Courtney’s Corner: digital art and freelance
February 16, 2021

This time for Courtney’s Corner, I talked to Chelsi Bartlett. She owns and operates an Omaha-based business where she sells her artwork. I talked to her about what it’s like being a freelance graphic designer, since graphic design is something I’ve always been interested in.

Chelsi describes herself as a graphic designer, artist, crafter, jeweler, and an all-around maker. Her business, Laurel and Ives, proves she is all of those things. She began her business in 2017 with a focus in photography and traditional art. Her work was more dark-toned and gothic; she even sold art to the producers of The Walking Dead. Since then, her style has evolved to fit her personality and aesthetics. Laurel and Ives now focuses on graphic design, commissioned art, and jewelry. A big chunk of the graphic design work she does is designing logos, but she also creates other marketing materials, like stickers.

Chelsi Bartlett – Laurel & Ives

Freelance graphic design is a great option for new or small businesses. With freelancers, businesses have the opportunity to hire on an as-needed basis as opposed to a full-time designer. It’s an especially beneficial option for new businesses that don’t have branding or marketing materials. Every business needs a logo and branding guidelines, and a freelancer can create those and take that stress away.

A big attraction to being a freelancer is getting to work for yourself. Chelsi loves that aspect of it, but even more so enjoys creating things that people love. She enjoys seeing people get excited about what she makes. That’s another plus to being a freelancer: you get to decide what you make, Chelsi said. She decides what she wants to do and when she wants to do it.

One of the most challenging parts of starting freelance is deciding what to charge. For Chelsi, it’s not just about what she’s earning. “I’m not doing all this work to make money; I’m doing all this work to gain knowledge,” she said. Every freelancer can set their prices based on what they feel it’s worth, but Chelsi’s thought process is: am I undervaluing my work or valuing my education? It can be difficult to gain customers when you’re new. Finding a balance and what works for you is essential. Chelsi has found that charging less but gaining more experience is what works for her. “If I’m doing enough to make a profit then I get paid,” she said. “I like doing it more than I like selling it.” But as most artists of any kind say: never give your work away for free.

Chelsi views her graphic design work as “commission art for a very specific reason.” Designing art for a company you don’t work for requires research and lots of communication. Chelsi begins her process with looking at their social media pages. This helps with seeing how they communicate with their consumers and what design style and aesthetics they already have. After that, Chelsi said, she takes a look at her long list of questions and picks a few to ask, like “If you had an office, what would you want it to look like?” After some back-and-forth communication, she can create a logo (or other material) that fits the business’s style.

I found my love for graphic design in college and plan to find a career that incorporates it. Freelance has always been a tad intimidating to me, though. I like the idea of working for myself and deciding what I want to produce, but some of the drawbacks steer me away. Working for yourself means no benefits like health insurance or a 401(k). I don’t necessarily see myself working for big corporate America, but I do see myself working with a consistent team. While I’m not sure if freelance is something for me, I know I love graphic design and want it to be an aspect of my career.

Freelance work is great for people who want to be their own boss. It allows you to do what you want, when you want. Freelance provides a cost-effective service to businesses, especially new and small companies. It doesn’t have to be graphic design either, freelance exists in many fields of work.

You can find Chelsi’s work at or on Instagram @laurel.and.ives.

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