Tag Archives: Business & Marketing

Happy Branchiversary: One Year Of Running A Design Studio Plus 5 Tips For New Business Owners

Nubby Twiglet | Happy Branchiversary: One Year Of Running A Design Studio Plus 5 Tips For New Business Owners

During the week, I was holed up in Palm Springs for Designer Vaca, an annual retreat for female creatives. The buzz of nervousness and excitement was palpable — we’d traveled in from different states and even countries to network and learn from one another.

Designer Vaca isn’t just an annual getaway for me, though — it’s also an important marker in my life. It’s a reminder of how much can happen in just a year when you put your mind and every ounce of energy into something. A few days before Designer Vaca last year, I launched Branch so being there this year reminded me of that fundamental time.

A year ago, I took a chance and quit all outside design work to run Branch full time. I’d been freelancing and building my clientele for five years prior and I knew it was finally time to overcome my fears and lay everything on the line. Big life changes can be paralyzing but in a way, because my schedule was so packed at the time, I never had the chance to overthink things. The month before Branch launched, I’d been in Austin, Greece, London and New York with The Blogcademy. By the time I got home from all that traveling, I had less than 2 weeks to get all my content together, design my website and go live. The day we launched, I had to be in Malibu for a client meeting and two days after that, in Palm Springs for Designer Vaca. There was no wiggle room.

I always say that it’s best to launch and learn and we did just that. Things were far from perfect — I’d taken all the photos, written all the copy and Star pulled a few all nighters to push the site live. Even in its imperfect state, business was solid from day one. Within a week, we’d booked out for a month. Within one month, we were booked for three.

Running your own business is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. Let’s be honest — there are a lot easier, less stressful ways to make a living. It’s true that a lot of businesses fail in the first year and I didn’t want Branch to be a casualty. A good way to avoid falling into that pit is to understand your business from the inside out so I told myself that in the first year, I was going to take on as much work as I possibly could and learn from it — I wanted to really figure out what we wanted more of and what we wanted less of. I’m a firm believer that as an owner, before you can delegate to others, you need to understand the ins and outs of your own business.

Nubby Twiglet | Happy Branchiversary: One Year Of Running A Design Studio Plus 5 Tips For New Business Owners

I want to share a few nuggets of wisdom that we’ve gathered over the last year to help you with your own creative business:

1. Launch and learn.

When you have very little time to get up and running like we did, your site might not be perfect. The point is that even if you sit on your idea and polish it to perfection, you’re losing valuable momentum. We launched with the best we could do at the time and built our clientele as quickly as possible. Now, it’s time to step back, reevaluate our online presence and rebuild our site and media kit. The thing to remember is that it’s not a great idea to invest too much upfront — even with all the market research in the world, you never know if a business idea will actually resonate. It’s better to work on a shoestring budget, figure out what works and then rework your offerings based on those learnings.

2. Attract now, repel later.

As a new business, in the beginning it’s a good idea to stay open to different kinds of clients. Learn from each and build a solid financial cushion before specializing. Once you’ve passed the year mark, step back, reevaluate and decide who you’d like to attract more of. Focusing in on a particular niche will help you to position yourself as an expert and when you specialize, you’ll be able to charge more for your services.

3. Geographical locations matter less now than ever.

Branch is based in Portland, Oregon but none of our clients are local. Like many U.S. cities, Portland is saturated with hundreds of design studios so we instead focused on the world. By employing this mindset, we’ve picked up clients in Seattle, London, San Francisco, Brisbane, Fargo, Perth and New York. The design industry is a lot more open these days — it’s totally possible to keep overhead low, run your business from a tiny town and still rule the world thanks to an internet connection.

4. Share every project you do, no matter how small.

Part of the growth of Branch this year can be attributed directly to social media. We shared projects the second they were finished across Dribbble, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and our blog. Not every project was a hit but there were a few that got picked up and repinned hundreds of times. The click-throughs from Pinterest especially helped build our client base. Dedicate as much time as you possibly can to social media — there’s nothing better than free marketing!

5. Raise your rates incrementally.

When Branch launched, we kept our rates fairly reasonable for a design studio. We wanted to make sure we were booked out and stayed busy. As inquiries piled up, we revamped our pricing. The key is to not do massive increases all at once — if you do this, you run the risk of stripping out your client base. Instead, be realistic with steady price increases. Instead of tacking on $1,000.00 to your most popular package all at once, it’s better to do four increases of $250.00 over the course of a year.

It’s been a great first year at Branch — we’ve been mentioned in Computer Arts, featured on The Dieline and asked to submit our projects to multiple design books. Hard work and dedication does pay off. If you want something bad enough, you just have to push fear aside and go for it, and see what happens. It may end up being a rollercoaster ride…but you’ll never know what’s possible unless you try. Thanks to Star, Cathy, Joey, Rocky and Carey for being there from the beginning and the clients who believed in us.


Your turn: I want to know — what do you have in the pipeline that scares you? What are your big dreams when it comes to running your own business?

#GIRLBOSS: A No-Holds-Barred Handbook For Forging Your Own Path In Business

Nubby Twiglet | #GIRLBOSS Book

#GIRLBOSS is part memoir and part guide to building a powerhouse business and best of all, there’s no jargon to make you feel stupid. Fluffy mantras are left at the door. It’s straight up, it’s real, it’s intense, it’s funny and even the most hardened CEO’s will walk away learning something new about how to run their businesses with more passion and efficiency.

If you’re still dreaming of starting your own business or have started one but it’s not feeling like the right fit, this book will inspire you to push through, search and create until the pieces fall into place.

Just like many of you, I always had dreams of starting my own business. Part of the appeal was wanting to do something on my own terms. But, that’s easier said than done, especially if you don’t have a clear path or mentor to cheer you on when things get tough. Because I had neither, I felt lost for quite a few years.

My first job was working in an accounting department of a food distributor over my college breaks. I’d dye my blue hair a normal, non offending color, pull out the office appropriate clothes my mom had bought me and show up for three months straight to a mauve-walled hell. My favorite times of day were lunch and after work drinks with my boss (always befriend your boss — you can get away with more!) Looking back, the job wasn’t so bad. In fact, it taught me how to function in corporate America and get along with people far outside of my social circle. The bigger, underlying issue was no matter how hard I tried, I knew it wasn’t what I was meant to do.

These days, one of the biggest downsides of the internet and Instagram is that both often make success look like it happened overnight but perceptions are not reality. The truth is, many of us spent years floundering, trying to find our footing and in the process, our greater focus in life.

In my case, I started college in 2000 and graduated in 2004. I went back in 2006 and graduated again in 2008. Only in 2008, after hundreds of credits and two degrees did I finally feel like my path made sense. If only I’d figured it out sooner!

That’s where #GIRLBOSS comes in. It’s penned by Sophia Amoruso, the hyper-successful founder of Nasty Gal and it’s the book I so desperately wish had existed when I was first starting out. The difference with this book when compared to others in the same genre is that Sophia doesn’t sugarcoat her path. At all. Like many of us, she tried on a lot of different hats before she found the right fit. From working at Subway to checking ID’s at an art college to, well, shoplifting, she never quite found it.

Once she listened to her calling, which was what she was already naturally great at (sleuthing out amazing vintage clothing for a bargain and reselling it for mega bucks), the rest began to fall into place. Of course, it wasn’t that easy (you’ll have to read the book to get all the dirty details) but her growth happened quite rapidly once she dedicated herself completely to a singular path she excelled at.

There are thousands of other business books out there but what makes #GIRLBOSS so different is that it’s not just glossy highlights and beautifully curated photos that have little to do with everyday reality. Instead, it’s a no-holds-barred look into what it takes to build a multi-million dollar company from absolutely nothing. You get insight into the lowest lows to finally reaping the rewards from years of nonstop hard work. The beauty of #GIRLBOSS is that you can learn from Sophia’s story in an afternoon and then map out your own desired path without so many pitfalls. There’s nothing like learning from the best!

The biggest lesson I took away from this book is that it is possible to build something from nothing. #GIRLBOSS is proof that hard work and drive coupled with a great idea can build great things. You just have to want it badly enough.


Featured: #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso.

A Call To Creatives: Follow Your Unique Path

2013_followyouruniquepath

Over the weekend, I met up with a long-time friend who just landed a way awesome job and is leaving Portland soon. We both started our careers with the same exact internship and I was so excited to hear the news. His climb up the ladder in the design world over the last few years has been nothing short of impressive. I thought about our conversation afterwards and asked myself why I didn’t want the same thing. After all, a well-paying in-house design job at a cool company is the dream, right?

For six years, I freelanced and worked full-time at a lot of design studios and agencies. And I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. It was necessary for me to witness the inner-workings of how successful design businesses run on a daily basis in order to fully understand what it takes to keep things going.

But now, being on my own, I’m the most content I’ve ever been. I’m excited to get out of bed every morning to work with clients I love and feel a personal connection with. I’m excited to share new snippets of work on dribbble. I’m excited to have people on my team I admire like Star and Cathy, even though we’re not physically in the same city. I’m excited to manage things and create a vision that feels authentic, evolving and modern. It’s what I’ve wanted for a long time.

And that’s what I realized: we each have to block out the outside noise and follow our own path. It took me until the age of 32 until I felt comfortable enough to launch Branch. I needed that time to grow into myself and gain the confidence that somehow, some way, everything would be okay. This path feels right for me for right now and if it doesn’t in the future, I have the power to change it.

I know a lot of other designers that don’t want the headaches of running their own businesses. They are happy working at a job that treats them well, pays them well and provides them with great benefits. I completely respect that because I wanted that same thing a few years ago. It’s nice to not have any cares about work when you leave the office for the night. It’s a very zen feeling to lock the door and leave your work behind. When you work for yourself, that work and to-do list is always chasing you.

Working for yourself is definitely an uphill battle. But it’s a battle I’m more than willing to take on.

When it comes to your career, it’s easy to look around and obsess about people that seemingly have something more than you. There’s that someone that is younger, more talented and further along. But remind yourself that there’s always going to be that someone.

As hard as it is to not get hung up on what the rest of the world is doing, you have to remember that you’re on your own path. It really doesn’t matter all that much what everyone else is up to. I didn’t even finish my design degree until I was 27 and it made me feel like such a late bloomer compared with my peers — but I didn’t let that stop me. I just worked harder because I wanted to be a graphic designer more than anything. I put in the time to get what I wanted. I worked a lot of jobs, some of which I loved, some of which I hated. But I learned something unique from each experience and it was worth it.

This post is a reminder to block out what everyone else is doing. If you want to work in-house or at an ad agency or for a small, family-owned business, cool. If you want to work for yourself, cool. It’s all up to you. There’s no right or wrong way to build your career in design.

5 Tips For Managing Multiple Businesses

Nubby Twiglet | 5 Tips For Managing Multiple Businesses

Over the last year, I’ve launched two new businesses in addition to running this blog. Juggling three separate ventures isn’t easy but I have a few simple tips to make the process smoother if you find yourself in a similar position!


1. Keep one set of books

Before I expanded my business ventures, I sat down with my accountant and asked him how I should structure my books. The thought of potentially keeping track of receipts and accounts across multiple businesses made my head spin! He suggested that I form one LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) and then create a DBA (which stands for “doing business as”) for all of my additional ventures.

I took his advice and formed a business under my name, Shauna Haider LLC and then created a DBA for Branch and another for Nubby Twiglet. Since all are housed under my LLC, I now keep one set of books when it comes to taxes.

2. Keep an editorial calendar

Because I am now running two blogs, it’s important for me to keep track of what to post and when to post it. I am constantly dreaming up new ideas and producing content and in the back of my mind, I’m always thinking about which blog it is most appropriate for.

Nubby Twiglet is my personal outlet with content revolving around design and lifestyle topics. Posts relating to personal style, home improvement, travel and advice live here.

On the other hand, the Branch blog is a place for my studio to post business-related content as well as design projects.

I keep detailed editorial calendars with outlines for the next month’s worth of content for each blog as a safety net (though it often shifts for the day depending on my mood). Having that arsenal of ideas scribbled down keeps me from feeling like I’m posting on the fly and in turn, producing sub-par content.

3. Batch process as much as possible

Part of the reason I’m able to stay on top of multiple businesses is because I batch process a lot of smaller tasks. For blog posts, I’ll often shoot all of the images I need for the week over a few hour block of time on the weekend and set up folders on my desktop for each.

When it comes to my design business, if I’m working with multiple new clients at the same time, I’ll do visual research for both at once and produce any similarly formatted presentations on the same day. By mentally focusing on the same steps, I’m able to work much faster.

4. Link personal and business bank accounts

All of my personal accounts including savings and checking as well as my credit card and home mortgage are issued through the same bank. When I set up my business accounts, I made an appointment at my bank and had a separate set of accounts opened but had them linked in with the others. Now, I can log into my account online and see all of my balances across six accounts at the same time.

5. Don’t be afraid to delegate

I’ve always had difficulty with delegating tasks. I tend to think that I can do it all (and do it well) but I’ve had to learn the hard way that this isn’t always the case. Over the last year, I’ve gotten better at letting go. Joey now does all of our grocery shopping and runs most of our household errands so I can spend more time focused on work. A month ago, I hired my mom as the project manager for Branch. Just knowing that she’s taking care of all of my business correspondence gives me peace of mind.


These five changes have saved me so much time and helped my sanity tremendously! Do you have any more tips you’d recommend to make running multiple businesses even easier?

Branch: An Inside Look at Starting A Creative Business

We Are Branch Boutique Design Studio Branding

Last Monday, Branch went live. Less than two hours after flipping the switch, I rushed off to the airport to fly to LA for some client meetings and from there, straight to Palm Springs for Designer VACA. I barely had time to catch my breath, let alone explain the brand in more detail. Today, I’m sharing more insights on how I came up with the concept of the business, along with the nuts and bolts of the branding.

Concept

As I discussed last week, I knew that it was finally time to reach out and ask for help when it came to running my design business. In the year leading up to Branch, I’d co-launched The Blogcademy with Kat and Gala, was receiving many more freelance inquiries than I could possibly handle and struggling with the work/life balance on a daily basis.

I’ve always been tight with my immediate family — every time I talked to my mom and told her how I was having trouble keeping up with emails and scheduling, she’d offer to help me manage the administrative parts of my business. My brother, also a graphic designer, was beginning to see his photography career take off and had already been helping me shoot projects. I’d been working alongside Star since 2007 on web design projects. Joey had been doing paste-ups and print production since the late 90s. Everyone I needed to help me was already there, I just needed to put the wheels in motion.

We Are Branch Boutique Design Studio Branding

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Announcing: Branch, A Boutique Design Studio!

We Are Branch

Today I have a big announcement to make about a personal project that I’ve put a lot of time and energy into: I’m officially launching a full-service design studio, Branch!

This shift in my career has come along partially out of a personal evolution and partially out of the fact that I had to admit to myself that my design business was bigger than myself. From the outside, it might seem like designers dedicate most of their days to doing design. But as time goes on, project management, research, keeping up with emails, blogging and social media takes up more of our daily existence. I know that a lot of other small business owners feel this creep as well. Pretty soon, you have to stop and ask yourself where all the time to create has gone. I did. Finally, I had to stop what wasn’t working and take what was to the next level.

In The Beginning

As you probably know by now, I started my blog, Nubby Twiglet in 2001. At that time, I was active on Live Journal and blogging quickly became the creative outlet I desperately needed while in school for business. Six years into blogging, thanks to a heart-to-heart with my friend Star who insisted I needed to move my blog over to the WordPress platform, I relaunched here, in August 2007, on my own domain.

By that point, I was in school full-time for graphic design. As I finished projects, I shared them with my readers. Before I knew it, I was getting freelance inquiries. The more work I shared, the more work rolled in. It was a natural progression. Even as I worked at design studios, I kept my blog very active and built up my portfolio, spending nights and weekends wrapping up client projects. Nubby Twiglet had quite accidentally transformed from a lifestyle blog to a design studio as well. The thing is, that “design studio” was just me. This worked out wonderfully for the first few years — I was able to keep everything running smoothly and build my clientele without all the headaches that come along with managing other people.

Then, as the scope of projects grew and more inquiries than I could handle started flooding in, I felt a shift. And when I gave it some serious thought, that shift I was feeling was completely normal: it was part of my evolution as a designer.

I’d spent six years at design studios and ad agencies collaborating as part of larger teams and that was actually how I was most comfortable working. I liked bouncing ideas off of other people and I also liked being challenged design-wise by co-workers who were much better than I was. It forced me to grow and constantly pushed me out of my comfort zone. But with my freelance clients, which I worked with through Nubby Twiglet, I had to adjust back to managing everything myself.

We Are Branch

My methods and work kept growing and then I saw the writing on the wall. That shift I’d been feeling but couldn’t quite articulate became more apparent after launching The Blogcademy last August and working as a team, even though it was virtual. Once Kat, Gala and I had decided to partner up for our new venture, we got so much done in incredibly short periods of time. Having assigned tasks for each of the three of us upped the productivity dramatically and I saw the benefit once again of working as a team. I wanted that for myself but it didn’t feel within reach at the time.

I loved design but seemed to spend most of my time answering emails and putting together proposals. I didn’t want to live my life filling up my free time with administrative tasks. I had another heart to heart talk with Star, this time late one night in our shared hotel room during Designer VACA, trying to sort out my feelings about my business. I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing with Nubby Twiglet, as I had for the past six years. But when we dug deeper, we were able to pinpoint my uneasiness: the twig had grown into a branch. To take things to the next level, I needed “branches” to get everything done. The business was bigger than I was. To move forward from there, I needed to admit that I couldn’t do it all myself and be okay with that. It sounds easy enough, but when you’re an overly organized control freak Virgo like I am, making that admission and letting go is incredibly difficult.

We Are Branch

What I’ve since realized is that being brave enough to let go can lead to amazing things. That initial upheaval that comes with realizations about our businesses, relationships and ourselves has the potential to bring forth some of the best things into our lives. Now, everything feels right. My blog, Nubby Twiglet will keep on going as it always has. I’ve loved it since 2001 and I’m still excited to wake up every morning and publish new articles to share with all of you. The Blogcademy fulfilled my dreams of traveling and teaching. And now, Branch is the place where I’ll have the opportunity to collaborate on design projects with my favorite people.

Branch

Today is launch day and as a full-service creative studio, I’m ecstatic to have a business that’s finally bigger than myself. As a freelancer, I felt like it was my duty to answer every single email, fill out every single contract and manage all of the creative on my own. At Branch, I have the opportunity to design a whole lot more. And that is what I feel best doing. Thankfully, I didn’t have to look far for help to manage the day-to-day administrative tasks. My mom, Cathy will now step in as a project manager and with over 30 years of management experience, she’s a whole lot better at tackling spreadsheets, forms, receipts and emails than I am. Star, who coded my first ever blog back in the day and helped me make the idea of running a studio bigger than myself a reality, is joining me for web design duties. She also deserves some serious applause for pulling a week of nearly all-nighters to bring the site to life. Joey, my brother Carey and even Rocky will be involved (because every company needs a mascot). Needless to say, I love my branches.

If you have a project that you feel would be a good fit for us, we’d love to hear from you! Thanks for all your continued support. I am beyond excited for this new era of design, business and blogging.