Tag Archives: Advice

Creative Chronicles: Managing Negative Client Feedback

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Managing Negative Client Feedback

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Lending a sympathetic ear goes a long way.

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

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

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

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

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

5. You can’t be everything to everyone.

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

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


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

Creative Chronicles: Make The Time

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Make The Time For Creativity

How’s the new year treating you so far?

This year, I’m thinking beyond career goals because while those are great, it’s important to nurture personal interests as well.

A personal goal of mine is to get better at photography. I have no interest in doing it professionally but for as many photos as I share both here and on Instagram, I want to make my content the best it can be.

My dirty little secret is that even though I’ve been carrying a camera with me on a near-daily basis for the last 20+ years (I was always the person in school who took photos of all my friends and got doubles printed at the 1 hour developer to hand out), my process was very point-and-shoot. Capturing moments was more important than mastering the specific settings — and my camera was always set to auto.

Finally, on Saturday I blocked out an entire day to shoot new photos for Branch. I’ve never taken a full day off before to take photos — everything was always rushed. We had an ice storm and the sun was setting quickly. I had a few more flat lays to shoot but the lighting was overcast and shadowy. In desperation, I turned the camera settings to manual, adjusted the ISO and in that minute of fiddling, my photos got infinitely better.

The settings weren’t even that difficult to master — I’d just never given myself the time to explore them.

It’s a bit embarrassing to realize it took so little to make such a big improvement.

My suggestion for you is to think about what you want to master this year….and then actually give yourself the time to do it. No rushing. No set outcomes. Just pure exploration.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: not everything you do needs to have an outcome tied to business growth / money growth / more followers. Creativity, whether it’s nurturing your photography, art, design or writing can be done solely to fuel your soul, no audience necessary.

I’ve found that when you let up and remove the pressure, the outcome is so much better.

What’s your creative goal for 2017?

Give Yourself Time To Just…Be.

Nubby Twiglet | Give Yourself Time To Just…Be.

As the year winds down, things can feel extra stressful.

There are parties to attend, decorations to put up, gifts to buy….and very little time to just be.

Over the last few months, I’ve been working on transitions in my business and pushing myself way too hard. And, the only person I have to blame is myself. Nobody is pushing me to be bigger and better and nobody is pushing you. Only you have the have the power to give yourself a break.

Over the weekend, I was at an apartment party in New York. Pretty soon, I looked at my phone and it was 3 am. And, you know what? As I looked around a living room crammed with 50 dancing people, not a single person had asked me for my Instagram handle, handed me a business card or pushed what they did on me. There was absolutely 0% networking and 100% fun.

It reminded me of parties I went to 15 years ago — there were no “social media personalities” and blogging was just something we did as a hobby. There was zero pressure to act a certain way or get that perfect Instagram-worthy photo-op.

Over the last week, I’ve been chatting with friends who are burnt out on the way things are being done. They are sick of internet marketing as we know it and tired of playing the game of pre-scheduling perfectly polished updates. I’m right there, too.

Instead of pretending that I have everything planned out with a list of lofty goals for the new year, I’d rather be honest with you — I don’t. Instead of pretending that I know exactly what I’m doing and scheduling out weeks of posts, I’d rather write posts like this one in real time, of current thoughts, from me to you.

What I’m saying is that really, it’s totally okay if you don’t have a plan. It’s okay if you’re not sure of what you want to do next. And it’s more than okay if you’re exploring and just taking a time out for yourself.

The end of the year is the perfect time to give yourself some space. This is a chance to reflect on how much you did get done (its probably more than you think) and not stress too much about where you’re going next.

Run your own race. Take the pressure off yourself because that’s when the really good stuff has time to simmer and happen.

For once, give yourself permission to just be in the moment.

Because you know what? It will all be okay.


Photo: Lydia Hudgens.

External Validation and Remembering That You’re Good Enough

Nubby Twiglet | External Validation and Remembering That You’re Good Enough

I’ve been thinking a lot about the intense pull of external validation. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the adrenaline rush of flattering comments and likes…but what impact does that actually have on our daily lives and well-being?

I’ve been on social media a lot less over the last month and the initial pang of guilt has broken through to feeling more content. The premise behind the shift is simple: if you’re not constantly peering into the lives of others, it’s easier to focus on your own.

Gratitude feels intensified when you cut out the noise. When you’re not being bombarded with things you probably don’t need, places you’ve never been and people you’ve never even met, it’s possible to focus on the here and now and feel really good about where YOU are at. Of course, the internet and social media have immense benefits but I’m also aware that too much time immersed outside of reality can have negative effects.

It’s so funny to think back to the much more quaint times of the 90s. I’ve always been a magazine junkie and I remember constantly hearing that the imagery in fashion magazines could have a drastically negative effect on teen girls. I always laughed it off because I never thought of the editorials I was seeing as “real life.” It was a fantasy world created within the confines of a set. Its felt very glamorous…and very distant.

Nubby Twiglet | External Validation and Remembering That You’re Good Enough

Now though, things are different. The effects from platforms like Instagram feel intensified because we’re not just peering into curated content from a media outlet — these are real images being posted by real folks, often in somewhat real time so the FOMO (fear of missing out) hits harder. This isn’t some fantasy world but something we can internalize as feeling that if we had the right [talent, looks, house, location, bank account, whatever] that we could achieve the same outcome, as well.

After pulling back and spending more time in reality, here’s what I realized: I really like my life the way it is. I’m happy and comfortable and know what I was put on this earth to do. There’s not much I would ever consider changing. So…why is the need for external validation still there?

Sometimes, when I start scrolling through Instagram, my contentment fades away to envy. It’s uncomfortable. Last week, I discovered a brilliant designer on Instagram. I scrolled and scrolled and instead of closing out the app on a high note, I was left with the dreaded feeling of wanting to redo my entire portfolio.

These feelings suck because they take us further away from what we’re meant to do and instead, deeper into the abyss of thinking about what we could do instead. Isn’t internal validation much more fulfilling, though? The feeling of creating for creation’s sake is so much more powerful than a bunch of likes.

The way I’d been feeling was confirmed when I saw this tweet from GOMisakiGO:

“I just sat back and suddenly thought, how ridiculous it is to go through lengths and hard work just to make someone hit ‘like’.”

Nubby Twiglet | External Validation and Remembering That You’re Good Enough

If you’re fighting those “I’m not good enough” feelings, here are 5 tips:

1. Examine what’s going on in your own world

This is pretty simple: when you’re fixated on something, ask yourself why. When I discover someone’s design portfolio and then feel terrible about my own work, it’s because I wish I had more time to share my own projects. Remember, it’s never really about them. It’s all about you and your projections.

2. Extreme curation isn’t real life

Everyone has problems. Everyone has bad days. This is common sense but when you’re scrolling through a highlight reel of their best moments, it’s easy to forget. Nobody wants to share the dirty details of getting fired, getting into fights, bad friendship fall-outs…it’s personal and it’s not pretty.

3. Realign negative energy to fuel a positive outcome

When you truly want to achieve something, seeing other people that have already made it can inspire you to make it happen. Complement them on their achievements and use their successes as motivation for your own. That feels so much better.

4. Detox by unfollowing

Are you following people you’re endlessly curious about for all the wrong reasons? Unfollow, once and for all. Forgot about it and move on. You have a limited amount of time on this planet so make the most of it.

5. Immerse yourself in time with family and friends

Last night, I went out for a drink with my dad and as we sat in a beautiful, mostly empty bar having a great conversation, I thought about how great it was to be out in the world interacting and exploring versus hiding behind a phone or computer, peeking into someone else’s world. Life is for living, not perfecting and curating.

The Bottom Line

Achieving something on your own terms and creating for the sake of being creative hold so much more potency than racking up likes. That hit of validation wears off 10 seconds later but what you’ve created has lasting positive effects.

What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts about external validation.

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?