Creative Chronicles #6: The Comparison Game and 3 Tips To Stay Competitive

Nubby Twiglet | 3 Tips To Overcome Competition

If you’re not careful, the fear of competition can creep up and get the best of you. It’s easy to let negative thoughts seep in because everywhere you look, there’s another mega-talented designer sharing their latest and greatest project.

We all have bad days where self doubt takes over and questions like these become overpowering:

Am I good enough?
Where do I fit in?
Will I have enough work?

These are all valid concerns but I can assure you that there’s enough work to go around. And yes, you are good enough.

Competition is loaded — it’s something that both pushes me and scares me. I’ve always been a super competitive person by nature which has major benefits but it also carries plenty of weaknesses. The biggest benefit is obvious — I constantly challenge myself to do better. The more hours I dedicate to my craft, the better results I see both in client work and my confidence. The downside to competitive feelings is that it’s sometimes difficult to shut off comparisons no matter how hard you work, which can make you feel like you’ve fallen short even when in reality, you’re doing well.

When I think back to feeling competitive in the design field, 3 different events stick out in my mind:

1. In 2006, I remember sitting in class, noticing that some of the students were much better at the Adobe Suite than me. This was a good case of competition. I knew that to be good enough to get hired once I finished the program, I had to step it up. Working harder did pay off and got me hired a week after I graduated.

2. In 2007, during my design internship I was seated next next to guys who had a solid 5 years of agency experience. Even though I was still in school, I was fearful that I’d never get to their level and every day that I was asked to do something I didn’t know how to do, my stomach would sink. I felt like a fraud. I was really hard on myself and felt the sting from art directors when I didn’t do something right but once again, it turned out to be a good thing because I learned fast. Sink or swim!

3. In 2012, I would start my mornings at my full-time job clicking through the blogs of freelancers I admired. While their work inspired me, it also made me jealous because no matter how hard I worked, I never had enough free time outside of my job to produce the projects they were getting to do. That unhappiness was uncomfortable at the time but also a blessing because it pushed me to eventually leave my job and start my own studio.

Competition is a normal part of who we are — it feels good to try your best. Stretching yourself can produce results you never knew you were capable of. And as you can gather from the above stories, even though competition can make us squirm in the moment, it can also force us to seek out what we really want.

Nubby Twiglet | 3 Tips To Overcome Competition

If comparison is something that you struggle with, these 3 tips will help become a stronger competitor:

1. Specialize your offerings.

You know that saying, jack of all trades, master of none? Don’t be that designer! The easiest way to win at the game of competition is to fine-tune what you offer. It’s a novel idea in a MORE! MORE! MORE! focused world but instead of offering a little bit of everything, pinpoint the things you excel at and just offer those. Go small. Be clear about what you stand for. Make it easy for your tribe of dream clients to cut through the noise and find you. As an example, Branch focuses in 3 specific areas: branding, print design and web design. If a client needs something else, I have a list of referrals at the ready. Don’t water down what you do by stretching yourself too thin!

The much welcome outcome to specialization is that the more projects you do, the sooner you’ll be considered an expert in those areas. And when you’re an expert, you can charge more!

It feels so good to do less, produce higher quality work and outsource the rest.

2. Produce work that makes you feel good.

When feelings of jealousy take over after you see a really great project someone else did, it’s important to ask yourself why. Do you feel like you’re not talented enough? That you’ll never get those types of clients? Usually, it stems from being unsatisfied with where you are at in your own career.

I know that when I felt my worst, I had a stable job with great pay but that wasn’t the issue — the work just wasn’t pushing me creatively. I’d check blogs on my lunch hour and come across the work I wanted to create. While it made me miserable at the time, I started to make changes by taking on small, creative freelance projects on my own time. One of the first was a brand of lipsticks and once I began releasing work I really loved, it opened up more beauty and lifestyle brand opportunities which I’d been wanting for years.

Producing work you love will leave you feeling so satisfied that you won’t even care what the competition is doing. Run your own race.

3. Remember that there’s room for everyone.

Even when I come across new talent and am afraid that I’m not good enough and just maybe, the work will finally dry up once and for all, I’m always wrong. The inquiries keep coming, the repeat clients always return with new project ideas and somehow, things just keep flowing.

There are so many different areas you can specialize in and so many different ways you can work. You just have to decide what you want and be relentless.

Do you want to work for yourself, work in-house at a company or work in an agency with lots of different clients?

Do you want to be a brand designer, a web developer, a letterer, a production artist, a producer, an art director or something else altogether?

Whatever path you want to take is possible. Remember, no one person or company can do all the work that needs to be done.

Produce solid work you’re proud of, share it regularly and make it easy for clients to book you. It’s that simple.

The bottom line: competition can feel intimidating. If one of your competitors does something amazing, instead of being happy for them, it can be easy to feel undermined. Turn that negative into a positive and use it as motivation to step up your own game. Come up with new ideas. Market yourself in new ways.

When you push yourself to produce better work, the right kinds of clients will take notice.

Your turn: what tips to you have for keeping competition feeling positive and avoiding the comparison trap?

For even more Creative Chronicles, please click here.
Photo: Lakshal Perera.

The Week In Pictures: 11.27.15

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving (and are slipping in some Black Friday shipping!)

This year didn’t go quite as planned with Joey and I both coming down with bad colds. Showing up to our annual family gathering and infecting everyone with the plague seemed like a bad idea (haha!) so we stayed home instead and luckily, there was a nearby Thai restaurant open for dinner.

I’m hoping that we feel better in the next few days so we can put our all-white tree up, though that usually turns into an adventure in itself since Chubs ends up stealing the ornaments!

Here are a few highlights from this week:

Top: Over the weekend, I met Jennet Liaw, the designer of the Pinterest-famous Stay Humble | Hustle Hard print and couldn’t resist picking one up for the office. Follow her Instagram full of epic type treatments here!

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

1. I love Fall colors so much and seeing this display of squash and pumpkins made me appreciate the natural palette even more.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

2. A few months ago, Joey mentioned that he wanted to start building furniture. I didn’t think much of it until I came home one day to find a hand built Ouija Board table in our living room! That one sold quickly but he’s since built another….and it’s available! If you’re interested, email him at I know this has to be the perfect gift for someone on your list — and there’s just one! Pricing is $250.00 + shipping.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

3. For the first year of his life, Chubs was a holy terror. And really, I wouldn’t expect anything less from a squirrel! But over the last few months, his personality has shifted. He’s calm sweet and extra cuddly. I swear, from being around Rocky since birth, he now acts like he’s part dog — literally, he rolls over and lets you scratch his belly!

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

4. After a meeting with my awesome client Susan Grace a few days ago, I walked into Blush Beauty Bar (they carry so many hard-to-find cosmetics lines!) and noticed that they carry quite a few of the Olivine products I designed. Pretty cool to see them in a local shop!

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

5. I couldn’t help posting a variation on the shot I shared a few weeks ago, now that the Fall flowers have filtered in. So many beautiful yellows, reds and oranges! Makes me excited to decorate our house for the holidays, sip cider and spend more time at home.

In the spiring of Thanksgiving, I wanted to thank each and every one of you for being here. Whether it’s your first visit or you’ve been reading for years, I appreciate you for taking the time out of your day to stop by. Have an awesome weekend! xo

Link Love: 11.26.15


• Sometimes, it’s not a new job that you really need — it’s a new perspective.

• I love Bob Ross even more after learning that he had a pet squirrel named Peapod. Awww.

• Here’s the truth about the creative process.

• Need to say no? Here are two easy ways to do it while keeping your cool.

• Whoa! A couple just sued Airbnb for copying their apartment.

• Flying from London to New York in just 3 hours may be possible by 2021.

• 25 sites for finding the freelance jobs you want.

• Even though you’re busy, you should make more room for interviews.

• My friend Erika is launching an exclusive mastermind group called Pret-a-Persona and damn, it looks beautiful and inspiring. If you’re a style-savvy business woman, check it out!

• A time capsule for the year 2957 was just discovered.

• The online “experts” make entrepreneurship look easy but here’s the truth.

• I love how this long distance couple stays connected!

• Finally, there’s a parlor for temporary tattoos.

Image: The Pressure.
Check out even more Link Love columns here.

Out & About #13: Liberty London

Nubby Twiglet | Liberty London

Nubby Twiglet | Liberty London

Nubby Twiglet | Liberty London

“Liberty is the chosen resort of the artistic shopper.” —Oscar Wilde

Nubby Twiglet | Liberty London

2Nubby Twiglet | Liberty London

Nubby Twiglet | Liberty London

Visiting Liberty is always a highlight for me when I’m in London. Built in 1875, setting foot inside this department store is like entering another world altogether. The tudor-style building is packed with the most eclectic mix of clothing, accessories and housewares sourced from around the world, not to mention its in-house line of prints. The care and detail taken for merchandising the inside of the store is pretty epic but equally amazing is the exterior which features timbers sourced from two different ships!

Nubby Twiglet | Liberty London

Nubby Twiglet | Liberty London

Nubby Twiglet | Liberty London

When it opened in the late 1800s, Liberty was immediately successful due to its penchant for importing exotic housewares. It was a place of fantasy and eccentricity, even back then.

Nubby Twiglet | Liberty London

Nubby Twiglet | Liberty London

Nubby Twiglet | Liberty London
Today, even though styles have changed, they have two upper floors dedicated to interiors and they’re packed with an enticing mix of styles, from very classic to full-on mod.

Nubby Twiglet | Liberty London

Another draw of Liberty is its large display of flowers by Wild At Heart. It’s the first thing you see before walking through the main entrance and even when these photos were being snapped, the florist was busy gathering blooms for a custom bouquet.

When you hear of Liberty, their beautiful line of prints probably comes to mind first. Most are floral-based and it’s pretty amazing walking through the third floor, seeing them up close and personal and thinking about their history.

Nubby Twiglet | Liberty London

In today’s world where everything feels rushed and thrown together, I’m intrigued by the thought Liberty puts into its own product lines, archives and in-store merchandising. It feels like a rarefied world were quality is valued and every detail is taken into account.


Have you seen their in-house products before? It’s so cool to see how they apply their style to everything from wallpaper to jewelry. 1. coffee, 2. tudor piggy bank, 3. zip wallet, 4. cupcake set, 5. coloring book, 6. Theodora candle, 7. cuff, 8. radio and 9. wallpaper.

Nubby Twiglet | Liberty London

Nubby Twiglet | Liberty London

You may be wondering what the phone booths have to do with Liberty! As you know, booths everywhere are much more scarce now since everyone has cell phones but there’s still a large bank of these iconic red ones located outside the back of the store. Just beware if you plan on stepping inside for a photo op — they’re more commonly used as bathrooms now, which I learned the hard way. Ha!

Nubby Twiglet | Liberty London

Taking this trip down memory lane is making me wish I was in town to see the store for the holidays. Speaking of the holidays, Happy Thanksgiving to my U.S. readers. Hope it’s a good one!

Photos: Lisa Jane Photography and Shauna Haider.
Check out even more Out & About columns here.

Creative Chronicles #5: 5 Tips To Fight Fear In Your Freelance Career

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles #5: 5 Tips To Fight Fear In Your Freelance Career

“We should all start to live before we get too old. Fear is stupid. So are regrets.” —Marilyn Monroe

Working for myself was always on my bucket list but I never felt prepared enough. How would I know when the time was right? What could I do to make make the transition easier? Week after week, I held onto my stable, well-paying job, afraid of making a wrong move.

After all, from the outside, it looked like I had it made. I constantly asked myself why it was so important that I set out on my own. I had a great career with as part of a brand team working with huge, recognizable companies and I was petrified to leave it all behind. Part of my fear stemmed from my background. I’d grown up in a family where my parents always had traditional, 9 to 5 jobs. I valued stability and set routines. Stepping into a life of freelancing meant that I was signing up for the great unknown.

I saw other people freelancing full time and they seemed to be doing okay but what if I wasn’t as savvy at finding new clients as them? What if I completely failed at my dream? The “what if’s” never slowed down.

Then, one day my friend invited me to a small business class. One of the activities centered around facing our fears. We were each told to take out a sheet of paper and spend a few minutes writing out our worst case scenarios.

Most of mine centered around not having enough client work. My worst case scenario was asking for my old job back or going out and finding a stable, corporate job for awhile. I stared down at the list and almost laughed out loud. My worst case scenarios weren’t bad at all. What was I waiting for?

Next, we were instructed to place that list of fears in a Ziploc bag, zip it closed, take it home and put it on a shelf.


My fears were now out of sight and out of mind.

Once I had that reality check, I realized how much time I’d wasted worrying about tiny things that in the grand scheme of life really weren’t a big deal.

Less than 6 months later, I gave my notice. That was over 2 years ago.

Of course, there have been ups and downs but I’ve been fine. My business has nearly doubled over the last year and now I have the freedom to set my own schedule. I definitely work harder but I also see the direct payoff of satisfied clients and new opportunities. Was it worth giving up my stable routine? Yes, absolutely.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles #5: 5 Tips To Fight Fear In Your Freelance Career

Here are 5 tips to prepare for the transition to freelancing:

1. Set up a designated workspace now.

Even if you’re 6 months out from quitting your full time job, having a designated workspace will help you get more comfortable with the reality of your new path. It’s okay if your desk is in the corner of your bedroom. Set a schedule, whether it’s mornings, nights or weekends and get to work. How does it feel? What can you do to make your spot feel more official? Buy plants, artwork and matching office supplies to help you get in the zone. Need some inspiration? Here’s my old home office!

2. Save a minimum of 6 months of expenses.

There’s nothing worse than feeling desperation set in because you didn’t save enough money. A serious safety net will make it possible to focus on putting out your best work without the imminent fear of starving or getting evicted. Save, save, save! And then, save some more. Money isn’t everything but it does give you the luxury of saying no to opportunities you know aren’t a good fit.

3. Have your portfolio and website ready to go.

These both take a lot of time to get together so you may have to set some goals long before you give your notice. If you don’t have a budget for a custom web design, that’s okay. Work with what you have and you can always upgrade later. My first pro portfolio was on Cargo Collective and it worked great. Squarespace is another option. You never know who is going to stumble across your work. Both Forever 21 and Virgin Records hired me based on work I’d posted online.

4. Network like it’s your full-time job.

The easiest path to freelance success is to build up your network of creative peers and clients. To get started, do as much free marketing as you can on social media — my favorite platforms to share work on are Instagram, Dribbble, Pinterest and Twitter. I also still find blogging to be really valuable because it allows me to go deeper and share more of the process and story behind each project. Once you’re making some decent money, invest in in-person events. There are dozens to choose from but I’ve had the best results with Designer Vaca. Finding the right mix of networking opportunities takes some trial and error but the point is that you’re making an effort to connect.

5. Set up contract opportunities.

Freelancing doesn’t feel as intimidating when you have a backup plan. When I first started freelancing years ago, any time I had a slow period, I reached out to placement agencies like Aquent and 24 Seven. It’s in their best interest to place you because they earn a commission. They want you to be happy so you stay put! Between the two, I always had a steady stream of work. While I only work with my own clients these days, I’m still great friends with my agent, Dan and know he’s just a call away.

I know firsthand how scary it can be stepping out on your own. Being your own boss is no joke! But through my own journey, I’ve also realized that you have two choices in life: you can either keep holding yourself back or you can ask yourself what your worst case scenario is.

Is it really that bad?

If it isn’t, you know what you need to do.

Your turn: Are you thinking about freelancing full-time? What scares you the most?

For even more Creative Chronicles, please click here.
Photo: Shell De Mar.