Monthly Archives: March 2014

Little Lessons #3: Embrace Those Quiet Times…and 10 Ideas To Drum Up Business

Nubby Twiglet | Little Lessons #3: Embrace Those Quiet  Times..and Don't Panic!

When you’re self-employed or even just freelancing on the side, there are weeks where your inbox seems to go quiet. Right as you start to doubt yourself, the work suddenly comes flowing in, offers for blog and magazine features pile up and it seems as if the world is being handed to you on a silver platter. Then, as if on cue, another slow time hits. What gives?!

This year, I’ve had a lot of those moments. Even when I have a seemingly full schedule on paper, those days hit where I have an open block of time and look around nervously, refreshing my emails and wondering if I’ve done something terribly wrong. And truthfully, everyone does. Sometimes, this stretches on for months at a time. It can feel like an intense roller coaster ride, full of the highest highs followed by a high-speed dash back to the bottom. Instead of questioning why it’s happening though, you have to accept that when you work for yourself, this is the new normal.

When I worked at design studios, I watched them experience the same highs and lows. One month, we’d be feverishly busy and just barely hit our deadlines. Late nights and pizza were accepted as the norm. A few months later (usually at the height of summer or right before Christmas break), we’d be looking around, wondering when the next project was going to drop and idly surfing inspiration sites, bored out of our minds. When work stops fortoo long, it goes from fun (afternoon movies, happy hours and long walks in the park) to a really dark place (which one of us is going to get cut first?). As uncertain as it feels, work, just like everything else is always going to have an ebb and flow.

When you do slow down, even if it’s just for a few days, instead of panicking, use this time to really promote your business. Instead of taking off to the beach (okay, that’s fine every once in awhile!) put together a really nice media kit of your services and packages, dust off some of your most loved blog posts and re-share them across social media, tighten up your portfolio (because let’s face it, it’s never really done) and showcase some of those projects you never quite had the time to post about before.

View Slow Times As An Opportunity

If you’re still on the edge of your seat and there’s not an immediate uptick in demand, use that nervous energy to think about how you can diversify:

1. Make a list of other services can you offer and add them to your site and / or media kit. Dive into something new, like designing e-books or digital courses.

2. Contact previous clients to see if they have a project they need help with.

3. Create a digital product. What can you teach someone?

4. Brush up on new skills with a Skillshare class (they’re really affordable). Blog about this new skill you’ve acquired — your audience may need it.

5. Volunteer for a non-profit. They always need good, willing design help! Make connections in the process.

6. Offer an incentive for new clients to work with you. Just be careful to not come across as desperate — desperation, no matter the situation, is never attractive!

7. Offer a referral program. Happy clients love recommending services to their friends!

8. Build out old projects for your portfolio. There’s nothing wrong with a little self-initiated work.

9. Use your downtime to connect with design peers. Also, let them know you’re able to pick up extra projects they don’t have time for. Every designer likes to keep a list of referrals on hand for jobs they can’t take on.

10. If you’re not blogging, start. Share genuinely helpful information. Here are 30 topic ideas to get you started.

When times are slow, they give us the chance to reflect and improve upon what we’re doing. Everyone, no matter how skilled, famous and fabulous has room to improve! We all hit slow times. Embrace them. Make the best of them. They won’t last forever.

It’s your turn: Do you have any coping skills to deal with those painfully slow times?

P.S. That yellow poster in the top photo is pinned behind my desk and reads Stay Positive. Yes, I glance at it often. 😉

The Week In Pictures: 3.28.14

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Woohoo, it’s finally Friday! I’ve been feeling really restless this week, jumping from project to project, to chatting with friends online, to trying to recover from post-tax shock (things didn’t go as well as I was hoping, we’ll just leave it at that!), to revamping the Branch media kit with new photos and services to setting up design files for the San Francisco and Chicago Blogcademy workshops (we do custom totes and documents for each).

When I was in LA last week, my friend Mary Bee surprised me with two bags of clothes over dinner (she happens to manage one of the best vintage stores in the city) and this suede hand-painted top from the 80s was lurking in the bottom. When I’m at home, I tend to default to black skinny jeans a lot so throwing this number on is my way of dressing things up! Also, freckles! I used to hate them so much when I was younger but now I don’t really mind — thanks to the Palm Springs sun for bringing them back out. 😉

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

I can’t believe these flowers are still alive and kicking! They were a gift from a Branch client a few weeks ago (hence, the blazing orange!) and they’re thriving —- like a lot of you, we’ve got Spring going on inside right now because outside it’s been a raining mess allll day, every day.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

I always say that snail mail is the best mail! My week was brightened up when Kat surprised me with a beautiful quartz necklace. Kat may be my business partner and design client but even more than that, she is one of the most thoughtful, dependable, giving people I’ve ever met.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Remember how we had a massive black bear in the corner of our living room? Well, he’s since relocated to my brother’s room (quite a shock if you’re visiting him for the first time!) so we put a palm in that place (if you’re wondering, it was under $30.00 at Home Depot). Our living room has been in shambles post-bathroom construction so we’re slowly trying to freshen things up. Drop cloths and dust, be gone!

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Last year, I bought my first espresso machine and I’m proud to say that since then, we’ve used it almost every day since! It needs a good cleaning but that’s only because it gets used so much — it felt like a lot to plunk down at the time but has since more than paid for itself. When I’m in town, I rarely go out for coffee anymore.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

For me, weekends are the time to clean my office and go through stacks of magazines (I subscribe to a lot so there’s always something new showing up in my mailbox). All these pages were taken from the newest issue of Marie Claire. Beautiful layouts, right?

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

This week, we finally unveiled our new bathroom. It’s pretty hard to fathom how much work went into such a tiny space. Yes, I’m temped to take photos every time I walk by!

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Remember this newsprint post from a few weeks ago? Well, Luke Copping’s piece is finally finished and the texture and paper on this is so awesome — you can see more of it here!

Enjoy your weekend! I’m off to design the brand new Blogcademy backdrop. 😉

Link Love: 3.27.14


Nubby Twiglet | Italian Vanity Fair

• One of my favorite columns to check out is Lovely Lady over on Emma Dime, where creatives share what they’re wearing. This week, I’m honored to be featured!

• The Fresh Exchange just took off on a long journey and shared what they pack and how they create blog posts while on the go.

• As a creative entrepreneur, someone else always appears more successful than you. But it’s important to remember to be yourself no matter what.

• The 90 best Tumblr blogs for designers!

• If you feel like there aren’t enough hours in a day, maybe it’s time to start thinking differently about time.

• A study was done on internet troll personalities and the results show that they’re narcissistic, machiavellian, psychopathic, and sadistic. Yep.

• Thanks to technology, we are in the midst of the rise of anti-capitalism.

• L’wrenn Scott’s suicide is such a tragic loss and it has revealed the dark side of New York City’s glitzy scene.

• It’s interesting how women start to perceive themselves once a camera is turned their way.

• When you’re self-employed and people have heard of you, they tend to assume you’re raking in the big bucks.

• A hidden feature in Youtube lets you stream an unlimited amount of music!

• You’re never too old to do something amazing.

• It’s not surprising that happiness makes people work harder.

Image: Chris Craymer for Italian Vanity Fair.

The Bathroom Saga: From Super Scary to Pristine in 3 Months Flat!

2Nubby Twiglet | Bathroom Remodel with Subway Tile and Black Grout

Late last year, we knew it was time to tackle the remodeling of our first floor bathroom once and for all. The plumbing was completely shot, the ancient layers of paint were peeling off the walls, the toilet looked (and functioned) like it was original to the house, there was no ceiling fan and the tub backsplash had been redone a few decades before with some terribly botched linoleum placed on the walls. Basically, it was a hot mess and we couldn’t ignore it any longer. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t take proper before photos of the bathroom because it was so bad that I never actually set foot in it. As you can imagine from this brief description though, it was disgusting.

Nubby Twiglet | Bathroom Remodel with Subway Tile and Black Grout

Do you have that one room (or closet or drawer) in your house that’s a complete disaster? That room where if you know guests are coming over, you rush to shut the door and pretend that it doesn’t exist? That’s how we felt about this bathroom…but it was tricky because it was the only bathroom we had on our main floor. How do you nicely tell your guests that they have to go up or down a flight of stairs to relieve themselves when there’s a bathroom 3 feet from where they’re standing?! Haha.

I don’t know about you but when someone starts talking about construction around me, I get overwhelmed and uncomfortable. Ripping things apart and then rebuilding them has always completely intimidated me. I’m great at pulling together a vision and digging into the depths of the internet to order the surface-level pretty things to outfit a space but the actual remodeling part makes me feel completely stressed out. Luckily, Joey seems to excel at everything I am terrible at. Electrical, plumbing and construction are like second nature to him. Thank god.

Nubby Twiglet | Bathroom Remodel with Subway Tile and Black Grout

As December rolled around, we were finally ready to get started on this project. Our first order of business was to rent a dumpster. After some back-and-forth, we came to the conclusion that there was absolutely nothing that could be salvaged. To do this job properly, our bathroom had to be completely ripped down to the studs.

Just two days after we tore our bathroom out, we had our holiday party. Great timing, right?! We were already seasoned pros at not mentioning the bathroom so we just kept the door to our bare-raftered secret tightly sealed.

Nubby Twiglet | Bathroom Remodel with Subway Tile and Black Grout

From there, it was slow going. As Joey dug in, there were way more issues with the plumbing and electrical than we’d realized. And, because we wanted all four walls to be done in floor-to-ceiling subway tile, that was another huge undertaking. Once the floor and ceiling were finally in, the black grout we’d chosen also complicated matters. It’s a mess to apply and the sponges Joey used to wipe down the tiles would turn the buckets of water black — he was having to dump them after every few passes.

Slowly but surely, week after week, our tiny first floor bathroom began to transform. It just took a lot of labor and patience. Along the way, we picked up a lot of tips (which is great because our upstairs bathroom will meet the same fate soon enough).

Nubby Twiglet | Bathroom Remodel with Subway Tile and Black Grout

Nubby Twiglet | Bathroom Remodel with Subway Tile and Black Grout

Nubby Twiglet | Bathroom Remodel with Subway Tile and Black Grout

Nubby Twiglet | Bathroom Remodel with Subway Tile and Black Grout

Nubby Twiglet | Bathroom Remodel with Subway Tile and Black Grout

Lessons Learned

1. Visualize your new bathroom before you tear it apart

To get everyone on the same page with how I imagined our new bathroom looking, I pulled images from my Houses, Interiors & Decor pinboard and explained what I thought would work best. That way, we all had the same image of what the outcome would be and there were no surprises.

2. To be safe, plan for your project to take three times longer and triple your budget

If any of you have had to do repairs to old homes, you know that it always takes three times longer and costs three times more than you think it will. We honestly thought this project would take a month to finish! But, once we could see what was going on inside the walls, we realized that the electrical was very poorly done. Always scary but Joey re-routed it all and got it up to code. Then, once he replaced the pipes to the sink and shower, he noticed that the pipes they connected to in the basement were also bad. It’s always the stuff you can’t see at first that gets you!

Nubby Twiglet | Bathroom Remodel with Subway Tile and Black Grout

3. Splurge on a few details

We got by on a very tight budget for the bathroom remodel but knew that a few splurges would make the room feel extra special. We picked out a Schoolhouse light fixture, some fancy soap and an oversized shower head to add some visual interest.

4. When in doubt, keep it classic

We’d discussed all sorts of tile patterns and detailing in the months leading up to the bathroom remodel but when it came down to it, having a nice, simple, unfussy main level bathroom is a people pleaser. You just can’t go wrong with white subway tile, black grout and simple fixtures. We’re going to be more adventurous when we remodel the upstairs bathroom since just Joey and I share that one.

Nubby Twiglet | Bathroom Remodel with Subway Tile and Black Grout

5. Improve on the basics

When Joey demolished the bathroom, the window casing and door molding went with it. When it was time to rebuild, he extended the new windowsill by a few extra inches so that it was deep enough to add a planter. It’s one of those little details that the average person might not notice but we really appreciate.

6. If you don’t know how to tile, watch Youtube videos

It’s hard to believe but up until this bathroom project, Joey had never tiled anything before! He learned on the fly by watching a handful of Youtube videos so he knew what supplies to buy and how to do the grout. I’ve heard a lot of first time tilers say that they did the same exact thing!

Nubby Twiglet | Bathroom Remodel with Subway Tile and Black Grout

Our remodeling resources

This list is by no means exhaustive but if you’re planning a remodel of your own, here’s where we picked up the majority of our things:

Sink, tub and toilet: Home Depot
Towels, floor mat and toothbrush holder: H&M
All tile: Color Tile (we have one a few blocks from our house so it was easy to get more when we ran out!)
Light shade and fixture: Schoolhouse Electric
Paint, grout and related supplies: Home Depot
Hand Soap: Grown Alchemist
Faux grass and planter: IKEA

Nubby Twiglet | Bathroom Remodel with Subway Tile and Black Grout

Some of you are probably wondering about the cost and though I didn’t keep a running total, all in all I estimate that everything, from the dumpster rental to the electrical to the tiling to the plumbing and all related supplies clocked in at about $5,000.00 even. Not bad considering what a mess we had!

Honestly, I still can’t quite believe this project is done! We still have to get glass shower doors put in (right now we can only take baths) but Joey needs a little break first before we do that. 😉

Nubby Twiglet | Bathroom Remodel with Subway Tile and Black Grout

If you have any more specific questions about the remodel or item resources, let me know in the comments!