Category Archives: Advice

Little Lessons #11: Live The Impossible

Nubby Twiglet | Live The Impossible

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” —Audrey Hepburn

Last week, I flew into Vegas and hopped on over to Makeup Forever alongside Kat and Gala for a hefty dusting of glitter and some serious false eyelashes. We’d talked about seeing David Copperfield’s show for years and it was finally happening.

We arrived at the MGM Grand where Copperfield has his own theatre and took our seats in the front row. I’d seen many of his TV specials throughout the 90s and was expecting a handful of mind-blowing magic tricks but what I ended up with was something I didn’t expect at all: inspiration to keep following my dreams.

David’s show wasn’t just a traditional magic show. While it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, I appreciated the walk down memory lane, starting with a photo flashed up of him as a child, clutching a dinosaur skeleton, Frank. Copperfield was a lonely outcast as a child and Frank was his best friend. During the show, Copperfield told the audience to “Live the impossible” and by the end, Frank reappeared as a massive mechanical skeleton that took up most of the stage.

In real life, Copperfield managed to live out a seemingly impossible dream, going from the awkward kid who called a dinosaur skeleton his best friend to being the most successful solo entertainer in history with over 40 million tickets sold. Oh, and he owns a string of islands in The Bahamas. Not bad at all.

What does all of this have to do with you?

When you have big dreams and are trying to live the impossible, you’ll get shot down time and again by people who don’t get it. I want to remind you that just because someone else doesn’t think your dream is possible, you’ve got to keep believing. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.


If life has thrown a major curveball at your dreams, here are three quick and easy suggestions to get back on track:

1. Write down an affirmation.

Words have power and an affirmation can be repeated when you’re feeling down as a way to cut through the negativity in an instant. Affirmations are simple reminders of how you want to live your life and the more often you repeat them, the more realistic they become. For instance, “Live the impossible” is a great reminder to follow your dreams, no matter how far-fetched and scary they may seem. I’ll sometimes write an affirmation on a sticky note and place it next to my computer.

If you want more information on creating great affirmations, you can read up here.

2. Make a vision board.

A vision board is a visual representation of your goals. This is your chance to go big and own your future. The formatting of vision boards can be open-ended so feel free to piece together your images in Photoshop and set the composition as your desktop wallpaper or buy a huge piece of tagboard, grab some scissors and glue and get to work!

I’ve recently read a few different accounts of how making vision boards produced fantastic results and there were too many particularities in each to simply be a coincidence. To get the most out of your vision board, you need to be very specific. For instance, if I wanted to live in Palm Springs, I’d place an image of the midcentury modern house of my dreams and the words “Palm Springs” on my board instead of just a gaggle of palm trees.

Once your board is finished, it’s important to set aside a few minutes to focus on it every single day. The goal is to firmly implant your ideal existence so deeply in your mind that you begin to believe there’s no other option than to make it a reality.

If you want more information on vision boards, click here.

3. Keep a gratitude journal.

We all have those days where it feels like we’re moving backwards. But if you focus in closely enough, you can find things to be grateful for. Maybe the bus driver waited an extra 5 seconds so you could hop on. Maybe the grocery store clerk scanned an extra coupon that saved you a few dollars. Maybe the Starbucks barista remade your drink free of charge when you accidentally dropped it while getting into your car. Gratitude doesn’t have to focus on massive, life altering events. It doesn’t have to feel like fireworks going off ever time your pen hits the paper. Gratitude can be simple — it’s lurking in everyday occurrences.

I’m new to the world of gratitude journals but my entry was unexpected — my studio, Branch designed one for the Olivine Happily Ever After course where writing in one is required for 28 days. I participated and it definitely shifted my perspective.

If you’re looking for more information about gratitude journals, click here.

I hope these tips help you move forward with living the impossible and remind you that no dream is too big if you truly believe in it.


For even more Little Lessons posts, click here.

Ask Me Anything Q&A: Part 2

Nubby Twiglet | Ask Me Anything Q&A: Part 2

Last week, I answered the first 10 of your life and business questions and now I’m back for the second installment. Enjoy!

1. If you want a life in the arts, what do you need to do and what kind of commitments should you be ready to make? —Asuka

If you’re not independently wealthy or keeping your creative outlet as a side project and want this to be your full-time gig, expect to work very, very hard. Competition is stiff but if you if you’re kind to people, dedicated to your craft and stay focused, you’ll find a way to make it happen. I’ve always felt that anything is possible and that mindset has been key to pulling me through slumps. If you’re serious about giving this path your all, expect to give up plenty of nights out with friends as well as weekends in the beginning. Don’t let bright and shiny Instagram accounts convince you that a life in the arts is effortless and overflowing with beautiful inspiration — these moments do exist but the daily grind is pretty unglamorous.

2. Do you feel bad when you are not able to get to every question, tweet, or request? —Rayna

There’s probably a balancing act going on for most of us. I always try to get to my paying clients first (because without them, I can’t eat or pay my mortgage) but once they’re taken care of, I think it’s important to take the time to interact with my audience as much as I can. Some days, I’ll have time to answer blog comments, tweets and so on…and other days, I just don’t. I do think it’s important to let your audience know you care, do your best and try to answer questions as often as possible (like now!)

3. Up until recently, my art has been a side project — it paid for itself. Now, it’s doing well and it may be able to pay for me, too. How does one set aside their own pay? How do you know whether profit should go to you or to creating more? —Gabriela

Great question! When I launched Branch, I quit all outside work cold turkey. There was no backup plan. Because of this, I lived off my personal savings for six months while I built my business accounts to a comfortable level and worked out of my house for the first year to save money.

My suggestion would be to go to your local bank and set up a set of business accounts separate from your personal ones. Get a debit card and checkbook for these accounts. Next, if you’re your only employee, set up a pay schedule that’s consistent. If you plan on buying property in the next few years, I’d recommend taking this a step further and paying your accountant to run payroll for you and cut you an actual check — this demonstrates that you’re stable and it will be much easier to get a loan.

My general rule when it comes to business and investing in your work is to never fork over more than you’re comfortable with. There’s nothing more stressful than getting yourself in a bind — it kills the creative flow instantly!

4. I’m graduating in June, and I don’t know if I should focus just on web design/development, or take some time to explore graphic design as a whole first. —Carrie

In the beginning, I’d keep an open mind because it will allow you to have more opportunities. Even if you take a job at a firm advertised as one thing, your skills and drive could easily transform it into something else. Once you have some experience under your belt and have decided what you love (and what you hate!), then it’s time to specialize.

Nubby Twiglet | Ask Me Anything Q&A: Part 2

5. What do you think about mailing lists for blogs that don’t sell classes or products? Are they better than social media to engage your readers? —Emma

My take is that mailing lists need to serve some sort of purpose and not just rehash your blog content. Mailing lists are fantastic if they have a focus — for instance, we have one for Blogcademy that shares upcoming dates, product launches and discounts. A good rule of thumb is to set up a mailing list long before you even need to potentially use it — there’s no harm in collecting email addresses so when you’re eventually ready, you already have an established audience ready to go.

6. How many pairs of shoes do you own? —Steff

The short answer: too many.

The longer answer: enough to fill a dedicated shoe closet. I worked in shoe stores for five years while I was in college and that time gave me a whole new appreciation for unique, quality footwear. I view each pair as a wearable piece of art!

7. You have been blogging since before blogging was even well known. Did blogging or the content you wrote about ever interfere with jobs you held? Have you ever been in a position where you felt like you had to edit yourself because of employment? — Scarlett Ballantyne

Having a blog back in 2001 was a double-edged sword and I definitely felt like I was living a double life. I worked some really mainstream jobs where people definitely wouldn’t have understood my creative expression (if you can call it that!) and I never wanted my blogging to interfere with my professional life. Because of that, I kept it under wraps.

This worked for the first few years but then, people started discovering who I was. I had one particular interview in 2009 at an ad agency where they asked me point blank if blogging would interfere with my job. My response was quick: “I’ve been blogging since 2001 and I’ve never had a problem — I get up at 6 am, push my new post live and then come to work.” I didn’t get hired.

Three years later, I had an interview at the same exact place and the owner hired me on the spot, partially based on the work he’d seen on my blog. Times have definitely changed! These days, blogs are amazing calling cards and can open a lot of doors — if you’re open to being who you are and sharing I strongly believe the good far outweighs the bad.

8. What blogs do you follow? —Kristen Ellis Williams

I follow around 100 blogs in Feedly but the ones that immediately come to mind are Breanna Rose, Cocorrina, Sea Of Shoes, Gala Darling, Door Sixteen, And Kathleen, the greenroom section of Rock n Roll Bride (full of great business advice!) and Garance Doré.

Nubby Twiglet | Ask Me Anything Q&A: Part 2

9. As an owner of creative businesses, how much of the non-creative work (management, accounts, operations, client servicing, etc.) do you handle yourself and how much do you delegate to others? How do you manage your personal bandwidth so that you can maximize the time you have to do the creative bit? —Sankhalina Nath

In the beginning, as a small business owner, chances are that you have to do everything yourself. I’m now at the point where I’ve been handing off more and more tasks. In the past year, I’ve handed off bookkeeping, errand running and web development. I basically gave up everything I’m not great at to focus on what I still love the most: the creative exploration and design.

My advice would be to do everything yourself at least once so you truly understand how your business runs before asking someone else to do it — that way, you’ll be more compassionate when something goes wrong!

10. If you could jump back in time to when you were just starting out as a freelancer (but knowing what you know now), what would you do differently to get started and established? —Sarah

I’d make sure I had clear processes in place. In the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing and I wasn’t good about setting expectations. There’s nothing worse than over promising and under delivering! When I started Branch, the first thing I did was put together a media kit laying out our packages and processes. Thee next thing I did was design a series of informational sheets that explains each step of our process in great detail.

Think of your business from your client’s perspective — this is probably their first time working with a creative like you and you can’t expect them to know everything. Keeping them in the know will make your life a whole lot easier!

Thanks for your awesome questions! This has been a fun little experiment — let’s do it again soon!


Photos: Chellise Michael Photography.

Ask Me Anything Q&A: Part #1

Nubby Twiglet | Ask Me Anything Q&A: Part #1

First of all, thanks for all of your interesting, insightful questions! I picked 10 at random and will be answering another 10 next week. If you’d like to ask a question, you still have time — feel free to add your own to the mix!

Here we go….

1. How do I find my personal style when I don’t know what I want it to look like? —Konstantia

The truth is, nobody really knows what their style is when they are starting out. It’s one of those things that we all struggle with because it’s a process of self-discovery that can’t always be unlocked easily. The trick to finding it is to set aside time to work on creative projects every single day. After awhile, you’ll be able to look back at your body of work and spot a clear stylistic evolution. We all have signature visual cues in our work whether we realize it or not, it just takes time and commitment for it to emerge.

2. How do you know when it is time to move on from a good job that has zero chance of advancement in the design field? —Nikki

This really depends on what you want out of your career. Some people thrive when they have a sense of comfort and balance at a stable job. I found that having extreme stability and a good paycheck left me feeling bored and unfulfilled. I wanted adventure infused in my career and the only way to find that was to throw caution to the wind and start my own design studio. If you’re feeling unsettled in your “safe zone” and have a cushion of expenses saved up, you have absolutely nothing to lose. I moved around a lot and not every job I landed in worked out — but I can honestly say that each one taught me something valuable that I was then able to take with me. If you stay too long, you run the risk of getting stuck and letting fear of change take hold.

3. How can you get better at “designing” without a proper education? —Asuka

There are so many great avenues these days — Skillshare is my top pick, along with Creative Live. If you’re focused on the technical side of things and want to learn the ins and outs of a program, Lynda is the perfect place to start.

If you’re looking for a more serious path of being full-time designer down the road, I’d still recommend immersing yourself in a college program. The live critiques, connections and project deadlines all prep you for the real world. I used to be one of those people who thought I could be completely self-taught and then one day, a designer sat me down and told me, “To break the rules, you have to know them first.” I hated that advice at the time but he was right. Soon after, I enrolled in a two year program at a community college and it was the best time and money I’ve ever spent. If you’re into self-study but find yourself still yearning for more, don’t be afraid to make a bigger commitment.

4. How do you know how much time to pour into promoting your business (like blogging) vs. doing the work? —Emma

There is no right answer here but it comes down to setting a schedule that you feel good about, even if it’s posting new content once a week. The point is to be consistent. When you’re running a business, self-promotion is important but it’s easy to put off since it’s not a paid job. I’ve always thought about self promotion this way: I can spend my time networking and creating work with a with a handful of people locally or I can pour my time into sharing my work with the entire world and have a much larger, more diverse audience. You have to be willing to carve out the time because no one is going to do it for you.

Nubby Twiglet | Ask Me Anything Q&A: Part #1

5. How long did it take to define a niche? Should you take on as many clients at first and go from there? —Michelle

Oh…about 8 years. Seriously! When you’re starting out, chances are that you have to take on whatever paid work is thrown your way and defining a niche is the least of your worries. I literally did everything imaginable including campaigns for the NBA and NFL. While none of this work (along with 100 or so other jobs) is visible in my portfolio, it helped me earn a living as a designer in those very early days. Each job I did built a connection that helped me land more work. Over time, I was able to improve my skills, speed up my output, significantly raise my rates and cut out all the work that wasn’t a good fit. These days, I’m careful about the projects I take on and in turn, the work that I do share has allowed me to attract the right types of clients. This very defined focus has only been possible in the last year.

6. Have you partnered with Kat from Rock ‘n Roll Bride for her new magazine? The layout looks a lot like the one you created for the previous issues, however I cannot see your name in the credits. —Marie

First off, I love Kat — she was one of my first-ever clients, long before we ever went into business together at The Blogcademy! Branch designed the first three issues of her self-published magazine but when she hit the big-time and got a magazine distribution deal, we sold the rights to her publishing company. Creatives, this is a good lesson in business: if you do a job for a client that’s independent and just starting out but the outcome eventually turns into a much bigger opportunity, make sure that you negotiate for your fair share. Seeing the design we created take on a whole new life has been pretty amazing.

7. With all the perfect, polished pictures you post, do you ever worry about appearing disingenuous? —Rayna

Not at all. Every single photo you see in my Week In Pictures posts was personally styled and taken by me. The same goes for about 95% of my blog content. If I had a few more lifetimes in front of me, I’d probably be a prop or wardrobe stylist — I love the art of transformation and creating visual arrangements. How very Virgo!

During the week, most of my time is spent working with clients at Branch so sharing still lifes and personal moments is a creative outlet that I hold onto very tightly. Everything you see on my blog and Instagram is real life: I have a very bold, graphic decor style, run three businesses, travel a lot, have an awesome husband, a very eccentric puppy and a crazy pet squirrel. My life naturally has a lot of photo ops!

When it comes to content, I tend to focus on sharing moments that I find inspiring and beautiful in hopes that it inspires people to explore and seek the same in their own lives.

Nubby Twiglet | Ask Me Anything Q&A: Part #1

8. How do you manage your blog + agency when you are away on long trips? —Steff

I wish there was a wizard behind the curtain making everything run like clockwork but the truth is much less glamorous. Any time I have a trip coming up, I put in 12 to 14 hour days the week before to work ahead on client projects, pre-schedule blog posts and hopefully buy myself some time to enjoy where I’m going. What you tend to not see on the blog or Instagram is that on the “fun days” of exploring a city and doing photo shoots, I was probably up by 6 am answering emails and sending off client work. The one secret weapon I do have on my team is my mom. She puts out any client fires and sends me tidy lists of emails that came in overnight. Thank god for moms!

9. If I want to change my specialty in design, is it okay if my portfolio consists of only personal projects until I can bring in clients? —Jessica

The general rule is that you should only show the work that you want more of but it’s tricky just showing self-initiated work for a few reasons:

1. Clients want to know that you have experience with other projects similar to theirs.

2. A portfolio of paid work shows that you’re established and reliable.

3. The more quality client work you can show, the more you can charge because you’re regarded as an expert.

The easiest way around this conundrum is to offer up your services to a few clients who fit your new direction, even if you’re charging less than your usual rate or throwing a few freebies into the mix to round out a project in your portfolio.

10. How do you manage to have so much balance in your work/life balance? You always appear to make loads of time for stuff outside work yet you manage to do SO much work! How do you do it?! —Karen

In reality, there is pretty much no work / life balance in my world but I’m okay with that. My personal motto is “work hard and play hard” and I pretty much live by it at all times. Juggling is mandatory when you have a life that’s packed with a lot of things you love.

My one general rule is that family comes first and that opens the door to a lot of fun (like two weekends ago when I took my 85 year old grandma to a drag queen brunch). If my grandparents call me, I’ll drop everything to meet them, even if that means that I have to go back to the office and work until midnight afterwards. If my dad invites me out for drinks, chances are that I’m pushing through as much work as possible the three days prior so I can leave a few hours early on Friday. It’s all about compromise.

Thanks again for your questions — tune in next week for part two!


Photos: Shell De Mar, Paris.

Rapid-Fire Q&A Submission: You’ve Got Questions…And I’ve Got Answers!

Nubby Twiglet | You’ve Got Questions…And I’ve Got Answers!

Later this year, I’ll celebrate my 8th anniversary of blogging in this space and because I’ve been here for so long, I figure that most of you know me pretty well (and I’ve gotten to know a lot of you pretty well, too). It’s easy to forget that there are new people landing here every day so I thought it would be fun to try something different this week — a rapid-fire Q&A!

I’ve done an advice column since the very beginning but that’s usually a long, detailed answer to one question. Here, I’m going to gather 20 of your questions and split them into two upcoming posts.

It’s time to think about what you want to know. Do you have a question about blogging, graphic design, creative careers, personal style, business, a specific font I use, travel, squirrels…or something even more random? Head on over to my Facebook and ask away!

Part one goes live next Tuesday and I can’t wait to see what you come up with! -Shauna

Nubby Twiglet | You’ve Got Questions…And I’ve Got Answers!


Photos: Janneke Storm.

Oh, The Embarrassment: A Little Reminder That We All Have To Start Somewhere

Nubby Twiglet | Oh, The Embarrassment: A Little Reminder That We All Have To Start Somewhere

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whenever I look back at my early design projects, I see promise…but for the most part, I feel embarrassed. Do you feel that way about your past work, too?

I actually think that a touch of embarrassment is a healthy reaction because it means that you’ve grown as a creative. Over time, your taste has evolved, your skills have improved and your sense of style has matured. You know that you’re capable of even better results.

Sometimes when I feel that embarrassment creeping up, I have to step back and remind myself that without posting those early design projects online, nobody would have known about my work. Even if I didn’t see the promise at the time, some people who came across those projects did. The people who saw enough promise hired me. When they hired me, it gave me the opportunity to build out my portfolio. With a growing portfolio, I was able to get my first agency jobs. Those jobs gave me the steady footing to take on bigger outside projects I loved which in turn built my portfolio even further. And eventually, all that work allowed me to launch my own boutique design studio. I now realize that it was a very slow domino effect over the course of seven years — each project I shared, no matter how embarrassing now, led to even more opportunities.

If you’re feeling uneasy about your work, always remember that it’s secretly the push you need to get over the next hurdle. If you’re always satisfied, there’s no reason to improve. You’ll settle for exactly where you are now because the urge to try new things that scare you isn’t there. Use that discomfort as motivation.

I still feel that discomfort all too often. I see portfolios of work that are much better than mine. I read blog posts that are brilliantly composed. I see photos every day that make mine look amateurish. And all of this leaves me wanting to improve.

We all have to start somewhere, even if that somewhere feels like a black hole some days. The only way to get out of that black hole is to practice. Practice doesn’t make perfect…but it will make you better. So the next time you feel that embarrassment creeping up, transform it into a positive outcome.


Photo: Made U Look.

The Secret To Reaching Goals: Keep Them Fun and Attainable

Nubby Twiglet | The Secret To Reaching Goals: Keep Them Fun and Attainable

All too often, I get sucked into the vortex of digital comparisons. Do you, too?

It starts out innocently enough — I’ll be scrolling through Instagram on the weekend and see one beautifully composed still life after another. You know the ones: that perfect golden light shining down over a beautifully prepared breakfast at the coolest cafe in town with a frothy latte peeking into the edge of the frame. Oh, and don’t forget the freshly done gel manicure casually resting on the table.

If you feel a touch of envy creeping up like I sometimes do, it’s a good idea to step back and analyze your feelings. When I stop and actually think about it, my feelings are not rooted in wanting to be there. My feelings are rooted in wanting to create images that look that beautiful. And from many years of experience, I know that it’s much harder than it looks.

Like most of you, I work full-time, splitting my hours between Branch and Blogcademy and there just isn’t a lot of leftover time to creatively experiment just for fun. The easy way out would be to make excuses — I’m too busy, I’m too too tired, I’m too whatever. But excuses will get you nowhere.

A better solution is to set small, attainable goals. I’m a big fan of goals that build up steadily but don’t take over your life. Who needs more stress and pressure?

With the goal set to improve my still life skills, I created a simple challenge for myself last year: on Fridays, I’d set aside 10 minutes or so and snap a photo of a new composition. To track my progress, I’d tag it with #stilllifefriday. Though I’ve taken a few weeks off here and there, the photos are starting to accumulate. It’s been nice having something simple yet fun to look forward to every Friday.

Whether you’re struggling to blog, Instagram, or *insert task here* more often, the key is to set manageable goals. That way, the finish line always feels within reach. Keep it fun and keep it light.

Nubby Twiglet | The Secret To Reaching Goals: Keep Them Fun and Attainable

Here are some suggestions:

• If reading more is on your list, join a book club to stay motivated! There’s a great one going on over at A Beautiful Mess and the selections change out monthly.

• If writing more is on your list, Morning Pages may just change your life. Really.

• If improving still lifes is on your list, join me every Friday by hashtagging your photos with #stilllifefriday on Instagram. I’d love to see your inspiring compositions!

• If learning new design skills is your focus, try out some Skillshare classes. It’s the easiest way to access the knowledge of creative experts.

• If stepping up your blogging game is on your list, Blogcademy Online launches January 29th and teaches you the keys to running a successful blog in a single weekend.


Your turn: what are you hoping to improve upon this year? How can you make it more attainable?

10 Tips To Get Your Work Noticed (and Land a Job!) at Design Studios and Ad Agencies

Nubby Twiglet | 10 Tips To Get Your Work Noticed (and Land a Job!) at Design Studios and Ad Agencies

As the year winds down and you have some free time to reflect, now is the perfect time to start thinking about what steps you can take to land your dream job.

The thing is, there’s nothing worse than putting in some serious effort when applying for a job only to receive the tired response of, “You’re not quite what we are looking for” or worse yet, no response at all. As creatives, we want our work to get noticed by the right people. I often receive emails from recent design graduates asking how they can land their first professional position but the competition for spots at design studios and ad agencies can be notoriously tough.

Today, I’m sharing 10 tips gathered from personal experience — over the course of seven years, I worked full-time and freelanced at a total of seven spots ranging in size from less than 10 employees to a few hundred. Each experience was slightly different but I used similar techniques to get into each.

10 Helpful Tips

1. Do your homework.

Before walking into an interview, take the time to research your employer. What is their visual style like? How do they communicate on their website? Is their copy buttoned-up or humorous? In a sea of creative studios, what do they stand for? Do they mostly work with corporate clients or small businesses? All of these pieces of information are cues for how you should present yourself and your work. Even if it means pulling an all-nighter, re-jig your presentation for a particular interview and study up. If it’s undeniable that you “get” their style (and sense of humor), you’ll be a shoe-in because they already know that you’re a good fit. I’d obsessed over Cinco’s work for years before I ever had an interview and because I knew their work well (and referenced it), I was able to get into one of Portland’s best agencies.

2. Design a resume that stands out.

When applying for a creative presentation at a studio, a standard Word document won’t make the cut. This is the perfect opportunity to show off your personality and turn a traditionally boring document on its head. In need of inspiration? Check out this roundup. Don’t go too crazy with the design, though — the bottom line is that legibility matters most. Before sending out your resumé, print it. Are the fonts you chose easy on the eyes? Does the hierarchy of information make sense?

3. Replace school projects with real world client work.

Start freelancing as early as possible to gain actual client work. Employers want to see what you can do outside of the very structured confines of school. Can you handle difficult clients, sometimes ridiculous timelines and still deliver beautiful work? Because honestly, this is what the world outside of school looks like. Client work conveys that you are a self-starter and took the initiative to create a well-rounded portfolio. Not every project is going to pay well in the beginning but think about it as an investment in your future. I did many $200.00 logos while I was in school but that work later helped me get into the door of my first few jobs.

4. Expand upon each project.

Even if you’re hired to just do a logo, take the time to do a full build-out on your own. During my first few years of freelancing, my clients had small budgets so I’d often take their logos and build them into a full suite of collateral free of charge to create a much stronger visual presentation. An example of this was Semiospectacle who only had a budget for a logo at the time.

5. Brush up on skills affordably.

If your skillset isn’t quite up to par with the job you’re applying for, study online affordably. If you need to dive deeper into the Creative Suite and learn every little tip and trick about a particular program, Lynda is fantastic. If you want to learn a particular skill like hand-lettering or logo design, Skillshare is great.

6. Take the time to mock up your work.

Don’t just show a logo and flat graphics on a portfolio page because they offer no context. Instead, take the time to show a more complete visual story. Search out appropriate templates to give your work some dimension and relevance. For instance, if you designed a logo for a coffee shop, show it on a mug, a sign and across a suite of collateral. It shows that you understand the art of presentation, which agencies in particular appreciate….because once you get in the door, you’ll be helping to build out a whole lot of pitches. You can play up the outcome with templates from Creative Market, Pixeden and Live Surface.

7. Develop self-initiated projects.

If you haven’t found the ideal mix of clients to build the portfolio of your dreams, that’s okay. Take the initiative and create a few self-initiated projects. Self-initiated simply means that you weren’t hired for a project but built it out for fun. As long as you’re clear about this in the description and not trying to mislead anyone, these types of projects can show off different styles and skills to potential employers. If you’re looking for ideas to create well-rounded, amazingly branded projects, Good Design Makes Me Happy is a great source for inspiration.

8. Polish up your web presence.

Remember, your interviewer can Google you in 5 seconds flat. Give them something good to look at! In your online portfolio, include more information about yourself, your accolades and an extended selection of projects if you have them. Before I launched my design studio, I used Cargo Collective as a platform but WordPress and Squarespace also work well.

9. Spell check, use proper grammar….and if all else fails, hire a copywriter.

Nothing is a bigger turn-off for a potential employer than opening a resume or portfolio and spotting one spelling error after another. It’s sloppy and conveys a lack of attention to detail. Whether you’re formatting your resume, the bio on your website or descriptions for your portfolio projects, always run spell check. In InDesign, go to Edit > Spelling > Check Spelling.

10. Always say thank you.

Manners go a long way. After an interview, send a simple thank you the next day. An email or a card are both perfectly fine. Studios are busy places and the fact that the interviewers blocked time out of their busy schedules to meet you means that you’re a definite contender. If you have impeccable taste and manners, they won’t be able to resist you!

I hope these tips help you land a position you love in the new year. Good luck!