- Julie Sousa is an interior stylist who started sharing TikToks of her living space in October 2020.
- Before quitting her W-2 marketing job, she made sure her side-gig income matched her salary.
- In 2022, she’s already made more than her old salary and is on track to bring in much more.
Julie Sousa’s interior-styling career started as a hobby. A marketer by day, she began posting TikToks in October 2020, documenting the way she styled her living space and sharing updates about a condo she was building. “It was really just a hobby, but around January or February I started taking on clients, “Sousa told Insider.
In just a few months, what was a creative outlet became that and so much more. She had a line of eager clients wanting her to makeover their spaces and a cohort of brands hoping to partner with her to sponsor content across her TikTok and Instagram pages. It wasn’t just customers and other businesses that were hungry for Sousa’s work, “I got really antsy for it,” she said.
She wanted to quit her day job and set up shop as a full-time business owner, interior stylist, and content creator. Still, that desire wasn’t enough to carry her from the corporate world to the entrepreneurial one; she had to make strategic and practical decisions to build that bridge. Most importantly, she had to get her money in order.
Sousa’s corporate salary was $ 77,000, and in the first year of her business, she was able to earn more than twice that amount, bringing in over $ 200,000. This year she’s on track to make even more. Her only regret was not doing this sooner. Below, she shares exactly what she did to make this transition possible.
1. She worked both her corporate job and her side hustle until her income was the same from both
The first time someone paid Sousa for her interior-styling work, she could have taken that as a sign that there was money to be made in the home-decor business and put in her two weeks at her corporate position. But that isn’t what she did. “I wanted to wait until my salary basically broke even,” she explained.
Though Sousa did take a leap, it wasn’t a leap of faith. By the time she left her marketing role, she knew she was making the same amount of money in her new business as she’d previously made in her W-2 job. “Because you’re so used to the security of having a salary, health insurance, and all of that, leaving it sounds really scary,” Sousa said. “But knowing that I was already meeting the same salary from my own business definitely provided 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 various angles. “I could look at the last 30 days or the last seven days,” she said. “And I would constantly look at those analytics.” Knowing that self-employed income can be more sporadic, she learned to analyze the money from her business averaged across weeks or months, instead of expecting to hit a specific amount every time period.
She recommends others track their entrepreneurial revenue for at least three months to collect enough financial data. “So at least within 90 days, you have a better sense of how it could be,” she explained. Sousa put in her two weeks in March 2021, about five months after starting her social-media presence.
2. She tracked her income much more closely when she first started working solely for herself
Once Sousa had officially resigned from her full-time role, she tracked her self-employed income much more closely. Because there was no set salary, she needed to make sure that she was still bringing in the amount of money she needed to cover her bills and other expenses.
“I just had to get used to the new rhythm of things,” she said. Her goals weren’t always just to make what she made in her corporate job, but slowly grow as she became more accustomed to this new way of earning money. “Last month’s revenue became the next month’s goal revenue,” she said, explaining how she set financial objectives. After setting a goal, she would then break down weekly what she had to earn to make that possible. “In the first couple of months, just trying to look at it weekly helped me stay assured that it was going to work out.”
3. She set up multiple bank accounts to better manage her entrepreneurial income
Though Sousa made sure she was earning comparable money from her business as she was when she worked for someone else, she quickly realized that the ways she managed that money needed to change.
To start, she set up a business bank account where all of her income from clients and brands could flow through. This system also made it much easier for her to save money for taxes. Since an employer was no longer withholding income taxes on the front end, it became Sousa’s responsibility to take on that role.
To help her do this, she automatically sets aside 40% of all of her income in the business bank account, which helps separate her money from the money that she ultimately won’t get to keep. “It allowed me to understand what I had and didn’t have,” she said.
Separating money like this is a trick she used when working her corporate job, where she would have her direct deposit split between a “bills” account and a “fun” account. Now the business account helps fill that role.
4. She didn’t let every unknown hold her back
Though Sousa was strategic about her career change, she didn’t feel the need to have answers for everything 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 figure out retirement, and that’s brand new for me,” she explained.
She’s also in the process of determining what she’ll do for healthcare. For now, she’s enrolled in continuing coverage through COBRA.
While these are two important considerations when leaving a W-2 job, Sousa said she didn’t let them hold her back from pursuing her passion. Ultimately, she said, with the right financial foundation in place, she knew she could tackle these other aspects of self-employed work as time went on.
“For me, the financials were the safety net,” she said. “Because at the end of the day, that’s really what people are afraid of.”