Category Archives: Advice

What Would Happen If You Dared To Dream Big? Write A Letter To Yourself.

Nubby Twiglet | What Would Happen If You Dared To Dream Big? Write A Letter To Yourself.

If you could accomplish anything in 2016, what would it be?

Putting a pen to paper makes it more tangible and therefore, more likely that it will actually happen. I’ll admit, there’s something a bit scary about committing to writing your future accomplishments out — when dreams come true, your life will change and big shifts can be really uncomfortable.

Familiarity is smooth because it’s what we’re used to. A shake-up causes excitement but can also bring along a sense of uneasiness.

I’m ready for a little shake-up in my life and business and to make it happen, I have to get past any fears and dream big.

Will you join me in doing the same?

As the year came to a close, I had a call with my client and friend Ellen. We chatted about how we planned to spend the holidays and then, she had a simple yet poignant suggestion: to write a letter to myself, listing all the things I’d accomplished and dating it for the final day of the year, December 31st, 2016.

A few days later, after the holidays wound down, I started writing. I listed the things I’d accomplished, one by one and I included specifics: business goals, amounts of products sold and new house plans.

My Big Goals

I won’t bore you with my entire list but here are three big big goals I have:

1. Purchase land in Palm Springs with Joey so we can start building our dream home. We’ve been saving for the last year and doing a lot of research. While it might take a few years to build things exactly the way we want, securing the land and permits are the first steps towards making that dream a reality.

2. Launch Project Prescription with Paul Jarvis. We’ve partnered to create a bundle of must-have documents every creative freelancer needs to run their business like clockwork. I’d had this idea taped to my wall for a few years and decided to approach Paul, a designer and entrepreneur I’ve long admired. We’ve been finalizing the last few documents and it will launch very shortly. I’m not shy about numbers — I want us to sell a minimum of 500 in the first year.

3. Expand retainer clients with Branch from one to three. Going into the third year of running my design studio, I’m seeking more stability. We’ve moved into working with more lifestyle, beauty and food clients and the portfolio feels in line with the boutique studio I’ve always dreamed of running. Now that the creative client base is there, I’m looking forward to having a more firm foundation so the ups and downs that can hit from month to month won’t be as big of a deal.

My letter to myself ended ended up stretching on for a page and a half. When I was done, instead of saving it down into a random folder on my desktop, I printed it out and taped it to my wall.

Having a letter of accomplishments you’ve listed as already happening staring down at you day after day is bound to give you the kick in the ass you need. As I type this right now, I can see the letter out of the corner of my eye.

Challenge Yourself

This week, join me in writing a letter to yourself. Be direct in your goals. Nobody has to see this letter but you so there’s no need to be afraid of asking for exactly what you want. Date it December 31, 2016. Keep it somewhere you can see every day. Think about either printing it out or setting it as your phone or computer wallpaper. We’re in this together — let’s see how far we can get this year!

Hoping things will happen is not enough. First, you have to decide exactly what you want. Then, you have to commit to them so fiercely, it’s like they’ve already happened. And finally, it’s time to put in the work.

Writing a letter to yourself is simple, free and powerful.

Here’s to having a super satisfying, fulfilling 2016.

Photos: Made U Look Photography.

Creative Chronicles: Develop A System To Keep Client Files Organized

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles #8: Develop A System To Keep Client Files Organized

As the year winds down, it’s the perfect opportunity to get super organized. I’ve been in full-on organization mode all this week, cleaning out random junk that’s piled up around the office and once that’s done, I’m moving onto cleaning up our digital files — because let’s face it — when you’re in the midst of juggling multiple client projects and tight year-end deadlines, things can get messy. Fast.

When you launch your freelance business, chances are that it’s just you and therefore….who cares if your files are a little messy? Who cares if your desktop looks like a bomb went off? Who cares if your files are named with some variation of “Untitled” every single time?

Probably nobody.

Things start to change very quickly as your business grows. The second you have more than a handful of open projects, these messes can compound big time.

When I started freelancing in college, I had one big folder on my desktop of client projects (please tell me I wasn’t the only one). I knew that what I needed at any given time was in there. And as you can guess, it evolved into a hot mess that involved plenty of late night tears.

I finally got my system together when I started designing professionally and working at larger studios. File organization suddenly became super important because we were all working from the same sets of client files on the same server. If one of us saved a file under a random name or dropped it into the wrong job folder, it really impacted our deadline. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to sort through someone else’s mess, especially when a project is due.

When I started Branch, it was such a breath of fresh air. All my old messes were safely saved to an external hard drive and I had a digital rebirth of sorts with a fresh install on my computer. Sweet relief.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles #8: Develop A System To Keep Client Files Organized

I want to share my studio system with you in the hopes that it can help you keep your client files in tip-top shape:

On the top level of our studio server, there’s a folder called !!_USE_THIS_STRUCTURE with a clean set of our filing system. Make a habit of copying this folder every single time you book a new project. Always start with the job number, then the client’s name and a brief project description. Here’s an example:


For instance, a new issue of Rock n Roll Bride Magazine might be named BRNCH_256_ROCKNROLLBRIDE_MAG_ISSUE_6.

Inside each folder, we always use this system of six folders:

1. Client Questionnaire

Before we begin the design process, we have new clients fill out a questionnaire. This reminds us of what the client is hoping to achieve with their business and how our design solutions can best help them. We like to keep it in this easy-to-find spot as we move along with their project.

2. Feedback

Whenever a client sends us feedback, we save it down into a text document and file it in this folder. That way, whoever picks up the project is aware of what the client specifically asked for.

3. Assets

In this folder, we store fonts as well as visual research, stock photos and related assets.

4. Concepts

This is where we save our rounds of work. Each round gets a subfolder inside of here (example: R1, R2 and R3) so we can quickly backtrack and make design updates if they’re referencing multiple rounds during feedback (for example, they loved the branding option of direction 1 in R1 and would like to combine it with direction 1 in R2).

5. Presentations

We save all of our presentations in here inside labeled subfolders (example: R1, R2 and R3). There’s always a working InDesign file for each round as well as a web-ready PDF to send off via email.

6. Sent Files

This is the place to keep all of your clean, completed files. Once a client has signed off on final concepts, we save all of the assets we’ve sent them into this folder so if they ever need any changes, we aren’t digging through old rounds of work.

That’s it! It’s a pretty basic setup and you may feel the need to tweak it, adding and taking away folders to make the system work for your business.

I can’t tell you how much time has been saved by having this system in place over the last few years. As Branch has grown, the number of completed projects on our server has ballooned to a few hundred. When a client emails us asking for a specific file, if this system wasn’t in place, it could literally take hours to find what they need. When you’re running a business, time is money. And, customer service is super important — the sooner you find that client file, the happier they’ll be.

I hope this system helps you get organized for the new year!

For even more Creative Chronicles, please click here.

Creative Chronicles: How Do You Land Your Dream Design Job?

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles #7: How Do You Land A Job?

This post is a little different today. Instead of offering advice, I need your help!

The premise is simple:

You’re learning how to be a designer.

But who’s teaching you how to take your design degree and actually get a job?

Like many of you, I went to school for design with the goal of getting hired once I graduated. After spending years in school, I was anxious to get going with my career and earn a decent living. Even though I was creative and very driven, I constantly questioned myself.

I wondered:

• Was my portfolio good enough?

• Did I have the right mix of work?

• Did my resume convey the right experience?

• Would I answer the interview questions right?

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles #7: How Do You Land A Job?

Landing your dream job takes much more than just having a compelling visual style. But, what else is there? What’s the strategy to make it happen? I asked myself that same thing. After landing a bunch of industry jobs and working at a half dozen studios before starting my own (where I am now on the side of interviewing), I have a pretty good idea of what it takes. And, if you’re interested in finding a job in the design industry, I want to share that knowledge with you.

Business strategist Ellen Fondiler has joined me to build a course that helps you land your dream job in the design industry. We have a content outline but I want to make sure we haven’t overlooked anything. After all, the goal of this whole project is to help people like YOU find a job.

To ensure that we’ve made the content as well-rounded and helpful as possible, I need your help.

Please copy, paste and answer the below questions into the comments section and include your email address. As a thank you, I’ll draw one person at random next Wednesday and you’ll win a prize pack loaded with Nubby Twiglet and Branch goodies, some of which are super rare!

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles #7: How Do You Land A Job?

Please answer the following:

1. What are you currently struggling with when it comes to finding work as a designer? 

2. What is a product you’re pining for? What do you wish someone would create?

3. What are you sick of seeing and reading about? 

4. Which of these course topics would be helpful to you? List the letters of any and all that apply:

A. How to build a compelling portfolio
B. How to write an attention-grabbing resume
C. How to ace your job interview
D. How to work your connections to find a great job

Thanks in advance! —Shauna

Photos: Made U Look.

Little Lessons #12: What A Long Lost Disney Character Taught Me About Comebacks

Nubby Twiglet | What A Long Lost Disney Character Taught Me About Comebacks

It all started on Main Street in Disney World.

As I was walking out of a store brimming with merchandise in the Magic Kingdom, something peculiar caught my eye. A classic Mickey hat had sprouted massive black rabbit ears. “It must be a special edition for Halloween,” I thought. Amused, I picked it up and saw a very Mickey-esque badge on the front emblazoned with Oswald The Lucky Rabbit. Still having not a clue what this oddity was, I carried it up to the cash register. “Is this a real character?,” I asked. The cashier didn’t miss a beat. “Yes, he was Walt’s original creation before Mickey.”

This was my eighth time visiting a Disney theme park and I’d never heard of this so-called lucky rabbit. Surely, I couldn’t be the only one left in the dark about his existence.

Gala and I bought matching Oswald hats and started googling the second we got back to our hotel room, obsession quickly setting in.

It turns out that Oswald was dreamed up by Walt Disney and a partner in the 1920s but Walt eventually separated from the project. New people joined in to create Oswald cartoons, carrying him into the 1940s before he faded into near obscurity.

Walt of course went on to create Mickey Mouse, who bears a striking resemblance to Oswald while the poor rabbit gathered dust until 2010, when Disney finally negotiated buying the rights for good.

The story has a familiar ring: Oswald came first and in my opinion was cuter and much more unique, but things didn’t go as planned and soon, Mickey hogged all the spotlight. Long the underdog, Oswald is finally getting the recognition he’s always deserved.

We all know that feeling too well: we work hard to be original only to feel slighted when someone seemingly less talented rolls up with a similar idea and hits the big time. The sting can be intense and jealousy filled, leaving even the strongest soul feeling slighted.

Being an underdog isn’t easy. The comparison game creeps in and on the hardest days, quitting can feel like the only option. If you’re feeling this way, I want to encourage you to keep on going. Stay focused and stay determined.

Whenever I feel comparison taking hold, I always remind myself that slow and steady wins the race. It’s better to take your time and build your vision in an ethical, meaningful way than to duke it out for a quick moment in the spotlight.

Oswald is my new Disney hero because he’s a great reminder that anyone can make a comeback.

For even more Little Lessons posts, click here.

Strengthen Your Presentation and Charge More For Your Work: My Top 5 Portfolio Tips

Nubby Twiglet | 5 Portfolio Tips

Portfolios are like all great things in life: on the surface, they tend to look effortless but behind that facade is a ton of blood, sweat and self doubt.

I’m no stranger to portfolios. My first one was pieced together back in 2006 inside a cheap, borrowed vinyl cover full of thin, plastic sheets. Even with its lack of prestige, it helped me land my first design internship. From there, I refined the look, invested more money into assets and eventually, translated my print book over to digital.

With nearly 10 years of creating portfolios behind me, you would think it gets easier but the same sticking points always pop up. Creating a portfolio is pressure-packed because it’s a culmination of your entire career sandwiched into a handful of projects. And that, my friends, is no easy task!

Nubby Twiglet | 5 Portfolio Tips

As I’ve been reworking my own portfolio this month, I wanted to share my top 5 tips to make your process easier:

1. Focus on quality over quantity

It doesn’t matter how prestigious the client is if you don’t feel strongly connected to the work. Bottom line: if you don’t want more of it, don’t share it. I’ve completed projects for the NBA, NFL, Forever 21, Foot Locker, Virgin Records and Adidas but the aesthetic no longer fits my current style of work so I’ve chosen to leave them out.

Tightening up your portfolio and focusing on only your absolute best work can be scary because you’ll have less work to show. That’s okay! Always remember: you don’t need to be everything to everyone. With this fine-tuned approach, you may get less inquiries but the ones that do come in will be more solid and lucrative.

As a side note, If you’ve done work for big name companies but don’t want to share the outcome due to a nondisclosure agreement or it just not being your style, the solution is to add them to a list of clients you’ve worked with on your website. That way, you still get the recognition.

Nubby Twiglet | 5 Portfolio Tips

2. Tell a story through your order

What kind of story are you trying to communicate with your body of work? When you’re arranging projects in your portfolio, there needs to be a beginning, middle and end.

The golden rule is to always start and end with your strongest projects. These are the bookends of your portfolio that make you memorable. In between, this is your opportunity to tell more of your story but make sure to mix it up! If you have two strong projects from the same genre, don’t put them next to each other because then it then becomes a comparison game to the viewer. “Oh, the last one was WAY better.”

When I’m deep in the zone of arranging, I’m thinking about the following: genre, services offered, masculine vs. feminine styling and the color story. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to arrange your projects but you should have a reason behind the order.

3. Include brief but powerful descriptions

While a picture is worth a thousand words, it’s important to frame up each project with a brief backstory. A few sentences is plenty. And, if writing isn’t your strong point, it’s totally okay to hire a copywriter to polish up your ideas. Portfolios are a direct gateway to your next job so spelling and composition must be spot-on.

To get you started, a basic project description usually includes this three part format:

1. Title: client / project name, date completed

2. Subtitle: services offered

3. Description: explain how you helped them achieve their desired outcome

Nubby Twiglet | 5 Portfolio Tips

4. Mock it up

If your client only had a budget for a brand identity but it’s one of your best pieces of work, show its full potential with mockups. While people viewing your portfolio do care about your actual work, they also want to see the bigger potential of transformation. They want to be moved and inspired enough to hire you.

A logo on its own doesn’t express its full breadth but when mocked up on business cards, websites and products, it becomes larger than life. My favorite sources for mockups these days are Pixeden and Creative Market.

Nubby Twiglet | 5 Portfolio Tips

5. Specialize, specialize, specialize

A truly great portfolio attracts and repels in equal measures. Stand your ground and be confident in what you want more of. The immediate effect of being confident and selective is that you can position yourself as an expert in certain areas instead of being a jack of all trades. And by doing this, over time you’ll be able to charge more for your services.

These days, I want more lifestyle, beauty, food and fashion brands so that’s nearly all I show. It’s amazing, too — once I elevated the two beauty brands I’ve worked with in my portfolio, larger beauty offers began rolling in.

Saying no isn’t easy but drawing a line in the sand will allow you to have more time to focus on the projects you truly love.

Portfolios are a constant work in progress but it feels good to know that what you’re showing is your best possible presentation.

If you still have questions about your portfolio, let me know in the comments!

Featured projects: Aroha Silhouettes, Kay Li, Brand New Ways, Shien Cosmetics and Olivine Atelier.

Little Lessons #7: Stop Overthinking It

Nubby Twiglet | Little Lessons: Stop Overthinking It

It’s been exactly one week since we launched Blogcademy Home School and the response so far has been enormous. I’m so glad we just went for it and didn’t overthink it.

Do you have those people in your life that seem to move quickly and do things effortlessly without ever seeming fearful or breaking a sweat?

I do. My brother, Carey has always been that way. He never overthinks things. He goes, he does, he makes things happen…and figures out the rest later. Because of that, he has friends all over the world, juggles multiple careers and has so many hobbies that it drives me crazy (if another motorcycle part shows up in our house, I’ll scream).

I’ve always admired that quality in him and at times, I’m envious of it. I’ve never been that type of person. I’ve always been more of a planner, a little quieter, a little more cautious.

Nearly two years ago, I began to break out of that mold.

It all started when I nervously hit publish on a blog post I’d spent the weekend working on. I’d taken a short break to cross the border into Washington to catch a Motley Crue and Kiss show with my brother (we showed up without tickets — remember, he’s the spontaneous one!). Afterwards, I raced home to put the finishing touches on The Blogcademy site. Stepping out on a limb before everything was perfectly prepared and publishing that post (even though I was beyond nervous) was a domino effect that changed my life for the better.

When you have a good idea, act on it. Otherwise, it loses juice and in turn, you lose momentum.

Last week, I joined Kat and Gala as we did the same exact thing with Home School. It’s true that we did do a little more planning. But, considering that there were 10 separate videos, a brand new website to build and over two dozen worksheets to produce, we moved pretty fast!

Did we know if this new format was going to be a success?
You never really know.

Did we have any idea what demand would actually be?
Not a clue.

Did we spend countless hours doing endless market research to find out?
Not at all.

The bottom line? We felt good about it so we just went for it.

I want to encourage you to stop focusing on perfection. Perfection doesn’t exist. Own what you excel at and share your knowledge with the world. It’s doesn’t need to be polished to a high shine. Real and relatable is almost always better and it’s a whole lot more endearing.

Show us what you’ve got.
We’re listening and waiting.

Photo: Death to the Stock Photo.
Check out even more Little Lessons here.

Advice #44: I Am Not the Best. Should I Refer Work Elsewhere?

ask nubby advice


Hello, I was wondering about referring work and clients. I am a very good graphic designer but I know that I am not the “best”. I occasionally get work from clients that I think friends of mine could do a better job on. Should I refer the job to them or not? I’m afraid that it will look really bad to the client when I can’t deliver the best possible outcome. Help!

This is a fantastic question and brings up a much larger issue. As creatives and humans, we’ve all had those moments of self-doubt and feeling like we’re not the best. Well, I’ll let you in on something that will hopefully shift your perceptions: in almost any field you go into, there’s always going to be someone that’s better than you in some way.

So, take a moment to free yourself from those self-deprecating feelings and move on. Let go. Instead of wallowing in self-doubt and contemplating whether you’re good enough, focus on the big picture of your career. What have you accomplished and where would you like to go? Are the clients you’ve done work for happy with your output? Think about it: if your clients are happy, you’re definitely doing something right.

Self doubt is normal but be realistic.

Design is an extremely competitive field and I remember the self-doubt I felt during my first agency job fresh out of school. All of the designers on my team were much more skilled (and in my mind, that equated to way more awesome) than me but you know what I quickly realized? I was comparing myself to designers that had 5, 10 and even 15 years more experience! I was a fresh graduate trying to be as good as them! Obviously, I was setting myself up for failure with the “I’m not good enough” mentality. Once I realized that I’d been comparing apples to oranges, I was able to relax, put my guard down and go with the flow. I was aware enough to realize that everyone on the team was friendly and willing to help me when I asked — I was the one with the issue.

“We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.” — Anaïs Nin

Back to your question — clients are coming to YOU. I’ve always felt that if someone is choosing you out of the hundreds, even thousands of options they have out there, it’s because they admire your work. They want to work with you. Go above and beyond and most of the time, you’ll have a return client.

Know when to say no.

At the same time, if you feel very strongly that you’re not the best fit for the job, refer that client to the best person you know. After all, it’s better to be really amazing at something versus a jack of all trades and master of none. For instance, I’ve done my fair share of print and web design and feel confident in these areas but I’m aware of my limitations when it comes to retail environments. I can concept and whip up production files for banners and second-surface graphics for store windows but developing the entire look and feel of a full retail location or trade show booth is beyond my scope. If you feel like a project is way over your head and far outside your comfort zone, don’t commit. In the end, nobody will be happy!

One of the hardest things to admit is that as individuals, some projects are bigger than us. Some of the work I’m most proud of was created with teams, often including an art director, a copywriter, a producer and multiple designers. The client had a big vision and a team was needed to pull it all together. So don’t beat yourself up if you’re not seemingly awesome at everything! Remember that a lot of the big campaigns and projects you admire often weren’t the work of a single individual; they were the work of a team.

Surround yourself with the best.

Finally, consider this: if you feel that others around you are “better,” this can actually be a good thing. Strive to surround yourself with successful people. They give you goals to work towards and a reason to push yourself further. If you truly felt that you were already “the best,” would you work so hard? Probably not. Remember though that the people around you should be as supportive of your efforts and goals just as much as you are with theirs. It’s a two-way street.

The bottom line.

Put in that extra bit of effort to always deliver work that you’re proud of. Knowing that you’ve done your personal best (even when a project has dramatically shifted from the initial brief) is important. You may not want to put every single project in your portfolio (trust me, there’s campaigns I’ve spent two months of my life on that nobody’s ever seen) but knowing that you gave it your all is what’s important. If you’re good at what you do, your clients will notice. And remember that confidence is built over time, as we gain experience. We’re all a work in progress. As creatives, we all want to be better and do better. Take comfort in that.

“There are no short cuts to any place worth going.” — Beverly Sils