Chelsie Tamms is an award-winning lettering artist and designer from Chicago. With a love of art and understanding the world since a young age, she studied Graphic Design, Spanish, and Marketing at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. While a student, she won $10,000 through Bradley’s Student Entrepreneurship Competition to start her own business. She has single-handedly owned and operated Lettering Works, a branding studio that connects businesses to their audience through creativity and strategy, since 2016. Chelsie specializes in brand strategy and custom artwork for small businesses, female entrepreneurs, and established artists. In addition to her creative services, her artwork and art products are known to promote positivity and build community. Chelsie believes in investing in causes close to her heart and advocates for small businesses, kidney disease awareness, and chronic illness awareness through self-initiated passion projects. Her most well-known passion projects include 100 Days of Peoria (and Chicago), Steph’s Stickers, and Cool Beans. She has written and self-published two books: Just My Type of Lettering and 100 Days of Peoria. With over 10 years of practice of lettering and design, Chelsie is passionate about craft and intention. When she’s not designing, she can be found eating ice cream, traveling internationally, or starting a new passion project.
Where did the idea for Lettering Works come from?
Lettering Works is truly my passion for lettering and design manifested into my own business venture. I’ve always loved art, design, and communicating so developing a modern brand studio seemed like a natural progression of my interests. I landed on the name because I wanted to focus on the art of lettering and educating others on how it could work for their business, brand, or cause.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
A typical day usually contains a mix of personal projects, general business maintenance tasks (such as social media, accounting, and communicating via email), and client work. I stay productive by always having a passion project going to work on when I feel creatively blocked. I’m able to quickly channel my energy from working on personal work into my client projects, which is a win-win for all involved. I also prioritize making to-do lists and setting frequent goals.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I bring my ideas to life through creative experimentation and investment – in the form of both time and money. I am not afraid to spend money on personal projects, as they communicate what I am passionate about, attract ideal clients, and help me to feel fulfilled in the work I do.
What’s one trend that excites you?
One trend that excites me is sharing more personal stories on social media. I enjoy being able to get to know business owners through what they share about their personal lives and interests on social media. I’ve also found it’s a great way for me to connect with my audience on a deeper level and ultimately attract my ideal clients.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
One habit that I have is to start working on the tasks that seem most appealing, easiest, or smallest to give me momentum to tackle the larger tasks and bigger challenges I face as an entrepreneur.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Invest in your own ideas more. Don’t be afraid to take a chance on yourself. Once you understand that spending time and money on your own projects is truly a worthy investment in your business, your potential for growth and impact multiplies. You can’t just rely on client work to fulfill you creatively and direct your future. You need to create a vision and future yourself.
And also, work with people you like. The cost of working with people who don’t value your skills and aren’t a good personality fit can be truly detrimental. This work isn’t worth the payout, however appealing it may seem.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Starving artists aren’t lazy, they are afraid of money. There’s such a bad reputation for professional artists being lazy, when the reality is they are hardworking but often too afraid to ask for their worth.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Define your creative process and automate your workflow. As an entrepreneur, you don’t have time to reinvent the wheel with each new offering or product launch – save yourself the time and energy by working smarter, not harder.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
One strategy that has helped me grow my business is diversifying my income. I began with just a couple art products and design services, but have since expanded to include consulting services, teaching, and am currently working on further developing my digital offerings as well as online workshops. When one area is slow, another area can compensate and keep my business going strong and continuing to grow.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Failure is inevitable as an entrepreneur, but it is important to see it as a learning experience above all. One failure that sticks out to me was a time where I worked with someone who did not value my services and talents. Ignoring the red flags of working with this client resulted in heightened stress and unnecessary creative burnout. I overcame it by powering through the project itself and committing to change how I vetted clients. I learned to trust my intuition and treat project inquiries as a way for me to investigate if the client is a good fit for me as much as they are investigating if I am a good fit for them.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A recent business idea I had (and executed the creative aspects only for a personal project titled Cool Beans) was a restaurant focused on a renal diet. This restaurant concept could raise awareness for kidney disease, serve a growing population requiring a renal diet, and offer unique programming to serve the community at large. I’d love to see this idea happen, so it’s up for grabs!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I recently spent was to produce a thoughtful postcard for my clients, friends, and family. I customized it to celebrate my fourth business anniversary but opted to create a more relevant and general message of “Be Gentle with Yourself” to meet people where they’re at during this time of sheltering in place, but foster a strong, personal connection. I believe it’s essential to invest in already established relationships to show those who already appreciate you and your work that you appreciate them as well.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I use Dubsado to manage projects – send contracts, invoices, design proofs, questionnaires, and general information to my clients. It helps streamline my administrative work and opens up more time for me to focus on other work.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Even though it was initially published in 1936, I recommend “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. It brings up so many great and actionable lessons on how to be more effective at working with people.
What is your favorite quote?
A favorite quote of mine is “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up” by Pablo Picasso.
• How investing in yourself is key to growth and turning ideas into reality
• How getting personal on social media can be a great way to attract those who you’d work best with
• How Chelsie embraces starting with the smallest and easiest tasks to build momentum
• What Chelsie learned from her failure to partner with clients who valued her services and talents
• The best use of $100 is investing in existing relationships