Category Archives: Advice

An Inside Look at the First 3 Years Of Running A Creative Business

Nubby Twiglet | An Inside Look at the First 3 Years Of Running A Creative Business

It feels like just yesterday that I started running a creative business full-time….but it’s already been nearly three years! Time flies.

When running a business, beyond the usual ups and downs, I’ve noticed a specific trajectory over the last few years and wanted to talk about that today in the hopes that if you’re thinking of starting a business of your own or in the early stages of running one, you can start imagining what the future will look like. The more you can visualize and plan, the better.

Your first three years in business will probably look like this:

Year 0: The Preparation

Year 1 :Work, Work, Work

Year 2: Attract and Repel

Year 3: Diversify, Baby

Let’s dig in…


Year 0 — The Preparation

This ain’t gonna be easy.

Leading up to starting your own business, you have to prepare. Ideally, six months to a year in advance, you’ll be tallying up your monthly expenses and visualizing what your working environment will look like.

Do you plan on working from home, in a co-working space or in an office that’s all yours? What do your rates need to be like to afford your new lifestyle? How will you find new clients? And….what’s your plan if it takes a few months (or longer) to land that steady stream of clients?

I first started freelancing on the side back in 2006 while still in school. While my side business steadily grew, I began freelancing at agencies and worked a few full-time design jobs in-between to pay the bills.

This went on for years….and looking back, there was no balance in my life whatsoever. To be completely honest, I had no life. I held out way too long because I was afraid of how I would pay my mortgage without a steady gig. I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough clients. I was afraid of what would happen if things slowed down. Fear kept me hanging on by a thread, even though I was completely exhausted.

The tipping point came in the form of a small business class about 6 months before I left my full-time job. Our teacher asked us to write our worst case scenario on a piece of paper if our dream didn’t work out.

As soon as I wrote mine down, I realized it wasn’t as bad as I thought. My plan was to find a corporate gig for a year and then try my dream out again. The writing was on the paper, literally: I had to push the fear of the unknown aside for good because my lack of confidence was holding my dream up.

After that class, I slowly built momentum through trademarking my business name, working on the branding, building a media kit and designing a very basic website.

A few months later, I gave my notice and walked into my new life which was set up in a spare room across from my bedroom. My dream was 5 steps from where I woke up but the best decision I ever made.

Advice: Only prepare as much as you need to….and then go live your dream. Gaining life experience is infinitely more powerful than sitting around and reading about it.


Nubby Twiglet | An Inside Look at the First 3 Years Of Running A Creative Business

Year 1 — Work, Work, Work

Work all day. Work all night.

The first year in business tends to boil down to taking on any and every project you can get your hands on to gain some stability.

When it came to bringing on clients, I definitely went for quantity over quality because I just wanted to keep working and build a cushion. If I wasn’t working, I felt guilty, like a backwards slide was imminent. In this case, the irrational fear wasn’t all bad because it kept motivation strong. But once again, I was exhausted. So many small business owners burn out because they’re afraid to give themselves a break.

The first year went well but in hindsight, I worked way too hard for too little because I was still figuring out what made my business unique and how to actually convey that. Easier said than done, right? Still, I felt relieved making it through and supporting myself. Because man, that first year is scary.

Advice: Don’t overthink things. Do good work for good people, stay true to your ethics and word of mouth will spread. Reliability, honesty and friendliness are everything.


Year 2 — Attract and Repel

Make what you want more of crystal clear.

The first year in business was all about doing the work (and doing a good job) while the second was all about getting clear on who I actually wanted to do work for.

I’d grown Branch just enough to finally feel a sense of stability which led to me signing a lease on an office space. I was on the fence…but my mom convinced me to do it and moms know best. Getting an office changed everything for the better because I felt like I had a home life again.

Even better, having a space to show up to every morning and set up however I wanted created an ideal working atmosphere and the good vibes drew in more clients.

As the business grew, I quickly learned the value of attracting and repelling. There weren’t enough hours in a day to be everything to everyone and I found that path mentally and physically exhausting. Instead of trying, I re-wrote sales copy. Reworked packages. Focused in on creative small businesses. Brought in a design assistant to help out.

The clearer I got on what I wanted the studio to work on and the more effort I put into our portfolio, the better the fit new clients were. It was really as simple as that.

Advice: Figure out who you are, reflect that in the work you produce and share it consistently.


Nubby Twiglet | An Inside Look at the First 3 Years Of Running A Creative Business

Year 3 — Diversify, baby

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Year three for me has been all about diversifying.

By now, you’re going to be more established and have a core client base that appreciates what you do and keeps coming back for more.

While I am super happy with the mix of clients I’m working with, the biggest issue with running a service-based business is that your income is directly limited to what you can produce in a set amount of hours.

A reality check came earlier this year when I ran a report and realized my #1 client was my own product. Project Prescription held the top ranking, even though I spent 90% of my time on client work. Moving forward, my goal is to maintain current client work while slowly diversifying offerings through digital products.

Diversifying in your business is smart because if one area drops off, you’ll still be okay. I’ve learned from some personal experiences that panicking about how you’re going to pay the bills destroys creative mojo in a second flat.

Advice: Find ways to diversify so you can work smarter, not harder.


It’s your turn:

Do you run your own business?
Is it something that you’re interested in doing? Any questions for me?
Let me know in the comments!

Creative Chronicles: Land Your Ideal Job

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Q: I’m reaching out because I feel stuck in my career. When I graduated with a design degree, I was hired by a company that I’ve now been with for  7 years and I’m ready to move on. I have applied for Art Director positions at many companies with no luck so far. It seems like I’m getting a lot of no’s instead of a yes but I don’t believe in giving up so I’m wondering what else I can do. Maybe my portfolio needs a big improvement? I’m willing to do whatever it takes.


A. To this very day, the most common questions that land in my inbox relate to portfolios and landing a job. And trust me — I get it. As a designer, your portfolio is the link to your next big opportunity. Have you ever heard of that saying, “Show, don’t tell?” Well, a portfolio does exactly that. There’s only so much you can say about your accomplishments and the notable clients you’ve worked with. Showing your interviewer actual outcomes is the proof.

Though I’ve written a handful of portfolio-related articles in the past, today’s is a little different since the writer isn’t a freshly graduating student but someone with years of professional experience looking to transition out of her current role and into a new company.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Without ado, here are 10 pieces of advice to succeed when you’re prepping for an interview for a design position:

1. Show relevant work

This is a big one. Think about the company and the industry it is in. What types of projects do you have in your arsenal that would be a good fit? Once you’ve been working professionally for a few years, chances are that you’ve weeded out most of your school projects and have a mix of both corporate and smaller freelance projects to share. Remember that your interviewers have a limited amount of time and usually, there’s no need to share more than 6 to 10 projects. So, how can you make the most impact?

When I was looking for a full-time job a few years back before starting Branch, my previous position had been mostly production work but I was interviewing for a spot on a brand team. Because of this, I left most of the work from my previous employer out and showed mostly branding projects I’d personally completed with freelance clients since these were more relevant. If you do have a project you’re proud of and want to include but it’s not super relevant to the position, just make sure you have a really good story to go with it!

2. Self-initiated projects are fair game

I know how hard it can be getting the right types of projects you want during the first few years of your career. If you don’t feel that you have the ideal mix to share with a potential employer, that’s totally fair. I felt that way for a long time, too but the easiest way around that is to create a project or two for your ideal fantasy client.

This isn’t misleading as long as you’re clear that it’s self-initiated and if anything, it’s a strength to be able to show that you took the initiative to complete a large-scale project on your own time…and finished it! My brother interviewed at Nike years ago and though he didn’t have a lot of work that tied into the job he wanted at the time, he designed his own dream shoe and included it at the end of his portfolio. He got the job!

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

4. Keep descriptions short and sweet

For the most part, designers have a harder time writing than they do putting together visuals and oh boy, do I get stuck when describing my own projects and the outcome! The thing to remember is that you really don’t need more than 3 sentences max to get your point across. If you’re struggling big time with getting to the point and keeping your descriptions short and snappy, I’d recommend hiring a copywriter. It’s worth its weight in gold to have a second set of eyes that can tighten up your writing.

5. Do your homework

When I think back to the best interviews I ever had, yes, my portfolio mattered, but equally important was having a personal connection to the company through a story I could share. When I interviewed for my first-ever design job, I was familiar with the studio’s work and style because I’d attended many of their art openings and parties so it was easy to make them feel like I already fit in.

Be friendly, sign up to newsletters and follow your dream company on social media. The more integrated into their world you are before the interview, the easier it will be to make a great impression. My current employee, Samantha had been following this blog and knew about key Branch projects I’d shared on social media so when she interviewed with me last year, I felt like she was already familiar with our culture and shared common interests. I hired her by the end of our interview because she felt like the perfect fit — I could sense that her integration would be seamless.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

6. Conduct market research

This is one of my favorite pastimes! Some people would call this stalking (ha!) but hey, I look at it a little differently —everything you need to know about a company is already out there. Take some time to read through your potential employer’s website, scan their social media accounts and get familiar with some of their notable projects and accolades. What are they most proud of? If they list employees on their website, get a feel for the kinds of work they personally produce. Look at as many portfolios as possible to find ways you can improve — because I have news for you — your portfolio is never really done! Preparation is key for any interview and the more you know, the better chance you have for sealing the deal.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

7. Mock it up

One thing I’ve learned from redoing my own portfolio dozens of times is that the work you show can always be presented better. There’s always room for improvement and a lot of that has to do with mockups. I am a big fan of mockups because I don’t always have hard copies of printed materials from projects (90% of Branch clients are remote) and also, I don’t have pro-level photo equipment to consistently capture the work I do have on-hand. Mocking up your work allows you to present your ideal scenario of the outcome of a project and create a level of consistency with backgrounds and lighting.

If you need some fantastic, free mockups to get started, I highly recommend Graphic Burger. And, if you have a bit more of a budget and need very specific items, give Pixeden a try.

8. Simple is best

I know it’s hard to avoid because as designers, we’re naturally overachievers, obsessing over the tiniest details to built the best portfolio ever but perfectionism can also paralyze you. When in doubt, keep things simple. White space speaks volumes about your confidence as a designer. Allowing your work to breathe instead of overwhelm is key. Let your crisp, concise visuals and short and sweet descriptions placed on white backgrounds do the talking.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

9. Always send a thank you

If you truly want the job, always follow up the same day with a short but specific thank you message. While actual thank you cards are nice, it’s important to be immediate with this step so I’d recommend an email. Reiterate that you appreciate the interviewer taking time out of their busy schedule to meet with you, include one specific fact about the company that stood out in the interview (it shows that you care AND that you were paying attention!) and finally, let them know you think you’re the ideal fit and are ready for the next steps. You can definitely be forward and confident without coming across as pushy.

10. In the meantime, gain experience

If your dream job doesn’t pan out right away, that’s okay. I know it’s easy to say that but I speak from experience. In 2009, I interviewed at a studio I’d always wanted to work at. While the interview went well, they didn’t feel that I had enough experience. I’d only been out of school for a year and while I showed potential, they needed a more senior-level designer. Instead of getting upset, I threw myself into freelancing at every studio I possibly could.

In 2012, an unexpected email landed in my inbox from that same company. What I thought was a quick informational interview morphed into a meeting with the owner and by that night, I had an offer letter in-hand. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. I was able to jump in with both feet and all that additional experience I’d gained was priceless.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Playing the waiting game is hard and building out a portfolio is a monumental task but all that preparation eventually pays off. You’ve got this — sometimes it just takes awhile to get what you want.

If hunting for a design job is something that interests you but you need a boost, I’m working with career strategist Ellen Fondiler and digital product mastermind Paul Jarvis to create Future So Bright, a new course dedicated to helping designers find their dream jobs. The best part is, this course will have a digital portfolio and resume template included. We’re launching later this Summer and I can’t wait to share more!

In the meantime, let me know if you have any portfolio questions in the comments. Always happy to help!


Featured work: We Are Branch.

Creative Chronicles: The Battle for Quality Over Quantity

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Today I want to talk about something we face constantly as designers in a fast-paced world: making the choice between quality and quantity.

Every single week, I get inquiries from potential new clients who need something done right away. More like yesterday. And trust me, I get the urgency. The online world is evolving fast and small businesses are doing everything they can to stay ahead of the curve. Updated branding, marketing materials and websites help project the right image. The sooner they can implement updates, the sooner they can potentially book up and sell more.

Even though I get it (I run small businesses myself), I won’t bend my processes or timelines to make it happen. In this world, being the cheapest and / or fastest is a race to the bottom because there’s always someone who can slice margins even thinner. It’s best not to compete on those principles. A few sloppy jobs to appease clients or make a quick buck will do nothing for your image and hurt your bottom line in the long run.

What you do have is the quality of work you put into the world, your ethics, your process, your unbeatable customer service and your personal story. Use these things to convey your worth instead.

Hold Your Ground

Breaking processes and bending ethics to make a quick buck is never a good idea. Things will go bad. Every time I have made an exception, I’ve learned the lesson again. It’s painful when you end up with a disappointed client and it’s your fault because you caved.

A few weeks ago, I was on a call with a client I really wanted to work with and after explaining my branding process, they mentioned they’d already done most of the steps before with another designer. Couldn’t we just skip ahead and use that content, they wondered?

While I explained that it would be helpful to see what they had, we still needed to go through my process in order to get the best results. We’re now a few steps into my process and making some major tweaks to the outcome of their new branding based on things I learned from their questionnaire and pins that weren’t immediately obvious during our original call. If I’d skipped the steps, we would be at a much different outcome (and not necessarily a happy one).

Red Flags

If you’ve explained your process and why it works but a potential customer is adamant that you change it for them, it’s usually a red flag that they’re not an ideal fit. And that’s totally okay — keep a list of referrals on hand for these situations so they can find a better suited partner.

Always remember that you’re a professional. You’ve done this before. There’s a reason for why you do what you do. You have the proven results to back it up. For a project to run smoothly, there has to be a level of mutual respect and a process in place.

I know how tempting it can be to stack on more work, bend your ethics and skip steps in processes to make more money but is it worth it? Does it make you feel good? That’s the only answer you need.

Quality over quantity, always.

P.S. If you need some help with your client process, I created Project Prescription with Paul Jarvis to make it easier.


Check out even more Creative Chronicles posts here.

Creative Chronicles: If You Build It, They Will Come

WE_ARE_BRANCH_PORTFOLIO_BRANCH_3

There are easily thousands of articles scattered across the internet that dish out the advice that your portfolio should be specialized. The thought process is that if you focus in on promoting the projects you want more of, more of the same will flow in.

Specialization and zeroing in on what you’re passionate about is great and I never disagreed with that advice because it makes complete sense. The tricky part for some of us is when exactly we should start specializing. After all, if you focus in too narrowly before building your clientele and audience, it may be harder to make a living.

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When I started freelancing 10 years ago, I cast my net really wide for a few reasons:

1. I was still building my client base and audience.
2. I was hungry for experience in a variety of areas. The best way to learn is on the job.
3. I needed the extra income since I was still in school / working retail.

Over time, I did start to specialize and drop projects from my portfolio that I didn’t want more of but really drilling down was hard because I still wasn’t sure who my audience really was.

When I started Branch, I’d just ended a stint working on a branding team at a large agency so I was still trying to find my design style away from heavy art direction. I admired the work they did and their clean, crisp style felt familiar so I used that as inspiration when I built out my own brand.

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That was fine because in the first year of business, it’s best to not overthink things. Just go with what you know and start moving forward. Everyone says you should just launch and learn and I agree because you may think you know who your audience is — but it could be completely different than you expect.

Over time, your audience will subtly let you know what it wants. Certain projects will bring in tons of new inquiries while others fall flat. It’s hard to say what that mix is and the only true way to figure it out is through trial and error. Also, your aesthetic and interests will change and that style tends to be present in the work you produce. The more work you do, the more your style comes through.

Going into my third year of business, I finally feel like it’s time to fine-tune the look of my design studio and be more picky about the projects I choose to share. I’m now asking myself what I love and focusing in on that mix — creative businesses with a heavy focus on lifestyle and beauty brands. It’s good to get specific about what you want.

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As a creative, what kinds of brands, services and products are you naturally drawn to? What brands share your aesthetics? Once you figure that out, your brand will naturally start to evolve. Once I’d decided what niches were my focus going forward, I felt comfortable softening up our overall look because I now had a customer in mind. The orange went from 100% opacity to 80%. Blacks and dark grays were replaced with creamy carrara marble. Hard geometric patterns were replaced with a halftone image of an orange tree I’d photographed over the summer.

The truth is, things are still a work in progress. Business has literally doubled over the last year and it’s been harder to get all our content switched out. If you’re struggling with the same thing, I feel ya. Treat your own brand as you would a client. Make changes in manageable phases.

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After I started implementing changes in the brand and what we shared earlier this year, the impact was near-immediate. The kinds of brands that I’d coveted for a long time started reaching out. As this has been happening, it reminded me of some simple truths:

Your brand is up to you to define.

It’s your job to decide exactly what you stand for.

Ask yourself, “What do I want more of?”

Ask yourself, “What do I want less of?”

Once you know where you stand, you can make changes. As I’ve gotten more focused on what I want and have seen the positive shifts happening in my own business, it’s been a great reminder that anything is possible; you just have to be willing to step up and be clear about who you are and what you want.


Check out even more Creative Chronicles posts here.

Creative Chronicles: The 3 Best Places To Find Stock Photos

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: The 3 Best Places To Find Stock Photos

Sometimes, stock photos are an absolute necessity. Whether you’re a blogger who needs a very specific image for a post or a designer who needs to make an impact with a client presentation, they can set the exact mood you’re tying to convey.

The problem is, there are more bad stock photos out there than good: think of the typically cheesy, overdone 90s-era variety of people in ill-fitting business suits shaking hands or awkwardly composed family photos with fake smiles.

I’m always looking for great stock photos and in an effort to help you find what you need quickly, here are my top 3 picks (two of which offer free downloads):

1. Death To The Stock Photo

I’ve been subscribing since the very beginning because this site offers a free download pack of 10 high quality photos from a guest photographer every month when you join their list. The variety is truly awesome — everything from creative work-related setups to flowers to beautiful landscapes round out the mix. If you want instant access to older photo sets, there’s also plans for that.

2. Stocksy

Hands-down, for creative photos, this is the best paid stock photo site out there. The pricing is very straightforward (no confusing credit plans needed) and allows you to buy small, medium or large sizes for set rates. One feature I love is that when you click on an image, it shows you the exact gallery it’s from directly below so you can find similar styles from the same photographer. One thing that’s also worth mentioning is that if you buy a smaller image size but need to upgrade later, just log into your account, click on your purchase history and pay the difference. No starting over! Genius.

3. Unsplash

This site offers gorgeous, high resolution photos that are completely free and you can do whatever you want with them. Simply click the download button underneath each photo and you’re set! Plus, you can subscribe and get 10 new photos delivered directly to your inbox each week. Unsplash has a variety of photos but the standouts are the natural scenery and modern architecture. The mix is truly eclectic because the number of pro photographers submitting their work is massive.

I hope these three recommendations help you find some beautiful stock photography for your next project!


Photo: Death To The Stock Photo.
Check out even more Creative Chronicles posts here.

Creative Chronicles: 5 Tips To Pinpoint Your Digital Product Offering

Nubby Twiglet | 5 Tips To Pinpoint Your Digital Product Offering

A few years ago, I started noticing that digital products were becoming a hot commodity and as someone who runs a service-based business, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to keep the same pace of offering custom design solutions forever. My dream has always been to run a small, efficient studio that allows me the flexibility to spend more time with my family and travel often so having a massive staff (with the overhead that goes with that) and more than the few dozen regular clients we regularly work with wasn’t in the cards.

Simply put, a digital product is anything you can offer in a digital format, usually as an immediate download. Think along the lines of e-courses, e-books, digital templates, design assets, MP3’s and so on. Most of us probably bought dozens of digital products last year without giving it a second thought.

I had two key reasons for wanting to dive into the world of digital products:

1. One-on-one services only allowed me to help a small group of clients at once. Finding ways to serve a bigger audience was important to me. There had to be a more efficient way to help a larger audience reach their goals.

2. The hours in a day limited my earning potential. We all have a cap on what we can realistically output and even with more help, I still didn’t feel like Branch was able to reach the demand. Dozens of inquiries came in each week, yet we passed most of them off to referrals because we were booked out.

The tricky part was, I had no idea what I could offer. Do you have those days where it feels like everything has literally been done? I did…but I felt like those days stretched on for a few years. I’d designed dozens of hugely successful digital products for clients but I never felt like anything I thought of was good enough. I was too deeply entrenched in the middle of it all, surrounded by what my clients were doing PLUS seeing new launches pop up every day from people I followed on social media. There was too much noise.

If you’re feeling this way as well, first of all, give yourself permission to dream and explore. The best ideas are usually right in front of you.

Nubby Twiglet | 5 Tips To Pinpoint Your Digital Product Offering

5 tips to pinpoint what your audience wants

1. Check Google Analytics / Your Most Popular Posts

I know this might seem obvious but people are telling you exactly what they need in their search terms. When I looked at my stats for this blog, informational posts about processes, designing great portfolios and media kits were at the top. What topics are you naturally interested in and already talking about?

2. Use Pinterest Sources To See What’s Trending

Since commenting on blogs has declined, if your site is more visual like this one, it can be hard to know what’s resonating with your audience. I’ve found Pinterest to be a valuable resource for sorting out what my audience is drawn to and it’s super easy to do.

Go to pinterest.com/source/yoursiteurl.com/. For instance, this blog would be:

https://www.pinterest.com/source/nubbytwiglet.com/

What does your audience pin over and over directly from your site? What colors, styles and topics do they love? After a quick scan, I can see that my audience is drawn to creative resources, unique design layouts and interestingly enough, travel posts.

3. Do A Survey

Go straight to the source and ask your audience what they want — they’ll gladly tell you. I’ve done surveys about upcoming digital products here and I’ve also asked the Branch mailing list. The honesty in the responses I got was refreshing — people were clear that they wanted all juice and no filler. They wanted to know how to improve their portfolios, how to land new and better career opportunities and how to build their client base.

4. Define What You’re Struggling With

What have been the biggest hangups in your own career path and personal growth? Chances are, if you’re struggling with something, others are, too. Think of how you solved your own issues, whether it was finding your niche, building a thriving freelance career or getting over your fears. How can you use your unique perspective to offer a value-packed product that directly helps your audience?

5. Ask Yourself What Could Be Simplified

Does something that you do seem way harder than it needs to be? In my case, I’d personally struggled with having a defined process for client work at the start of my freelance career and it really held me back from earning a decent living. Based on that experience, I collaborated with Paul Jarvis and we poured our results-driven studio processes into a set of fully editable documents called Project Prescription. If you can find a way to make people’s lives easier in some way, they’ll be interested.

How It’s Working

Based on the 5 tips above, my digital offerings have been going well so far.

Project Prescription launched February 7th and has since sold a few hundred copies — it’s affordable, helpful and customizable which I think all contributed to its success.

Next up is a course called Future So Bright launching later this Spring. Career strategist Ellen Fondiler and I are addressing one of the biggest issues new design graduates face — finding a well paying, meaningful job in the industry. There are dozens of freelancing courses out there but not everyone can make a full-time living as a freelancer right out of school, nor do they want to. Full-time gigs have tons of benefits but knowing how to find the opportunities, build a killer portfolio AND interview properly can be intimidating — I still cringe at some of my own interview experiences! Once again, this was a struggle we knew existed so it makes sense to fill that gap.

Pushing Fear Aside

Beyond these two courses, I have a few more concepts in the works but it took getting over my fear of the unknown. I constantly wondered if my ideas were good enough. Worse yet, what if I did follow through and it failed? What if…[insert concern here]? WHO CARES. Once you push your ego aside and honestly ask yourself how you can serve more people, the answer usually presents itself.

If you’re still unsure of what you can offer, fill in the blanks:

I’m a [insert what you do here] and I notice that my audience is struggling with [insert issue here] and my personal experience can help them overcome it by [name what you’re going to offer] so they can [insert outcome here].

Here’s my answer using Project Prescription as an example:

I’m a graphic designer and I notice that my audience is struggling with their client processes and my personal experience can help them overcome it by developing a set of pre-made, editable documents so they can get back to work quickly and charge more.

When it comes to developing digital products, my advice is simple: start small and focus on what you know. Don’t overthink it.

By offering your personalized expertise, a good value and accessibility, your digital product has the ability to do really well.


Photos: Afsoon Zizia.
Check out even more Creative Chronicles posts here.

Creative Chronicles: Streamline Processes, Teach Clients How To Treat You and Charge More with Project Prescription

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Streamlining Processes and Teaching Clients How To Treat You with The Project Prescription

When I started freelancing ten years ago:

1. I assumed that my creativity alone would be enough to stand on.

2. I thought that my great ideas and follow-through would be enough to earn a full-time living.

3. I assumed that by saying nothing, my clients would automatically know how to treat me.

And….then I learned the hard way that none of the above were true.

Does earning a living as a freelance designer feel like an uphill battle but you’re not sure how to transform your career into something more lucrative? I feel you — because I spent years in the same boat, trying to figure out what I was doing wrong.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Streamlining Processes and Teaching Clients How To Treat You with The Project Prescription

The Process Problem

From the beginning of my career, I had a strong sense of style but no matter how creative my ideas were, at times I struggled to get work approved and even worse, to charge what it was worth.

Designers can be a sensitive bunch and when things didn’t go my way, I often took the rejection personally.

My issues had nothing to do with creativity or talent and everything to do with teaching my clients what to expect. My creative work wasn’t falling flat….but my processes were.

As you navigate the tricky world of running a freelance business, one thing becomes very clear: producing creative work is only half of the equation. The other half is less obvious but it’s just as important.

Processes are everything. Without them, you’re missing the opportunity to increase your output, get treated fairly and earn what you deserve.

Having a process wasn’t always clear to me and for good reason: nobody likes to openly discuss their internal processes.

And, can you blame them?

It’s their so-called “secret sauce” and if they give it away, they’ve essentially handed over what makes them unique. While design style is important, how you present it and convey your value to clients is what makes you a living.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Streamlining Processes and Teaching Clients How To Treat You with The Project Prescription

The Shift

What finally changed for me?

I worked at a lot of studios, attended plenty of workshops and retreats, asked a ton of questions and swapped ideas with fellow freelancers. I kept digging until I’d cobbled together a process. Then, I launched Branch and tested it out a few dozen times, making tweaks along the way.

Once I was happy with my process, I started thinking: if I struggled for so long with this, there has to be others who feel the same way.

And, let’s be honest here: processes can take a lot of time to develop. When you have projects to get done, the last thing you want to do is dump a bunch of time into something you’re not sure will even work.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Streamlining Processes and Teaching Clients How To Treat You with The Project Prescription

The Simple Solution

I had an idea to share ready-made process documents but knew it could be better so I reached out to Paul Jarvis. He’s worked with the likes of Marie Forleo, Danielle LaPorte and dozens of others over the last 17 years and, as you can guess, his process is SOLID.

With our partnership, Project Prescription was born: a set of 15 fully customizable documents so you can quickly add your branding, colors and fonts to a pre-set formula and get back what you love — the creative side of things.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Streamlining Processes and Teaching Clients How To Treat You with The Project Prescription

Interested?

Sign up for our mailing list for an exclusive download of two free documents plus a specially priced offer when Project Prescription launches.

Developing a process for your creative business doesn’t have to be intimidating and full of unknowns. Project Prescription launches February 7th and I genuinely hope it helps you level the playing field and grow your business.

Thanks for reading and I’ll be back next week with more specifics about the documents and how to put them to work for your creative business! -Shauna


Fine print: To customize Project Prescription documents, a basic knowledge of InDesign is recommended. Documents are built on the Adobe CC Suite. A trial version of InDesign can be downloaded here.

Questions? Email us at us@theprojectprescription.com.