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Creative Chronicles: Managing Negative Client Feedback

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Managing Negative Client Feedback

Let’s tackle one of the hardest parts of owning a service-based business today: managing negative client feedback.

I’ve talked about the negative feedback that comes along with sharing your work publicly but negative feedback from clients can sting on a much more personal level because they’ve sought you out and hired you for your expertise.

Even if negative feedback is very rare, it can stick wth you much longer and really affect your mindset. I’ve heard stories of fellow designers wanting to throw in the towel completely or change the direction of their business after negative feedback. It can make you question everything.

Before digging into tips that can help you manage negative feedback, let’s take a trip down memory lane. Long before I was a graphic designer, I worked in retail for about 5 years selling shoes and it taught me a lot about working one-on-one with a variety of personalities.

As a salesperson, negative feedback is inevitable. Sometimes, you’ll have an off day and a customer will complain that you weren’t friendly enough, though you can’t pinpoint what actually went wrong. And on others, an irate customer may take out their aggression on you when you can’t accommodate a return, through no fault of your own.

After being in a few of these situations, it became obvious to me that when someone is upset, getting upset in response and throwing negative emotions back at them is like squirting a bunch of lighter fluid on a fire! Instead of fighting fire with fire, the first step you can take is to stay cool, calm, and collected (even if you’re dying inside).

I can vouch for this tactic working in even the diciest of situations. I once had a mentally unstable person swing a large metal shoe horn at me when she didn’t get her way but because I didn’t add negative emotions into the mix, she eventually ran out of energy, gave up and put it down. After an interaction like that, everything else seems like gravy!

Here are 5 tips to help you manage negative feedback like a pro:

1. Being honest about expectations clears up a lot of misconceptions.

An upset client often boils down to a simple disconnect — they’ve misunderstood the process and feel lost but don’t know how to communicate that. One game-changer with my business has been clearly stating a general process in our media kit. Once they’ve signed on, I attach a PDF process sheet to their email for every step and this usually answers all their questions while letting them know what to expect. Giving your clients a clear framework of what happens when will put them at ease.

2. Lending a sympathetic ear goes a long way.

As a client, there’s nothing worse than feeling misunderstood. Even a simple miscommunication can come across totally wrong over email. If this happens, get on the phone or Skype as soon as possible and clear it up. Taking the initiative is important and it shows that you care enough to make things right. After a quick chat you’ll be able to pinpoint where things went wrong and put together a plan to move forward.

3. It’s not always about you and the work.

This is the hardest one to understand because it’s not rational. On the very rare occasion when a client has really blown up and I can’t pinpoint where the anger is coming from, I take a step back and remind myself that it may be a side-effect of something else that’s happening in their life. When this happens, I think back again to my shoe selling days — whenever a customer was really upset, after talking to them at length, it never really was about the shoes. If this happens to you, talk to someone you trust to get it all out before responding because throwing negative emotions back at a client will accomplish absolutely nothing.

4. If you notice the same issues with multiple clients, use a feedback sheet.

I learned this tip from Paul Jarvis. Remember, a lot of your clients are new to hiring a professional designer and it can be hard to know what kind of feedback you find helpful. How much should they give you? How many directions should they choose? They’re not mind readers and what you think is common sense is all new to them. With Project Prescription, we added a feedback guide that teaches clients how to give you the feedback you want. This is another simple way to put clients at ease.

5. You can’t be everything to everyone.

This is something I’m still learning on a daily basis. There will be clients who you connect with from the first call and become deeply intertwined. Projects and feedback naturally flow with very little effort. And then, there will be the occasional client, who despite your best intentions, is impossible to please. Sometimes, it’s just not meant to be and cutting ties is necessary.

If you find yourself at this crossroads, remember that it’s not about letting a client down but instead caring enough about them to know that you’re not the best fit for what they want. If you find yourself in this position, take the experience and funnel it into providing the best service possible for the clients you do click with.


It’s your turn: have you received negative client feedback and how did you handle it? Did the situation turn out as you expected?

Creative Chronicles: Lumi

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Lumi

As I’m working with branding clients over at Branch, many need a fair amount of printed pieces. Finding a printer for the basics like business cards, postcards and shipping labels is easy but I’m always keeping my eye out for printers who can handle more specialized items.

Lumi makes it foolproof to order branded packaging supplies for your business — think along the lines of packing tape, tissue paper, boxes, bags, stamps, embossers….the list goes on.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Lumi

I’ve ordered from various sites over the years and the interfaces are often clunky and hard to navigate, leaving both me and the client with more questions than answers. On Lumi, I like the crisp, uniformly lit images, the clear navigation and the simple copy — there’s no industry jargon to trip you up.

Discovering this site has been a breath of fresh air. They say it best themselves: “We hope to shake up an industry that’s been stuck in the age of door-to-door salesmen and 30-pound catalogs.” Amen!

I’ve already saved so much time by being able to recommend multiple items from one source for my clients — in the past, we’d have to source stamps, tape and more from multiple companies.

I hope this helps you, too!


All Images: Lumi.

Creative Chronicles: Make The Time

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Make The Time For Creativity

How’s the new year treating you so far?

This year, I’m thinking beyond career goals because while those are great, it’s important to nurture personal interests as well.

A personal goal of mine is to get better at photography. I have no interest in doing it professionally but for as many photos as I share both here and on Instagram, I want to make my content the best it can be.

My dirty little secret is that even though I’ve been carrying a camera with me on a near-daily basis for the last 20+ years (I was always the person in school who took photos of all my friends and got doubles printed at the 1 hour developer to hand out), my process was very point-and-shoot. Capturing moments was more important than mastering the specific settings — and my camera was always set to auto.

Finally, on Saturday I blocked out an entire day to shoot new photos for Branch. I’ve never taken a full day off before to take photos — everything was always rushed. We had an ice storm and the sun was setting quickly. I had a few more flat lays to shoot but the lighting was overcast and shadowy. In desperation, I turned the camera settings to manual, adjusted the ISO and in that minute of fiddling, my photos got infinitely better.

The settings weren’t even that difficult to master — I’d just never given myself the time to explore them.

It’s a bit embarrassing to realize it took so little to make such a big improvement.

My suggestion for you is to think about what you want to master this year….and then actually give yourself the time to do it. No rushing. No set outcomes. Just pure exploration.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: not everything you do needs to have an outcome tied to business growth / money growth / more followers. Creativity, whether it’s nurturing your photography, art, design or writing can be done solely to fuel your soul, no audience necessary.

I’ve found that when you let up and remove the pressure, the outcome is so much better.

What’s your creative goal for 2017?

Creative Chronicles: Do It For The Love

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Do It For The Love

Create because it makes you feel whole.

Not everything you do needs to generate income or have a defined end goal. I want to remind you that it’s okay to do something sheerly for the reason that you love it.

Everywhere I look, I see pushes from internet marketers promising big monetary results and massive increases in social followers. If that’s what you want, cool. At the same time, it’s okay to not actively seek these things. There should be room in your life for fun. For creation. For experimentation.

As I go about my day online and on apps, I’m swamped by opt-ins, lists to join, social media strategies and sales funnels. I have a pretty good understanding of these areas but even though I know what’s possible and what I could do to make more use of these tools in my own online spaces, I am a firm believer in only sharing content when it feels authentic, helpful or brings joy. Plain and simple.

Here’s what I believe when it comes to sharing and promotion online:

1. Authenticity and personal stories will go further than any pre-cooked sales campaign.

2. Newsletters are great when you have something valuable to say or something helpful to give away.

3. Not everything you create needs to be shared for some kind of gain, whether that’s followers or dollars.

4. People want to connect with the real you. The good, the bad and the ugly make who you are and only sharing a highlight reel keeps them at an arm’s length.

5. Not everything you do needs to be attached to a sales pitch. It’s okay to have a place online that’s simply a home for you to be creative.

In these times of uncertainty, create because it fuels you. If the end goal is that it makes you feel better, then you’ve already accomplished all you need to.

Creative Chronicles: Magic Lessons Podcast

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Magic Lessons Podcast

I just learned about Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast and I’m IN LOVE.

Normally, I’m not into listening to podcasts while I work. I like peace and quiet so I can really focus on what I’m doing. I feel like podcasts just distract me from tuning in fully to my creative process…and that needs my full attention.

Well, this weekend Gala texted me about this specific podcast. She even peppered it with, “I know you don’t usually listen to podcasts while you work, but….” and with that nudge, I clicked the link.

One episode led to 5 and 5 led to 10 which led to binge-listening to both seasons.

The thing that makes Magic Lessons really special (and why I think you’ll enjoy it) is that it focuses specifically on the creative process and how we overcome obstacles along the way.

Liz takes essays from real life creatives (writers, dancers, photographers, you name it) and partners up with a well-known person in their field that can give them very specific insights. It’s interesting hearing some of the creative greats (including Neil Gaiman) share their personal struggles with creating and a great reality check that nobody is immune from criticism or other roadblocks.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never read any of Liz’s books but I LOVE her on this podcast. She’s kind, thoughtful and makes sure these creative folks pouring their hearts out to her leave in a better place than when they started.

If you’re looking for a new podcast to get inspired by, I think you’ll love Magic Lessons.