Advice #57: Should I Risk Everything Post-College or Play It Safe With My Career?

Nubby Twiglet | Should I Risk Everything Post-College or Play It Safe With My Career?

Dear Shauna, 

I grew up with an artistic passion of my own: fashion and design. I had dreams of attending Parsons in NYC but when I sought out my more creative inclinations for college, I was pushed into a more “practical career path”.

Flash forward: I’m two months away from graduating with my Mechanical Engineering degree and I recently turned down a job offer at a competitive engineering firm. My parents are literally about to have a heart attack.

While I have felt this burning passion and conviction to pursue my dreams of marinating engineering, fashion, and design by starting my own company, I’ve never felt more lost in my life. I know my purpose. I know the end goal. But I have spent the past four years conforming to what society has deemed as the “right way” for me to learn and cultivate myself as an individual and have not had the opportunity to do what I love: design and create. I’m tired of sitting back and waiting for the life I want– I want to take it now.

I’ve struggled with the thought that if I had dropped out of school to pursue one of my business ideas, I would be doing what I loved and would be ten times happier, wealthier, and living the life I always dreamed. Do I shoot big and go for the start-up immediately, or do I pursue a regular job now, do some freelance work on the side for exposure and develop my business at night? My dad loves the latter option. I on the other hand believe that every moment I am not pursuing my dreams is not a valuable way for me to spend my time. But, I do have loans and I got to put food on the table.

What I wanted to ask you is do you think the path you took is required for me to enter this industry? And, how were you able to differentiate between being young and naive and taking a calculated risk that’s in line with your passions?

Signed,
Lost


Dear Lost,

Your creative energy and passion oozes through every single word of your letter. You’ve got drive in spades and though they don’t often mention it in school, your go-getter attitude will play a huge part in creating a successful career because you’ll be less fazed by the inevitable “no’s” and slammed doors. But let’s slow down for a second and remind ourselves that creating a new business from scratch is not a walk in the park. Nobody wants to share their daily letdowns on Instagram but the first year is by far the hardest so you have to be mentally ready for it.

Focus on the here and now. I hate to sound like one of your parents but here it goes: most people in this economy would kill to have a job offer on the table before they’ve even finished their degree. You mentioned having a lot of loans and needing to put food on the table so having a surefire way to get the money flowing post-college is a huge blessing. I’m no trying to make you feel guilty but instead reminding you that there may be a silver lining here if you look at it in a different light.

Hear me out: I don’t think you that should spend the rest of your life focusing on mechanical engineering if that’s not where your passion is at. Sticking with a path just to make your parents happy and keep up appearances will slowly kill you inside. If you don’t feel that burning in your gut to make mechanical engineering your career long-term, just use it now as an immediate means to an end.

Set a six month goal of sticking with this job to pay down your debts and get a savings account started to fund your true passions. Once that time is up, if you still feel full of misery, leave immediately to do what you’re meant to do. You’ll still be way ahead of the game because you’ll have solid job experience and referrals on your resume if you ever need it to fall back on (I doubt you will but it is always responsible to have a backup plan). More importantly, your finances will be in a much better spot. Remember, if you have no cushion and can’t make ends meet, it may become too stressful to even get the creative juices flowing for your new business.

Use your nights and weekends during those six months to plot and map out these brilliant business ideas you have brewing. Sketch out all your plans so that as soon as your time is up, you can immediately transition to your self-created dream job.

Giving yourself a set amount of time to launch your business can do wonders. Instead of feeling completely manic about launching your business right away, you can take the time to nail the branding, messaging and website. Your potential clients have short attention spans and you only have that one chance to make a first impression — make sure to get your branding and offerings right the first time.

My path to running my own businesses was very convoluted and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for anyone else. I am glad that I got a lot of real world experience in different jobs I didn’t like because I appreciate where I’m at a whole lot more now. In hindsight, I could have easily cut out years of general education classes, went straight into a design program five years earlier and became a designer much sooner. Things have changed a lot since then — there are so many ways to gain new skills including Skillshare and internships and it’s all about finding that right fit.

To learn everything you need to know, you might just need to knock on the right doors and find the right mentors. Or, you may feel more prepared with some specialized schooling (my design program was only 2 years, based at a community college and by far the best investment I ever made). If you’re a really quick learner, enroll in some continuing education classes at your local design school to brush up on the basics.

To answer the other part of your question, I didn’t let go of all outside employment until I was absolutely positive I could make it on my own. I believe in taking chances but never risk so much that you’re gambling away your entire livelihood. I probably held on for far too long but once I let go, I was as free as a bird. I had no regrets. We all have different comfort zones so that’s why it might only take you six months or less to make magic happen, whereas it took me five years from the time I graduated to become 100% self-supporting.

It’s great to have the passion you do but the thing to remember is that passion doesn’t alway lead to paying the bills. I think you’ll feel better (and your parents will be less freaked out) if you show them that yes, you have what it takes to launch your own ventures but more importantly, that you have a solid plan to back it all up. You have everything you need to create the life and career you want. The passion, intelligence and drive are all there. With a little more planning, you’ll be unstoppable. Good luck!


Image: Made U Look Photography.

Hitting The Road Again! Next Up For The Blogcademy: San Francisco and Chicago!

The Blogcademy | Chicago

In just three weeks, the 2014 dates for The Blogcademy kick off and we’ll be heading off to San Francisco first, followed by Chicago the week after. I’ve never spent much time in San Francisco (unless you count a ton of layovers) and have never stepped foot in Chicago so it will be awesome to experience both cities with fresh eyes.

Between classes, I’ll have a few open days in each city to explore so if you know of anything that’s a must-see, please leave me a note in the comments!


2014 Dates

San Francisco and Chicago are just the start of our new dates and I hope you’ll be able to join us at one of them:

San Francisco

May 10th & 11th

Makeshift Society
Almost sold out!

Chicago
May 17th & 18th

Enerspace Chicago

Vancouver
June 7th & 8th

Soundhouse Studios

Calgary
June 14th & 15th

The Commons Event Space

London
July 19th & 20rd

Curtain Road Studios

Almost sold out! 

London

July 22nd & 23rd

Curtain Road Studios

Sold out!

Berlin
July 26th & 27th

Agora Collective

Amsterdam
August 2nd & 3rd

The Thinking Hut

New York
September 27th & 28th

Attic Studios

Washington, D.C.
October 4th & 5th

Studio 52

Sydney
November 29th & 30th

Studio 2204

Almost sold out!  

Melbourne

December 3rd & 4th

The Establishment Studios

Almost sold out! 

Auckland

December 6th & 7th

BizDojo

The Blogcademy | San Francisco

Booking Details and About Us

If you need a quick refresher on what The Blogcademy is all about, it’s a two-day strategy-based workshop for bloggers and small business owners that want to take their online presence to the next level.

We cover subjects including content creation, networking (online and in-person), branding (building a brand from scratch and how to audit an existing one), social media, advertising, getting a book deal, writing for newspapers and magazines, using your blog to sell your own services and much, much more.

Each student also receives a report card with customized, actionable advice to apply to their very own websites, a 40+ page workbook and a tote bag emblazoned with their city. And chances are that you’ll make some really amazing new friends, too.

Basically, A LOT happens in just 16 hours! And better yet, we have an open Q&A at the end to answer anything else you can dream up.

If you want even more details about what we’re all about, please check out our overview.

Booking your ticket to any of our classes is easy -– just visit our registration page and sign up using PayPal. We offer a payment plan so you can choose to either pay the full amount upfront or you can pay in two installments. If you’d prefer to pay in even smaller increments, we can arrange that also. Get in touch at headmistresses @ theblogcademy.com and we’ll hook you up with all the details!

See you soon!

Graphic Design Book Recommendations: Jan V. White

Nubby Twiglet | Jan V. White Graphic Design Books

One of the questions I get asked most often is for design book recommendations. And while there are a million books out there that are great for different reasons, I always come back to the titles by Jan V. White.

Design trends come and go and styles change but underneath it all, the fundamentals of design are still there. Understanding these fundamentals is always the base and from there, you can take your work in any direction. I love Jan V. White’s books because they’re not preachy or dry. He doesn’t use obscure lingo and best of all, he mixes in a lot of images and thumbnail sketches for those of us that are more visual learners.

While he has written over a dozen books (most of which focus on editorial design), the one that should be on every designer’s bookshelf is the Graphic Idea Notebook. If you’re ever feeling stuck, it’s a treasure chest of quick, clever ideas ranging from type styles to images to page layouts. Sometimes, you just need to turn away from another “designspiration” site and be one with your own ideas.

Nubby Twiglet | Jan V. White Graphic Design Books

It’s been a few years since I first shared this news so it bears repeating for new readers: Jan V. White made his books available for download, free of charge. Pretty amazing, right?! If you’d still like some print copies, most titles including the Graphic Idea Notebook can be picked up used on Amazon for under a dollar.

These books prove that learning design can be fun and engaging. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

The Week In Pictures: 4.11.14

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Oh, Portland! This time of year in the city is the best. Sunny but not too hot. Everything is in bloom right now and I can’t stop taking cliché flower shots. Last year Kat and Gala were in town around this time and I remember us walking through Portland, rolling around in my poor neighbor’s yards trying to get the perfect shots (sorry, guys) and living it up. After a particularly gloomy few months where I barely left the house except to travel, everything is feeling alive again. If you’ve never been to Portland this time of year, please come visit!

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Now that I work for myself, I live for the weekends. Even if I still have projects to get through, I slow down and read fashion magazines, dust off favorite reads from my bookshelf, get in a call with my mom and visit a few new places around town for food and drinks with my dad. The nail polish in this photo is Morange by MAC. I picked it up last year and it’s been a nonstop favorite since. It’s warm and poppy but not neon — great for everyday wear.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Last night, right before the sun set, Joey, Rocky and I took a nice, long walk. I always like stopping in front of The Woodsman Market (sandwiched between the original Stumptown and The Woodsman Tavern) to snap a few photos.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

I find some of the best design inspiration in vintage type specimen books. This is a Chartpak one I found at a thrift store.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

This week I had a great mail day when Branch client Olivine Atelier sent us product samples. Getting to hold and try out the product that I’d designed branding and labeling for was really exciting. It’s now being sold at Anthropologie!

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

The next exciting bit was getting to see this hair mist we just finished. That’s my handwriting in gold! I love that Olivine uses glass bottles instead of plastic. The hair mist smells like a day at the beach — I’m in love.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Okay, confession time: I’ve been putting off doing a legit media kit for Nubby Twiglet for YEARS. My clients’ media kits always came first and then both Blogcademy and Branch needed them, too. Mine was always at the bottom of the list. I felt guilty for a long time because I preach about the importance of media kits…but my other two businesses needed them the most. Well, it’s time to finally get over the guilt and get this baby together. I’ve been squeezing in time on it all week and it’s finally shaping up.

Earlier in the week, I Instagrammed this but it was partially a reminder to myself, too. No more excuses!

Enjoy your weekend. Sending lots of love (and nice weather) your way!

Link Love: 4.10.14

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Nubby Twiglet | Link Love: Valentino 2014 RTW

• Fellow graphic designer Tara Victoria just featured me in her Wildly Talented column. I chit-chat about my childhood idol, the best part about working for myself and much more!

• Tired of waiting? Great. Start creating.

• 15 common mistakes that designers make.

• Is your business stuck in neutral? Use this post as motivation to get out of the funk.

• Here’s some great advice on how to deal with that little voice in your head that says you aren’t doing it right.

• Sian shares her 3 new favorite business apps.

• Wow! A 3D newspaper ad.

• Google Street View just got a whole lot better. Now you can take a romantic evening stroll through Paris.

• Interested in writing a book? A Beautiful Mess just launched an e-course that details how to write and pitch a book proposal!

• This post really makes me want to check out Miami Beach.

• What should you do when a client threatens to badmouth you?

• This is an interesting read about the brand behind Beyoncé.

• Even if you work in a shared office space with an open floor plan, you can still dress things up.

• An ex Google exec is inventing a better way to buy bras.

• I didn’t want to believe this was real but it most definitely is: human Barbie dolls.


Photo: Valentino Fall 2014 RTW.
Check out even more Link Love columns here.

Little Lessons #4: Saying No For The Right Reasons

Nubby Twiglet | Saying No For The Right Reasons

When it comes to client work, I have only recently gotten more comfortable with saying no. It’s always been hard because I have a bit of a guilt complex. The last thing I’d want to do is hurt a potential client’s feelings. Email should make it easier and in some ways, it does. But there’s still a human on the other side, reaching out.

It’s only been in the last two years where I even felt comfortable turning down projects. Up until that point, I took on everything I could get my hands on because I needed the real world experience, the income and I knew that each project would teach me something new. I took on the good, the bad and the questionable in a thirst for knowledge. A few projects landed me long-term clients that I still work with over at Branch and filled out my personal portfolio at a time when I spent my days working at agencies on large corporate projects.

Looking back, I wouldn’t trade any of those experiences because they not only taught me a lot about working with different types of clients but they taught me a lot about myself. I learned what I wanted more of. I learned that the sweet spot of Branch was creative small to medium-sized businesses.

Where is all this leading? By now, it should be easier to say no. A few weeks ago, even when I looked at the Branch schedule which was booked solid for at least a month out, I found myself cringing inside as I told my project manager to turn down about five jobs. Saying no still stings but I’ve learned that it is better to be honest.

Sometimes, it’s a matter of timelines. If a client needs something faster than you can offer it to them, be upfront about it. There’s no point in disappointing yourself and them when you can’t keep up. Other times, it’s in an industry you don’t know much about or feel comfortable diving into. That’s okay, too. Take the time to offer some great referrals to other designers you feel would be a better fit. And in some instances, it’s a clash of communication styles — you’re going to be spending a lot of time with clients, even if you’re working remotely so it’s imperative that you mesh well right from the beginning.

If you’re saying no for the right reasons, you should never feel guilty. Every single person who contacts you deserves the absolute best service and outcome of their project. If you can’t make that happen for any reason, be honest. There is nothing wrong with wanting the best for potential clients. It’s nothing personal; it’s a matter of being comfortable enough with who you are to know what you excel at…and what you don’t.

Saying no doesn’t always have to be viewed as a negative — instead, it can be viewed as empowering, honest and straightforward. Don’t just focus on what’s best for you but also what’s best for your potential clients.

Your turn: What are your tips for making saying No sting less?

Project Spotlight: Gala Darling

Nubby Twiglet | Project Spotlight: Gala Darling

Today, a project Branch partnered up with Gala Darling on went live. A full year in the making, this was the most comprehensive project we’ve ever worked on to date! You can click through and see even more of the process here but I also wanted to take the opportunity to talk about the more personal side of things.

Gala and I met on Live Journal back around 2002, both in our early 20s, both not quite sure where we were headed. I was working in a mauve wallpapered corporate office during my summer breaks from college, helping the accounting department with their filing. Shortly after that, I moved onto working in a shoe store. Gala was working a string of unfulfilling retail jobs. I loved reading her posts oversharing every detail of her life, which at times sounded like a made for TV movie.

I didn’t really know anything about blogs outside of Live Journal at that time and in 2006, she was the first person I knew who made the leap over to her own, self-hosted domain. If I remember correctly, she even linked me in her first-ever article about fashion advice for recovering goths (haha).

Still not quite sure where things were going for me (I had just started my design program), I read her blog religiously every single day while standing around at my shoe job, killing time. It kept me inspired and gave me hope that I could find a way to just maybe get into design studios and ad agencies and find my spot in the world.

During the spring of 2007, I flew to LA for a Courtney Love concert (oh, the stories I have!) and spent the afternoon hanging out with my friend Star, who also knew Gala. Star said blogging was going to blow up big time and I needed my own domain. I mean, I had that already but no self-hosted blog. Star happened to be the best developer I knew. Thanks to her persistent pestering, this blog was launched later that summer.

Gala and I read each other’s blogs but we’d never met. Finally, we were going to be in New York at the same time. We spent an afternoon exploring the city together and it was so natural, I felt like I’d known her my whole life. We had different accents and were from opposite sides of the world but everything else was basically the same.

Nubby Twiglet | Project Spotlight: Gala Darling

We both had other friends that were into blogging. To be fair though, we weren’t just “into blogging”…we were full-on obsessed to the point that our nonstop discussions around the subject would have driven anyone else completely nuts. We found that bond with each other and carried that through our friendship.

I watched Gala’s blog take off and flourish and evolve. When we first started blogging, most people didn’t yet view their blogs as a full-time business. We came from the era where blogs were a place to share personal stories and snapshots — they weren’t the slick money-making, marketing machines we often see today. And because of that, most of us quickly cobbled together our own branding, if you could call it that. There wasn’t a whole lot of thought behind it at the time.

For Gala, things really started shifting when she began launching digital products a few years ago. I saw her business grow way beyond “just a blog” and when that starts to happen, there needs to be more consistency.

Last Spring, we finally started discussing what she needed to do to have that added polish while keeping the branding feeling rooted in her personal style which included a love of fashion magazine-inspired type, fuchsia and an obsession with “snail mail.”

It’s been inspiring sitting back and watching Gala put all the pieces of her new look to use, from the branding to the blog to the product graphics — she’s always had such strong content and cohesive branding is the ultimate cherry on top.

Congratulations, Gala. I am so proud of you!

More visuals can be seen here.