Behind-the-Scenes with Jamilla King
Having built a social media presence of 60+K followers in just over a year, Jamilla King of @AnothaDIYProject may seem like an overnight success. And in some ways, she is. A couple of months ago, only 2K people followed her Instagram account. But focusing on the audience alone is like admiring the paint on the wall without acknowledging the effort required to prep the surface or build the intricate panel work it covers. The numbers aren't the whole story.
So what is the story? How did Jamilla go from a single bathroom design in March of 2021 to a schedule full of clients and thousands of followers a year later? You'll have to listen to the full episode to find out, but here are a few of the highlights:
- She quit her job. No kidding. With a newly issued real estate license and $50 in her bank account, Jamilla leaned into a heartfelt prayer. Then she typed up a resignation letter and walked.
- She refused to go back. It took six months before Jamilla closed her first real estate deal. That's some 180 days without a paycheck. To survive, she hustled and borrowed and even humbled herself to ask for help. When people questioned her decision to quit her job before she had a stable client base, she replied, "I didn't come this far to just go back." And she never did.
- She posted her progress. Growing up, Jamilla loved interior design. But without many African American women in the business or an understanding of how the industry works, she pursued other career options. After leaving her job to become a realtor, she redesigned her bathroom. She created an Instagram account to post progress pictures, and people noticed.
- She pivoted. After seeing Jamilla's work on Instagram, a few friends asked her to do projects in their homes. Another friend suggested she charge and start doing work for other people. With some resistance, Jamilla finally said, "Okay, fine."
- She praised God. With a modest social media following and a small roster of paying clients, Jamilla posted a video expressing gratitude for the life she now leads. It was a simple post showing her work, thanking God for the gifts she's been given, and appreciation for the ability to do what she loves for a living. The post went viral. Now, @AnotherDIYProject has several thousand followers, and Jamilla has more work than she can handle.
Those are the highlights.
I didn't come this far
just to go back.
- Jamilla King -
Listen to the full podcast to hear the behind-the-scenes moments that made this business happen. Of course, followers are fabulous, and going viral is mind-blowing. But success is never actually overnight. The heart of this story is Jamilla's decision to align with God and have the courage to follow His guidance day by day when things didn't look so Instagram-perfect.
It's a good story. Have a listen.
Download the Transcript
How a DIY Designer Became an "Overnight" Success
Guest: Jamilla King
Shelley Hunter: You're listening to the Faithful Career Moves podcast. I'm your host, Shelley Hunter. This is the place where we talk to people who have found the career they were born to do and recognize God's hand in the process. Welcome to episode 30 of the Faithful Career Moves podcast. Before I introduce my guest, I want you to think about all the people who are daring greatly in their careers.
People who have decided to start a business that will require them to go without a paycheck until they get their own clients, make a sale, earn a commission, or do something before the money comes in and not as a side gig either, but as their sole source of income, because that is a career move that requires a great deal of faith and perseverance. Maybe send this podcast to that friend who could probably use a little inspiration as you'll hear from my guest today. I'm excited to introduce you to Jamila King.
You can find Jamilla on Instagram and YouTube and TikTok and other social media platforms as @AnothaDIYProject. That's A-N-O-T-H-A DIY Project. Now there are many DIYers out there on social media, but Jamilla caught my attention with a recent post about gratitude and the courage it took for her to quit her job. Not even fully aspirational, but because she simply could not live the life she was living any longer. In this post, she thanked God for the gift she'd been given and the opportunity. It was just so heartfelt and vulnerable that I just had to know more. I asked Jamilla to start us off with what she does for her career.
Jamilla: I make pretty things with power tools.
Shelley: I love that.
Jamilla: For lack of a better word. I basically just transform spaces, so whether it is just a simple accent wall to bring life to a room, or if a client wants me to create a theater room out of their loft space or transform their master bedroom or bathroom or something. I really just transform spaces for people to make it a space that they love.
Shelley: What does the business look like? You work with clients individually?
Jamilla: Yes, and it's funny because this was never intended to be a business, but yes, I do just primarily work with clients, residential. I have a few commercial clients that are interested in getting some things done with their office, but primarily residential clients and doing things in their home.
Shelley: Okay. Then there's an online component of it as well. You're on Instagram, you're on YouTube. Do you believe that the social media feeds your clients or it's a different revenue stream in sponsorship and things like that?
Jamilla: I have not received any sponsorships yet. Social media is my free marketing tool. I'm actually just now getting a website designed and worked out. I didn't even have a website. Technically, I still don't because it isn't live yet, but everything has been through the power of social media.
Shelley: I love it. Let's get to the question I really want to know. How did this all happen?
Jamilla: Man, so I've always loved interior design and decorating, and I've always been good with my hands. Even as a little child, I used to drive my mom crazy because I would just randomly change the living room furniture, every other week she'd come home and everything would just be rearranged differently.
I wanted to go to school for it but at the time I didn't think that I was good enough and that people would actually pay me to design spaces. Then back then you didn't really see a lot of interior designers that were African American women. I didn't really have a lot of role models and influences in the field and so I just didn't feel like it was something that I would ever be able to make money at doing. Fast forward to now, I was starting to do projects, just like my own personal projects around my house.
I was like, "I'm just going to make another Instagram and just start documenting just little things that I like to do." That was it, I literally just started that Instagram last year, March 16 so we're really just kind of coming up a little over a year now, but I just started posting pictures and videos of my own little personal projects. A friend of mine was like, "You should do this for other people."
I was like, "Oh no, this is just for fun." I don't want to do this for other people, this is just for fun. I had a few friends of mine that reached out to me about, "Hey, can you just come and help me maybe spruce up my bathroom or just do something? I was like, "Okay, fine." That was May. I actually took my first paid client in May of last year and it went and she posted the work that I had did and I was just still posting and still posting and just still like doing little projects here and there, and little projects here and there.
Then something just kind of happened this year. I'll say just kind of taking direction from God. My prayer was just God, whatever you have for me, I really just want to be in line and that comes with sometimes just letting go of things that we're comfortable and we're familiar with. There were a lot of things that I had to just let go and just trust the process.
I feel like this year, when I really did that, everything changed almost overnight. Instagram, I had just celebrated 2,000 followers on March 16th, the one-year anniversary date of when I created the page and I know, to a lot of people, 2,000 is not a big deal, but I was just so happy to be in a place where I was doing what I loved. I was just at peace with everything. I celebrated 2,000 followers. I decided to do a giveaway. I picked two people and I gave away two free accent walls. Well literally from March 16th to now April 25th, I've gone from 2,000 followers to 50,000.
Shelley: That just happened?
Jamilla: That just happened. I just celebrated 2,000 followers on March 16th.
Shelley: Oh my gosh. When you gave away the accent wall, it had to be somebody local I'm guessing?
Jamilla: Yes. It was two people that were local and I ended up making the post. I think one of the posts that I made just about kind of following your dreams and doing what you love yes. That post ended, and it might have been the same post that you saw, but it ended up going viral to where over 3 million people have viewed the posts and so many people have shared it and shared it and shared it. It's just brought a lot of attention to my platform.
Shelley: The Instagram blows up and now your client base blows up too, or what happens next?
Jamilla: Yes. Client base has tripled. I recently just decided to put a hold on accepting any new clients, scheduling any consults or anything for two weeks. This is just going to give me some time to get the website up and running. I'm in the process of trying to hire an assistant. This will give me some time to really get organized on the back end, where people can actually go online to my website and a lot of things can be automated because right now it's a lot for one person to do.
Shelley: Absolutely. What was it like the first time you charged? How did that work?
Jamilla: Honestly, the first time I charged, I definitely undercharged. I think I was just so excited to be doing my first project for somebody else. I was just like, "Hey, you just give me the money and pay me for the materials." I think I only probably charged like $250 for labor.
Jamilla: That was just it. I think as time went on, I really started getting more clients and started seeing how much time it really takes to really do a lot of what I was doing. It was still fun and exciting, but then I realized, okay, this is taking a lot more of my time. Then I started to actually look at this like a business and then started sitting down and really figuring out the best way to charge, what to charge and all that.
Shelley: How did you go about learning to do the actual building?
Jamilla: Everything up until now has been, honestly, a God-given gift. I have never taken a wood workshop class. I didn't even go to school for interior design. Just the eye and the vision, it really truly is a gift. At this stage, I'm going to some DIY conferences this year and just expanding my training as far as woodworking because obviously, I don't know everything and I'm kind of self-taught.
I do want to learn a lot more. I've opened myself up to just doing some conferences and looking to take some classes and working with other people, the DIY community on Instagram is amazing and I've met some wonderful women and we message each other and text each other and call each other with advice. If I needed some help with something and I know somebody else has done a project and they've done this before, I'll reach out and say, "Hey, I'm working on this. What did you use for this?" What was the best method for this? People really are open and willing to help.
Shelley: Isn't it interesting for all the negativity that comes from the internet and social media, this opportunity that you're talking about that didn't exist 15 years ago.
Shelley: Even the conferences that didn't exist.
Jamilla: I'm super excited about that because this is something that they do annually and it just so happens to be that this year it's going to be here in Atlanta.
Shelley: Wow. All is aligning for you right now.
Shelley: What advice would you have for somebody else who's looking at this, whether it is in the DIY or it's just in that kind of a space, what advice would you have for them getting started?
Jamilla: To start. Just start.
A lot of people don't start and honestly, that's where you go wrong in the first place. There's so many people that have these dreams and passions and great ideas, but they never leave the start line. A lot of times because they're either waiting for the right time, which there's never really a right time, or they're afraid that their ideal or their talent may not be good enough or even that the market is oversaturated with so many people that do this, what's going to make me different? My first advice would be to just get out there and see, you're never going to know if you can actually fly if you never jump off the ledge. You've got to jump first. Then once you do that, be authentic, really be yourself and be who you are. Social media is a place and it's so easy to get caught up in the web of strolling and looking at other people's pages and looking at how many followers other people have and look at how good other people seem to be doing because people will only show you what they want you to see.
You never really know how happy somebody else is or how successful they really are just by looking at their social media. You only see what they put out there. Don't get caught up in social media, really just be authentic and be who you are. I feel like when you do that, everything else will flow.
Shelley: I'm really happy you mentioned that part about getting started because I think it also does two things. One, it can start you on the path, but also it gives you an opportunity to three projects in say, "You know what? I actually don't like that this much."
Jamilla: Yes. There are some things that I have done that I don't like to do and I don't do anymore, like painting kitchen cabinets.
Shelley: Oh gosh.
Jamilla: I've had people reach out about repainting their cabinets and I tell them it's not something that I do. I can do it but like you said, trial and error. Once you start getting out there and doing projects and doing certain things, you realize what you like and what you don't like as much. There's no point in spending so many hours and days on doing something that you don't really like to do.
Shelley: That's really good advice. What haven't I asked you about your business, getting started, or just even being in the DIY space that I should have asked?
Jamilla: I will say this, social media is a full-time job in itself. In addition to just doing my own work, trying to remember to upload content for social media, and stopping to get videos and make reels, that is also a full-time job. I did not realize how much goes into social media on the backside.
Sometimes I'm exhausted and I want to just hide for a little bit, but I can't because I have a business and my business relies heavily on social media. Even when I am exhausted and I want to just take a break, you don't really have the luxury to do that unless you have someone that's running your social media for you or something like that. It's a whole another set of hours.
Shelley: I think that's good advice. Jamilla, can you tell me about a leap of faith you had to take to get where you are now?
Jamilla: Oh, man. Which time? I think for me, the turning point for everything was about eight or nine years ago when I quit my job in corporate America. I had a dream and it's still to this day, very blurry, but in my dream, there were certain parts of my dream where I was given the vision of, I would need to get my real estate license.
That was a part of it. Then there were some other segments, but it wasn't completely clear at the time. When I woke up from my dream, I just prayed and I asked God to just reveal to me what it was. At the time I was working in corporate America and I was very, very unhappy with my job. Very unhappy. I kind of got the clear understanding of, okay I'm going to just try to figure out what is the process of me getting my license and going from there. About a month later, I had enrolled, I started real estate school and a few months later I had taken the exam, passed the exam and did all that.
I say about maybe six to seven months had gone by from start to finish. The day that my license was ready I got an email that morning and I was on my way to work. I had sat at my desk and I didn't clock in. I just sat there and I prayed for about 30 minutes. I was just like, "I didn't come this far. I didn't do all this to still be here at this job."
I was just so miserable and unhappy and I hated being there. It was so bad to sometimes I would like leave work on my lunch break and go to the bar and have a few margaritas just to get me through the rest of the day. That's how bad it was. I sat at my desk, I prayed for about 30 minutes, and then I just started typing up my resignation letter at my desk. I went to HR and I turned it in effective immediately. The lady in the HR's office, she just threw her hand up. She was like, "Okay, bye."
Jamilla: Yes. I left. That was, I think February 2nd or February 3rd. I'll never forget the day because it was a Monday and I had just paid my rent for the month. I was living in an apartment and I only had $50 in my account. As I was sitting at my desk and typing up this letter, I was also kind of freaking out because I was like, "I only have $50. If I quit my job, what am I going to do?"
Something just said, trust me and so I did. It was not easy. Those first six or seven months, I struggled so bad because I was a newly licensed real estate agent. I didn't get my first sale until six months later yet my family and my friends, they helped out a lot and they did what they could, but at the time I was very prideful.
There were sometimes where I needed things or maybe my lights were cut off or maybe I only had $20 that week for food or whatever and I just suffered in silence because I didn't want to keep asking my parents or asking friends or family for help. One day, I'm not going to make this too long, but I finally got my first client and I was so excited, I was like, yes. I ended up getting a title loan for my car. I'm like, I just needed some money to get me by. I ended up getting like $3,000 for my car at the time, a title loan.
Of course, like you know, you're supposed to pay it back within 30 days. I had just got my client under contract and we were supposed to close in 30 days. In my mind, I had mapped it all out, like, okay, perfect. Do this, this will get me over until whenever. My client ended up changing his mind and decided he didn't [sound cut] the house. Then we started back over and started looking.
I was like, "Oh my God. Oh my God, we got hurry up and find something, find something." We ended up finding something else and getting him under contract again. The 30 days had ended up passing. I think I was probably like a week past the 30 days and I hadn't paid the people at the title company. One day I'm sleeping. I wake up the next morning and my car's gone out of my parking lot.
They towed my car. When I called the next day, I was kind of freaking out. They were like, "Well, you have 10 days to come and make the payment on your car or we're going to auction it off." We were coming up on the closing date. We were supposed to close, I'll say about like day eight or day nine, we were supposed to close and we didn't close. The closing got pushed back because we were still waiting on a final document from the attorney's office. Day 10, we got a call early that morning saying, we're clear to close.
You guys can come in this afternoon and we can get you guys closed. This is day 10. I was sweating bullets the entire time because I was freaking out. We closed that day. My first commissions check was the exact amount of what I owed the people at the title company. I literally left the closing, went straight to the bank, cashed the check, and went straight to the title company to get my car.
Shelley: I'm like sick to my stomach.
Jamilla: A lot of people don't know that story. This wasn't anything that I blasted and put on social media because the entire time when we close, I obviously made a post and we're smiling and everything, but all of this stuff that goes on behind the scenes and the sacrifices that I made-- and I had family members that were financially able to help me, and they wouldn't. They were just like, "Nobody told you to quit your job. You need to go back to work," but I just kept saying, I didn't come this far just to go back.
Jamilla: It was tough but the sun always comes up eventually, night doesn't last forever. Now it has created a resilient person and it was the most humbling time of my life. Now to be where I am now, I'll never forget that. I'll never forget when I didn't have lights or when my car got repoed or when I was eating spaghetti for a whole week because I only had like $10. Those experiences, I feel like it really set the tone for something that was going to be much greater, which has blossomed to where we are now.
Shelley: Well, and any job that you go into where you have to get your clients, is going to be a slug. You're not going to start out with money, but the fact that you persevered through it is what's amazing. What's an unexpected blessing, something you could not see for yourself in making this move?
Jamilla: AnothaDIYProject is my unexpected blessing. I never in a million years would have dreamed or even thought that I would be doing what I'm doing. It's amazing. It's so scary at the same time because this is just the beginning. They say like, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.
Shelley: Yes. Dang, it.
Jamilla: I don't know what's next. It's exciting, but so far this is mind-blowing.
Shelley: Yes, and it's still a lot of work. Can you tell me how you've seen the hand of God in your career?
Jamilla: I have seen him in my career just by how inspired other people have been from my story, the little things I've shared about my personal journey, and all of the messages that I've received, people saying you've inspired me to not give up or you've inspired me to start this new business, or you've inspired me to go after something that I've been putting off for a long time. Thank you for sharing, God bless you. To me, it's a little piece of confirmation, it's a reminder that this is so much bigger than me and it's not just about an image or how many followers you have, it's a great feeling to be able to give back and share because I'm a firm believer in our gifts and our talents, they're not just for us. You have to find a way to share it with the world and give back in a way. I feel like me being authentic, me being who I am and me sharing my gifts and my talents, it motivates people.
Shelley: I could not say that better. Jamila, thank you for being on the show with me.
Jamilla: You're welcome. Thank you for having me.
Shelley: I love this story so, so much and I am just so impressed with her drive to press forward in those moments when it was so hard. That quote, "I didn't come this far just to go back," has stayed in my thoughts ever since we recorded this interview. What a great evolution, the big pivot she thought, would be in becoming a realtor, but because she made that move, it laid the foundation for creating AnothaDIYProject which is really the intersection of her passions, interests, and God-given abilities.
I just love, love hearing the stories of people who have figured that out and Jamilla has it right, our gifts are not just for ourselves. They're meant to be shared. We have to develop them first. That part is personal. We have to do the work, but when those skills evolve to the point that we can use them to serve others, well then it's our job to do so. My last question for you today is this, what strengths do you need to develop and share with the world? If you're not sure, check out my workbook. I'll link to it in the show notes. In there you'll find questions to help you figure that out for yourself. All right. That's it for me. Thanks, Jamilla and thank you for listening.
Thank you for listening to the Faithful Career Moves podcast. If you want to know more about how to connect your natural talents and abilities to job opportunities and business ideas, then visit our website at faithfulcareermoves.com.