Tag Archives: little lessons

Little Lessons #7: Stop Overthinking It

Nubby Twiglet | Little Lessons: Stop Overthinking It

It’s been exactly one week since we launched Blogcademy Home School and the response so far has been enormous. I’m so glad we just went for it and didn’t overthink it.

Do you have those people in your life that seem to move quickly and do things effortlessly without ever seeming fearful or breaking a sweat?

I do. My brother, Carey has always been that way. He never overthinks things. He goes, he does, he makes things happen…and figures out the rest later. Because of that, he has friends all over the world, juggles multiple careers and has so many hobbies that it drives me crazy (if another motorcycle part shows up in our house, I’ll scream).

I’ve always admired that quality in him and at times, I’m envious of it. I’ve never been that type of person. I’ve always been more of a planner, a little quieter, a little more cautious.

Nearly two years ago, I began to break out of that mold.

It all started when I nervously hit publish on a blog post I’d spent the weekend working on. I’d taken a short break to cross the border into Washington to catch a Motley Crue and Kiss show with my brother (we showed up without tickets — remember, he’s the spontaneous one!). Afterwards, I raced home to put the finishing touches on The Blogcademy site. Stepping out on a limb before everything was perfectly prepared and publishing that post (even though I was beyond nervous) was a domino effect that changed my life for the better.

When you have a good idea, act on it. Otherwise, it loses juice and in turn, you lose momentum.

Last week, I joined Kat and Gala as we did the same exact thing with Home School. It’s true that we did do a little more planning. But, considering that there were 10 separate videos, a brand new website to build and over two dozen worksheets to produce, we moved pretty fast!

Did we know if this new format was going to be a success?
You never really know.

Did we have any idea what demand would actually be?
Not a clue.

Did we spend countless hours doing endless market research to find out?
Not at all.

The bottom line? We felt good about it so we just went for it.

I want to encourage you to stop focusing on perfection. Perfection doesn’t exist. Own what you excel at and share your knowledge with the world. It’s doesn’t need to be polished to a high shine. Real and relatable is almost always better and it’s a whole lot more endearing.

Show us what you’ve got.
We’re listening and waiting.


Photo: Death to the Stock Photo.
Check out even more Little Lessons here.

Little Lessons #6: The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change. Embrace It.

Nubby Twiglet | Stay True To Your Path

“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change.” —Heraclitus

When we’re kids, we’re taught that we can be anything we want to be when we grow up and that the world is full of endless possibilities. We openly use that encouragement to explore the options. Kids can change their minds every single day about what they want to be “when they grow up” with absolutely no consequences.

But as adults? If we change our minds too often, we’re called hypocrites, flakes, flip-floppers and unfocused. It’s looked down upon to change your mind, especially with school and careers. People, especially your parents can be really hard on you. “You’ll ruin your life!” “How will you make any money?” “Why would you want to leave a comfortable path for this?!” It’s painful to hear.

If you’re having a hard time right now, it does get better.

I get so many emails from readers who feel stuck in school for a degree they are no longer passionate about, a career that isn’t a good fit or a job that is soul sucking. At The Blogcademy, many of our students are burnt out by their current blog topics but worried about changing it up. It doesn’t have to be that way forever. Changing up your life is okay. Give yourself permission.

I spent all my free time in school doodling on my worksheets. When anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I had it all figured out: an artist.

When I was touring colleges back in 2000, I realized that I couldn’t take the ups and downs that being an artist would have in store for me — a degree in business seemed like the most sensible option. During my summers off from school, I spent my days in a corporate office. I sat next to ladies who, in their 50s and 60s, had spent the better parts of their lives in offices. None of them seemed like they were having much fun. All anyone around me did was gossip about one another by day and drink heavily and chain smoke by night. Sure, I could finish school, climb the corporate ladder and have a nice paycheck waiting for me every two weeks…but that just didn’t feel right. I wanted out but I’m not a quitter. Instead, I finished up my degree, left that office job for good and took a year off, selling shoes instead.

Once I’d regrouped, I went back to school for what I was actually meant to do: design. I still remember sitting in my college’s office, filling out paperwork explaining why I wanted to return for a “lesser degree” (I had a four year degree and my design program was two). I don’t even exactly remember what I wrote. I just knew that I had to find a way in.

When you’re feeling stuck and like you’re not on the path you want to be, there are always going to be people who will try to convince you to stay right where you are. But remember, it’s not their life, it’s yours. It’s never too late to make a change.


Photo: Made U Look.

Little Lessons #5: Launch And Learn

Nubby Twiglet | Launch And Learn

I’m a planner. While this is considered a positive trait in daily life, planning too much can be detrimental, especially when it comes to business.

Case in point: Since last year, I’ve been working out the details for a number of digital products for Branch and Blogcademy and in my mind, things needed to be perfect to launch. I felt that offering anything less than my best work was a bad idea. But I’ve since realized that it’s not an all or nothing mindset when launching products; there needs to be a middle ground.

While Star was visiting me a few weeks back, I was going through my list of digital product ideas with her. I was thinking of waiting so I could release some of them as a set. She shut the idea down immediately. In her world in San Francisco where she’s surrounded by start-ups and web developers, to make things happen, you have to be able to “pivot” fast. If you don’t move quickly enough, you’ll miss the boat on the next big thing. In my world, I call it “launch and learn.”

Star’s advice to me was clear and immediate: Instead of sitting on an idea, do the best you possibly can at the time, even if it’s not perfect. Launch. Learn from the launch and apply those improvements to the next round. The reason for this is because you can do never-ending market research, design the most beautiful product ever and come up with a brilliant plan to market it but that still doesn’t guarantee your offering will be successful.

It all made sense. I was sitting on great ideas because I wanted them to be perfect…and I was missing the boat.

Looking back, launching and learning is is exactly what we did with The Blogcademy. We had a content outline, we had a very simple WordPress website, we wrote the copy ourselves…and I had two days to design the branding. We had no idea if the business would be a success so we didn’t want to invest too much upfront. We launched, sold out our first-ever class in under a week…and then learned. A lot.

Our first class was full of bumps. I hopped an overnight flight to NY, we packed the goodie bags ourselves and showed up at our very tiny venue. The whole weekend was a little rough around the edges but we kept applying our learnings to each class following that. By the end of our first year, things ran really smoothly and our presentation had improved immensely. But if we’d sat on our idea, fine-tuning and perfecting the presentation, workbook, venue and our marketing copy, we would have lost our momentum, a year of income…and honestly, we wouldn’t have even been that much better off. Because the only way to really know what works and what doesn’t is to let it out into the world: launch and learn.

Stop sitting on that amazing idea. Get started, get it out into the world and if things don’t go as planned, that’s okay. That’s part of the learning process.

Little Lessons #4: Saying No For The Right Reasons

Nubby Twiglet | Saying No For The Right Reasons

When it comes to client work, I have only recently gotten more comfortable with saying no. It’s always been hard because I have a bit of a guilt complex. The last thing I’d want to do is hurt a potential client’s feelings. Email should make it easier and in some ways, it does. But there’s still a human on the other side, reaching out.

It’s only been in the last two years where I even felt comfortable turning down projects. Up until that point, I took on everything I could get my hands on because I needed the real world experience, the income and I knew that each project would teach me something new. I took on the good, the bad and the questionable in a thirst for knowledge. A few projects landed me long-term clients that I still work with over at Branch and filled out my personal portfolio at a time when I spent my days working at agencies on large corporate projects.

Looking back, I wouldn’t trade any of those experiences because they not only taught me a lot about working with different types of clients but they taught me a lot about myself. I learned what I wanted more of. I learned that the sweet spot of Branch was creative small to medium-sized businesses.

Where is all this leading? By now, it should be easier to say no. A few weeks ago, even when I looked at the Branch schedule which was booked solid for at least a month out, I found myself cringing inside as I told my project manager to turn down about five jobs. Saying no still stings but I’ve learned that it is better to be honest.

Sometimes, it’s a matter of timelines. If a client needs something faster than you can offer it to them, be upfront about it. There’s no point in disappointing yourself and them when you can’t keep up. Other times, it’s in an industry you don’t know much about or feel comfortable diving into. That’s okay, too. Take the time to offer some great referrals to other designers you feel would be a better fit. And in some instances, it’s a clash of communication styles — you’re going to be spending a lot of time with clients, even if you’re working remotely so it’s imperative that you mesh well right from the beginning.

If you’re saying no for the right reasons, you should never feel guilty. Every single person who contacts you deserves the absolute best service and outcome of their project. If you can’t make that happen for any reason, be honest. There is nothing wrong with wanting the best for potential clients. It’s nothing personal; it’s a matter of being comfortable enough with who you are to know what you excel at…and what you don’t.

Saying no doesn’t always have to be viewed as a negative — instead, it can be viewed as empowering, honest and straightforward. Don’t just focus on what’s best for you but also what’s best for your potential clients.

Your turn: What are your tips for making saying No sting less?

Little Lessons #3: Embrace Those Quiet Times…and 10 Ideas To Drum Up Business

Nubby Twiglet | Little Lessons #3: Embrace Those Quiet  Times..and Don't Panic!

When you’re self-employed or even just freelancing on the side, there are weeks where your inbox seems to go quiet. Right as you start to doubt yourself, the work suddenly comes flowing in, offers for blog and magazine features pile up and it seems as if the world is being handed to you on a silver platter. Then, as if on cue, another slow time hits. What gives?!

This year, I’ve had a lot of those moments. Even when I have a seemingly full schedule on paper, those days hit where I have an open block of time and look around nervously, refreshing my emails and wondering if I’ve done something terribly wrong. And truthfully, everyone does. Sometimes, this stretches on for months at a time. It can feel like an intense roller coaster ride, full of the highest highs followed by a high-speed dash back to the bottom. Instead of questioning why it’s happening though, you have to accept that when you work for yourself, this is the new normal.

When I worked at design studios, I watched them experience the same highs and lows. One month, we’d be feverishly busy and just barely hit our deadlines. Late nights and pizza were accepted as the norm. A few months later (usually at the height of summer or right before Christmas break), we’d be looking around, wondering when the next project was going to drop and idly surfing inspiration sites, bored out of our minds. When work stops fortoo long, it goes from fun (afternoon movies, happy hours and long walks in the park) to a really dark place (which one of us is going to get cut first?). As uncertain as it feels, work, just like everything else is always going to have an ebb and flow.

When you do slow down, even if it’s just for a few days, instead of panicking, use this time to really promote your business. Instead of taking off to the beach (okay, that’s fine every once in awhile!) put together a really nice media kit of your services and packages, dust off some of your most loved blog posts and re-share them across social media, tighten up your portfolio (because let’s face it, it’s never really done) and showcase some of those projects you never quite had the time to post about before.


View Slow Times As An Opportunity

If you’re still on the edge of your seat and there’s not an immediate uptick in demand, use that nervous energy to think about how you can diversify:

1. Make a list of other services can you offer and add them to your site and / or media kit. Dive into something new, like designing e-books or digital courses.

2. Contact previous clients to see if they have a project they need help with.

3. Create a digital product. What can you teach someone?

4. Brush up on new skills with a Skillshare class (they’re really affordable). Blog about this new skill you’ve acquired — your audience may need it.

5. Volunteer for a non-profit. They always need good, willing design help! Make connections in the process.

6. Offer an incentive for new clients to work with you. Just be careful to not come across as desperate — desperation, no matter the situation, is never attractive!

7. Offer a referral program. Happy clients love recommending services to their friends!

8. Build out old projects for your portfolio. There’s nothing wrong with a little self-initiated work.

9. Use your downtime to connect with design peers. Also, let them know you’re able to pick up extra projects they don’t have time for. Every designer likes to keep a list of referrals on hand for jobs they can’t take on.

10. If you’re not blogging, start. Share genuinely helpful information. Here are 30 topic ideas to get you started.

When times are slow, they give us the chance to reflect and improve upon what we’re doing. Everyone, no matter how skilled, famous and fabulous has room to improve! We all hit slow times. Embrace them. Make the best of them. They won’t last forever.


It’s your turn: Do you have any coping skills to deal with those painfully slow times?

P.S. That yellow poster in the top photo is pinned behind my desk and reads Stay Positive. Yes, I glance at it often. 😉