How to Stay Creative

Agency Life

Spencer Dell

When you really boil it down, our job as professional creative people is to generate ideas. A LOT of ideas.

Some of them are great. Some are duds. And some fall right in the middle.

It’s hard to know what to do with those middle-of-the-road ideas sometimes. They make sense. They’re dependable. They’re uncontroversial. They’re safe. But they aren’t necessarily new. And no one really gets excited about them. They’re the “ALDI brand” version of marketing. They get the job done but look like something that’s been done before. In ALDI’s case, this is intentional. For the rest of us, that’s rarely the case.

Deep down, we all know what we should do with these ideas. We should toss them.

Part of being an agency marketer is being able to detach yourself from your work. Budgets and timelines are often limiting. Clients aren’t always willing to be the pioneers of a revolutionary approach. They, too, battle with resource limitations, executive decision-making, legal red tape, internal politics, and more. If we took offense anytime a team member or client critiqued our work, we’d be bad at our jobs. Sometimes you have to be ok opting for plan B. There are ways, though, you can set yourself up for more opportunities to do something new.

How to keep challenging yourself and your team:

1. Pursue passion projects on your own. 

These don’t need to have anything to do with marketing plans, or websites, or film scripts. For some, this means planting a monster of a garden, painting a portrait, or competing in dog shows. For others, it’s starting a podcast, playing in a band, or learning a new language. Complacency is contagious. If you spend your free time doing nothing but binging TV shows, your creativity will stagnate. If you allow your creativity to flourish in your off hours, you’ll continue discovering new inspiration and new ways of looking at problems, at home and at work, and you won’t be able to help pushing your clients to chase more creative solutions.

Check out these six design exercises you can use to get out of a creative slump.

2. Lead by example with internal projects. 

Push the envelope with your own website, email newsletter, and marketing efforts. Treat your internal projects like a playground. You’ll give your team an avenue for some untethered fun and the chance to pursue untested ideas, and you’ll end up with a portfolio of unique projects that show off your team’s abilities.


Recently, we staged a fun, high-fashion photoshoot to show off some of our new TrendyMinds swag. It was a blast for the team, showcased our photography capabilities, and featured our client BoxUp.

Photos from our high fashion photo shoot
Photos from our high fashion photo shoot

3. Be diligent in documenting case studies. 

Clients will be much more receptive to trying unconventional ideas if you can show them you’ve been successful in the past. The key is showing, not just telling them how neat of a project it was. Good case studies can be time-consuming to put together, though, and a challenge to stay on top of. A good way to keep up is to incorporate case studies right into your process. Starting from the very beginning of a project, have the project lead fill out a short form or brief capturing key parts of the project, including goals, challenges, and successes. That information is then ready and waiting for a copywriter and designer to turn into a case study for your website, blog, or pitch deck.

4. Open minds and optimism always win...always. 

Sure, it is one of the most obvious bits of advice but it is surprising how often it is the first thing forgotten in a fit of frustration. Ideation and failure are basically synonyms. You will fail, and you will fail often throughout the creative process. The key is truly embracing the process itself with an open mind. It takes patience, passionate persistence, and most of all, relentless optimism to keep those creative juices flowing. Remember, we might not have a light bulb if Edison was a pessimist. So stay hungry and stick to the grind with an infectious optimism in all of your creative pursuits.      

Just as ALDI has carved out a niche for itself, safe, dependable ideas also have their place. But “safe” and “dependable” aren’t the words any of us had in mind when we went into a creative field. And clients don’t pay us for been-there-seen-that ideas. Remember, if it’s not a “hell ya!” it’s probably a “pass.”

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