Creative Chronicles: Managing Negative Client Feedback

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Managing Negative Client Feedback

Let’s tackle one of the hardest parts of owning a service-based business today: managing negative client feedback.

I’ve talked about the negative feedback that comes along with sharing your work publicly but negative feedback from clients can sting on a much more personal level because they’ve sought you out and hired you for your expertise.

Even if negative feedback is very rare, it can stick wth you much longer and really affect your mindset. I’ve heard stories of fellow designers wanting to throw in the towel completely or change the direction of their business after negative feedback. It can make you question everything.

Before digging into tips that can help you manage negative feedback, let’s take a trip down memory lane. Long before I was a graphic designer, I worked in retail for about 5 years selling shoes and it taught me a lot about working one-on-one with a variety of personalities.

As a salesperson, negative feedback is inevitable. Sometimes, you’ll have an off day and a customer will complain that you weren’t friendly enough, though you can’t pinpoint what actually went wrong. And on others, an irate customer may take out their aggression on you when you can’t accommodate a return, through no fault of your own.

After being in a few of these situations, it became obvious to me that when someone is upset, getting upset in response and throwing negative emotions back at them is like squirting a bunch of lighter fluid on a fire! Instead of fighting fire with fire, the first step you can take is to stay cool, calm, and collected (even if you’re dying inside).

I can vouch for this tactic working in even the diciest of situations. I once had a mentally unstable person swing a large metal shoe horn at me when she didn’t get her way but because I didn’t add negative emotions into the mix, she eventually ran out of energy, gave up and put it down. After an interaction like that, everything else seems like gravy!

Here are 5 tips to help you manage negative feedback like a pro:

1. Being honest about expectations clears up a lot of misconceptions.

An upset client often boils down to a simple disconnect — they’ve misunderstood the process and feel lost but don’t know how to communicate that. One game-changer with my business has been clearly stating a general process in our media kit. Once they’ve signed on, I attach a PDF process sheet to their email for every step and this usually answers all their questions while letting them know what to expect. Giving your clients a clear framework of what happens when will put them at ease.

2. Lending a sympathetic ear goes a long way.

As a client, there’s nothing worse than feeling misunderstood. Even a simple miscommunication can come across totally wrong over email. If this happens, get on the phone or Skype as soon as possible and clear it up. Taking the initiative is important and it shows that you care enough to make things right. After a quick chat you’ll be able to pinpoint where things went wrong and put together a plan to move forward.

3. It’s not always about you and the work.

This is the hardest one to understand because it’s not rational. On the very rare occasion when a client has really blown up and I can’t pinpoint where the anger is coming from, I take a step back and remind myself that it may be a side-effect of something else that’s happening in their life. When this happens, I think back again to my shoe selling days — whenever a customer was really upset, after talking to them at length, it never really was about the shoes. If this happens to you, talk to someone you trust to get it all out before responding because throwing negative emotions back at a client will accomplish absolutely nothing.

4. If you notice the same issues with multiple clients, use a feedback sheet.

I learned this tip from Paul Jarvis. Remember, a lot of your clients are new to hiring a professional designer and it can be hard to know what kind of feedback you find helpful. How much should they give you? How many directions should they choose? They’re not mind readers and what you think is common sense is all new to them. With Project Prescription, we added a feedback guide that teaches clients how to give you the feedback you want. This is another simple way to put clients at ease.

5. You can’t be everything to everyone.

This is something I’m still learning on a daily basis. There will be clients who you connect with from the first call and become deeply intertwined. Projects and feedback naturally flow with very little effort. And then, there will be the occasional client, who despite your best intentions, is impossible to please. Sometimes, it’s just not meant to be and cutting ties is necessary.

If you find yourself at this crossroads, remember that it’s not about letting a client down but instead caring enough about them to know that you’re not the best fit for what they want. If you find yourself in this position, take the experience and funnel it into providing the best service possible for the clients you do click with.


It’s your turn: have you received negative client feedback and how did you handle it? Did the situation turn out as you expected?

10 Random Facts

Nubby Twiglet | 10 Random Facts

Awhile back, I shared a list of 10 random things I was into at the moment and I thought it would be fun to do a follow-up with 10 random facts about me. Of course, this is way more fun when you get involved — leave a random fact about yourself in the comments!

Here are mine:

1. Even though I’m left-handed, while growing up I was taught to use a mouse with my right so when I’m designing, you’d never know!

2. I was a total tomboy when I was younger and mostly bypassed Barbies for a Mr. T doll. I was so in love with Mr. T that I wore overalls like his character on the A-Team and even had a beach towel with his likeness on it! To this day, when I really like something, I go all in.

3. In middle school, I played the clarinet (of course, I picked the instrument that was all black). I was good, too! During band try-outs in the 6th grade, I got first chair but quickly down-voted myself over the course of the next few months to sit by my best friend in the trumpet section. 😉

4. I’m hyper-flexible and double-jointed! I’m also not very tall (5 ft. 3) so I probably would have made a good gymnast if I wasn’t so scared of heights.

5. I LOVE the German language. I took 4 years in high school and even a few college classes. Someday I’d like to go back to Germany for longer than a few days and brush up on my skills.

6. My first post-high school job was working in an office doing filing. When I say filing, I’m serious. There was a dedicated room in the warehouse full of rows of filing cabinets and the accounting department would let their invoices pile up for months at a time until I was on college break to whip it into shape. 8 hours a day of filing will drive anyone to the brink of madness!

7. When I was younger, I took Taekwondo and learned how to break boards! It was really fun until I got to middle school and decided I was too cool for it.

8. My musical guilty pleasure is Journey (yes, the band). My parents were obsessed with Journey and Steve Perry when I was a baby and listened to them on repeat. When I was in high school, my boyfriend worked at a record store and surprised me with a box of every single album (I still have them!) and needless to say, that won me over. 😉

9. I’ve always enjoyed being organized. As a child, I never had a messy room – everything had its place. To make up for that, my brother was the exact opposite! My mom noticed my skills early on and would pay me to organize her closet. My favorite part was lining up her shoes in color order.

10. Being a teenager was hard but I went goth and refused to conform. When I was 17, I met my idol, Marilyn Manson and that made the rest of high school a breeze. He made me feel like it was okay to be weird and never apologize for who I was.

Did anything on my list surprise you? Now, it’s your turn!


Photo: Made U Look.

Creative Chronicles: Lumi

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Lumi

As I’m working with branding clients over at Branch, many need a fair amount of printed pieces. Finding a printer for the basics like business cards, postcards and shipping labels is easy but I’m always keeping my eye out for printers who can handle more specialized items.

Lumi makes it foolproof to order branded packaging supplies for your business — think along the lines of packing tape, tissue paper, boxes, bags, stamps, embossers….the list goes on.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Lumi

I’ve ordered from various sites over the years and the interfaces are often clunky and hard to navigate, leaving both me and the client with more questions than answers. On Lumi, I like the crisp, uniformly lit images, the clear navigation and the simple copy — there’s no industry jargon to trip you up.

Discovering this site has been a breath of fresh air. They say it best themselves: “We hope to shake up an industry that’s been stuck in the age of door-to-door salesmen and 30-pound catalogs.” Amen!

I’ve already saved so much time by being able to recommend multiple items from one source for my clients — in the past, we’d have to source stamps, tape and more from multiple companies.

I hope this helps you, too!


All Images: Lumi.

What I Wore: Spruce Faux Fur

Nubby Twiglet | What I Wore: Spruce Faux Fur

This Winter in Portland has been an unseasonably cold one and there was a point a few weeks back where it even snowed a foot in less than 24 hours (highly unusual). I’ve always had a hard time with Winter Fashion because it tends to involve a lot of bulky layers.

Nubby Twiglet | What I Wore: Spruce Faux Fur

In an effort to break out of my heavy black Zara nylon parka, jeans and flat motorcycle boots, I’ve been trying to dress up more while still staying warm enough to brave the freezing temperatures. My favorite cold weather staple is this spruce faux fur jacket Joey bought me for Christmas two years ago — layered over a black sweater, it’s super cozy. I also wear it on a lot of flights in the colder months because it doubles as a great blanket!

Nubby Twiglet | What I Wore: Spruce Faux Fur

I have a lot of tall boots in my closet but for some reason, have avoided them for years. That is, until I was recently in New York and it seemed that every stylish woman was wearing them. I remembered that I had these black Chloe boots from around 2008 and dusted them off. The horseshoes on the soles have always been my favorite detail.

Nubby Twiglet | What I Wore: Spruce Faux Fur

The base layers of this look are super basic, with just a Zara mock neck sweater and a pair of Victoria’s Secret leggings. But with the faux fur thrown over the top and tall boots zipped up, the look completely transforms. When I visited Gala last month, she’d thrown a bubble gum pink faux fur coat and tall black suede boots over black leggings and a loose sweatshirt; those comfy layers suddenly looked so glam.

Nubby Twiglet | What I Wore: Spruce Faux Fur

The weather is just starting to warm up this week and I can feel Spring creeping in so this post is a final ode to faux fur before packing it away for another year. The great thing about Winter coming to an end is that all those heavier jackets are now on sale! I am OBSESSED with this one. Hello, Cruella!

Nubby Twiglet | What I Wore: Spruce Faux Fur

Here’s to Spring, lighter layers, getting outside and not being the color of death! 😉

I wore: Silence + Noise faux fur jacket (old), Victoria Sport high-rise tights, Zara mock neck sweater (sold out) and Chloe knee-high boots (old).

The Month + Links: January 2017

Nubby Twiglet | The Month + Links: January 2017

THE MONTH

Hi, friends! Thanks for joining me as this first month of 2017 comes to a close. There’s a big list of links at the bottom I hope you enjoy, plus a recap of some of the things that are happening in my world — it’s most definitely been a bittersweet, surreal start to the year.

1. The March

I flew to New York for the Women’s March last weekend alongside friends including Gala, Bianca and Veronica. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience — I’d never marched before and joining in was inspiring and powerful.

As I was getting off the train and walking up the subway steps to join the crowd, a boy, maybe 10 years old at most was in a leg brace, struggling up the steps as his mom carried his crutches. He could have easily stayed home but wanted to be a part of the day. In that moment, I thought, “If he can do this, I have zero excuses going forward.”

Nubby Twiglet | The Month + Links: January 2017

Barricades between the street and sidewalk soon became pointless as the crowd grew, spanning the width of both. Being part of a crowd of 400,000 people on a Saturday, many marching with their children and dogs and homemade signs filled me with immense hope.

I know that hope isn’t enough and we can all do more. Small changes do add up. Follow your favorite organizations and activists via Twitter and join their mailing lists so you’re aware of what’s happening and when they need help most. Donate, even if it’s a few dollars here and there (the ACLU is a great place to start).

And most importantly, stand up and be heard. This is not the time to stay quiet to protect your “brand” — lend your voice, your time and your money whenever you can.

Nubby Twiglet | The Month + Links: January 2017

2. The Small Things

In a time of rapid change, much of which has been volatile, I’m focusing on the small things that are going right in my life. Keeping a positive mindset hasn’t been easy and there are nights I can’t sleep — but I know that by taking care of myself, I’ll then be in a much better place to support others.

Things that are making me happy: Cuddles with Chubs. Talking to Joey every morning about our future as we walk Rocky. Getting my taxes finished early and cracking jokes with my accountant. Late nights at goth clubs with friends. JetBlue overnight flights to New York with satellite TV, free wifi and unlimited snacks (yes!) Victoria’s Secret high-rise leggings in black. Writing postcards to my state senators. Buying a new suitcase. Taking photos next to George. Fried pierogis at 3 am. Subscribing to even more magazines (loving New York Magazine and Conde Nast Traveler). Visiting The Wing and buying my mom a HEAD BITCH IN CHARGE keychain (haha). Wandering through ABC Carpet & Home. Marching next to these ladies (my new idols). Working on more projects for beauty brands. Buying a new-ish Kia Optima in all black. Wearing my green faux fur jacket everywhere.

My quote of the moment:

“If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.” —Barack Obama

Nubby Twiglet | The Month + Links: January 2017

THE LINKS

99% Invisible is a podcast that focuses on design, architecture and the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world. Two examples: how the U.S. post office started and what happens to the letters you send the president.

Zsa Zsa Gabor’s Palm Springs pad is on the market and it’s gorgeous!

• After the Women’s March, so many participants have been asking, “Now what?” Join me in participating in 10 actions in 100 days and keep the momentum.

• I plan out my week by writing it down so I can see it on my desk at a quick glance. My tool of choice is the Kikki.K weekly planner.

• Banish these words and phrases from your vocabulary.

• Are you using your voice fully? Are you saying everything you want to say on the platforms you use? If you aren’t, ask yourself, “What else?”

• How can you get people excited about your work?

• Tim Ferriss shares a list of the apps he uses regularly.

• Feeling overwhelmed by to-do lists and content you want to create? Allow yourself the luxury of silence and space.

• Bridgette shares why she decided to march in Tales of a Reluctant Activist.

• I learn something new every day! Bibliomania is a compulsive urge to buy books.

Here’s how Warren Buffet schedules his meetings.

This is such a great collection of protest signs. All are free to download!

Nubby Twiglet | The Month + Links: January 2017

• David Bowie is being honored by Britain’s Royal Mail with a full set of stamps.

• It’s great to chase your dreams but pushing yourself so hard that you compromise your health is so not worth it. Run your own race!

• It’s always easier to make time to cook when the recipes are simple. Try these 12 five-ingredient dinners.

• The one fashion blog I consistently read is Sea Of Shoes and I love the new design!

• Haha! OMG. 10 signs you were once obsessed with Live Journal. I’m feeling like an internet dinosaur right about now.

20 habits that can change your life.

• Maybe you’d like to try Ernest Hemingway’s cocktail recipe for bad times?

Macaroni and cheese that takes only 3 ingredients and 10 minutes? Yes, please!

• I admire Madonna for speaking her mind during the Billboard Women In Music ceremony.

• This compilation covers every book Barack Obama recommended during his time as president.

• What happens when you take a full month off from the internet? Spoiler alert: you get your attention back.


Photos: 1. My desk last Monday. Now is the time to get shit done. 2. Pre-march, at Federal Hall. 3. One of my favorite places to spend an afternoon, ABC Carpet & Home. 4. Spotted this message today in Portland. 5. I’m obsessed with this plate (and Gala’s pink faux fur coat!)