- Julie Sousa is an interior stylist who started sharing her living space’s TikToks in October 2020.
- Before quitting her job in W-2 marketing, she made sure her side gig income matched her salary.
- In 2022, she has already earned more than her old salary and is on track to earn much more.
Julie Sousa’s career as an interior designer began as a hobby. A commercial by day, she began posting TikToks in October 2020, documenting how she designed her living space and sharing updates on a condo she was building. “It was really just a hobby, but around January or February I started taking clients,” Sousa told Insider.
Within months, what was a creative outlet became that and more. She had a line of eager clients who wanted her to revamp their spaces and a cohort of brands hoping to partner with her to sponsor content on her TikTok and Instagram pages. It wasn’t just clients and other businesses that were hungry for Sousa’s work, “I was really anxious,” she said.
She wanted to quit her day job and settle down as a full-time business owner, interior stylist, and content creator. Yet this desire was not enough to take her from the corporate world to that of entrepreneurship; it had to make strategic and practical decisions to build this bridge. More importantly, she needed to get her money in order.
Sousa’s company salary was $77,000, and in the first year of her business, she was able to earn more than double that amount, bringing in over $200,000. This year, she is on track to do even more. His only regret was that he hadn’t done it sooner. Below, she shares exactly what she did to make this transition possible.
1. She worked both her corporate job and her side job until her income was the same from both
The first time someone paid Sousa for her interior design work, she could have taken that as a sign that there was money to be made in the interior design business and dedicated two weeks to it. in his position in the company. But that’s not what she did. “I wanted to wait until my salary broke even,” she explained.
Although Sousa took a leap, it wasn’t a leap of faith. By the time she left her marketing job, she knew she was making the same amount of money in her new business as she had previously made in her W-2 job. “Because you’re so used to the security of having a salary, health insurance and all that, leaving seems really scary,” Sousa said. “But knowing that I was already getting the same salary from my own company certainly gave me a lot of comfort.”
She used (and continues to use) Wix, a website platform, to promote her business and book clients, which allowed her to track her sales data from different angles. “I could look at the last 30 days or the last seven days,” she said. “And I was constantly looking at those scans.” Knowing that self-employment income can be more sporadic, she learned to analyze her business money on average over weeks or months, rather than expecting to hit a specific amount each time period.
She recommends others track their business income for at least three months to collect enough financial data. “So at least within 90 days you have a better idea of what it could be,” she explained. Sousa put his two weeks in March 2021, about five months into his social media presence.
2. She tracked her income much more closely when she started working just for herself.
Once Sousa officially resigned from her full-time position, she tracked her freelance earnings much more closely. Because there was no set salary, she had to make sure she always brought the amount of money she needed to cover her bills and other expenses.
“I just had to get used to the new pace of things,” she said. Her goals were not always to make what she earned in her corporate job, but to grow slowly as she got used to this new way of making money. “Last month’s income became next month’s goal income,” she said, explaining how she set financial goals. After setting a goal, she would then break down each week what she needed to earn to make this possible. “For the first two months, just trying to watch it every week helped me stay confident that it was going to work.”
3. She opened several bank accounts to better manage her entrepreneurial income
Although Sousa made sure to make money from her business like she did when working for someone else, she quickly realized that the way she handled that money had to change.
To start, she opened a business bank account through which all of her income from clients and brands could flow. This system also made it much easier for him to save for taxes. Since an employer no longer withheld income tax initially, it fell to Sousa to take on this role.
To help her do this, she automatically sets aside 40% of all her earnings in the company’s bank account, which separates her money from the money she ultimately won’t be able to keep. “It made me understand what I had and what I didn’t have,” she said.
Splitting up money like this is a trick she used when she worked at a company, where her direct deposit was split between a “bills” account and a “fun” account. Now, the professional account allows you to fulfill this role.
4. She didn’t let all the strangers hold her back
Although Sousa was strategic in her career change, she didn’t feel the need to have everything answered before making the move. If she had, it might have taken her even longer to start her business and stifled her earning potential. “I still have to think about retirement, and that’s all new to me,” she explained.
She is also figuring out what she will do for health care. For now, she is signed up for continuous coverage through COBRA.
While those are two important considerations when leaving a W-2 job, Sousa said she didn’t let them stop her from pursuing her passion. Ultimately, she says, with the right financial foundation in place, she knew she could tackle these other aspects of freelancing over time.
“For me, finances were the safety net,” she said. “Because at the end of the day, that’s really what people are afraid of.”