Tag Archives: Advice

There Are No Shortcuts To Greatness

Nubby Twiglet | There Are No Shortcuts To Greatness

If you want to be great at your craft, you have to put in the time. It’s as simple as that.

There’s a constant churn of articles, books and courses promising shortcuts to greatness. It’s hard to not be drawn into them in hopes of picking up the latest tips and tricks. While it’s true that most will help you get closer to your goal in some small way, there’s no substitute for putting in the hard work.

In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell famously said said that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. After you’ve put in that amount of time, you’re considered an expert.

Dedicating yourself fully to your craft and putting in those so-called 10,000 hours builds not only your skills but also your confidence. These are two things that no amount of money or advice can buy.

If you’re a late bloomer and only now discovering what you want to do, don’t fret — it really is never too late. When I went back to school for design, I was one of the oldest students in my class at 25 years old. I didn’t graduate until I was 27 and as I sat in a studio surrounded by professional designers who were roughly the same age as me with years of experience already under their belt, it felt like a huge obstacle to get to their level.

The clock started ticking.

10,000 hours = 1,250 8 hour days which equals roughly 3.5 years with no days off.

Some of us may get there faster but honestly, it did take those 10,000 hours for me to grow into who I wanted to become and earn a decent living. It’s a long path and that’s why so many people get started and then give up.

The point is to push through and to keep going. Work through those roadblocks. As those hours speed by, as you start getting hired, as you start building repeat customers and as your peers start noticing your work, you’ll feel your confidence grow.

It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting on your path to greatness today. All that matters is that you’re committed to getting started.

Advice #58: 5 Tips To Jump-Start Your Design Career

Nubby Twiglet | Advice: 5 Tips To Jump-Start Your Design Career

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” —John Lennon

Your Question:

I qualified in design 13 years ago and had been a full time designer, but the market changed locally and I found freelance tricky to get paid. I’m currently working as the I.T. guy in a civil engineering firm, which I enjoy, although I miss the boom of satisfaction from working on a great design, and seeing it born into print or digital media.

I feel stuck in a rut. Many folks I know who were designers into our 30′s have drifted away from the industry, mainly for financial reasons but I don’t want to be one of them. The freelance angle is something I keep my hand in so I don’t lose my skills, but I’m unsure of what the break would entail, or how to start.


My Answer:

You loved design so much that you majored in it and carved out a career. But then, life threw you some curve balls. Clever and quick, you rebounded, finding steady employment in another field. It’s comfortable and it pays — on paper, shouldn’t that be enough?

Nope.

Why?

If you’re not creatively fulfilled, that void will gnaw away at you every single day. How do I know? Because I’ve been there…and the only solution was to get back in the game.

When the economy crashed in 2009, design and advertising were hit especially hard. Budgets were slashed and work became much less steady. To make ends meet until the industry picked back up, I took on extra hours at my previous shoe store job. I’d never closed that door completely and it’s a great lesson to never burn your bridges! To keep my skills sharp, I picked up as much freelance as possible (no job was too small) and reminded myself that the position I was in would soon pass. And, it did. Within a year, the industry began to rebound and I landed a placement at a local design studio that soon stretched onto a year and a half of steady employment.

If you’re feeling stuck in your current position and want to get back in the design field, here are 5 tips I’ve personally used to build my career:

1. Befriend your design peers.

Sounds simple enough, right? Never underestimate how far being a nice person who is genuinely interested in others will take you!

Branch gets dozens of new client inquiries a week and for the ones we can’t take on, I immediately pass on a list of design referrals for other freelancers and studios. This list is made up of people I’ve met in person or people I’ve known online for years. Having that personal connection makes me trust the people I’m recommending that much more. I met half of the people on that list at Designer VACA.

Even if you aren’t able to hit up every event and convention, make a list of 10 people you admire today and reach out with a simple introduction. Once your relationship has solidified, let the designer know that if they have any work overflow, you’re available.

2. Create self-initiated projects.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from designers who’ve taken a break is that they’re not sure how to land the types of clients they want because they don’t have any of that genre of work to share in order to get hired. It’s a loop that can seem endless but there is a fix.

What’s your dream brand to work with? Whether it’s Anthropologie or Apple, you can create a fictional project to showcase your design chops as long as you clearly call it out as such. Even better, dream up a business of your own and then design it into reality!

Self-initiated projects do hold weight. When my brother was trying to get into Nike, he created his very own shoe design and ended his portfolio with that piece. It showed that he was serious about working there and took the initiative. He got the job.

Need more insight on self-initiated projects? Check out this post.

3. Brush up on new skills.

If you’re feeling stuck and uninspired, the easiest way to remedy that is to sign up for some new courses. My top picks are on Skillshare because some of the most talented designers in the world are teaching you their tricks of the trade for a reasonable price. Learn from the best and then show off those skills in some self-initiated projects!

4. Put up an online portfolio.

The easiest way to get more work is to share the work you currently have. The golden rule with sharing your work is that you only want to showcase what you’re willing to do more of. I have piles of work that I did for sports brands and the NBA and NFL but you’ll never see it in my portfolio. Instead, you’ll find work from creative, innovative small businesses because that’s what I’m most passionate about.

Allergic to code? No problem. Sign up for Cargo Collective, Squarespace or Behance and give yourself a deadline of a week to get your work together. No more excuses!

5. Share, share, share.

Wrangle an invite to Dribbble and also pin projects from your design portfolio to Pinterest. As a side note, I just had a project that got repinned 50 times from my Pinterest board — think about how many times it then got pinned from those 50 boards and it’s digital marketing gold. Finally, don’t be afraid to share those behind-the-scenes shots on Instagram — often, they’ll get more engagement than a finished project because people love to feel like they’re part of the creative process. Stay consistent, be relentless.

Remember, the right clients are out there, they just have to know how to find you. Give them the “in” that they need — and if you do a great job, they’ll refer you to everyone else they know! To this day, I can draw out a spider diagram from five core clients and everyone else I’ve worked with since literally connects off them. Even with the internet at their fingertips, people still value personal recommendations the most.

I hope these five tips help you jump-start your design career once again. It’s never too late to pick back up where you left off.


Your turn: Do you have any tips to add to the mix? Have you been in this situation and what were your solutions to remedy it?

Little Lessons #11: Live The Impossible

Nubby Twiglet | Live The Impossible

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” —Audrey Hepburn

Last week, I flew into Vegas and hopped on over to Makeup Forever alongside Kat and Gala for a hefty dusting of glitter and some serious false eyelashes. We’d talked about seeing David Copperfield’s show for years and it was finally happening.

We arrived at the MGM Grand where Copperfield has his own theatre and took our seats in the front row. I’d seen many of his TV specials throughout the 90s and was expecting a handful of mind-blowing magic tricks but what I ended up with was something I didn’t expect at all: inspiration to keep following my dreams.

David’s show wasn’t just a traditional magic show. While it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, I appreciated the walk down memory lane, starting with a photo flashed up of him as a child, clutching a dinosaur skeleton, Frank. Copperfield was a lonely outcast as a child and Frank was his best friend. During the show, Copperfield told the audience to “Live the impossible” and by the end, Frank reappeared as a massive mechanical skeleton that took up most of the stage.

In real life, Copperfield managed to live out a seemingly impossible dream, going from the awkward kid who called a dinosaur skeleton his best friend to being the most successful solo entertainer in history with over 40 million tickets sold. Oh, and he owns a string of islands in The Bahamas. Not bad at all.

What does all of this have to do with you?

When you have big dreams and are trying to live the impossible, you’ll get shot down time and again by people who don’t get it. I want to remind you that just because someone else doesn’t think your dream is possible, you’ve got to keep believing. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.


If life has thrown a major curveball at your dreams, here are three quick and easy suggestions to get back on track:

1. Write down an affirmation.

Words have power and an affirmation can be repeated when you’re feeling down as a way to cut through the negativity in an instant. Affirmations are simple reminders of how you want to live your life and the more often you repeat them, the more realistic they become. For instance, “Live the impossible” is a great reminder to follow your dreams, no matter how far-fetched and scary they may seem. I’ll sometimes write an affirmation on a sticky note and place it next to my computer.

If you want more information on creating great affirmations, you can read up here.

2. Make a vision board.

A vision board is a visual representation of your goals. This is your chance to go big and own your future. The formatting of vision boards can be open-ended so feel free to piece together your images in Photoshop and set the composition as your desktop wallpaper or buy a huge piece of tagboard, grab some scissors and glue and get to work!

I’ve recently read a few different accounts of how making vision boards produced fantastic results and there were too many particularities in each to simply be a coincidence. To get the most out of your vision board, you need to be very specific. For instance, if I wanted to live in Palm Springs, I’d place an image of the midcentury modern house of my dreams and the words “Palm Springs” on my board instead of just a gaggle of palm trees.

Once your board is finished, it’s important to set aside a few minutes to focus on it every single day. The goal is to firmly implant your ideal existence so deeply in your mind that you begin to believe there’s no other option than to make it a reality.

If you want more information on vision boards, click here.

3. Keep a gratitude journal.

We all have those days where it feels like we’re moving backwards. But if you focus in closely enough, you can find things to be grateful for. Maybe the bus driver waited an extra 5 seconds so you could hop on. Maybe the grocery store clerk scanned an extra coupon that saved you a few dollars. Maybe the Starbucks barista remade your drink free of charge when you accidentally dropped it while getting into your car. Gratitude doesn’t have to focus on massive, life altering events. It doesn’t have to feel like fireworks going off ever time your pen hits the paper. Gratitude can be simple — it’s lurking in everyday occurrences.

I’m new to the world of gratitude journals but my entry was unexpected — my studio, Branch designed one for the Olivine Happily Ever After course where writing in one is required for 28 days. I participated and it definitely shifted my perspective.

If you’re looking for more information about gratitude journals, click here.

I hope these tips help you move forward with living the impossible and remind you that no dream is too big if you truly believe in it.


For even more Little Lessons posts, click here.

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.

Rapid-Fire Q&A Submission: You’ve Got Questions…And I’ve Got Answers!

Nubby Twiglet | You’ve Got Questions…And I’ve Got Answers!

Later this year, I’ll celebrate my 8th anniversary of blogging in this space and because I’ve been here for so long, I figure that most of you know me pretty well (and I’ve gotten to know a lot of you pretty well, too). It’s easy to forget that there are new people landing here every day so I thought it would be fun to try something different this week — a rapid-fire Q&A!

I’ve done an advice column since the very beginning but that’s usually a long, detailed answer to one question. Here, I’m going to gather 20 of your questions and split them into two upcoming posts.

It’s time to think about what you want to know. Do you have a question about blogging, graphic design, creative careers, personal style, business, a specific font I use, travel, squirrels…or something even more random? Head on over to my Facebook and ask away!

Part one goes live next Tuesday and I can’t wait to see what you come up with! -Shauna

Nubby Twiglet | You’ve Got Questions…And I’ve Got Answers!


Photos: Janneke Storm.

Oh, The Embarrassment: A Little Reminder That We All Have To Start Somewhere

Nubby Twiglet | Oh, The Embarrassment: A Little Reminder That We All Have To Start Somewhere

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whenever I look back at my early design projects, I see promise…but for the most part, I feel embarrassed. Do you feel that way about your past work, too?

I actually think that a touch of embarrassment is a healthy reaction because it means that you’ve grown as a creative. Over time, your taste has evolved, your skills have improved and your sense of style has matured. You know that you’re capable of even better results.

Sometimes when I feel that embarrassment creeping up, I have to step back and remind myself that without posting those early design projects online, nobody would have known about my work. Even if I didn’t see the promise at the time, some people who came across those projects did. The people who saw enough promise hired me. When they hired me, it gave me the opportunity to build out my portfolio. With a growing portfolio, I was able to get my first agency jobs. Those jobs gave me the steady footing to take on bigger outside projects I loved which in turn built my portfolio even further. And eventually, all that work allowed me to launch my own boutique design studio. I now realize that it was a very slow domino effect over the course of seven years — each project I shared, no matter how embarrassing now, led to even more opportunities.

If you’re feeling uneasy about your work, always remember that it’s secretly the push you need to get over the next hurdle. If you’re always satisfied, there’s no reason to improve. You’ll settle for exactly where you are now because the urge to try new things that scare you isn’t there. Use that discomfort as motivation.

I still feel that discomfort all too often. I see portfolios of work that are much better than mine. I read blog posts that are brilliantly composed. I see photos every day that make mine look amateurish. And all of this leaves me wanting to improve.

We all have to start somewhere, even if that somewhere feels like a black hole some days. The only way to get out of that black hole is to practice. Practice doesn’t make perfect…but it will make you better. So the next time you feel that embarrassment creeping up, transform it into a positive outcome.


Photo: Made U Look.