no wrinkles, no saggy jawline. And don’t get me started on those freckles. No way would I be getting rid of those. From a “me” perspective, they are part of me, part of who I am. Now it’s not that different to be honest, but if I used the right hand side me as my profile, you’d get a definite disconnect response when you see me. Its really important to ensure the you in your photographs connect with your clients.
You should look at replacing your headshot every 2 years or when you change your job/position . Nothing says “fresh start” like a new LinkedIn profile shot, so why not update that shot and tell the world you are ready for new beginnings. This keeps your presence fresh and new also, nothing worse than looking at the same shot time and time again.
What Should I Wear
I’m going to give you the same answer I give to a lot of questions like this. What would your audience resonate with? If you are in the corporate space then take that suit to the dry-cleaners and smarten up. If you are in the active arena, you may want to loose the heels on this one and focus on how you you would meet your clients for the first time. Having said that, if your audience are 25-35 year old corporate ladder climbers, those pumps and the red lipstick might just serve you well.
I always think, if I was going to see my ultimate client for the first time, what would I wear? Base your decision on that. How do you want to be perceived? Do you want to be approachable or powerful? Is your brand playful and whimsical or more serious? Are Jeans and a polo your standard work attire? Make it look good, upscale slightly to bring the best version of yourself to that image, but don’t be something you are not!
Your audience is not silly, they will see right through it.
What size and orientation do I need to worry about?
It goes to the same answer as above regarding resonating with your audience, but also, look to the platform you are frequently on. I would suggest looking at more than just a small profile image, or a headshot, but look for a number of different formats to serve multiple uses. LinkedIn page banner, Facebook Page Banner, Instagram profile, website about me page, professional publications, proposals – you should have 2-3 images that you can interchange between the different uses to ensure they look clean, crisp and professional. Ideally, wearing the same clothes and in a similar style as well, just to keep the consistency there.
A good photographer will give you advice here and help you out when delivering your files too if you ask. A good photographer will also ensure you get enough variety that your images will crop well for any platform. Talk to them about this prior to your session.
Headshot vs Lifestyle
The old adage of “why don’t we have both”. You are paying someone to take your photograph, do both. You need a headshot to connect with your audience, have them recognise who you are etc., but more lifestyle styled images will give them a true sense of who you are.
Ensure your branding images and your headshots are telling the stories that you want your clients to know about you. Keep them inline with your industry and relevant to your clients, and they’ll understand exactly the person they are working with before they’ve picked up the phone.
You know how it goes. You wake up in the morning, drink your morning coffee, get on Facebook Business Centre to see if you’ve had any success with your social media ads overnight and , BAM, you are hit between the eyes with a negative Facebook review.
Unfounded or not, its actually irrelevant. Facebook won’t remove it; you’d need some specialist, sweet talking ads expert in your pocket who is also in theirs to get rid of those comments, but, all is not lost. You have a couple of ways you can go with this.
What to do?
First and foremost, you should report it to Facebook as being Unfair. Regardless of how fruitless it will most likely be, the unfair button is there and we should use it.
Secondly, I would suggest responding to the reviewer. By ignoring it, you are telling anyone reading it, that you don’t care what people think. By acting angry and getting defensive, says more about you than the reviewer, and does nothing for your brand.
My rule of thumb is, always sleep on it. Give yourself a day to calm the emotional side down and respond without emotion, but within your brand voice.
What does that mean, within your brand voice?
Simply reply with your customers in mind, not the reviewer. Think about how you would like a future customer to see the real you. Reply in a way that does not react, it informs. Inform your customer, how you will treat them and how you expect to be treated in return. Do you want people to walk all over you and think you’ll do whatever they want to keep you happy? Hell to the no. Do you want your audience to see you as a partner, someone who believes that they are valued and their opinion is worthy of a justified response? Absolutely. Ensure that any future customer reads that response, and feels more confident about working with you, rather than concerned with how you will respond to negative feedback.
Sometimes its great to ask a question?
Thank you so much for your review. We are saddened by your thoughts regarding working with our company as we hold our customer service to the highest standard. I am having trouble seeing your account in our system though, so if you could please PM me to give me some more details I would like to get to bottom of the problem asap.
Feel free to use that little paragraph by the way 😊 You would be surprised how many times I have seen reviews disappear of their own accord because you called them out in this way, without being rude, but also, letting the reviewer know, there is a person behind the business.
Also, if you did mess up. Own it! People have so much more respect for you when you do.
Thank you so much for taking the time to review our business. At this stage, I 100% agree with what you are saying. We had a rough start to our working relationship, but we have put so many systems in place to ensure we fix the problem, and are sure that this little speed bump is just that, it’s a glitch in the system, and we are working towards a much stronger way forward. Thanks again, knowing how we can grow is more important than knowing how amazing we are. Our busines is bigger than that. I’ll be in touch in the next day or so to discuss how we can make this right.
Feel free to use that too 😊
Of course, anything defamatory is something you should definitely speak to your lawyer about. But hopefully those little bits of advice can help in some way.
Remember, its not your words, but your actions that will define you and more importantly, will define how others see you in this aspect of your business.
Be true to your brand, and the negatives become positive relationships in the end.