Tag Archives: Blogging

Live Your Life First, Then Blog

Nubby Twiglet | Live Your Life First, Then Blog

Inspiration doesn’t strike when you’re sitting at your desk, staring at your computer screen. It happens outside of your office, plain and simple.

It seems like such a basic premise but I lived on the other side for far too many years. Back in 2007 when I got serious about blogging, I didn’t see anything wrong with sitting down to write, even when my well of inspiration felt completely dry. While my drive always carried me through, more often than not, I forced a completely unrealistic blogging schedule on myself because I felt I had little choice.

Walking the tightrope between blogging, a retail job, an internship and a full-time school schedule at the time, the balance was precarious at best. The truth was, I just didn’t have time to go out and live my life, then sit down to blog. After I turned my assignments in and finished my job for the day, all I had time left for was blogging.

This summer, eight years after starting this blog, I finally got my perspective in check. With the beautiful weather setting in earlier than expected in Portland and new clients booking into Branch at a record rate, I blogged a lot less and created and lived a lot more.

At first, it was a little scary to give up my fine-tuned regimen. After all, I’m a creature of habit — I depend on routines to get through days of working for myself and when that goes out the window, I feel out of sorts.

That uneasiness eventually settled and after awhile, something unexpected happened. Blogging less didn’t feel weird — it felt great. I only shared content I felt awesome about. No filler, no apologies.

Over the summer months, travel took me from London to Marrakech to Rome to Florence to San Francisco to Orlando to New York to Los Angeles and finally, to Palm Springs in rapid succession. Many planned posts never happened because right as I was beginning to settle in and write, I was already back on another plane.

Between traveling and big opportunities, blogging consistently fell by the wayside but it was on my mind the whole time. It’s something that never really leaves me because it’s occupied nearly 15 years of my life (oh Live Journal, how I miss thee). I get to share new ideas, discoveries and connect with you. Honestly? That personal creative outlet is EVERYTHING.

At the same time, everything goes through ebbs and flows. Life happens, good and bad. New opportunities can take up a lot of our time that blogging once commandeered. That’s okay. Having a life outside of the internet is so, so important because that’s what fuels our souls.

Nubby Twiglet | Live Your Life First, Then Blog

The creative spark needed to create original, meaningful content doesn’t strike when you’re shackled to your computer. It strikes when you’re out exploring, meeting new people and observing the world around you from a fresh perspective. When you do that and push yourself outside of your comfort zone, that’s where the magic happens.

When you live your life to the fullest and then sit down to blog, the inspiration flows. Instead of wracking your brain trying to figure out what to write, you have a mental list of ten posts you can’t wait to start on. Instead of cobbling together images from Pinterest for your latest posts, you have a camera full of photos you took yourself. It feels so good.

Inspiration is lurking outside of your office, right this second. There are only so many hours in a day and there’s a whole lot of living to do. Explore the world, even if it’s the new coffee shop down the street. I just spent all week sitting in a hot tub under the stars in Palm Springs until the wee hours, chatting with creative souls. It was so much more inspiring than hitting refresh, hoping that inspiration would strike. Now, I’m feeling energized and ready to produce new content. The break was sorely needed.

You have permission to take a break. Live your life first. And, I can’t wait to see what you sit down to write when you finally have time to blog about it!

Photo: Taken in Marrakech by David McNeil.

Blogging Changed My Life. Really.

Nubby Twiglet | Blogging Changed My Life. Really.

This week, as I wrapped up two sets of taxes, interviewed a potential intern and made my way through emails that seemed to reappear faster than I could respond and file them away, blogging felt very far away. These weeks happen where little things pile up in quick succession and it doesn’t matter how good your intentions are — carving out the free time to blog becomes nonexistent.

And while I’ve been purposely blogging less this year to focus more time towards new business ventures and client projects, as the days slipped by, it still felt weird to be parked in front of my computer but unable to post fresh content.

This unplanned break turned into a blessing in disguise; it was the perfect opportunity to think about what blogging means to me and why I do it. Just yesterday, I found myself idly staring out my office window and in a flash, I had a moment of clarity:

Blogging is important to me because it literally changed my life. And perhaps blogging has changed yours, too.

Here’s the backstory….

In 2001, I was 20 years old and living at my dad’s house in the suburbs outside of Portland. I didn’t have the money for the art school I wanted to attend so I went to a community college down the street. I hadn’t done much traveling so my social circle carried over from high school. Oh, and I had a lot of free time on my hands because I only worked during my summer breaks (damn, those were the days). When one of my friends told me about a free blogging platform called Live Journal, I figured why not?

Within the first year of blogging, I had a whole new social circle. I met people on the other side of the world — which at that time, felt very new and exciting when compared with my boring suburban existence. In quick succession, I met Star, Anna, Gala, Laurel, Bianca, Amy (and so many others who no longer have sites). Thanks to blogging, when I traveled to a new city, I already had a built-in network of friends. To this day, when I’m in New York, I sleep on Bianca’s couch. Star now develops websites for Branch. And Gala? We run a business together with our fellow blogging obsessed friend, Kat.

Besides friends, blogging opened doors to job opportunities I’d only dreamed about. During my interview for a design internship at Nemo, I told them about my blog. It just happened that Dave Allen (formerly of Gang Of Four) worked there and was just as obsessed with blogging as I was. Looking back, my design work was just okay but my blog is what helped seal the deal.

After switching from Live Journal to WordPress in 2007, I got even more consistent with sharing which included posting every good, bad and ugly design project. Within a year, companies like Forever 21 and Virgin Records were contacting me. For a 26 year old just breaking into the industry, this was completely life changing. It became immediately apparent that these huge companies only knew who I was because I blogged. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that this free marketing opportunity with a low barrier of entry was landing me freelance jobs at a few thousand dollars a piece while I was still in community college (design students, get thee a blog and online portfolio ASAP!)

In 2012, my dream job became a reality when I got hired on the spot to join the Cinco Design brand team. The calling card that got me an offer? My blog.

A little over a decade into blogging, I began to feel the itch — there had to be something more. I wasn’t ready to give it up but I WAS read for an evolution. And then, it fell into my lap during a Vegas vacation (because naturally, all the best things happen in Vegas). Five days in the desert turned my blogging for fun into a business opportunity. That August, The Blogcademy launched and by October, we were teaching a sold-out class in New York City. This strategy-based blogging course soon allowed me to quit outside work, travel the world and later, release an online version.

With a crazy travel schedule that made my former life at agencies impossible, I needed to carve out a way to produce design that fit in with this new normal. Branch was born. A day after our website launched, three clients had booked in. And, you guessed it! They found us through this blog.

Nubby Twiglet | Blogging Changed My Life. Really.

Okay, this post is getting long and the point isn’t to just share my personal blogging anecdotes (though I could easily talk about blogging all damn day). My goal is to demonstrate that while blogging isn’t a one-size-fits-all, linear path, if you stick with it, great things can happen.

These days, too many people look at blogging as a way to gain quick fame and fortune and it’s warped because when they don’t get what they want in fast succession, they give up. If this is the only reason you’re starting a blog, walk away now. You have to feel truly passionate about what you’re posting…and if you don’t, there are at least 35 other things you can do instead.

I know what you’re still thinking so I’ll just say it now. Yes, there are a million other things you can now do with your time online. So, why blog? My quickie response:

Blogging forges meaningful connections, builds career opportunities and gives you a place to go as deep as you’d like, whether you’re sharing new artwork or the gut-wrenching story of how you hit rock bottom. It’s all fair game.

So, what about you? Have you blogged in the past? Do you currently have one? How has it impacted you? If you have a blog, please leave a link in the comments so we can check it out!

Photos: Made U Look Photography.

Blog Log #13: The Key To Building an Engaged Audience Plus 30 Ideas For Fresh Content


Nubby Twiglet | The Key To Building an Engaged Audience Plus 30 Ideas For Fresh Content

The quickest way to grow your blog doesn’t hinge on implementing the latest SEO techniques or posting a lot of pretty images. If you want an audience that’s engaged and keeps coming back for more, create genuinely helpful content.

If you poke around the internet, you’ll notice that a majority of the most popular blogs are heavy on content that teaches you something. Whether it’s how to live a better life, how to tie a scarf or how to whip up something new in the kitchen, people are always searching for opportunities to learn something new, even if it’s ridiculously simple.

Think about it this way. When you sit down to google something, would you key in:

Popular lipstick shades or how to pick flattering lipstick shades?
Graphic design portfolio or how to build a print portfolio?
Cute hairstyles or how to style short hair?
Chunky sweater styles or how to style chunky sweaters?

Audiences want applicable advice that is helpful and benefits their lives in some way. The concept of being helpful can feel a bit daunting at first. After all, not all of us are gourmet chefs, DIY masterminds or decorating geniuses. But, it doesn’t have to be that complicated. When it comes to being helpful, we each have a unique set of talents and life experiences. We just tend to assume that everyone else knows how to do what we do. You’d be surprised at how popular some of your tried and true skills can be when turned into a series of blog posts.

To be genuinely helpful, the key is to think of little ways to add a twist to what you already enjoy doing.

Here are some ideas to get you going:

1. Bake your way through a stash of favorite family recipes and photograph the results.

2. Review the books that have had the biggest impact on your life.

3. Break down your favorite makeup and skincare routines along with the products you recommend and why.

4. Document before and after shots of your home renovations with how-to guides.

5. Are you a green thumb? Create guides around what grows best in which climates.

6. Tour your city’s food carts and let us know your top picks!

7. If movies are your passion, create guides of must-see films broken up by genre.

8. Did you bypass college and follow a self-taught path to the career of your dreams? Tell us how you did it!

9. Share styling tips on how to get creative with a very limited wardrobe.

10. If you’re a master at smoothies, create a series around your favorite recipes.

11. Do you have a knack for hairstyles? Let us know the best ones for long, short, updos and more!

12. Create a series of helpful email templates related to your industry.

13. Share your tried-and-true social media tips and tricks for each platform.

14. Develop a series of paint swatch combos for the color challenged.

15. If organizing is your thing, share before and after shots alongside your sources for supplies.

16. Do you have a talent for modifying the mundane? Share your best IKEA hacks!

17. Are you a web designer? Let us know your favorite web font combos.

18. If you’re a thrifting champ, create guides for cities you’ve visited.

19. Is bartending your specialty? Share recipes and photograph your best drink concoctions!

20. Review your favorite restaurants in town and come up with your own rating system.

21. If you’re a shoe obsessive, create guides for the best shoes from working out to going out.

22. Is traveling your passion? Create guides for each locale you visit including transportation, dining and hotels!

23. Create a series of style posts centered around a favorite wardrobe staple.

24. Do you have a specific way of shooting and processing your photos? Show us how you do it.

25. Have you mastered how to clean your house without using harsh chemicals? Teach us your tricks!

26. If you’re a creative that’s burnt out on “pinspiration” posts, inspire us through real life mood boards.

27. Run your own business? Create an advice column centered around what you’ve learned.

28. Have you pulled off a career change into a completely different industry? Break down how you did it!

29. Are you a fitness junkie? Share routines for busy, on-the-go types.

30. Is event planning your passion? Teach us how to make gatherings and parties run more smoothly.

When it comes to building an engaged audience, be genuine, be helpful and share what you know.

Your turn: What are some recent helpful posts you did that were a big hit?

Image: Alexa Loy Photography.

My 25 Favorite Blog Posts of 2013

2013 Blog Post Recap | Nubby Twiglet

This has been a huge year for me with more twists and turns than I could have possibly imagined. But yesterday on Christmas Day, everything slowed down and I spent the day reading Everything I Know cover-to-cover, watching terrible movies, flipping through issues of Elle that had piled up and taking a walk through a new neighborhood with Joey and Rocky while trying to warm up with a soy chai latte.

For Christmas Eve, we made our annual pilgrimage up to my grandparents’ cabin (check out my grandpa’s sweater!) and then ripped through our pile of presents as soon as we got home. Joey surprised me with this dress which I’d been wanting for a long time. It felt very Christmas appropriate so I wore it out and about yesterday. I hope you had a relaxing holiday as well!

As this year comes to a close, I wanted to share my favorite posts of 2013 with you. Thanks for following along over these last seven years, it means the world to me. My life has changed, yours has changed and the world of blogging has also changed by leaps and bounds. But most days, I’m still as excited by it as when I first started and can’t wait to see what the new year holds.

Design, Marketing and Business

1. In The Beginning: My First Design Project

2. 5 Tips For Managing Multiple Businesses

3. Branch: An Inside Look At Starting a Creative Business

4. A Personal Journey in Careers and Confidence: My Experience at Designer Vaca

5. Should You Ever Work For Free?

6. A Call To Creatives: Follow Your Unique Path


7. Why Are You Blogging?

8. How Often Should You Post?

9. Is Your About Page Living Up To Its Purpose?

10. How Can I Share More Of Myself On My Blog?

11. Are Comparisons The Root Of All Evil?

12. 8 Keys to Making Lasting Online Connections

13. The One Thing I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Started Blogging


14. It’s Time To Get Organized!

15. Coffee At Home: My New Routine

16. The Mecca of Custom Lipsticks: Bite Lip Lab


17. My Feature in Computer Arts Magazine

18. Announcing Branch, A Boutique Design Studio!

19. Adventures In Koala Cuddling

20. Is Community College The Right Choice For You?


21. Greecetopia: My Cheat Sheet on What To Pack, Where To Stay and Where To Eat in Santorini and Mykonos!

22. The Happiest Place On Earth: A Day At Disneyland

23. Cannon Beach and Bigfoot

24. Paris In Winter: A Style Shoot

25. A Midcentury Modern Dream in Surfers Paradise: QT Gold Coast

2013 Blog Post Recap | Nubby Twiglet

Thanks again for making this year very special. Enjoy some quiet time and I’ll see you back here on the 31st for a year-end recap! -Shauna

Join The Blogcademy Live From New York for a Q&A Session!

The Blogcademy Livestream

With two east coast Blogcademy workshops quickly approaching in New York this weekend and Minneapolis next, we decided it was high time to do another livestream event for those of you who can’t make it!

We’ll be broadcasting live from Gala Darling HQ in New York City on:

Monday, June 24th
10am PST / 1pm EST / 6pm GMT

During the hour-long session, Kat, Gala and myself will be talking about changes we’ve implemented with our own blogs, things we’ve learned since launching our blogging workshop last August and last but not least, we will be answering as many of your questions as possible!

If you’d like to join us, tickets are $7.00 and if you aren’t able to tune in at the designated time, don’t fret! The video can be watched at any time. If you have a question to submit, you can tweet us (@theblogcademy) or email us (headmistresses @ theblogcademy.com) with it beforehand.

You can snap up a ticket right here.

See you (virtually) next week!

The Turquoise Tornado Hits The Road: Two New Dates!

The Blogcademy World Tour

I’ve got that nervously excited feeling in the pit of my stomach this morning because we’re announcing two new workshop dates for The Blogcademy!

New Additions

First off, you crazy cats in Melbourne completely blew us away — our workshop there isn’t until November, yet you snapped up tickets in a record amount of time. Countless emails later, we realized a second date needed to happen and have booked the same event space, Lightdrop Studios over November 14th and 15th.

Next up, many of you requested a southern date and we didn’t want to leave you out! I am so beyond excited that we’ll be visiting Austin over August 17th and 18th and hosting our workshop at the stunning Vuka. The last time I was in Austin was all the way back in 2007 and I have such fond memories of that trip. There’s such a warm, inviting sense of community and a sense of hospitality in a way that only the south can offer up.

Both cities have an earlybird special if you book before midnight Wednesday, May 15th.

Tour Dates

Hosting workshops is a huge dream come true for me and I want to say thank you to everyone that’s made it possible. If you’d like to join us for either date, please head on over to the registration page. And if you’re thinking about joining us at another stop on our tour, here’s an update of the cities we’re visiting in 2013:

New York (limited spaces remaining)
Pantina, June 22nd & 23rd

Minneapolis (limited spaces remaining)
Public Functionary, June 29th & 30th

Austin (just launched!)
Vuka, August 17th & 18th

Curtain Road Studios, September 7th & 8th

Proudly presented by Tourism & Events Queensland
Bleeding Heart Gallery, November 2nd & 3rd

Melbourne (sold out!)
Lightdrop Studios, November 6th & 7th

Generator, November 9th & 10th

Melbourne (just launched!)
Lightdrop Studios, November 14th & 15th

The Blogcademy World Tour

As always, one scholarship spot is offered per class. Please make sure to submit your entries at least once month before the workshop date. I’m looking forward to seeing ya on the road! It’s gonna be a blast. And we promise to keep you entertained!

Photos: Made U Look

Blog Log #7: Balancing Blogging, Advertising and Ethics

Blog Log

Blog Log Tools Of The Trade


I have always felt that as bloggers, we deserve to be fairly compensated for our work just like any other profession.

Chances are that after you’ve been blogging for awhile, when you check your inbox in the morning, half of your emails are pitches from PR companies and text link inquiries. In the beginning, this can be incredibly flattering. After all, a lot of us put a huge chunk of time and effort into creating original content for our blogs and it feels great to finally receive some recognition.

But, it starts to become tricky when we sit down and actually sift through these offers. What’s legit and what’s garbage? How much of this content is actually a good fit for our blogs?

Here’s where I stand on advertising that’s not as straightforward as a banner ad (because there are a lot of other ways to collaborate with companies in exchange for payment these days):

Text Links

At this time, I turn down all text link offers. A text link is composed of words in an article that links to another page, usually that of a business. The business will usually pay you a flat rate to insert text links into articles they deem SEO-friendly. So for instance, if I’ve posted an article about how I keep my clothing organized, a closet organization company might approach me after the article has gone live and offer $50.00 to link to their business in the body copy.

My personal feelings regarding text links is that if you aren’t a fan of the site you’re linking to and are just doing it for the money, it’s misleading for your readers to click on those links. If I don’t believe in a product or service, I sure don’t want my readers to think I do. It’s not worth trading in your ethics for a quick 50 bucks.

The one time I did do a text link deal was about four years ago and I felt okay at that time because I was able to try out the product I was recommending beforehand. Basically, I reviewed a straightening iron and felt that it was fantastic quality and ran a sponsored post along with a link to a new page on my site that advertised the straightening iron. These days, I wouldn’t put a subpage on my site but at the time, it felt fine since I knew that what I was promoting was a quality product.

As a sidenote, if you’re running text links that are clearly labeled in your sidebar as advertising, while they aren’t pretty, this is a lot more straightforward.

Affiliate Links

I do believe in using affiliate links. With affiliate links, you place code into the product link within your blog post that allows you to earn a commission on items you recommend. And most importantly, it doesn’t cost the person clicking on the link any extra money. I use these links to share products I already own or would like to own. I occasionally recommend books that I’ve read and loved, camera equipment I own and clothing that I’m wearing in my posts. Simple as that. I try to use affiliate links sparingly because there’s nothing worse than overdoing it and feeling spammy.

Sponsored Posts

These days, sponsored posts seem to be more prevalent than standard banner advertising when it comes to big name bloggers. When done right, sponsored posts can be tasteful, creative and bring together bloggers with brands they believe in. I am a fan of sponsored posts when they feel like a natural expansion of a blogger’s brand.

My most successful sponsored post collaboration to date has been working with Scotch Blue Painter’s Tape. This relationship worked well for me because I already use the product in home remodeling projects and I’d also been interested in producing original DIY projects for my readers. This collaboration was particularly exciting because I was given free reign to think up any project I wanted with the only stipulation being that I used the tape. My two outcomes from this partnership included a custom skateboard deck and Christmas ornaments.

My advice in these situations is to only agree to partnerships that allow some creative freedom and also allow you to produce your own body copy. Chances are, your readers will be turned off by a cut-and-paste PR statement so really dig in and add your personal spin.


Who doesn’t love free merchandise?! When I first started blogging seriously in 2007, I was a full-time college student balancing both a full-time job along with an internship. I didn’t have a whole lot of money and it was always flattering when companies offered to send clothing my way to include in outfit posts. It was a simple exchange: If I receive an item that I loved, I’d link to their site in a style post. I wanted new clothes I couldn’t afford otherwise, they wanted traffic and we both walked away happy.

But these days, things are a little bit different. When I am approached with an offer, I always remember what Kat of Rock n Roll Bride says: “A free handbag doesn’t pay my mortgage.” And, she’s right. I consider these partnerships a lot more carefully now and though I very occasionally accept products in exchange for a blog post, I only do so if it’s an item I feel strongly enough about that I would purchase it anyway. Which is at most, a few times per year.

It’s the law to disclose when an item was gifted so I’m very clear in my description when an item was provided for review by adding a ℅ (care of).

Brand Collaborations

If you have a solid following but aren’t being approached by the brands you’re interested in collaborating with, why not approach them? To date, all of my brand collaborations have happened by being approached by other companies but I am hearing of more bloggers writing up their own pitches these days. If you want more information on the subject, the best article I’ve seen to date on this topic is by Bri of Designlovefest.

Blog Log Tools Of The Trade


Shifting Perceptions

While it’s always flattering to get noticed by companies, my most basic advice is that if something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. It’s never worth compromising your brand in exchange for payment. Money comes and goes but regaining your footing after a bad deal is an uphill battle.

In the beginning, some of you may include paid text links in articles or work out special deals with brands and that’s okay if you feel good about it — you have to weigh the pros and cons and work out what’s best for you. But at the same time, it’s okay to change your mind as your ethics and business principles shift. As our awareness increases, a deal that felt like a good fit just a few years earlier may feel completely wrong now.

If you’re not at the point where you’re being approached for advertising and promotions yet, that’s okay too. I always say to myself that, “Slow and steady wins the race.” It’s always better to take your time and build a blog that you and your readers believe in versus rushing it and making bad business decisions.

It’s good to be aware of opportunities but at the same time, be razor sharp about what you’re delivering in return. Never sell yourself or your readers short.

Now, it’s your turn: What kinds of offers have you taken in exchange for payment and promotion? Are there some offers that you accepted and later regretted?

View more of the Blog Log series here.