Tag Archives: Advice

Creative Chronicles: Show Up and Do the Work

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Show Up and Do the Work

There are classes and courses that promise all sorts of things that will get you ahead but there is no shortcut for simply showing up and doing the work.

Over the weekend, I met a graphic designer named Calypso (best name ever!) for coffee. As we sipped our lattes, the conversation turned to careers.

“How did you get your start?” she said.

“I interned and that led to my first job” was my first response but that was too nice and neat. There’s always a story behind the story and it’s usually full of hard work and years of sacrifice.

The truth is, new skills can be learned by nearly anyone. There’s always going to be someone more skilled than you. So…how do you get ahead in your industry?

1. Arrive on time.

2. Show up and do the work.

3. Be a decent person.

4. Make the lives of the people around you easier.

5. Get the work done, even if you’re having a bad day.

6. Stay late if needed and don’t complain about it.

7. Have a sense of humor.

8. If your job is done, help someone else out.

9. Clean up after yourself.

10. Act like you want to be there.

Rinse and repeat.

I know this all sounds like common sense but it’s easy to forget these little things when you’re in the thick of it and stressed out with looming deadlines. I clearly remember that I was never “the best” at any of the jobs I worked at. Most of the designers around me had a lot more experience. The reason I was still able to get ahead was the exact list above.

I learned something early on: showing up and doing the work and being gracious while making the lives around you easier will take you further than any advanced degree in your industry (which I didn’t have).

The next time you see someone who you internalize as being more talented and skilled than you, remind yourself that’s not all that matters. That’s only part of the equation. Being the best possible version of yourself and showing up and doing the work is the other half. And once you realize that…things seem much easier.

This quote from Chuck Close drives the point home perfectly:

“In life you can be dealt a winning hand of cards and you can find a way to lose, and you can be dealt a losing hand and find a way to win. True in art and true in life: you pretty much make your own destiny. If you are by nature an optimistic person, which I am, that puts you in a better position to be lucky in life.”

Showing up and doing the work isn’t easy but if you’re driven and treat people with kindness along the way, there are so many doors waiting to open for you.

Creative Chronicles: When Your Job Is Uninspiring, How Do You Stay Motivated?

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: When Your Job Is Uninspiring, How Do You Stay Motivated?

An email from a long-time reader just landed in my inbox and I think it’s something we can all relate to. What happens when you feel like your creative spark has dried up and you’re just going through the paces, trying to do your job but nothing feels inspiring?

Her Question

I graduated high school in 2010 and during those years I felt so inspired by every project and was given 100% creative freedom. When I enrolled in college, I learned more structured things about design, how I couldn’t just paste pretty pictures wherever and that it had to have meaning.

Now I’m into my first real job with a real paycheck in marketing. I’ve been here about a year and a half and somehow I feel like all my ambition I once had is gone. I’ve become so used to doing everything how the client wants that most times I no longer feel like a designer but a middle man clicking and dragging things in InDesign.

How can I get that passion back for design I used to have in a job where everything is based on templates or dictated? What are some things I could do outside of work to help? I no longer create much of anything and don’t even draw anymore. How do I overcome the fear of failure when I try to create and it isn’t as good as when I was practicing/using my skills weekly?


My Answer

Let me start off first by saying that this isn’t a permanent feeling. It’s not the end of the world. With a little effort, it can get better.

Secondly, we’ve all been there. Remember, what you see online is only part of someone’s story. Most designers only show the hyper-creative, stylized work they want more of because that’s what makes sense to build their business.

The truth is, most designers have other gigs, some on the side a few hours a week and some full-time that pay the bills. These other gigs allow them the wiggle room to take on the fun, creative jobs that are often lacking the big, juicy budgets while giving them the opportunity to build out their portfolio and attract more of the right kinds of clients.

Quite a few years ago, when the economy was dismal, I took a long-term freelance gig that was mostly production work for sports brands. I loved the people I worked with but the work I produced wasn’t exactly what I was passionate about. Still, I stayed for over a year because that steady paycheck allowed me the freedom to take on freelance jobs I was excited about on the nights and weekends.

Thanks to that job, I was able to set aside extra money to travel and stay inspired. I was able to splurge on beautiful letterpress business cards for my freelance business. I was able to design the branding for a makeup company that had a smaller budget. I was able to pay all my bills on time. So, while the job wasn’t the perfect position I’d dreamed about, it covered my basic needs so I had the luxury to explore the creative side of things on my own time.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: When Your Job Is Uninspiring, How Do You Stay Motivated?

A job is only as uninspiring as you let it be

Yes, you have to listen to your boss and the clients you’re responsible for but you can find ways to still have fun.

At my past jobs, I would often do a version of the design I was told to do but also include a second version of what I thought it could be.

You might not always have the time to do this on quick turns but when you do, flex your creative muscles.

Between projects, I would scroll through Pinterest and look at design and style blogs to get a creative jolt.

There’s a world of inspiration out there and it is also a great reminder that your current position is temporary if you want it to be.

When I felt really uninspired, I would walk to the nearest coffee shop.

A few minutes away from what’s dragging you down can provide much needed clarity.

On really bad days when I felt like I needed to quit immediately, I called my agent, Dan and he gave me pep talks.

Find that one person who can help you keep things in check. Your situation isn’t that bad.

No Job Is Perfect

I’ve gotten hired at places I thought were perfect from the outside and they weren’t. Branch isn’t perfect, either. It’s always easier to think the grass is greener on the other side.

Think of every job you have as a stepping stone. Each place you end up teaches you something new. The jobs you struggle the most at will also teach you the most.

The times where I felt uninspired, exhausted or was driven to the point of tears felt completely unbearable in the moment but I learned a lot about myself, what I was good at and where I fell short. Those moments taught me what I wanted more of in my career and what I should steer away from all costs.

The only way to learn these things is through life experience. It’s not fun…but it makes you stronger and it makes you a better designer.

Your Job Is Not Your Life

Outside of your job, do whatever it takes to get inspired and bring that energy with you to work.

Make friends with other creatives who are driven and motivated. Invite them to classes, events and parties.

Commit to creating a self-initiated project that will keep your skills fresh.

Make time to visit bookstores, museums and coffee shops.

Always carry a camera, even if it’s your iPhone. Pay attention to what you’re drawn to.

Remind yourself that creative slumps are normal. Nobody is “on” all the time.

Being a designer isn’t easy and you’re going to have plenty more ups and downs. But, I think the ups far outweigh anything and you’ve got this under control. Good luck!

Creative Chronicles: 5 Tips For Getting Comfortable With Saying No

Nubby Twiglet: Creative Chronicles: 5 Tips For Getting Comfortable With Saying No

Saying no when it comes to your business seems easy enough, right?

“No” is only two letters…but it can evoke so many loaded responses.

I’ve never had a problem saying no to anything outside of work. If I don’t have the time, if something makes me uncomfortable or if I just need some space, “no” comes very easily. But for some reason, it’s always felt harder when running my own business. There’s a reputation to uphold. It never feels good disappointing people. It’s nice to be helpful. So even when I should say no, I sometimes say yes.

The thing is, your business will have a hard time growing into what you envision if you’re afraid to say no. I know that sounds counter-intuitive so let me explain: If your calendar is full of calls, meetings, projects and events you’re not excited about but agreed to do anyway, you’re going to be completely drained of energy before you even scratch the surface of all the things you feel passionate about.

Saying no is uncomfortable but it’s the only way to keep your sanity intact and more times than not, you can actually turn it into a positive for yourself and the person on the other side.


If you’re tripping up about saying no, remind yourself of these 5 points:

1. It’s not personal. Business is business. If you don’t feel you can truly deliver what someone is asking of you, saying no is going to help both of you in the long run. Hurt feelings are better than missed deadlines and broken contracts.

2. You have to protect your time. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of anyone else. You have an infinite amount of energy, so use it wisely. It’s as simple as that.

3. You know what’s best for you. If something doesn’t feel like the perfect fit, recommend someone who you feel can do an amazing job — saying no can help others around you grow their businesses.

4. Your values are everything. When you say yes when you should say no, you’re compromising what your business stands for. Always choose quality over quantity so you have the space to produce the best possible outcome for your clients.

5. High pressure equals sub-par work. And honestly? Nobody wants that. If timelines and deliverables feel out of your reach, it’s important to be honest. Your clients will respect you for being a professional and setting guidelines.

Saying No Isn’t The End of The Road

Saying no doesn’t have to be abrupt or rude – it should always be done with care and consideration.

When you say no, always offer helpful solutions, referrals or recommendations. Being genuinely helpful will make you memorable for all the right reasons.


Your turn: Are you good at saying no when it comes to your business? Have you been in any tough situations? Do you have any tips to make it easier?

Creative Chronicles: Overcoming the Pull Between Creativity and Criticism

Nubby Twiglet | Overcoming Creative Criticism

Criticism and flat-out meanness stings…and we’ve all been on the receiving end of it.

This topic has been back on my mind a lot lately because I see negativity everywhere. Whether it’s a rude comment left on the video of a Youtuber or a nasty one-liner left on an Instagram post, I cringe because firstly, artistic expression of any kind boils down to personal taste. Secondly, I think about how much confidence it takes to release work for public consumption in the first place, which is so easy to forget.

Maybe all the senseless violence lately has me feeling extra sensitive (2 incidents just happened while I was in Florida last week) but the world needs more compassion and caring. We can each do our own part in spreading positivity and being supportive, no matter how small it may seem.

When I think of sharing, this quote from Taylor Swift comes to mind:

“We don’t need to share the same opinions as others, but we need to be respectful.”

The fear of judgement is real when you’re sharing. I speak from personal experience when I say that praise from people I don’t even know feels like the ultimate adrenaline rush but on the flip side, just one negative comment can tear it all back down.

I’ve written thousands of blog posts, shared tens of thousands of photos and released hundreds of projects and the only reason I mention this is because sometimes I think that over time, it should feel easier to put it all out there. But sometimes, I still feel like retreating.

Part of being human comes with vulnerability and a personal attachment to your work.

The one truth we can all agree on is that as creatives, whether you’re writing your first book, creating a logo for a client, filming a makeup tutorial or putting together a solo art show, it all comes from the same place: your heart.

Not sharing your work and expressing who you are in the short term is easier but in the long term, you’re only hurting yourself.

Nubby Twiglet | Overcoming Creative Criticism

If the fear of rejection is holding you back, always remember:

1. Not everyone will love what you do. It’s as simple as that. A body of work, no matter how brilliant, is never universally loved. Accepting this from the start makes putting yourself out there easier.

2. You are the only person who can produce creative work in your own, unique way. There is power in what you do…so own it fully. Trust yourself.

3. If your work elicits a reaction of any kind, that’s good. Art should do that. Attracting and repelling is necessary, even though it can be uncomfortable.

Sharing your work and who you are on some days feels harder than others. Sometimes I’ll sit on a blog post an extra week because I’m afraid to release the words. There are also times I’m scared that a client will hate everything I’ve just created. But after giving the content space, I always hit publish / share / send because buying into fear is never worth it.

Always remember, you are brilliant in your own unique way and any negativity coming your way usually isn’t even really about you. Remind yourself that you never really know what the person on the other side is going through.

Leave your mark. Keep sharing and keep shining bright. And most importantly, pay it forward and support those around you who are brave enough to put themselves out there.

Positivity drives more positivity and we definitely need more of that in this world right now.

I believe in you.


Photo: Made U Look.

An Inside Look at the First 3 Years Of Running A Creative Business

Nubby Twiglet | An Inside Look at the First 3 Years Of Running A Creative Business

It feels like just yesterday that I started running a creative business full-time….but it’s already been nearly three years! Time flies.

When running a business, beyond the usual ups and downs, I’ve noticed a specific trajectory over the last few years and wanted to talk about that today in the hopes that if you’re thinking of starting a business of your own or in the early stages of running one, you can start imagining what the future will look like. The more you can visualize and plan, the better.

Your first three years in business will probably look like this:

Year 0: The Preparation

Year 1 :Work, Work, Work

Year 2: Attract and Repel

Year 3: Diversify, Baby

Let’s dig in…


Year 0 — The Preparation

This ain’t gonna be easy.

Leading up to starting your own business, you have to prepare. Ideally, six months to a year in advance, you’ll be tallying up your monthly expenses and visualizing what your working environment will look like.

Do you plan on working from home, in a co-working space or in an office that’s all yours? What do your rates need to be like to afford your new lifestyle? How will you find new clients? And….what’s your plan if it takes a few months (or longer) to land that steady stream of clients?

I first started freelancing on the side back in 2006 while still in school. While my side business steadily grew, I began freelancing at agencies and worked a few full-time design jobs in-between to pay the bills.

This went on for years….and looking back, there was no balance in my life whatsoever. To be completely honest, I had no life. I held out way too long because I was afraid of how I would pay my mortgage without a steady gig. I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough clients. I was afraid of what would happen if things slowed down. Fear kept me hanging on by a thread, even though I was completely exhausted.

The tipping point came in the form of a small business class about 6 months before I left my full-time job. Our teacher asked us to write our worst case scenario on a piece of paper if our dream didn’t work out.

As soon as I wrote mine down, I realized it wasn’t as bad as I thought. My plan was to find a corporate gig for a year and then try my dream out again. The writing was on the paper, literally: I had to push the fear of the unknown aside for good because my lack of confidence was holding my dream up.

After that class, I slowly built momentum through trademarking my business name, working on the branding, building a media kit and designing a very basic website.

A few months later, I gave my notice and walked into my new life which was set up in a spare room across from my bedroom. My dream was 5 steps from where I woke up but the best decision I ever made.

Advice: Only prepare as much as you need to….and then go live your dream. Gaining life experience is infinitely more powerful than sitting around and reading about it.


Nubby Twiglet | An Inside Look at the First 3 Years Of Running A Creative Business

Year 1 — Work, Work, Work

Work all day. Work all night.

The first year in business tends to boil down to taking on any and every project you can get your hands on to gain some stability.

When it came to bringing on clients, I definitely went for quantity over quality because I just wanted to keep working and build a cushion. If I wasn’t working, I felt guilty, like a backwards slide was imminent. In this case, the irrational fear wasn’t all bad because it kept motivation strong. But once again, I was exhausted. So many small business owners burn out because they’re afraid to give themselves a break.

The first year went well but in hindsight, I worked way too hard for too little because I was still figuring out what made my business unique and how to actually convey that. Easier said than done, right? Still, I felt relieved making it through and supporting myself. Because man, that first year is scary.

Advice: Don’t overthink things. Do good work for good people, stay true to your ethics and word of mouth will spread. Reliability, honesty and friendliness are everything.


Year 2 — Attract and Repel

Make what you want more of crystal clear.

The first year in business was all about doing the work (and doing a good job) while the second was all about getting clear on who I actually wanted to do work for.

I’d grown Branch just enough to finally feel a sense of stability which led to me signing a lease on an office space. I was on the fence…but my mom convinced me to do it and moms know best. Getting an office changed everything for the better because I felt like I had a home life again.

Even better, having a space to show up to every morning and set up however I wanted created an ideal working atmosphere and the good vibes drew in more clients.

As the business grew, I quickly learned the value of attracting and repelling. There weren’t enough hours in a day to be everything to everyone and I found that path mentally and physically exhausting. Instead of trying, I re-wrote sales copy. Reworked packages. Focused in on creative small businesses. Brought in a design assistant to help out.

The clearer I got on what I wanted the studio to work on and the more effort I put into our portfolio, the better the fit new clients were. It was really as simple as that.

Advice: Figure out who you are, reflect that in the work you produce and share it consistently.


Nubby Twiglet | An Inside Look at the First 3 Years Of Running A Creative Business

Year 3 — Diversify, baby

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Year three for me has been all about diversifying.

By now, you’re going to be more established and have a core client base that appreciates what you do and keeps coming back for more.

While I am super happy with the mix of clients I’m working with, the biggest issue with running a service-based business is that your income is directly limited to what you can produce in a set amount of hours.

A reality check came earlier this year when I ran a report and realized my #1 client was my own product. Project Prescription held the top ranking, even though I spent 90% of my time on client work. Moving forward, my goal is to maintain current client work while slowly diversifying offerings through digital products.

Diversifying in your business is smart because if one area drops off, you’ll still be okay. I’ve learned from some personal experiences that panicking about how you’re going to pay the bills destroys creative mojo in a second flat.

Advice: Find ways to diversify so you can work smarter, not harder.


It’s your turn:

Do you run your own business?
Is it something that you’re interested in doing? Any questions for me?
Let me know in the comments!

Creative Chronicles: Land Your Ideal Job

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Q: I’m reaching out because I feel stuck in my career. When I graduated with a design degree, I was hired by a company that I’ve now been with for  7 years and I’m ready to move on. I have applied for Art Director positions at many companies with no luck so far. It seems like I’m getting a lot of no’s instead of a yes but I don’t believe in giving up so I’m wondering what else I can do. Maybe my portfolio needs a big improvement? I’m willing to do whatever it takes.


A. To this very day, the most common questions that land in my inbox relate to portfolios and landing a job. And trust me — I get it. As a designer, your portfolio is the link to your next big opportunity. Have you ever heard of that saying, “Show, don’t tell?” Well, a portfolio does exactly that. There’s only so much you can say about your accomplishments and the notable clients you’ve worked with. Showing your interviewer actual outcomes is the proof.

Though I’ve written a handful of portfolio-related articles in the past, today’s is a little different since the writer isn’t a freshly graduating student but someone with years of professional experience looking to transition out of her current role and into a new company.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Without ado, here are 10 pieces of advice to succeed when you’re prepping for an interview for a design position:

1. Show relevant work

This is a big one. Think about the company and the industry it is in. What types of projects do you have in your arsenal that would be a good fit? Once you’ve been working professionally for a few years, chances are that you’ve weeded out most of your school projects and have a mix of both corporate and smaller freelance projects to share. Remember that your interviewers have a limited amount of time and usually, there’s no need to share more than 6 to 10 projects. So, how can you make the most impact?

When I was looking for a full-time job a few years back before starting Branch, my previous position had been mostly production work but I was interviewing for a spot on a brand team. Because of this, I left most of the work from my previous employer out and showed mostly branding projects I’d personally completed with freelance clients since these were more relevant. If you do have a project you’re proud of and want to include but it’s not super relevant to the position, just make sure you have a really good story to go with it!

2. Self-initiated projects are fair game

I know how hard it can be getting the right types of projects you want during the first few years of your career. If you don’t feel that you have the ideal mix to share with a potential employer, that’s totally fair. I felt that way for a long time, too but the easiest way around that is to create a project or two for your ideal fantasy client.

This isn’t misleading as long as you’re clear that it’s self-initiated and if anything, it’s a strength to be able to show that you took the initiative to complete a large-scale project on your own time…and finished it! My brother interviewed at Nike years ago and though he didn’t have a lot of work that tied into the job he wanted at the time, he designed his own dream shoe and included it at the end of his portfolio. He got the job!

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

4. Keep descriptions short and sweet

For the most part, designers have a harder time writing than they do putting together visuals and oh boy, do I get stuck when describing my own projects and the outcome! The thing to remember is that you really don’t need more than 3 sentences max to get your point across. If you’re struggling big time with getting to the point and keeping your descriptions short and snappy, I’d recommend hiring a copywriter. It’s worth its weight in gold to have a second set of eyes that can tighten up your writing.

5. Do your homework

When I think back to the best interviews I ever had, yes, my portfolio mattered, but equally important was having a personal connection to the company through a story I could share. When I interviewed for my first-ever design job, I was familiar with the studio’s work and style because I’d attended many of their art openings and parties so it was easy to make them feel like I already fit in.

Be friendly, sign up to newsletters and follow your dream company on social media. The more integrated into their world you are before the interview, the easier it will be to make a great impression. My current employee, Samantha had been following this blog and knew about key Branch projects I’d shared on social media so when she interviewed with me last year, I felt like she was already familiar with our culture and shared common interests. I hired her by the end of our interview because she felt like the perfect fit — I could sense that her integration would be seamless.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

6. Conduct market research

This is one of my favorite pastimes! Some people would call this stalking (ha!) but hey, I look at it a little differently —everything you need to know about a company is already out there. Take some time to read through your potential employer’s website, scan their social media accounts and get familiar with some of their notable projects and accolades. What are they most proud of? If they list employees on their website, get a feel for the kinds of work they personally produce. Look at as many portfolios as possible to find ways you can improve — because I have news for you — your portfolio is never really done! Preparation is key for any interview and the more you know, the better chance you have for sealing the deal.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

7. Mock it up

One thing I’ve learned from redoing my own portfolio dozens of times is that the work you show can always be presented better. There’s always room for improvement and a lot of that has to do with mockups. I am a big fan of mockups because I don’t always have hard copies of printed materials from projects (90% of Branch clients are remote) and also, I don’t have pro-level photo equipment to consistently capture the work I do have on-hand. Mocking up your work allows you to present your ideal scenario of the outcome of a project and create a level of consistency with backgrounds and lighting.

If you need some fantastic, free mockups to get started, I highly recommend Graphic Burger. And, if you have a bit more of a budget and need very specific items, give Pixeden a try.

8. Simple is best

I know it’s hard to avoid because as designers, we’re naturally overachievers, obsessing over the tiniest details to built the best portfolio ever but perfectionism can also paralyze you. When in doubt, keep things simple. White space speaks volumes about your confidence as a designer. Allowing your work to breathe instead of overwhelm is key. Let your crisp, concise visuals and short and sweet descriptions placed on white backgrounds do the talking.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

9. Always send a thank you

If you truly want the job, always follow up the same day with a short but specific thank you message. While actual thank you cards are nice, it’s important to be immediate with this step so I’d recommend an email. Reiterate that you appreciate the interviewer taking time out of their busy schedule to meet with you, include one specific fact about the company that stood out in the interview (it shows that you care AND that you were paying attention!) and finally, let them know you think you’re the ideal fit and are ready for the next steps. You can definitely be forward and confident without coming across as pushy.

10. In the meantime, gain experience

If your dream job doesn’t pan out right away, that’s okay. I know it’s easy to say that but I speak from experience. In 2009, I interviewed at a studio I’d always wanted to work at. While the interview went well, they didn’t feel that I had enough experience. I’d only been out of school for a year and while I showed potential, they needed a more senior-level designer. Instead of getting upset, I threw myself into freelancing at every studio I possibly could.

In 2012, an unexpected email landed in my inbox from that same company. What I thought was a quick informational interview morphed into a meeting with the owner and by that night, I had an offer letter in-hand. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. I was able to jump in with both feet and all that additional experience I’d gained was priceless.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Playing the waiting game is hard and building out a portfolio is a monumental task but all that preparation eventually pays off. You’ve got this — sometimes it just takes awhile to get what you want.

If hunting for a design job is something that interests you but you need a boost, I’m working with career strategist Ellen Fondiler and digital product mastermind Paul Jarvis to create Future So Bright, a new course dedicated to helping designers find their dream jobs. The best part is, this course will have a digital portfolio and resume template included. We’re launching later this Summer and I can’t wait to share more!

In the meantime, let me know if you have any portfolio questions in the comments. Always happy to help!


Featured work: We Are Branch.

Creative Chronicles: The Battle for Quality Over Quantity

10

Today I want to talk about something we face constantly as designers in a fast-paced world: making the choice between quality and quantity.

Every single week, I get inquiries from potential new clients who need something done right away. More like yesterday. And trust me, I get the urgency. The online world is evolving fast and small businesses are doing everything they can to stay ahead of the curve. Updated branding, marketing materials and websites help project the right image. The sooner they can implement updates, the sooner they can potentially book up and sell more.

Even though I get it (I run small businesses myself), I won’t bend my processes or timelines to make it happen. In this world, being the cheapest and / or fastest is a race to the bottom because there’s always someone who can slice margins even thinner. It’s best not to compete on those principles. A few sloppy jobs to appease clients or make a quick buck will do nothing for your image and hurt your bottom line in the long run.

What you do have is the quality of work you put into the world, your ethics, your process, your unbeatable customer service and your personal story. Use these things to convey your worth instead.

Hold Your Ground

Breaking processes and bending ethics to make a quick buck is never a good idea. Things will go bad. Every time I have made an exception, I’ve learned the lesson again. It’s painful when you end up with a disappointed client and it’s your fault because you caved.

A few weeks ago, I was on a call with a client I really wanted to work with and after explaining my branding process, they mentioned they’d already done most of the steps before with another designer. Couldn’t we just skip ahead and use that content, they wondered?

While I explained that it would be helpful to see what they had, we still needed to go through my process in order to get the best results. We’re now a few steps into my process and making some major tweaks to the outcome of their new branding based on things I learned from their questionnaire and pins that weren’t immediately obvious during our original call. If I’d skipped the steps, we would be at a much different outcome (and not necessarily a happy one).

Red Flags

If you’ve explained your process and why it works but a potential customer is adamant that you change it for them, it’s usually a red flag that they’re not an ideal fit. And that’s totally okay — keep a list of referrals on hand for these situations so they can find a better suited partner.

Always remember that you’re a professional. You’ve done this before. There’s a reason for why you do what you do. You have the proven results to back it up. For a project to run smoothly, there has to be a level of mutual respect and a process in place.

I know how tempting it can be to stack on more work, bend your ethics and skip steps in processes to make more money but is it worth it? Does it make you feel good? That’s the only answer you need.

Quality over quantity, always.

P.S. If you need some help with your client process, I created Project Prescription with Paul Jarvis to make it easier.


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