How to be an adult: 7 ways to get it together

Jan 12, 2015

Okay, we’re a week into 2015. How’s your New Year’s resolution doing? Even if you’re far into adulthood (like me), being a grownup and following through on your goals feels hard.

But this year, I’ve vowed to get my shit together.

Often, the things that stress me out the most are the things I could easily automate or actually save me time in the long run—they’re just outside my comfort zone. But once you do them, you wonder why you procrastinated so long.

1. Set your bills to autopay

Every month, your bank can transfer money from your Savings or Checking account to pay all or part of your credit card bill. This is a great way to make sure a) you don’t have to pay nasty late fees, which hurt your credit score, and b) you’re always budgeting money to pay off any credit card debt.

Next, tackle your monthly bills, like your cell phone, cable, etc. Most banks allow you to set up these payments in less than 5 minutes.

2. Always get your invoices out on time

It is one of the great paradoxes of the freelance species that we frequently need money and yet are late submitting invoices. Try keeping track of time & money throughout the project so that you’re not faced with lots of calculating, estimating, and receipt-gathering at the end. These invoicing apps will help get rid of your billing-inertia.

3. Get health and dental insurance

The deadline fast approaches, my friends. Either enroll by February 15 or face a fine that’s up to 2% of your income. Remember Murphy’s Law: better to be covered than to take your chances. You can get health insurance starting at about $390/month -- and significantly less if you qualify for a subsidy. Browse plans on Freelancers Union.

Did you know that health insurance plans do not come with dental insurance? You need to purchase this separately. And for about $40 a month in NY (and significantly less elsewhere), dental insurance is one of those things it pays to get. Most plans have $5 cleanings and 70-80% reduction on stuff like cavities and root canals.

4. Then, actually go to the doctor and dentist…

A shocking number of people don’t use their health/dental plans to full advantage. (Like me.) At least go to your annual checkup and get your teeth cleaned every 6 months, self!

5. Invest in some project management software

Imagine a world where you can find the notes from your client meeting 3 months ago in less than 10 seconds. Where you can keep all your drafts and to-dos organized.

If you write to-dos on post-its or keep track of client calls in Word, it’s time to transfer to a more sophisticated to-do/notes/PM program, like Evernote or Trello (which are free), and if you want to get fancy, Basecamp (about $20/month). We compare these tools here.

6. Raise your rates

This year, resolve to ask for more money. When you were young, you took what they gave you. As an adult, you ask for what you want—and negotiate.

Learn more about how to raise your rates here. You won’t lose as many clients as you think you will.

Freelancers are generally doers, not sellers. Freelance-types like getting the “ugly” business of fees and negotiation out of the way so that they can get down to doing what they love. But if you’re not smart about how much you’re selling your services for, you’ll soon get taken advantage of. That’s why it’s so important to learn the art of negotiation and not be afraid to do it. Remember, most clients will expect it.

7. Treat your mind right

Working for 28 hours straight is something your college body/mind may have been able to get away with, but your adult self needs 3 days to recuperate. Sometimes in the freelance life, such a thing is sometimes unavoidable. But here are some tips for how to make it happen less.

One great resolution to make this year is to begin a regular meditation practice. If you simply cannot sit down for more than 5 minutes in silence, try the app Headspace, which leads you through a guided mediation. Learn more about why & how freelancers can meditate.

There. Doesn’t that feel better? Getting your life together is possible. Good luck!

Freelancers, how are you growing up this year? Let us know in the comments!

Want more like this? Join Freelancers Union (it’s free!) and never miss a post.