Tag Archives: Advice

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.

Creative Chronicles #4: 6 Must-Have Documents To Automate Your Creative Process

Nubby Twiglet | 6 Must-Have Documents To Automate Your Creative Process

As a designer, you probably spend a lot of time tweaking your externally-facing brand: your website, portfolio and social media all play a huge role in getting the word out about your business.

It’s easy to get caught up in all the touch points that the public sees because that’s what they’re judging you on. In a digital world where you don’t have the ability to meet in person, image is everything. If your brand looks like a hot mess, potential clients will probably pass you up for someone who looks like they have their shit together.

With all this focus on the external, it’s easy to put off the internal, client-facing stuff since it’s only seen by a handful of folks at any given time. But, what happens behind the scenes is potentially more important since this is what paying clients interact with. And remember, it’s always easier to keep your current clients than find new ones so providing them with a seamless experience should be at the top of your list.

When you’re working with clients, the obvious way to stand out is to provide fantastic customer service but beyond that, the next piece of the puzzle is having a streamlined process and beautifully designed documents that make them feel at ease.

Nubby Twiglet | 6 Must-Have Documents To Automate Your Creative Process

Nubby Twiglet | 6 Must-Have Documents To Automate Your Creative Process

Nubby Twiglet | 6 Must-Have Documents To Automate Your Creative Process

Nubby Twiglet | 6 Must-Have Documents To Automate Your Creative Process

I’ve been thinking a lot about documents and processes lately because I know all too well what it’s like when you launch a creative business. You’re so busy just getting a website live and booking out enough clients to keep it afloat that everything else that’s not as of-the-moment falls to the bottom of the to-do list.

Why is all this effort spent on the behind the scenes stuff so important?

Think of it this way: if a client books your most expensive package and then, over the course of the next few months receives documents and presentations that have a similar look and sense of order, they’ll feel at ease. In turn, you’ll come across as a total pro.

My goal with running a design studio has always been to let documents do the heavy lifting for me. I use a bundle of them to keep things running smoothly while cutting back on questions and confusion. Remember, you may be the first creative professional your clients have ever worked with — these documents are the tools that inform them of everything they need to know.


Here’s what I’ve implemented and the order I use my documents:

1. Media Kit — This document informs clients of packages and how we can work together. Read more about media kits here.

2. Estimate — Once we’ve discussed a client’s specific needs, they receive an official estimate.

3. Proposal — Once they’re ready to book in, they receive a proposal which includes the finalized estimate, timelines and a contract.

4. Invoice — The proposal is sent along with a deposit invoice.

5. Process Documents — Once the job begins, there are a series of numbered documents they receive throughout our time together including an overview of the steps we take to ensure a great outcome, a questionnaire and a Pinterest how-to.

6. Presentation — All design concepts are sent in a branded presentation template.

Having a bunch of documents on hand might seem a bit overwhelming at first but once you’ve used them a few times, the process starts to feel like second nature. You can even go a step further and have form emails typed up for each step of the process so you just attach the document and hit send. Automation means that you get your job done faster and your clients interact with a well-defined process that’s been proven to deliver fantastic results.

If all this talk of documents is making your head spin, don’t fret. I was once in your spot and only figured out what documents worked for my business through many years of trial and error. To make things trickier, every studio I worked at had a completely different process. Over time, I threw out things that didn’t work for me and added in new ideas based on chats with fellow creatives.

If documents aren’t your strong suit and you’d prefer to get back to work on the creative side of things, I feel you. Completely. In early 2016, I’m partnering up with my friend Paul Jarvis to launch an affordable, easy solution that will help you streamline the process of your creative business called Project Prescription. Knowledge is power and making the business side of things easier for creatives is something that I’m excited to share with you.

Remember, creating processes for your business is just as important as the work you do. Keep refining and keep thinking about what you can do to make your clients’ time with you as painless as possible. That ease will turn them into repeat customers.

For even more Creative Chronicles, please click here.
Featured documents: We Are Branch.

Creative Chronicles #3: Making Time To Do The Work Plus 5 Tips For Staying Accountable


“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” —Earl Nightingale

Nothing happens by accident. If you want to work on your dream project, you have to make the time. If you’re ready to counter with, “I just don’t have the time!,” then it’s simply a matter of priorities.

I get asked all the time how I manage to get so much done and I’ve been a bit afraid to tackle this question because the truth is, I don’t have all the answers. All I can say is that if something is important enough to you, you will find a way.

As you carve out time to reach your goals, there will be plenty of downers along the way. You might have to give up a few things like your favorite TV shows. I unplugged my TV a year ago when I remodeled my room and have purposely left it that way. Sorry, Dr. Phil! Hear me out, though. If what you wanted was easy to achieve, everyone would be doing it.

And with that, after close to a decade of being a designer and blogger (both of which are extremely time consuming!), I’ve developed a few techniques to squeeze the most out of my days. Here we go…


5 Tips For Staying Accountable

1. Treat yourself as a client. Set aside chunks of time and write clear cut deadlines. You may have to get up an hour earlier every day, stay up later or spend your Sunday inside but this is the only way that you’ll see visible results. I’ve been working on four new digital offerings that are launching in 2016 and even though these are internal projects, I schedule calls and deadlines on my calendar just as I would any client project. If the week is too hectic, I push these projects to the weekend and complete them then. Time for your personal projects should be non-negotiable.

2. Write out a daily list. More importantly, add time limits next to each item. You’re on the clock for yourself. If you don’t set limits, you’ll take 5 times as long to get something done. Write down everything, including an allotted amount of time for social media. It’s true that a task will take as much time as you give it. If you have an hour to blog before work, then you’ll find a way to push that post live in time.

3. Keep a weekly calendar. If you can only see a day at a time, it’s more likely that you’ll over schedule yourself but having the full week in front of you makes it clear where you have open chunks of time. I personally write everything out on these Kikki K planner pads (how old school!) because seeing the list in front of me and crossing out each item keeps me accountable at all times.

4. Start with a few easy wins to build momentum. I know this is counterintuitive to what a lot of the experts say but I like a bit of a warm-up to a busy day. Crossing a few things off my list right away makes me feel accomplished and gets me excited to continue on to the bigger, harder items.

5. Define what your to-do list is helping you accomplish. This is a bit abstract but just hear me out. Think hard for a second: what is your big picture goal? Is your to-do list helping you to eventually leave your full-time job and work for yourself? Is it helping you become more fit by exercising regularly? Is it helping you earn extra income by completing client work? Once you know the answer, it’s easier to give it your all.


There you go. My 5 tips aren’t groundbreaking…but they work for me. The bottom line is that to work hard and get shit done, you have to determine what motivates you. Because really, motivation is EVERYTHING. Are you motivated to buy a new pair of shoes? Advance your career? Leave corporate America? Earn some extra money to take a swanky vacation? My motivation every day is to take great care of my clients, grow my business so that I have more stability, to carve out enough time to develop digital products so I can work less and spend more time with my family, and finally, to continually draw in my dream tribe of clients so that work feels fun and inspiring for everyone involved.

That’s a lot….but it’s what keeps me going, even on weekends when I’m sitting in my office scrolling through Instagram, feeling a severe case of #FOMO creeping in.

I’ve learned that if you can figure out what you’re working towards, the work you put in becomes worth it instead of feeling like a chore.

Okay, now it’s your turn: what are your tricks for making sure you have time to do the work?

For even more Creative Chronicles, please click here.
Photos: Erika Astrid.

Creative Chronicles #2: 5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Media Kit

Nubby Twiglet | 5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Media Kit

Do you offer services or advertising in your business model?

If you answered yes, then you should probably have a media kit.

The term media kit has been around for a long time but the truth is, I didn’t really understand what it meant until 2007 when a client with a print magazine approached me, asking me to design one. They sold advertising spots and needed to convey to companies why they were worth the investment.

To get me started, they sent over a bundle of media kits they’d gathered, mostly for large print publications. As I dug in and started researching the format, I began to realize that although they targeted completely different audiences, the content was basically the same.

Nubby Twiglet | 5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Media Kit

They all contained some form of the following:

1. Branded front cover
2. Intro / mission statement
3. Stats and / or notable accomplishments
4. Notable clients
5. Services offered
6. Rates
7. Process / how to book
8. Testimonials
9. Frequently asked questions
10. Contact info

I got to work and once the project was finished, added it to my portfolio. Soon, all sorts of businesses were booking me in for media kits. Bloggers, photographers and creative entrepreneurs from all walks of life realized that they could take that basic format and tweak it to sell their ads, sponsored content and services.

Over the last eight years, I’ve designed a few dozen media kits, including plenty for myself. And, that’s what we’re going to chat about today: how creatives can leverage media kits to grow their own businesses.

As soon as I launched Branch two years ago, the first thing I did was design a media kit and it’s become my most important selling tool. Why? Because when you’re dealing with a potentially worldwide audience, it’s not always possible to be there in person to sell in your services. A media kit is able to do that for you.

Nubby Twiglet | 5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Media Kit

Nubby Twiglet | 5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Media Kit

Here’s the process of sending out a media kit:

1. A potential client contacts Branch.

2. Within 48 hours, our project manager responds with an introduction and attaches a PDF media kit to the email.

3. The client follows up with which package they’re interested in and we set up a call to discuss their specific needs.

The media kit is a great tool because it essentially gives them all the information they could possibly need in one easy to navigate document while often cutting our correspondence time in half because it’s already answered most of their questions.

Nubby Twiglet | 5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Media Kit

Nubby Twiglet | 5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Media Kit

Five reasons why you should have a media kit

1. It does the talking for your business when you’re not able to meet in person. This is especially important for those of us who have businesses with an online following.

2. It explains packages, processes and rates in more detail. Some of this information is very in-depth or sensitive and it’s easier to format it in a nice document versus clogging up your website.

3. It builds a dialogue. If a potential client emails you for a media kit and then drops off, you can follow up to find out if they have everything they need and if the rates work for their budget. From there, you can work to meet their needs.

4. It’s easier to sell larger offerings. By showcasing a menu of services / packages, clients can compare pricing and what they receive much easier because the value is clear. For instance, instead of a logo, they may decide to invest in a brand platform when they understand the benefits.

5. It shows you care. By laying out the information a potential client needs and thinking of all the answers before they even ask a question, a media kit positions you as a pro and makes it clear that you’re invested in the best possible outcome of their project.

Nubby Twiglet | 5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Media Kit

Nubby Twiglet | 5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Media Kit

As a reminder, media kits can be formatted to market nearly any business. Whether you’re a blogger, writer, photographer or designer, a media kit is simply a way to explain what you offer in a streamlined, informative document. The easier you can make it for your clients to understand what you’re offering and how to book you, the more successful your business has the potential to be.

I hope this post has demystified the content and process of media kits a bit more and if you have any further questions, please feel free to ask me in the comments!

For even more Creative Chronicles, please click here.
Featured media kit: We Are Branch.

Creative Chronicles #1: Dealing With Negative Feedback and 6 Tips To Overcome Self-Doubt

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles

If you want to grow your audience and clientele, you have to get comfortable with sharing your work. The more work you share, the more likely you’ll get hired for future projects. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. Have you ever been afraid to share an outcome? Me, too.

I remember project critiques in college well. We sat around in a semi-circle with our freshly printed work taped to a wall. I was never self-conscious about sharing my work in this closed environment because I knew I’d given it my best shot and my class was super tight-knit, with maybe 20 students.

Early on in critiques, I began to notice something: a positive comment would elicit more positivity. The more someone raved about a particular design solution, the more the rest of the class would chime in because they began to see the same thing. Positivity bred positivity.

And, when something didn’t quite work with a composition and someone was brave enough to point it out, the same thing happened but in reverse: constructive criticism, while good natured, often opened the floodgates for negative feedback.

Being a creative, whether you’re a writer, fine artist, designer or photographer, requires a really thick skin. Whether your project is self-initiated or paid work for a corporate client, each is a piece of your soul that you’re bravely standing up and sharing.

I’ve been sharing my design work online for over a decade now and luckily when I started, I had a nearly non-existent audience and social media wasn’t really around yet. There was no pressure since nobody was watching, which I now see as a huge benefit. What started out with fooling around with a digital camera and Photoshop brushes in 2003 led to me enrolling in a design program in 2006. While I sometimes cringe when I come across that early work, I’m still proud of it. It shows an evolution and with each project, I learned something new.

A decade after sharing those early projects (which elicited a mix of good and bad feedback, I might add) I run a thriving design studio. Even today, while some of the projects I share produce a ton of leads, others, even though I’ve given them the same care and effort, fall flat. Not everything you produce is going to be a winner but what matters most is that both you and your client feel great about the outcome. Everything else is just icing on the cake.

Dealing With Negative Feedback and 6 Tips To Overcome Self-Doubt

If you’ve ever gotten negative feedback, it can be hard to stomach sharing more work but I want to encourage you to keep going.

Here are 6 tips to overcome self doubt and get back out there:

1. Practice, practice, practice.

Your first piece of work will never be your best. And, that’s just more of an incentive to keep trying new things and evolving. Always date the work you create (if it’s digital, add it to the file name) and look back at it on a yearly basis. It’s amazing how much you can grow when you devote yourself to your craft every single day, even if it means setting aside 15 minutes on your lunch break. Get those 10,000 hours in! And, if someone starts digging in and criticizing you, ask yourself: have they dedicated themselves to 10,000 hours of anything? Probably not. Then, get back to work!

2. It’s easier to criticize than create.

By sharing your work, you’re being brave and you deserve credit just for that alone. While you might have spent days, weeks or even months producing a piece you’re proud of, it only takes someone 10 seconds to leave you a nasty comment. How does that really measure up? If you let negativity silence you, it’s only going to hurt your career and prove the negative commenters right. Instead, use it fuel to push yourself to create even more amazing work.

3. Develop a support system.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been sharing your work — negative feedback can still really sting. That’s why it’s important to develop a network of close friends and industry peers that believe in what you’re doing. I have a few friends I reach out to when self-doubt starts to creep in. Sometimes, all it takes is a shift in perspective. Instead of wallowing in sorrow and beating yourself up, reach out — the sooner you do, the sooner you can move onto creating your next piece.

4. For every hater, there’s a lover.

Truly great work doesn’t elicit a “meh” reaction. It attracts and repels in equal measures. Think about creatives from all walks of life including Damien Hirst, Marilyn Manson and Robert Mapplethorpe. People have strong reactions about all of them.

5. Know that you did your best.

If you feel that you’ve given a project your best shot, then why does the negative feedback even matter? Remember that people don’t always know what’s going on behind the scenes. There’s a story beneath the surface of the work they’re viewing. Deadlines, client feedback, process sketches, meetings, piles of revisions….these all play into the completed piece. You have to remember that a reaction is often tied to a quick glance at the outcome. You know what you put into a project and take solace in knowing that you gave it your all.

6. Separate constructive criticism from meanness.

This is a tough one but often, there’s a kernel of truth even in negative feedback. It’s not always apparent when it’s laced with venom but if you set it aside for a few days and let your emotions die down, you can often improve upon your original project. Of course, there’s a big difference between being downright mean and offering constructive criticism. Some of the best feedback I’ve ever gotten was from my creative directors at the studios I worked at based on mistakes I’d made — to this day, I still use it when I’m working through a project. Is the type on my business card designs at least 6 points? Is the body copy on my page layout easy to read? Did I print out my work and proof it before sending it off? Find people you trust to weigh in — that feedback can take a project from good to great, before you release it.

It’s your turn! Do you have any tips of your own for handling negative feedback?

15 Tips To Rock Your Stay at Designer Vaca!

Nubby Twiglet | 15 Tips To Rock Your Stay at Designer Vaca!

Four years ago, an email landed in my inbox for a new retreat, Designer Vaca. Held annually in Palm Springs, the all female gathering for creatives quickly grew from a group of 25 to close to 200 attendees. Every year, though very different from the last, has held one central theme: openness. No matter how many ladies attend, a sense of friendliness and a willingness to share stories and ideas resonates and that’s what keeps me coming back.

I talk about Designer Vaca a lot because it really shifted my career by giving me the confidence to drop all outside gigs and trust that I could be my own boss. I went from being scared shitless the first year to having my own studio the second. Meeting other women doing the exact same thing made me feel less alone. It also provided me with a strong support network — ladies I’d only knew online became close friends and that makes all the difference when you’re working for yourself, unsure of what each day holds.

Showing up to Designer Vaca has taught me a lot and if you’re considering attending, I wanted to share some tips to make your time there as smooth as possible:

1. Register Fast

When tickets go on sale, things get crazy and they are usually completely sold out in 1 to 2 days. Even if you’re on the fence about attending, just buy the damn ticket! Worst case scenario is that you can always sell it to a friend or offer it up in the private Facebook group. Sign up to the mailing list to be the first to find out when registration re-opens.

2. Stay Late

The retreat flies by and it can be a little overwhelming networking when you’re still trying to get your bearings. Whenever I’ve left as soon as the retreat was over, I’ve regretted it big time. An extra day or two allows you to get to know more ladies on a deeper level without the set schedule — it’s the perfect time to hang out by the pool or go on group trips to Joshua Tree and Salvation Mountain. Your post-retreat time is sacred. It’s the ideal time to discover, explore and most importantly, relax!

3. Fly Into LA

Palm Springs has a teeny, tiny airport that’s quite expensive to fly into. The most cost efficient way to get to the retreat is to fly into LA and then drive to Palm Springs. Depending on traffic, it’s about two hours from LAX. And, there’s plenty of fun stuff to see on the way like the Cabazon Dinosaurs!

4. Carpool

Tons of the girls attending Designer Vaca are California natives and have extra room in their cars. If you can get to LAX, chances are that you can hitch a ride to the retreat! My friend Pam carpooled this year and had the time of her life with a group of ladies in a rented yellow Camaro. Once you register, you’ll automatically be added to the private Designer Vaca Facebook group and you can hook up with a carpool in there.

5. Pair Up With Roomies

Whether you’re trying to save some money or just want to make some new friends, partnering up with roommates is a great option. Between hitting the talks, dinners and pool, the time you spend in your room is so little, anyway! To find roommates, join the Facebook group.

6. Hot Tub After Hours

This is a big one! Everyone is always exhausted from traveling but the real magic happens at night in the hot tub. I always have the most memorable conversations (from Burning Man to weird celebrity trivia, all bases are covered) and though I’m tired the next day, it’s nothing a strong cup of coffee can’t cure.

7. Focus on Quality Over Quantity

With 100+ women to see and meet, it can be difficult to even scratch the surface. When our group was just 25 ladies, I walked away knowing everyone on a more personal level. But with the growth, it’s just impossible to meet everyone. Instead, I’ve started messaging ladies on Instagram that I really want to meet and then letting the rest of my interactions happen naturally. This year, I made so many new friends just by joining different groups and eating lunch by the Ace pool.

8. Pack Business Cards

I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it again: BUSINESS CARDS ARE NOT DEAD! Some of the interactions you’ll have are in packed, loud rooms. It’s impossible to understand your contact information when you’re shouting it out — save everyone the trouble and hand out cards. Since this is a design-focused retreat, it’s also the perfect opportunity to show off your skills. A lot of the girls Instagram the cards they’ve gotten afterwards so once again, it’s a great marketing opportunity. Based on the cards I gathered this year, most of us are using Moo Luxe.

9. Be Fearless

This year, I read so many Instagram updates from new ladies who were very open about how nervous they were to attend Designer Vaca. Whenever you attend something new, that’s totally normal! Nerves kick in, you wonder if you’re too old or too young, you wonder if your website looks good enough and if your outfits are cute enough. Seriously, throw all that out the window. I felt that exact same way the first year and within a day, I was over it. Don’t waste your time or energy second-guessing yourself. Instead, use that energy to go out of your way to make someone else feel welcome. If you see a lady standing by herself on opening night, say hello. This is not the time to be shy — everyone is there to network!

10. Use The Photo Booth

Every year, I drag all my friends into the Ace Hotel photo booth and every time, I’m so thankful that I have those memories. Swipe that card a few times — the photo strips are perfect for your inspiration board back home. Even better, scan the strip and email it to everyone in it. I did that the first year and it definitely made me more memorable to my new friends.

11. Rise Early

The sunrises in Palm Springs are some of the best in the world. There’s nothing quite like being in the desert…so don’t miss out! Also, the main restaurant at the Ace, King’s Highway, gets packed in the mornings before we head to the 10 a.m. talks. Getting food, let alone the check can take forever. Get a move on it and beat the crowds.

12. Keep It Casual

While it’s nice to dress up on opening night (the atmosphere is like a casual cocktail party), the rest of the time is super laid back. Most of our time is spent attending talks or lounging by the pool so keep it simple. Just don’t forget to pack a swimsuit, sunscreen and sunglasses!

13. Leave The Compound

While staying at the Ace is fun, Palm Springs is full of amazing hotels, restaurants and sights. My favorite places to eat are Las Casuelas for Mexican and Lulu’s California Bistro for a bit of everything — this is a total crowd pleaser, no matter what your dietary restrictions are. I also like The Avalon for poolside drinks, Birba for pizza and Cheeky’s for brunch.

14. Chill Out

Designer Vaca is fantastic for networking but at the end of the day, don’t forget to relax. There’s nothing worse than leaving a vacation feeling totally exhausted! The scheduling at the retreat is purposely minimal so you have time to hang out, get some sun and recharge. Let things happen naturally — there’s no race to the finish line!

Nubby Twiglet | 15 Tips To Rock Your Stay at Designer Vaca!

15. Be Yourself

There’s no reason to put on a show — everyone who’s new to the group feels just as self-conscious and as worried as you. Vulnerability is encouraged — the more open you are, the more likely you’ll draw in your ideal tribe of new friends. During Designer Vaca, I’ve seen tears shed and we’ve all confessed moments of complete failure. These are the stories that bring us together because we are all human. We all have ups and downs. If you want to connect on a deeper level, you have to be willing to open up. The support system I’ve gotten from these ladies is unreal.

I hope these tips help you have an amazing time at Designer Vaca. And if you have any questions, let me know in the comments below!

Strengthen Your Presentation and Charge More For Your Work: My Top 5 Portfolio Tips

Nubby Twiglet | 5 Portfolio Tips

Portfolios are like all great things in life: on the surface, they tend to look effortless but behind that facade is a ton of blood, sweat and self doubt.

I’m no stranger to portfolios. My first one was pieced together back in 2006 inside a cheap, borrowed vinyl cover full of thin, plastic sheets. Even with its lack of prestige, it helped me land my first design internship. From there, I refined the look, invested more money into assets and eventually, translated my print book over to digital.

With nearly 10 years of creating portfolios behind me, you would think it gets easier but the same sticking points always pop up. Creating a portfolio is pressure-packed because it’s a culmination of your entire career sandwiched into a handful of projects. And that, my friends, is no easy task!

Nubby Twiglet | 5 Portfolio Tips

As I’ve been reworking my own portfolio this month, I wanted to share my top 5 tips to make your process easier:

1. Focus on quality over quantity

It doesn’t matter how prestigious the client is if you don’t feel strongly connected to the work. Bottom line: if you don’t want more of it, don’t share it. I’ve completed projects for the NBA, NFL, Forever 21, Foot Locker, Virgin Records and Adidas but the aesthetic no longer fits my current style of work so I’ve chosen to leave them out.

Tightening up your portfolio and focusing on only your absolute best work can be scary because you’ll have less work to show. That’s okay! Always remember: you don’t need to be everything to everyone. With this fine-tuned approach, you may get less inquiries but the ones that do come in will be more solid and lucrative.

As a side note, If you’ve done work for big name companies but don’t want to share the outcome due to a nondisclosure agreement or it just not being your style, the solution is to add them to a list of clients you’ve worked with on your website. That way, you still get the recognition.

Nubby Twiglet | 5 Portfolio Tips

2. Tell a story through your order

What kind of story are you trying to communicate with your body of work? When you’re arranging projects in your portfolio, there needs to be a beginning, middle and end.

The golden rule is to always start and end with your strongest projects. These are the bookends of your portfolio that make you memorable. In between, this is your opportunity to tell more of your story but make sure to mix it up! If you have two strong projects from the same genre, don’t put them next to each other because then it then becomes a comparison game to the viewer. “Oh, the last one was WAY better.”

When I’m deep in the zone of arranging, I’m thinking about the following: genre, services offered, masculine vs. feminine styling and the color story. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to arrange your projects but you should have a reason behind the order.

3. Include brief but powerful descriptions

While a picture is worth a thousand words, it’s important to frame up each project with a brief backstory. A few sentences is plenty. And, if writing isn’t your strong point, it’s totally okay to hire a copywriter to polish up your ideas. Portfolios are a direct gateway to your next job so spelling and composition must be spot-on.

To get you started, a basic project description usually includes this three part format:

1. Title: client / project name, date completed

2. Subtitle: services offered

3. Description: explain how you helped them achieve their desired outcome

Nubby Twiglet | 5 Portfolio Tips

4. Mock it up

If your client only had a budget for a brand identity but it’s one of your best pieces of work, show its full potential with mockups. While people viewing your portfolio do care about your actual work, they also want to see the bigger potential of transformation. They want to be moved and inspired enough to hire you.

A logo on its own doesn’t express its full breadth but when mocked up on business cards, websites and products, it becomes larger than life. My favorite sources for mockups these days are Pixeden and Creative Market.

Nubby Twiglet | 5 Portfolio Tips

5. Specialize, specialize, specialize

A truly great portfolio attracts and repels in equal measures. Stand your ground and be confident in what you want more of. The immediate effect of being confident and selective is that you can position yourself as an expert in certain areas instead of being a jack of all trades. And by doing this, over time you’ll be able to charge more for your services.

These days, I want more lifestyle, beauty, food and fashion brands so that’s nearly all I show. It’s amazing, too — once I elevated the two beauty brands I’ve worked with in my portfolio, larger beauty offers began rolling in.

Saying no isn’t easy but drawing a line in the sand will allow you to have more time to focus on the projects you truly love.

Portfolios are a constant work in progress but it feels good to know that what you’re showing is your best possible presentation.

If you still have questions about your portfolio, let me know in the comments!

Featured projects: Aroha Silhouettes, Kay Li, Brand New Ways, Shien Cosmetics and Olivine Atelier.