On my point of view, there is only one rule for creativity: focus. This is true in every fields, you can not achieve things properly if you are not focused. This is probably why design school teachers constantly ask you to do sketches before doing anything on a computer, because it is much harder to focus when in front of a screen.
But for the freelancer, finding time to focus on design work is actually hard. The thing that you should really want to get rid of is noise of all kind: outside noise, visual noise and inner noise.
- Outside noise
My definition of outside noise is everything that distracts you from work. Phone calls, instant messaging, email notifications, feed reading: get rid of all these! Don’t let yourself get distracted by anything else than what you should be doing or it will be occupying some of your brain space.
- Visual noise
Keep your workspace organized and clean. Folders and cabinet should be your best friends. A zen-like working environment is not complicated to achieve, but it is a key to focus.
- Inner noise
You can’t focus because you keep thinking of other things you should also do or things you didn’t do? That’s what I call inner noise. To fight it, to-do lists and reviews are the best. Get a calendar, use productivity tools like Remember The Milk, and fix yourself some clear goals. You will not be able to focus and be creative if you don’t know where you are going.
So these are my tips for creativity, there a of course plenty of other tricks to be creative and find ideas, but I think that that base should be set to optimize your creativity.