Happy Branchiversary: One Year Of Running A Design Studio Plus 5 Tips For New Business Owners

Nubby Twiglet | Happy Branchiversary: One Year Of Running A Design Studio Plus 5 Tips For New Business Owners

During the week, I was holed up in Palm Springs for Designer Vaca, an annual retreat for female creatives. The buzz of nervousness and excitement was palpable — we’d traveled in from different states and even countries to network and learn from one another.

Designer Vaca isn’t just an annual getaway for me, though — it’s also an important marker in my life. It’s a reminder of how much can happen in just a year when you put your mind and every ounce of energy into something. A few days before Designer Vaca last year, I launched Branch so being there this year reminded me of that fundamental time.

A year ago, I took a chance and quit all outside design work to run Branch full time. I’d been freelancing and building my clientele for five years prior and I knew it was finally time to overcome my fears and lay everything on the line. Big life changes can be paralyzing but in a way, because my schedule was so packed at the time, I never had the chance to overthink things. The month before Branch launched, I’d been in Austin, Greece, London and New York with The Blogcademy. By the time I got home from all that traveling, I had less than 2 weeks to get all my content together, design my website and go live. The day we launched, I had to be in Malibu for a client meeting and two days after that, in Palm Springs for Designer Vaca. There was no wiggle room.

I always say that it’s best to launch and learn and we did just that. Things were far from perfect — I’d taken all the photos, written all the copy and Star pulled a few all nighters to push the site live. Even in its imperfect state, business was solid from day one. Within a week, we’d booked out for a month. Within one month, we were booked for three.

Running your own business is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. Let’s be honest — there are a lot easier, less stressful ways to make a living. It’s true that a lot of businesses fail in the first year and I didn’t want Branch to be a casualty. A good way to avoid falling into that pit is to understand your business from the inside out so I told myself that in the first year, I was going to take on as much work as I possibly could and learn from it — I wanted to really figure out what we wanted more of and what we wanted less of. I’m a firm believer that as an owner, before you can delegate to others, you need to understand the ins and outs of your own business.

Nubby Twiglet | Happy Branchiversary: One Year Of Running A Design Studio Plus 5 Tips For New Business Owners

I want to share a few nuggets of wisdom that we’ve gathered over the last year to help you with your own creative business:

1. Launch and learn.

When you have very little time to get up and running like we did, your site might not be perfect. The point is that even if you sit on your idea and polish it to perfection, you’re losing valuable momentum. We launched with the best we could do at the time and built our clientele as quickly as possible. Now, it’s time to step back, reevaluate our online presence and rebuild our site and media kit. The thing to remember is that it’s not a great idea to invest too much upfront — even with all the market research in the world, you never know if a business idea will actually resonate. It’s better to work on a shoestring budget, figure out what works and then rework your offerings based on those learnings.

2. Attract now, repel later.

As a new business, in the beginning it’s a good idea to stay open to different kinds of clients. Learn from each and build a solid financial cushion before specializing. Once you’ve passed the year mark, step back, reevaluate and decide who you’d like to attract more of. Focusing in on a particular niche will help you to position yourself as an expert and when you specialize, you’ll be able to charge more for your services.

3. Geographical locations matter less now than ever.

Branch is based in Portland, Oregon but none of our clients are local. Like many U.S. cities, Portland is saturated with hundreds of design studios so we instead focused on the world. By employing this mindset, we’ve picked up clients in Seattle, London, San Francisco, Brisbane, Fargo, Perth and New York. The design industry is a lot more open these days — it’s totally possible to keep overhead low, run your business from a tiny town and still rule the world thanks to an internet connection.

4. Share every project you do, no matter how small.

Part of the growth of Branch this year can be attributed directly to social media. We shared projects the second they were finished across Dribbble, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and our blog. Not every project was a hit but there were a few that got picked up and repinned hundreds of times. The click-throughs from Pinterest especially helped build our client base. Dedicate as much time as you possibly can to social media — there’s nothing better than free marketing!

5. Raise your rates incrementally.

When Branch launched, we kept our rates fairly reasonable for a design studio. We wanted to make sure we were booked out and stayed busy. As inquiries piled up, we revamped our pricing. The key is to not do massive increases all at once — if you do this, you run the risk of stripping out your client base. Instead, be realistic with steady price increases. Instead of tacking on $1,000.00 to your most popular package all at once, it’s better to do four increases of $250.00 over the course of a year.

It’s been a great first year at Branch — we’ve been mentioned in Computer Arts, featured on The Dieline and asked to submit our projects to multiple design books. Hard work and dedication does pay off. If you want something bad enough, you just have to push fear aside and go for it, and see what happens. It may end up being a rollercoaster ride…but you’ll never know what’s possible unless you try. Thanks to Star, Cathy, Joey, Rocky and Carey for being there from the beginning and the clients who believed in us.


Your turn: I want to know — what do you have in the pipeline that scares you? What are your big dreams when it comes to running your own business?

The Week In Pictures: 10.4.14 | Palm Springs Fun and Sun!

Nubby Twiglet | Palm Springs

Hello from Washington, D.C.! After a very full week of fun in Palm Springs, I arrived here in the middle of the night, getting a quickie tour of our national monuments from the freeway thanks to a very sweet cab driver.

Nubby Twiglet | Palm Springs

I was in Palm Springs for Designer Vaca, an annual retreat for female creatives. Palm Springs is my happy place and the retreat is the ideal environment to unwind and make new friends — it’s the only workshop / conference I go to and I truly look forward to it every year.

I roomed with Star at the Ace and when I wasn’t in breakout sessions, I lounged by the pool till the wee hours, used and abused the photo booth, visited a rad tiki bar and made multiple stops at The Parker. Here’s my photo diary of the week with a dedicated post of more Palm Springs scenery coming soon!

Nubby Twiglet | Palm Springs

Nubby Twiglet | Palm Springs

Nubby Twiglet | Palm Springs

Nubby Twiglet | Palm Springs

Nubby Twiglet | Palm Springs

Nubby Twiglet | Palm Springs

Nubby Twiglet | Palm Springs

Nubby Twiglet | Palm Springs

Nubby Twiglet | Palm Springs

Nubby Twiglet | Palm Springs

Nubby Twiglet | Palm Springs

Have an amazing weekend, everyone!

Link Love: 10.2.14

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Nubby Twiglet | Palm Springs by Shauna Haider

• This article about blogger burnout and the shifting culture surrounding blogging in the New York Times was such a fascinating read.

• 3 rules for emailing a busy person.

• I’m a grown woman…and I can do whatever I want!

• 10 tips to write great blog post titles and email subject lines.

• It only makes sense that big dreams require big dreamers.

• A total guilty pleasure: The Coveteur reviews celebrity workout videos! I want them all.

• 7 ways for bloggers to be more productive.

• Here’s how to support the bloggers you love.

• After reading about his many, many eccentricities, I have a whole new appreciation for Nicolas Cage.

• These bird’s eye views show how much New York City has grown over the last 350 years.

• Do bloggers make more money than editors?

• The secret to success is to keep your overhead low.

• If you want to have great adventures, be curious.


Photo: Shauna Haider.
Check out more Link Love columns right here.

A Mini Palm Springs Getaway

Nubby Twiglet | Palm Springs Getaway

Nubby Twiglet | Palm Springs Getaway

Nubby Twiglet | Palm Springs Getaway

Nubby Twiglet | Palm Springs Getaway

Hello from Palm Springs!

I just flew in from New York yesterday morning and have been getting a few days of relaxation in with Joey and Rocky before Designer VACA begins. My birthday, Joey’s birthday and our anniversary all happened within 10 days of each other so this is our belated all-in-one getaway. We’ve been driving all over the place documenting exotic plants, dreamy midcentury modern homes and much of the landscape which I’ll share with you soon. I hope you’re having an awesome week!

Little Lessons #10: Conquer Your Fear Of Public Speaking By Tying It Into Something That You’re Passionate About

Nubby Twiglet | Conquer Your Fear Of Public Speaking By Tying It Into Something That You're Passionate About

I was always terrified of public speaking. Even if it was a quick introduction on the first day of class, I completely dreaded it. My voice would tremble and I’d talk as quickly as possible just to get it over with.

I’ve always been fine in small social groups and can carry on a conversation without a second thought (especially if you ask me about celebrity trivia!) but just thinking about speaking in front of an audience by myself made me want to hide in a cave.

I never had any ambitions of engaging in public speaking and being a graphic designer allowed me to skirt the issue for years — I could hide behind my computer and still make a comfortable living. That only lasted so long, though before I finally had to face my fears. When Kat, Gala and I hatched the idea of The Blogcademy two and a half years ago, one thing was clear: we agreed upfront that we’d each have to chip in on teaching the 18 segments. Oh wait…teaching equaled public speaking in front of large groups of complete strangers.

I agreed to do it but didn’t overthink it at the time because we didn’t even know if the workshop would take off…and then six days later, our first class sold out. I had less than two months to get over my fear of public speaking because I was going to be in front of a room of women I’d never met, doing exactly that!

When you’re faced with a hurdle, if you think about the big picture, chances are that you’ll get overwhelmed and shut down. Instead, I started really small. I figured out my introduction because if I could get that out without breaking a sweat, I could build some momentum. I didn’t want to stumble and stammer within the first five minutes and lose every ounce of confidence I’d built up so I practiced my intro out loud in my car as I drove to and from work every day. “Hi! I’m Shauna, a graphic designer from Portland….*deep breath*….By the end of the week, I had three paragraphs strung together and memorized.

The first class happened…and you know what? It was way easier than I thought it would be. The secret, I soon realized, is that if you focus on speaking about a subject you’re really passionate about, you’ll never feel lost because deep down inside, you already know the material. In my case, my segments during the two day workshop revolved branding and blogging, both of which I’d been doing professionally for a long time so the conversation just flowed.

I’ve since realized that public speaking is sort of like riding a bike. The first time is scary as hell and then once you have your bearings, it gets a little easier each time. Now, I don’t think twice about it. Remember, your audience wants to relate with you. Unless you’re a newscaster, a few rough edges and surprises will add to your charm so keep it real and speak from the heart.

Your turn: Have you ever been terrified of public speaking? What did you do to overcome the fear?


You’re Awesome postcard by Sian.

The Week In Pictures: 9.26.14 | Hello From New York!

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures NYC

On Monday, I flew overnight to New York and landed bright and early Tuesday morning. Since then, my days have been full of extreme contrasts. I’ve had tea and desserts, visited a metal bar, made it to a goth night (complete with smoke machines), stopped by a fashion exhibition, had breakfast at an old school diner, hung out at a tiki bar one night and a trailer park-themed one the next, had a book design meeting…and that’s just scratching the surface.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures NYC

Waking up to this view is like pure magic. I’ve visited New York probably 20 times since 2001 and I still have that feeling that anything is possible here.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures NYC

On Wednesday, I spent that afternoon having tea and desserts at Ladurée in Soho with Gala and Kat. Their back garden area is so beautiful and photogenic.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures NYC

That night, Bianca and I stopped into a bar near Wall Street with drinks categorically divided by Old Money and New Money.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures NYC

Since I last saw Gala, she’s decorated her apartment and while I dare not give everything away, these shelves looked so great that I had to share.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures NYC

One of my favorite haunts is Home Sweet Home. I love the spooky basement vibe and the collection of vintage taxidermy that’s clearly seen better days.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures NYC

I finally got to visit the Pearl Diner with Bianca. Classic old school greasy spoon breakfasts after a late night out are awesome.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures NYC

I always stop into Dean & DeLuca to take in all of their beautifully arranged food. It’s a good thing we don’t have one in Portland or else I’d be camped out there all the time.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures NYC

Last night, I went to the F.I.T. Dance and Fashion and A History of Lingerie exhibitions and it was awesome to see clothing made by designers I admire up close.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures NYC

Afterwards, things got weirdly entertaining as we stepped into Trailer Park which was themed like an old school trailer park from 50 years ago. Taxidermy, beer and soda signs, velvet paintings, Elvis memorabilia and random tchokes completely covered the walls. The menu was basically tater tots, tacos and crazy frozen concoctions with names like Kiss My Frigid Woo-Woo. Kind of amazing.

I’m signing off to join Kat and Gala for lunch, fit in a little last minute shopping at Century 21 and then I’m going out to a Bavarian restaurant for pretzels with Bianca. Like I said, the more stuff I can cram into this trip, the better!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Link Love: 9.25.14

Nubby Twiglet | Link Love

Nubby Twiglet | Jacques Dequeker

• How can you tell when a piece of writing is finished?

• What is it really like to blog about your home?

• All the comments on every single recipe blog pretty much go like this.

• What is your signature word?

• 5 unique ways to increase your blog traffic.

• Have you ever sat next to someone on an airplane that did something so disgusting that you couldn’t believe your eyes?! Well, now there’s a place to submit your photographic evidence. Behold Passenger Shaming.

• 10 foreign words that we need in English!

• You’re never too old for the internet.

• I’m hopeless at giving up sugar for good but it’s interesting to see how it affects the brain.

• A blog I’ve been enjoying a lot is Oh So Pretty. The layouts are so beautiful.

• I’ve shared these photos before but they’re just too good to not share again: sightseers throughout America in the 1970s and 80s.

• Blogger and former magazine editor Joanna Goddard shares 10 things she’s learned in her career.

• Have you seen the design concept for a five-story house that hangs off the edge of a cliff?!

• It’s so fascinating to take a look around this abandoned train station in Paris.

• Before you start writing, these four practices can get you focused.


Photo: Vogue Brazil by Jacques Dequeker.
Check out more Link Love columns right here.