You flipped your tassel and tossed your cap; the college years are officially over!
Welcome grads! With more and more graduates joining the freelance workforce, we thought we’d put together a little to-do list to welcome you to the Real World! You’ll quickly find there’s a LOT they didn’t teach us in school:
1. Put thy loans in order
Student loans might be the last thing you want to think about right now, but taking your first steps to getting those bills off your back will be a huge relief. Do your research. You may have the option to consolidate or refinance your loans—both of which can save you quite a bit of cash.
Magnify Money compares refinancing options at financial institutions as well as a few online startups, like Earnest—a financial service site that claims to save its average user $12,588 (imagine all the extra guac!)
2. Clean up your act—online!
That "awesome" pic of you at the theatre majors’ holiday party? Yeah, that’s gotta go.
It’s time to either clean up your social networks or put them on lockdown. This isn’t to say you can’t be creative and show off your personality online—in fact, now is your moment to start crafting that happenin’ adult persona you’d like to present to friends and future employers. Just keep it classy!
Take it a step further and establish yourself on professional social networks like LinkedIn and Levo. Even if you don’t have much experience, you can start telling your story by showcasing your proudest accomplishments.
Also, do yourself a favor and get an account at BrandYourself. You’ll be the first to know if something negative surfaces in a Google search and you’ll also learn how to ensure that when your Tinder date (err… future employer) searches your name, your best accomplishments rise to the top.
3. Take classes
Believe it or not, you’re probably going to find that you miss classes. Even if you don’t, continuing your education in traditional and non-traditional ways will enrich your life and quite possibly your paycheck.
Sites like General Assembly, CourseHorse, and Society of Grownups offer online and off-line classes on a variety of topics from starting your blog to changing careers. If you’re really hankering for ye olde college days, Coursera hosts free college courses online.
4. Create a budget
I know, this list is already beginning to bum you out, isn’t it? But having a budget can actually assuage money-related anxieties. When you know how much you can spend on what, you’re far more in control and empowered—which means your chances of having to survive on ramen for a week while you scramble for rent money drop significantly!
Also, the future is here: Apps like Mint or GoodBudget make visualizing your spending breakdown each month a piece of cake!
5. Find the right credit card
Now we’re talking, right?
Before you get excited, the point of getting a credit card is to earn a strong credit score, which will in turn enable you to do things like take out a mortgage for a house—not max it out at the Nordstrom Semi-Annual sale. Credit cards are awesome, but they’re not free money.
You’ll want to find a card with the right rates and the right perks, but first, check out your credit score at Credit Karma. Check that number at least once a year, and, if you’ve fallen into the danger zone, take the necessary steps to bring it back up. Otherwise, find and manage your next credit card with the help of sites like Nerdwallet or CardHub.
Join the nation's largest group representing the new workforce (it's free!)
6. Get renter’s insurance
True story: a pipe burst in my friend’s building and soaked everything 3-floors down. She lost all her electronics, most of her wardrobe, and was out of a home indefinitely. Renter’s insurance covered her losses as well as a couple week’s stay at a hotel while she found a new place to live. Without it, she would have been out thousands of dollars!
If you’re not sure where to start, check out the Renter’s Insurance Checklist to determine what you need covered and how much you should spend.
7. Learn to cook the basics
Did you know the average Millennial spends $174 eating out per month? That tallies to about $2,000 a year, which is pretty steep for something that literally goes in one end and out the other.
You can save loads of $$$ cooking at home—and it doesn’t have to be all PopTarts and peanut butter sandwiches! The internet is rife with awesome cooking blogs; you can also search for easy, budget-friendly recipes via Pinterest.
Another perk? While your friends are Instagramming their costly restaurant meals, you can humble-brag your very own latest and greatest culinary creations! #kissthecook
9. Live by your Google calendar
Repeat after me: I will NOT be the friend who flakes.
You know what happens to the friend who flakes? The invitations dwindle and… she kinda stops being a friend.
Avoid this sad, sad fate: When you make a commitment, add it to your calendar and stick to it! Even if it’s raining and hauling yourself away from your Netflix marathon seems like the worst idea ever, you’ll be glad you did it. I promise!
8. Call your friends and family.
You know that little green app at the bottom left-hand corner of your iPhone? The one with that old-fashioned phone icon on it? Well, that is actually an app that lets you call people. Yup, you’re going to have to use your voice, not your thumbs, but I bet you can figure it out!
It’s easy to get swept up in your fast-paced life in your twenties. But, nearly all of my friends over 30 list not spending enough time with their families and close friends as one of their top regrets in their 20’s. Time flies—don’t let the ones you love come last on your list of priorities.
10. Don’t beat yourself up.
Sometimes your twenties seems like a plague of shoulds and comparing yourself to people who seem more successful than you on the Internet. Try not to get caught up in it—where you invest your energy matters, and if you’re investing it in telling yourself you’re not good enough, then you won’t feel good enough to go after what you want.
A little self-love can take you a long way, so practice it, bit by bit, every day.
Luckily, the real world isn't something any of us have to face on our own - at least if you're a member of Freelancer's Union. Join our How do I get started Freelancing? Hive for tips on hacking the ultimate DIY career.