Category Archives: Personal

You’re Awesome. And, I Have 3 Questions For You.

Nubby Twiglet | You Are Awesome

First off, you’re awesome. Yes, you.

Never change who you are for anyone. Conformity kills uniqueness, the very thing that makes you stand out.

Next, I have a few questions for you below. As many of you know, my big goal this year was to create helpful products to inspire you to build a career you love. Erika Lyremark, a whip-smart business coach who I adore has joined forces with me to produce a new course and as we dig into the content outline, we want your input in an effort to make it as helpful as possible.

Please answer the below questions in the comments — it’s important for me to know what you’re struggling with most when it comes to sharing who you are. I want to know what holds you back and makes you second guess yourself. Life is too short to dull who you are and we are on a mission to fix that!

1. Where do you have a hard time expressing yourself and your ideas? Online? In person? On a certain platform?

2. In your day-to-day, where do you find yourself toning down your magic in an effort to get by and blend in?

3. What kinds of things are you curious about when it comes to expressing your creativity? What techniques do you want to know about?

Thanks so much for your time and I’ll have more to share on the course as it shapes up!


Awesome Print: Fresh by Sian.

Give Yourself Permission

Nubby Twiglet | Give Yourself Permission

Give yourself permission to explore personal interests. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes a week, you deserve the chance to discover something new.

What do you love to do outside of work?

What makes you really happy?

Go do that.

Wait. Let’s back up for a second — I know that’s easier said than done. Pinterest and Instagram are full of inspirational messages, encouraging you to do what you love and to love what you do. But, what if you really don’t have any extra time? What if your life is so full that adding one more thing “just for fun” will make you topple over?

If you’re feeling frustrated because the one thing that you really want to explore keeps getting pushed to the back burner, I understand because I was in the same spot. Sitting behind a computer all day, every day made me want a creative release and I naturally gravitated towards piecing together still lifes (also sometimes known as flat lays). I loved the art of organization and grouping items by theme and color. It was a fun little exercise but technically, not part of my job.

When you work for yourself or freelance on the side, it’s hard to shut off. There’s always another client project and another side-hustle. Doing things “just for fun” starts to feel like a luxury. Or at least, that was my mindset. I soon fell into the trap of “there’s no time so I just won’t do it.” We all know that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy because there’s never going to be time unless you give yourself permission to carve it out.

Nubby Twiglet | Give Yourself Permission

Late last year, I finally gave myself permission and started a new project called Still Life Friday. Every Friday, I’d take 15 minutes to come up with a new composition and Instagram it. The progress was slow but steady. I created still lifes in my office on Friday nights before the sun went down. On cafe tables in Portland. On apartment balconies in Rome. On brightly tiled tables in Marrakech. On the floor of my spare room at home. Not every photo was perfectly lit, not every one a masterpiece. But instead of giving into perfection, I just kept going.

Now, we are halfway through the year and I have no intention of giving up. When I write out my weekly calendar, I automatically add “Still Life Friday” to my list. No excuses.

Today, I hope you’re reminded that having that one little thing you want to explore is okay and it doesn’t have to take over your life. Fitting it into your schedule in bite-sized pieces not only makes it more manageable but also more likely that you will follow through.

Want to join in the fun with me? Hashtag your still life compositions with #stilllifefriday so I can check them out!

Your turn: What hobby do you want to make time to try before the end of the year?

Skip The Debt, Reap Immediate Rewards: Why I Chose Community College for My Design Education

Nubby Twiglet | Skip The Debt, Reap Immediate Rewards: Why I Chose Community College for My Design Education

Over the weekend, I joined my family at a gathering to celebrate our relative’s high school graduation. High school isn’t easy — and making it through deserves a party! As the party wound down, I asked her dad what the next step was. Did she want to go to college? He said yes and we moved onto chatting about how community college was the smart choice with the cost of school going up so rapidly.

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you probably already know that I am a super fan of community college — so much so that I earned three separate degrees on my local campus. Why? It’s practical, affordable, fast-paced and the schedules are set up for the real world since most attendees are probably working or raising a family. It’s full of so many wins and provided the foundation for the career I have today.

Even though I swear by community college now, I’ll be honest — it wasn’t my first choice. Post-high school, the allure of big-name schools with beautifully designed welcome packets definitely swayed me. I looked at art schools in Portland and New York but every time, felt a lump in my throat when I saw the cost of tuition. Without a college fund, there was no way it was going to happen.

Realistically, I knew that community college was my only option at the time so I sucked it up and enrolled. Once I got there, I went from feeling uncool to savvy when I realized that many of my teachers also lectured at much bigger, prestigious schools. And, they had so many success stories of people they’d taught doing amazing things that it gave me confidence in my decision.

When I went back to school in 2006, it was only after I’d toured bigger schools once again, feeling out their graphic design programs. The cost still got to me — paying loans back into old age felt like a heavy weight I just couldn’t bear. I wanted to own a house, travel and have a savings account. A huge bill in my mailbox every month felt like a shackle on my future.

Instead, I enrolled in a limited entry program when I was 25 years old. The days were long but the classes were informative, the instruction top-notch and interestingly, after comparing notes, I later found out that many of our projects were exactly the same as the art schools and universities.

Within two semesters, the skills I’d learned helped me land my own clients and by the end of the first year, thanks to a connection from my teacher, I had an internship at a thriving design studio.

When I graduated, I had less than $10,000.00 worth of debt and made enough extra income from working full-time at a studio and freelancing on the side to pay off my loans in about 2 years.

Having a design degree from community college didn’t stop me from working with companies including Virgin Records, Forever 21, Nike or Adidas — education is important but so is hard work and forging your own path. A name on a diploma only means so much — it’s what you do with your skills that will take you the furthest.

In case you’re interested, this is the graphic design program I attended and I can’t recommend it highly enough. This post isn’t sponsored in any way — with graduation winding up and research for schools beginning, I want to remind you that there are other options for your education that aren’t publicized nearly enough.

Have questions about my program or community college in general? Let me know in the comments!


Photo: Bubblerock.

Blogging Changed My Life. Really.

Nubby Twiglet | Blogging Changed My Life. Really.

This week, as I wrapped up two sets of taxes, interviewed a potential intern and made my way through emails that seemed to reappear faster than I could respond and file them away, blogging felt very far away. These weeks happen where little things pile up in quick succession and it doesn’t matter how good your intentions are — carving out the free time to blog becomes nonexistent.

And while I’ve been purposely blogging less this year to focus more time towards new business ventures and client projects, as the days slipped by, it still felt weird to be parked in front of my computer but unable to post fresh content.

This unplanned break turned into a blessing in disguise; it was the perfect opportunity to think about what blogging means to me and why I do it. Just yesterday, I found myself idly staring out my office window and in a flash, I had a moment of clarity:

Blogging is important to me because it literally changed my life. And perhaps blogging has changed yours, too.

Here’s the backstory….

In 2001, I was 20 years old and living at my dad’s house in the suburbs outside of Portland. I didn’t have the money for the art school I wanted to attend so I went to a community college down the street. I hadn’t done much traveling so my social circle carried over from high school. Oh, and I had a lot of free time on my hands because I only worked during my summer breaks (damn, those were the days). When one of my friends told me about a free blogging platform called Live Journal, I figured why not?

Within the first year of blogging, I had a whole new social circle. I met people on the other side of the world — which at that time, felt very new and exciting when compared with my boring suburban existence. In quick succession, I met Star, Anna, Gala, Laurel, Bianca, Amy (and so many others who no longer have sites). Thanks to blogging, when I traveled to a new city, I already had a built-in network of friends. To this day, when I’m in New York, I sleep on Bianca’s couch. Star now develops websites for Branch. And Gala? We run a business together with our fellow blogging obsessed friend, Kat.

Besides friends, blogging opened doors to job opportunities I’d only dreamed about. During my interview for a design internship at Nemo, I told them about my blog. It just happened that Dave Allen (formerly of Gang Of Four) worked there and was just as obsessed with blogging as I was. Looking back, my design work was just okay but my blog is what helped seal the deal.

After switching from Live Journal to WordPress in 2007, I got even more consistent with sharing which included posting every good, bad and ugly design project. Within a year, companies like Forever 21 and Virgin Records were contacting me. For a 26 year old just breaking into the industry, this was completely life changing. It became immediately apparent that these huge companies only knew who I was because I blogged. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that this free marketing opportunity with a low barrier of entry was landing me freelance jobs at a few thousand dollars a piece while I was still in community college (design students, get thee a blog and online portfolio ASAP!)

In 2012, my dream job became a reality when I got hired on the spot to join the Cinco Design brand team. The calling card that got me an offer? My blog.

A little over a decade into blogging, I began to feel the itch — there had to be something more. I wasn’t ready to give it up but I WAS read for an evolution. And then, it fell into my lap during a Vegas vacation (because naturally, all the best things happen in Vegas). Five days in the desert turned my blogging for fun into a business opportunity. That August, The Blogcademy launched and by October, we were teaching a sold-out class in New York City. This strategy-based blogging course soon allowed me to quit outside work, travel the world and later, release an online version.

With a crazy travel schedule that made my former life at agencies impossible, I needed to carve out a way to produce design that fit in with this new normal. Branch was born. A day after our website launched, three clients had booked in. And, you guessed it! They found us through this blog.

Nubby Twiglet | Blogging Changed My Life. Really.

Okay, this post is getting long and the point isn’t to just share my personal blogging anecdotes (though I could easily talk about blogging all damn day). My goal is to demonstrate that while blogging isn’t a one-size-fits-all, linear path, if you stick with it, great things can happen.

These days, too many people look at blogging as a way to gain quick fame and fortune and it’s warped because when they don’t get what they want in fast succession, they give up. If this is the only reason you’re starting a blog, walk away now. You have to feel truly passionate about what you’re posting…and if you don’t, there are at least 35 other things you can do instead.

I know what you’re still thinking so I’ll just say it now. Yes, there are a million other things you can now do with your time online. So, why blog? My quickie response:

Blogging forges meaningful connections, builds career opportunities and gives you a place to go as deep as you’d like, whether you’re sharing new artwork or the gut-wrenching story of how you hit rock bottom. It’s all fair game.

So, what about you? Have you blogged in the past? Do you currently have one? How has it impacted you? If you have a blog, please leave a link in the comments so we can check it out!


Photos: Made U Look Photography.

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.