At the start of 2020 31-year-old Virginia Beach Cassidy Montalvo was furloughed from her job as a front desk manager at a hotel. At the time, Montalvo’s husband was in the Navy and she was home with her 1-year-old daughter. To fight against the boredom, Montalvo began posting videos about her favorite hobby.
“Doing hair has always been something I love and enjoy. I’ve always been the ‘go to’ person for my friends and sisters for makeup, hairstyles, and fashion for their special events,” Montalvo told Passionfruit. “I posted those tutorials on TikTok thinking nobody would see them.”
But one hair tutorial video went viral and suddenly Montalvo’s number of followers began climbing. She now has over a million. Brands like Walmart and Tidal Hair reached out to work with her. Before quitting her corporate job to become a full-time creator, she had a few hurdles to overcome, from figuring out consistent revenue sources to deciding her niche, since she wanted to be known as more than just a military mom.
Here’s how Montalvo left her corporate career to become a successful TikTok and Instagram influencer in just three years.
She started using social media as a creative outlet
In May 2020, when her job called her back to work, Montalvo knew that even though her social media platforms were seeing growth, it was too risky to quit her job.
“I followed many bloggers and knew that it was possible to become a full-time content creator,” she said. “However, I also knew my chances of making this work full-time were slim.”
Before deciding to go all-in on content creation, Montalvo decided she wanted to be sure that her niche, personality, and content continued to resonate with an audience first.
“I wanted to make content that was both fun for me and helpful for others and then just hope for the best. If it did become full-time, I would be ecstatic,” she said. “If it did not, I didn’t want to lose focus on my 9-5 job. For the first year, my goal really was just be me and hold on tight.”
While some content creators are eager to quit full-time jobs that they’ve fallen out of love with, Montalvo had the opposite experience.
“I loved my corporate job because every day was different and it was always fast-paced,” she said.
She said the only downside of the job was the long hours. She usually worked 10-15 hour shifts, on weekends and holidays too. Right around the time she was called back to work, her TikTok was starting to take off. She was gaining thousands of new followers every week.
“That’s when things got tough because the hotel brought back limited staff so my shifts were long and I didn’t have a lot of days off,” she said.
To grow her social media platforms and show up for her full-time job, she would wake up at 5 AM, have coffee with her husband, play with her daughter, and film content the second she went down for a nap. When her husband finished work, she’d rush to work, and answer comments and DMs on her content during her work breaks.
“On my days off of work, I would get up super early to record as much content as I could,” she shared. “I wanted to spend my off-time with my daughter and husband. I don’t think I have ever been so tired in my life, but I also enjoyed the hustle.”
Montalvo didn’t have any immediate plans to quit her full-time job. But since her husband and she were usually working at the same time, they had a babysitter come quite often.
“One day my daughter referred to our babysitter as her mom and I realized I was just trying to do too much,” she said. “I never filmed or edited content when she was awake. It was the hotel job pulling me from her during the day.”
That’s when she decided she needed to leave her job and the hospitality industry. Montalvo did this gradually. She asked her boss for a demotion to work fewer hours, since she wasn’t making enough through social media to sustain her bill yet.
A few weeks later, she scored a brand deal from a clothing boutique that she loved and the income from that partnership would be enough to match what she was making in a month from her full-time job.
“That’s when I put in my resignation letter and immediately poured my heart, soul, and creativity into social media hoping the rest would pan out,” she said.
Her corporate job provided her with skills that helped her become a content creator
When Montalvo started putting her full-time efforts into social media, she realized she was taking a lot of skills from her corporate job and putting them to use.
“At the hotel, I had to do conflict management and practice patience and empathy quite often,” she said. “Social media requires those skills too. Trying to please everyone on the internet is impossible, and you will lose yourself trying. Being in customer service taught me how to shield myself from others’ opinions, while still being empathetic to their very real emotions.”
You need multiple sources of income to succeed as a full-time creator
Montalvo said one downside of being a full-time content creator is your income varies.
“How much money I make a month is dependent on so many factors, from brand deals to platform’s algorithms showing my content to more people,” she said. “For example, November is usually more lucrative than January because I’m posting affiliate codes for holiday shopping.”
She makes money off various streams of income, from brand partnerships, commission from a code or affiliate link, views per video through the platform’s creator funds, and even by posting using a song that’s being promoted.
“The scary part of social media is that there is no guaranteed paycheck,” she added. “It can be a very comfortable lifestyle, and I am very thankful, but it is never a guarantee. It could all go away tomorrow.”
Building platforms takes time, consistency, and a nice that helps you stand out
Montalvo said it took her one year to build her platforms from zero followers to a few million followers across her platforms.
“I posted every single day; sometimes multiple videos a day, and every video had something useful to others in it,” she said.
At first, she posted videos that put her in the hairstyling niche but she noticed her content lacked the human connection people on social media crave. When followers started asking her for links to accessories or outfits in her hair videos, she started branching out and posting more fashion content. Then she decided to post content about other areas of her life too, from healthy meals she was cooking to DIY crafts she was asking around the house.
She decided that if she was doing something at home that could be useful to other people, she’d share it, from recipes to organization hacks, and more.
“Slowly, I moved away from just sharing hairstyles to sharing more lifestyle content that touched on a few niches,” she shared. “It was my unique style that helped me stand out. I pick things that make me happy and put outfits together with a variety of styles, colors, and textures. That resonated with people.”
People often ask her how she grew her platforms to over a million followers and Montalvo likes to boil her growth down to passion, consistency, and hard work.
“Be consistent in posting, be genuine in your content, and be helpful to those watching,” she recommended. “The word will get around and your people will find you.”
On average, Montalvo said she spends around 60 hours per week as a content creator.
Being a military mom and an influencer can be tough to balance
Early on, Montalvo made a promise to herself that she wouldn’t share much about the military or what her husband does. “I don’t let being a military wife or being a mom define who I am as a content creator,” she shared. “I am both of those things, but I am Cassidy first. My girls online get Cassidy, their friend. Not Cassidy, the military wife. While I am always happy to talk to anyone who is a military wife with what I have learned, I have never made my content about it and I would suggest the same. Being a military wife and a mom are jobs that I have and love, but they aren’t who I am as a person. I would find things that make you special outside of those roles and share it with the world, while still showing those aspects of your life.
“Military life is tough no matter what job you have,” she said. “My husband is gone a lot and I try to put my phone away when my daughter is awake or not at school so I can be that support she needs as her primary parent.”
But Montalvo said that a big benefit of being a full-time content creator is being in charge of her schedule. “When my husband would be in and out for work and I worked at the hotel, very rarely would our schedules align where I could see him in those short moments,” she said. “I also can be with my daughter so much more. Even with brand trips, or networking events, I see my daughter more now and get to be so present in her life than if I was still at my corporate job.”
After becoming a successful TikTok and Instagram influencer and leaving the corporate world, Montalvo recommended that other people who want to do the same first realize it’s a lot of work.
“I know it seems like all fun and games, but be prepared to work hard. To be a little cringey. To get judged by those around you,” she said. “Push through that and keep posting. If you truly love content creation and give it your all, you will get there and you will know when the timing feels right to take that step and move away from your 9-5.”