Shannel Lee: Fear is a Liar

Freelance designer

by Elizabeth Lavis


31 Jan 2023

Gold in Branding 2021
"No challenge is too big if you take it step-by-step.”

The best piece of advice that Shannel Lee of Shannel C Design ever heard helped her leave a long career in sales and plunge headfirst into freelance design with exceptional results. “Fear is often a liar,” Lee says. “Don’t be afraid to fail. Take action! Just get started today, right now. Take the first step even if you don’t know where you’re going.”

Lee’s commitment to facing fear head-on and relying on her life experience has helped the Santa Barbara, California native trust her creative voice and style. “I’ve been lucky to have people in my life that have pushed me to take risks in spite of my fears or trepidation,” Lee says. “I’ve continued to do so, and the life lessons that have come along the way have been priceless. I am so grateful, and I hope to always challenge myself not to get too comfortable but to keep moving forward without fear of failure.”


Lee’s success story is proof that it’s never too late to go after your dreams or reinvent yourself. “Follow your gut because eventually you will anyway,” Lee says.” No challenge is too big if you take it step-by-step.”

Despite taking a decade-plus detour into the sales world before finding her footing in design, Lee always had a deep appreciation and love for design. “After a 12-year career in sales, I decided to take the leap and study design at Shillington College of Graphic Design in London,” she says. “It was the best decision ever.”

In addition to the freedom to flex her creative muscles, Lee loves the uniquely satisfying feeling of finishing a project and marveling at its beauty and function. She also ensures that her designs are spot-on and most effective by asking in-depth, illuminating questions to get to the crux of what the client hopes to achieve. She credits her sales background for establishing rapport and trust and encouraging clients to put their faith in her expertise.

“Sales is all about meeting someone where they are and helping them see value in what you offer,” Lee says. “This definitely comes in handy with clients and stakeholders. The first step is understanding where the client is coming from and their wants, needs, and pain points. Then the client feels heard. After that, you’ll be able to understand and communicate more effectively how your design will help the client accomplish their unique goals.”

Although Lee gives her clients her all, she still makes time to balance work with a bit of fun. “I put some good music on and try to get into a groove and allow for play,” she says. “If time is really tight, I might set a timer, so I have 30 minutes just to let loose with some ideas.”

Lee also likes to take being outside of work literally, spending as much time in the wilderness as possible and referring to it as a “constant motivator.” “I’m passionate about literature and enjoy writing,” she says. “I also love ballet, salsa, and ballroom dance. And donuts.” 

Expect more playful, creative projects, including whimsical living spaces, from Lee in the future. “I’d like to continue to do more branding projects in my freelance work,” she says. “As far as my full-time role, I hope to be able to delve deeper into product design. I also love interior decorating, so if you need a decorator for your new Airbnb, hit me up!”

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