The things our parents teach us (or don’t teach us) about money growing up ends up playing a significant role in our financial realities and mentalities as adults. My father was an accountant, so growing up, money was definitely talked about and I like to think that my sisters and I were very much taught how to be responsible with money.
That mentality is something I’ve always been grateful for. But about two years ago, I had to get real about my financial reality. Yes, I was responsible with money and good at saving. But the truth was that I was not where I wanted it to be.
I was sick of living paycheck to paycheck. Yes, I was saving, but not a huge amount since so much of my paycheck would also go toward my student loans. Every night out, every vacation, every purchase was analyzed to make sure it was the biggest bang for my buck.
Something had to change. I liked being responsible with money, but knew that if I wanted big things out of life, counting pennies and constant spreadsheets weren’t going to be the best use of my time. As this infographic represents, average people focus on saving, but rich people focus on earning.
Bam! The switch was flipped.
When I started Urban20Something.com, I was so concerned that I was being irresponsible. I had outstanding student loans, I didn’t have much wiggle room from my paycheck after rent and living expenses, and I just didn’t feel confident that I was in the position to spend extra money at all.
It took me months of wanting to start my website but worrying about spending the money to actually buy a domain, hosting plan, and ebook about starting a website to get going (about $200 total). Sometimes I wonder how much further along I’d be now if I would’ve started sooner.
Looking back, this was the completely wrong way to think about this. I was investing money in my business and my future! It’s not like I was blowing money shopping or on expensive restaurants. And as it’d turn out, the money I would eventually make from Urban 20 Something helps me pay off my student loans far ahead of schedule. So, investing in it was actually the most responsible thing I could’ve done!
So, consider your financial reality. Is it where you want it to be? If not, what habits can you re-examine that might help you move out of the place you’re into where you hope to be?
Money is out there, and it’s yours for the taking.
Often, I hear driven young professionals share their big, huge dreams for themselves, their side hustles, their financial futures, and so on. I love hearing about people’s limitless, out of this world, big-picture dreams. It’s truly one of the things that lights me up the most because I really believe anything is possible.
And yet, these dreams are so often denied before they’re even pursued, and a common reason for that is because people feel like it’s not “right” to pursue their own lavish, luxurious dreams. They feel like having that kind of money, building that kind of business, doing that kind of traveling, or living a certain lifestyle has something wrong with it, like it’s a selfish thing to do with their lives.
I completely understand this as I spent years interning and working for nonprofits in college. I wanted to help people and help heal the suffering of the world, and thought this was the best way to do it. Of course, I had desires to travel, live luxuriously in New York, and I even had the curiosity to start my own business, but I somewhat dismissed them thinking that it was selfish of me to want to do those things when I was doing very noble work at charities, even if low paying.
Working for a charity is certainly admirable and I did love working there, but my thinking about why I should was all wrong. The greatest thing I (or you, or anyone else!) can do for the world is not at all to necessarily work for a charity.
The greatest thing you can do for the betterment of humanity is to make the most of yourself.
For some, that’s definitely working at a nonprofit, sure. For others, it’s working at a bank, or traveling full time, or being a stay-at-home parent. Whatever it is, it should come from the place of complete self-fulfillment and not from what we think we “ought” to do.
After all, the way you can be the best learner, supporter, family member, employee, employer, friend, and so on, is if you are fulfilled by your own right.
And further, when you do go for your dreams, whatever they are, you lead by example and then inspire other people to go for their dreams, which then brings them into that same place of fulfillment, where they can also be a better learner, supporter, family member, and so on.
You start a positive reaction and it’s contagious.
So here’s to going wholeheartedly for your dreams. It’s the most selfless thing you could do!
April has a lot of milestones for me. It marks two years since I started my website, which has changed my life in more ways than I could’ve imagined. More on that next week!
April also brings the two-year marker since declining law school. When I did so, they asked if I wanted to defer a year, and I declined that too. They asked what I was going to do instead, and I had no answer. A week or two later, I quit my job as a paralegal even though I didn’t have one lined up, since I saw no point working in the field I had just opted out of.
Those were scary decisions, and the past two years have had plenty of uncertainty as a result. But I haven’t doubted once that declining law school was the right thing for me. Here are the five biggest lessons I’ve learned about my career since making that pivotal decision.
1- Nothing is as permanent as it might feel.
When I was deciding on whether or not to go to law school, I put so much pressure on the decision. I thought that it was now or never so I better choose THE RIGHT THING. Now, two years later, I probably still could go back to law school and it wouldn’t really be all that different. In fact, there would be some benefits to having had worked so much beforehand. The point is that if something is calling you, try it out, because you can always change your mind.
2- Work gaps are only a big deal if you let them be.
I was very concerned when I quit my job without another lined up that I was dooming myself from ever getting a good job again. I believed the dusty idea that you are better off looking for a job when still employed. In fact, I had a much easier time getting a job when I wasn’t employed than when I was. This is largely from how I leveraged branding myself online to employers. Those personal branding techniques are what I teach in my branding ecourse, Urban 20 Someone.
3- If your job is stressing you out daily, look again.
Though I don’t regret anything in my career path, I can now look back and see that my job at a law firm was way too stressful, and I wasn’t even a lawyer! I had just thought that’s how it’s “supposed to be” in New York when paying your dues. Looking back, that type of stress has all sorts of harms and if I ever got in that stressful of a situation again, I’d look elsewhere. Not worth it!
4- Side hustles are essential.
I do not know how I went so many years with one source of income. Sure, I tried to “side hustle” in other ways; babysitting, tutoring, and so on. But those didn’t really make a dent in my overall finances. Thanks to my side hustling and now, my side business, I’ve refinanced my student loans, save for retirement with that money, and am able to learn and do so much more. I can’t imagine life without it. (If you’re looking to start a side business, I have a free email course on that you can sign up for here.)
5- Listen to your gut!
It took me too long to figure this out but it’s the most important piece of advice I’ve ever received. When we look up to others, it’s so easy to listen to their advice. And while advice from others is good, no one else knows what you desire and what you’re capable of than you. So, leap before you’re ready, listen to your gut, and go for whatever is calling you. The rest really does fall into place after that!
In April, it’s World Book Day! In honor of this magnificent holiday, I wanted to share the five books that have been the most impactful and influential in my journey over the past two years.
The past two years have been eventful for me. This time two years ago, I was working as a paralegal and planning on going to law school. Then, I declined my law school acceptances (changing my career plans, but unknown what for!). Once I decided to do that, I looked for different jobs in New York, but nothing was panning out. I decided to quit my job nonetheless, even without another job lined up. It was scary, but I followed my gut.
I started Urban20Something.com as a blog to document the unmapped journey I was about to take. So much has happened since then, and I am especially proud of how far Urban 20 Something has become. Since I started it, I quit my job, declined law school, traveled through Southeast Asia alone, landed my job at a wonderful nonprofit back in NYC, moved, and turned Urban20Something.com into a full business, all around my day job.
The key to all of this change? Mindset. So, in honor of World Book Day, I wanted to share the top five books that have supported me during this time.
1- Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.
A must-read for creatives! At first, I wasn’t sure if this book would be applicable to me because I had a narrow assumption of what ‘creative’ meant. I’m not a writer or traditional artists. But, this book is for anyone wanting to live a creative life, and find the magic in doing so. It gave me so much inspiration to put more into Urban20Something.com than what I had originally thought it could be, which in turn, transformed it from a blog to a business. I reread it often and highly recommend it.
2- The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles.
Another one that I revisit every couple of months, I love this way of thinking. It’s a great reminder to drop the stress and drama. You don’t need either to be rich (or happy!). This helped me monetize my website because it helps you think less of selling things in a salesy way, and instead, giving more to someone than what they pay for it. For instance, many of my online courses cost $100-$200, but contain tools and strategies designed to make people much more than that investment.
3- Anything by Marianne Williamson.
Another author that seems to speak my language. She writes about experiencing the world through love and miracles, and receiving more of both in doing so. She has helped me move forward so much despite fear I have, which is a big reason Urban20Something.com has grown the way it has. It’s not always easy putting yourself on the internet, where people can say whatever mean thing they want about you!
4- The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks.
This book helps us all identify ways in which we put upper-limits on what’s possible for ourselves. Typically, it’s based on what we grew up with, what society has taught us, or other old programming that has nothing to do with reality. As a result, we often accept things as not possible for us, even though it’s not the case. This book has really help me reshaped what I think is possible for me and helped me break through any false limits that appear to come up, not accept them.
5- The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo.
I loved this book in college and reread it on my own travels throughout Southeast Asia. It’s such a comforting book and always leaves me optimistic that things will work out. They always have!
We all know what it’s like to be in a directionless career path. Perhaps your current job isn’t exciting you anymore. Or maybe you’re itching for a different lifestyle that can only happen if you move or get a raise. Maybe you know you need a change—but you’re not entirely sure what it is.
You’re in a rut.
I’ve seen it in so many twenty-somethings a couple of years out of college, when it turns out that their college major might not have led them to a career they love after all. It’s hard to know where to turn. This is especially true when so much of your life has been structured up to that point. You may be confused, or stressed, and jealous of other people’s success. I know the pain of this all too well— it was my own moment of confusion about my career path that led me to start Urban 20 Something!
My Career Path Change
When I was in college, I had planned on graduating and immediately going to law school. Luckily, my gut told me to first work as a paralegal and make sure this was the path for me. I did enjoy my two years as a paralegal, so I continued down the path: I studied for the LSAT, took it twice, applied to law schools and was even accepted. Everything was going according to plan.
But that gut feeling came back to me. I couldn’t ignore it, but I also wasn’t sure what it meant. I could go to law school, but my gut was telling me that it wasn’t what I was meant to do. So I honored my instinct, but at the time wasn’t too happy about it—I said no to law school, and had no idea what to do instead…
Make Your Move— what to do when you’re in a rut
My story might not mirror yours identically. Though, chances are, you’ve found yourself in a rut of your own before. Maybe you’re there right now. It’s totally normal and though it can be confusing and scary, it’s also an exciting time! That confusion and fear also mean something new is about to emerge.
Here are some excellent options to consider when going through a career change of your own and making this an exciting, not- so stressful, time in your life!
If you’re unfulfilled at your current job, either from the work or the pay (or both!), consider enrolling in graduate school to take your career to the next level. Or, you can switch career paths entirely by pursuing a degree in a field you haven’t been working in thus far.
For a flexible yet very rewarding graduate school path, consider taking the GMAT and applying to business school. An MBA is extremely versatile. It can raise your earning potential significantly. It’s said to be the most fun graduate path! Check out the Forté Foundation for more information and support for motivated women interested in business school. I highly recommend checking out what the Forté Foundation has to offer in terms of community, support, and women’s empowerment.
Perhaps you’re not quite ready to go back to school yet, but know that you want a change in your career path. You can consider applying for jobs in a different field. You may have to take a pay cut and title demotion because it’s hard to make a lateral move into a new field. But for some, it’s worth it
If you’re not sure where to start when changing your career path (it’s definitely easier said than done!), I recommend attending some webinars put on by the Forté Foundation, or checking out their blog.
If you’re not sure what’s calling you, but do feel called to make a change, I suggest trying a side hustle! This is a very low-risk way to make a change, as you don’t have to lose the security and income of your day job. You’ll still be able to explore other passions, exercise creativity, learn new skills and make extra money. Side hustling has totally changed my life, and a side business could can make it easier to transition into a whole new field rather than going in cold. It may even turn into your full-time business!
Sometimes the best thing you can do for a change in your career path is not career-related at all. In my experience, travel brings about a fresh dose of perspective that can bring clarity to your life. After I declined my law school acceptances and was unsure of what to do next, I spent four months backpacking through Southeast Asia alone. This trip brought me clarity in my career path. It also made me much stronger and more independent.
I found clarity in a number of ways during this adventure. It showed me how much I value independence, travel, flexibility, and mobility; much of which I felt I would’ve sacrificed had I gone to law school. Most of all, it showed me that my dreams are worth it. It can be easy, too easy, to convince ourselves that we dream for ourselves is too far-fetched, too unrealistic, asking too much, or too big of a risk. Traveling alone showed me that this view couldn’t have been further off base. If we’re not willing to go all out pursuing our dreams, no matter how unrealistic, then what is worth fighting for?!
If you know you need a change, but can’t put your finger on just what, consider doing something dramatically different and traveling. From my experience, having a work gap on your resume isn’t as bad as people can make it out to be. In fact, some employers will be impressed by your initiative and willingness to take risks!
The biggest takeaway
No matter what, the most important thing is to take action and not stay stuck. If you want to just start getting some creative juices flowing today, check out the Forté Foundation’s Business 360 blog. It’s got tons of great content and fresh insights. See what you interests you and take action! It may sound cliché, but this life is our one shot. It’s our job to make the most of it, and that starts by taking action.
The new tax bill marks the biggest changes to the US tax code in 30 years. It impacts everyone, and the experts agree we won’t see the full implications of the new tax bill until there’s been time for the dust to settle.
But one thing seems certain already—freelancers and side hustlers have a chance to save big, if they take the time to register as pass-through businesses. We’ll take a close look at this and explain how it works.
Of course, these savings could be offset by rising healthcare costs. And there’s a chance that the whole thing will be a short-lived disaster (in which case, we still suggest you take advantage while you can).
Get to Know The Pass-Through Provision
The new tax codes include something called “the pass-through provision,” and it’s turning out to be a self-employed worker’s best friend.
That’s because freelancers—including members of the new gig economy like Lyft drivers and Airbnb hosts—can get the same tax rewards as other business owners. The only trick is that they have to register themselves as businesses, most likely an LLC or Sole Proprietorship.
The rules for setting up a business like this are different in every state, but the benefits are clear—under the new laws, these pass-through businesses could be eligible to cut up to 20% off their taxable earnings.
So if you earned $50,000 a year, you’d only have to declare taxes on $40,000. That could save you thousands of dollars a year in taxes, which is clearly good news. And it gets better—registering an LLC or Sole Proprietorship is relatively easy to do.
Before you get started, though, you’ll want to do some research. We say these laws “could” save you thousands on your taxes because, like anything, there are some restrictions. First and foremost, the full 20% deduction is capped at $157,500 for individuals and $315,000 for married couples. So if you’re making more than that, you won’t be able to take full advantage of the tax breaks.
If you earn more than the maximum allowed for the 20% pass-through deduction, you can instead deduct 50% of employee wages paid, or 25% of wages plus 2.5% of the value of a qualified property at purchase—whichever is greater.
Let’s put that into an example.
First, you have to be registered as a pass-through business. That’s the key to all of this.
Now, if your yearly income is under the 20% deduction cap—that’s $157,500 for individuals and $315,000 for married couples—don’t worry about it. You can take the 20% deduction.
If you’re over the cap, you’re faced with another choice. You can deduct 50% of employee wages paid (wages to yourself don’t count) or you can take 25% of wages paid (again, not to yourself) plus 2.5% of the property value at time of purchase.
Some number crunching will show how this favors big-time developers over smaller rental owners. But if you have a high-value rental property (or properties), this could work in your favor.
Say you make $160,000 per year and are filing as single. This bumps you just out of eligibility for the standard 20% deduction. To get that value, you’d need to come up with $32,000 in deductions (20% of your $160,000 income). We have two ways to do this:
If you pay $64,000 in wages to employees at your rental properties, you can claim half of that on your taxes and still get your $32,000 deduction. Easy. But you probably don’t spend $64,000 in wages to employees at your properties. In fact, for the sake of the example let’s say you don’t have any employees at all. You’d need your rental properties to total $1.28 million in value (at the time of purchase) to save your $32,000 (as that’s 2.5% of $1.28 million).
Not a lot of people earning $160,000 a year are going to have $1.28 million in properties. But anyone with millions invested in property is going to be able to deduct 2.5% of their total value from their taxes!
But Will it Work?
Sure, the pass-through tax sounds great. But if all this sounds too good to be true… it just might be.
Kansas eliminated state taxes on pass-through income in 2012, and the outcome was pretty much disastrous. The number of residents claiming pass-through income jumped 20 percent within three years of the law taking effect. (Similarly, the number of people claiming pass-through income on a national level is expected to skyrocket this year. In case we haven’t driven home the point yet—it’s easy to do. And, it’s going to save you a bundle on your taxes.)
But Kansas wasn’t prepared for this jump in pass-through deductions, and they lost between $200 million and $300 million in tax revenue a year. This helped send the state spiraling into a budget crisis. The bill was recently repealed to help put Kansas back on track.
Part of this loss experienced by Kansas was due to wealthy business owners taking advantage of the law and restructuring their businesses to claim them as pass-through income—a loophole which the GOP tax bill claims to have closed this time around. But the fact is that there’s no guarantee these tax cuts for pass-through businesses will work for the long term—so incorporate now and take advantage while you can.
Become A Business
Because every person’s situation is unique, the best way to start your preparations is to speak with a certified tax professional and come up with a plan that works for you. You’ll also want to learn how to set up an LLC or Sole Proprietor Business in your state. If you’re making any money at all from freelance or side gigs, it’s worth incorporating. That way, you can take advantage of the new tax break.
You should also consider the potential burden that increased healthcare costs will take on your wallet. While there’s no longer a penalty for opting out of healthcare coverage altogether, we can’t possibly suggest that is a good or sensible thing to do—one stroke of bad luck and you could easily bankrupt yourself with medical bills. If you’re not ready to marry someone with employer-provided insurance or move to a country that offers universal coverage, the only thing you can do is come up with a plan to deal with the costs.
With all that in mind, it’s time to get serious about your side hustle. Come up with a plan for registering as a pass-through business, and speak to a financial professional to get started.
When tax season rolls around again next year, you’ll be thankful you did.
A professional website makes all the difference in your credibility as an entrepreneur. When starting an online business, blog, or any type of website, one of the biggest struggles is figuring out how to make your website like professional, especially on a budget. It’s not always easy to know when it’s worth spending our money or not. And, of course, if you can do things for free or less expensive, all the better!
How to Make Your Website Look Professional on a Budget - YouTube
In this post (and video!), discover how to make your online business look professional. I include my favorite budget and free tools to do so. You’ll also discover the splurges I’ve found oh so worth it.
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own.
A Professional Website
Your website is the home of your business. It doesn’t matter how great of a marketing strategy you have, or how great your products or services are. If people are finding out about you and your business on a website you’re not proud of, they’re much less likely to move forward with you.
For nearly the first eight months of my website, I wasn’t very proud of it. I thought I was being cost-savvy by using barebones software to build and run it. Instead, I was probably scaring away anyone that clicked over to it! This showed as my email list barely grew, I made little to money during that time, and traffic was minimal at best.
Below were some of the biggest contributions to the turning points in my website. They turned it from a “for fun” blog for family and friends to the online business it is today.
1- A unique domain
First thing’s first, you want to have a website that is your sole domain. I suggest avoiding things like “urban20something.wordpress.com” or “urban20something.blogspot.com.” To have a website that actually makes money, you need a professional URL. That’s more or less the name of your business!
I purchase my domain through Hover.com. It’s easy to use, inexpensive, and they renew it easily for me so I don’t have to worry about my website staying up and running.
2- Use WordPress
WordPress is the self-hosted way to build a professional website, which is why I recommend and love it so much! It makes your website completely yours, and the flexibility that you have using it is unbeatable. It does take a bit of a learning curve (if you’re a non-techy like I was when I started out). But, it’s totally worth it in the long run. Your WordPress site will always be able to grow with you.
Emails are the way you’ll communicate with your followers, customers, clients, and so on. It’s the best way to communicate and the best way to market. If you want to build a professional website, you will want to capture emails easily and intuitively. I use ActiveCampaign to house my email list and communicate with them, and I can’t recommend it enough. Throughout my website, I have various PDFs, training, webinars, notifications, and so on people can receive for free, if they sign up for my email list. It’s a win-win! They receive my helpful content for free, and I build my email list.
4- Have your forms be on brand
When I first started my website, I used a free email service provider. It was relatively easy to use and performed a lot of what I needed. But, one thing that I really struggled with was making the forms that it used to capture emails on my site. The forms looked “code-y” and not on brand. It was super out of place on my website. I struggled to find a way to make the form look more on brand until I discovered the free plugin, Magic Action Box.
This allows you to copy and paste the code of your form from any email service provider (free or paid) and then design the form to look exactly the way you want. It’s super easy and free, and will definitely make your website look more professional.
5- Your custom domain email
Instead of having an email with a “Gmail” domain, for instance, create email addresses with your website domain as the email address domain. It’s more professional and will help the growth of your online business.
This was the best investment I made to make a truly professional website. It’s hard to know when you actually should jump from a free theme to a paid theme. Honestly, looking back, I wish I would’ve done this from day one! It’s a one-time payment, the support is super helpful, and it looks so much better.
I buy my themes from MyThemeShop.com. They’re professional, easy to implement, and the support is incredibly helpful.
LeadPages is a page-building software that makes it very easy for you to collect email addresses. You can build beautiful pages that advertise something you give away for free in exchange for an email address (landing pages) in just 10 or 15 minutes! For years, I used MailerLite’s free landing page software and it worked well. But, once I was making a decent amount back from my website, I upgraded to LeadPages and couldn’t be happier with it. I recommend this software to all side hustlers making $500/month or more.
8- A custom designed site
I haven’t done this yet as I’ve been very happy with my paid theme, but once you’re really ready to have a totally professional website, you can hire someone to custom design it.
Let’s see your professional website!
I hope these tips helped you figure out some ways to make your website more professional without spending all your money! Comment below with your website URL and let us see your professional website.
Today we have side hustle advice from a stylist and my friend, Lili Morton. She’s studied fashion at Michigan State, worked at a fashion startup as a freelance stylist, and now has started her own stylist firm, with one of her stylist projects and income stream being a great side hustle for young professionals. For my fellow self-proclaimed fashionistas, this one is for you!
My career as a Stylist
When one door closes, another door opens. So cliché, I know. But, sometimes we have no choice but to succumb to a multitude of clichés to keep us going, especially when the unexpected happens.
Imagine this scenario: You’ve been working for a startup you love for four years. You started out freelancing with the company, but as their business model changed and your success grew, they offered you a full-time role. You pack your bags, leave your hometown, your friends, family, boyfriend, dog, and head to the city. It’s amazing at first, but then you realize a lot of the things you were “promised” don’t happen and there is no sign of them happening in the near future. Then, unexpectedly, one Friday afternoon, you’re on a company-wide call and your CEO tells you they are closing up shop. After the meeting, you must turn in your computer and you’ll be paid through the rest of the day (so, an extra two hours, cool!).
What do you do when you lose your stylist job?
(Aside from drink a bottle of wine and have a good cry)
When we are faced with obstacles, we have two options, to let them defeat us or to learn and grow from them. Thankfully, I chose the latter.
Now, living in NYC with no job, no severance, no savings (i.e. those “promises” that were never kept) and no side hustle, I felt a bit lost at first. I had been a virtual stylist at an e-commerce company for the past four years and wasn’t sure where I fit in Corporate America. Business development, e-commerce merchandising, styling, sales, recruiting and business coaching/mentorship were my strengths, but because the bulk of my work was styling, a number of recruiters told me I would need to start my career over and work as an assistant. Really?! Ten years of business experience and I need to start over? No thanks.
The lost and defeated feeling began to set in again, until I realized, I don’t need a random person to read a piece of paper (my resume) to tell me what I’m capable of and direct my future. I decided to take control and do that myself.
Following my passion
I went back to what I knew best and what I love doing – helping others find and refine their personal style and navigate the challenges of wardrobe selection. Helping them feel confident in their own skin (and clothes) and showing them that fashion doesn’t need to be as intimidating as they think is particularly rewarding for me.
I had the skill set and client list, but the platform I had used to share shoppable looks with my clients was gone. I found a way to make it work by building looks in PowerPoint.
This was a lengthy and time-consuming process. Once I found the pieces I wanted to use, I would copy, paste and arrange in a visually pleasing manner and then link each item to the retailer using an affiliate program. What used to take one hour now took five. There was no way I was going to be able to make a living working this way and, thankfully, I didn’t have to.
What saved me
Insert: Arthur. Arthur is a platform for freelance stylists to manage their clients and share online recommendations. Stylists can earn commission on client purchases from hundreds of brands, with no limitation on where to shop. What’s more? It’s free!
Arthur made it easy for me to curate a collection of looks to fit the personality, lifestyle and needs of my clients. I downloaded their Chrome extension and anytime I saw an item at an online retailer that I wanted to share with a client, I used the extension to add it to one of their looks. You can get an idea of what the shopping experience is like by viewing my profile, here.
In addition to working with my personal clients, Arthur was a wonderful complement to the business I co-founded while continuing to freelance as a stylist. Remember when I mentioned being defeated or learning and growing from a negative situation? The learning and growing part came in the form of a personal branding/corporate image-consulting firm. When the startup I worked for closed, I got together with a couple of my co-workers. We compared client lists. We discovered that the majority of the women we styled needed the most help with work wear. So, we founded an image-consulting firm that we could scale at the corporate level. We called it FirstSeven, based on the longstanding premise that “you have seven seconds to make that all-important first impression.”
FirstSeven partners with businesses and conduct interactive, informative and entertaining learning sessions that empower professionals to dress purposefully to maximize potential and improve performance. The tone of each session is always optimistic, empowering and inclusive. We don’t lecture on what you can and cannot wear. Rather, we educate and inspire professionals to take pride in their appearance. This is based on the positive result it could have on their careers and overall self-confidence. The conversation goes beyond fashion (although that is a key element) as we aim to motivate while illuminating the importance of one’s appearance.
Because we can only get so personal in a group session, we offer private coaching sessions, too. We utilize Arthur’s platform to connect with and help our clients build their wardrobe.
Okay, so you may be thinking:
I’m not a stylist, how does this help me?Do you work in a conservative role/environment and find yourself yearning for and missing an element of creativity?Do you love fashion and style?Perhaps your friends and family look to you for inspiration and styling advice?Do you want to make extra money outside of your 9-5 doing? And, doing something fun for you and helpful, inspiring and empowering for others?
If you answered yes to any or all of those questions, Arthur is the answer!
Getting started is easy! Follow this link and be sure to mention Urban20Something when creating an account. Once you’ve created an account and downloaded the Chrome extension, you can start styling right away.
When I first started using Arthur and earning commission on the styles people purchased through the platform, I had a ton of questions, such as . . .
How does commission work?
Commission percentages range across retailers, but you earn commission on clients’ entire checkout, no matter what product you specifically recommend. There is a list of brands on their site and the possible commission earnings from each.
Do clients need to have an account in order to earn commission?
No, clients do not need to sign up for Arthur. You can share lookbooks you build on Arthur with whomever and however you like and you’ll still earn commission.
What brands do you offer?
Arthur offers commissions from top online retailers (e.g. Net-a-Porter, Shopbop, Moda Operandi, Revolve, Nordstrom, Need Supply, etc) and brands (Everland, Rebecca Taylor, Club Monaco, All Saints Sam Edelman). However, with Arthur you can pull items from wherever you like, regardless of the brand is a commission partner.
Arthur has allowed me to stay connected with my clients while continuing to help them with their wardrobes. And, of course, I earn some extra money! If you’re bored with your routine and looking to add some style to your life, give Arthur a try.
It has been a creative outlet for me (not to mention, a lifesaver) as I transitioned from losing a job to freelancing and eventually starting my own company. You can use the platform at your leisure or build a thriving business from it. It’s up to you! Remember, you’re in control of your life and there is opportunity everywhere.
When you first start working as a young adult, the focus is money. This includes making it, saving it, and learning to budget it appropriately. One thing that many young professionals forget about, however, is equally as important and can have just as lasting of an effect on your life…
That critical thing is credit.
If you don’t build credit, you can find yourself incredibly hampered. This may even mean areas that have nothing to do with your finances. So, why is your credit score so important? What else does it affect? Read on to learn more and make credit work for you.
Why Credit Matters
Credit used to just be a measure of how likely you are to pay your bills. Banks and financial institutions used your payment history and credit usage to determine if you were reliable to lend money to.
Now, those scores are looked at by far more than just your local bank. The decisions made based on the numbers are often far outside the realm of whether you’ll get approved for a new loan or not.
When you’re applying for jobs, many companies will have you sign a release authorizing them to check your credit. To them, a history of late payments means you might have problems following through on commitments, or that you can’t be relied on. Both undesirable traits for an employee.
Landlords also look at credit scores. They want to know that their would-be tenants (you) can be trusted to pay rent on time. If you have a history that says you don’t pay your bills, they’re not going to want to rent to you.
Later, you may want to buy a house or get a credit card that offers great rewards. Or, maybe you’ll need an auto loan to buy a car, a personal loan to consolidate credit card debt or a private student loan for grad school. With poor credit, you’ll find that many of these avenues will not be available to you. Even if you manage to find a lender that’s willing to take a risk on you, you’ll be looking at much higher interest rates and fees, which means overall higher cost.
How is a Credit Score Calculated?
The short version is that a credit score is your “rating” once all factors have been considered. Credit bureaus take into account everything from your payment history to how much credit you have available. And, how much of it you’re using. Your credit score is a number that reflects this combination. The higher the number, the better chance you have of being approved for credit or getting a good interest rate.
Something that tends to complicate the process is that different bureaus and lenders have different criteria and even different scoring models. As a general rule, however, scores can run from 300—absolute rock bottom—to 850, considered premium credit. Anything over 700 is good. But, some lenders or other creditors will go as low as 620. Below 600 is considered “subprime.” If your score drops that low, you can expect to have some problems getting credit—or even getting an apartment.
How to Build Credit
If you’re just starting out, you might be wondering how to build credit. It can seem like a frustrating cycle. You need a good credit history to get approved for a credit card. But, you can’t get that good history if you can’t get approved.
The good news is that there are ways to break that cycle. The first is by applying for a student or secured credit card. Credit card companies know that students are just starting out. As such, they usually don’t have any credit history built up. So, they offer cards that don’t require a high credit score or lengthy history. They generally have higher interest rates and lower credit limits. But, this is a good option for a starting point.
To maximize the effectiveness, you’ll want to pay your card’s balance in full each month—a good habit to get into.
There are other ways to help build credit at a young age, too. For example, taking out student loans, making on-time payments and getting your parents to co-sign with you. Or, even in some cases just paying rent.
I’ll talk a little more about how to use these products in order to build credit the fastest in the following sections.
What Makes a Credit Score Change?
Lots of different factors can affect your credit score a few points one way or another. But, you only need to be aware of a few factors. These can greatly affect your score in a nearly real-time kind of way. Every 2 weeks, the scores are updated. A change in these factors can mean a significant change in even that short a time.
The single biggest thing affecting your credit score is your payment history.
Even one late payment will drop your score. The record of that late payment will stay on your record for years to come. Even being one day late on your credit card payment can result in showing late on your credit report.
Credit utilization ratio is another critical factor. This measures how much of your available credit you’re using. A high ratio can signal current financial problems or a tendency to live outside your means—which will also result in financial problems later.
Creditors like to see less than 30% of your credit being used. If you have a $5,000 limit on your credit card and you are using less than $1,500 of it, that tells creditors that you can responsibly manage your credit. If that $5,000 card is maxed out and creditors see that you consistently reach your limit, that signals trouble and will decrease your score.
How to Improve Credit
It’s always best to start out on a good foot and build your credit in a positive way from there on out. But what if you’ve already made a few bad choices and find yourself with less-than-stellar credit?
The bad news is that once you have poor credit, it’ll take work and time to repair it. The good news is that it’s possible to go from poor credit to amazing credit, if you’re willing to put in the work.
Where to focus on rebuilding credit
The #1 most critical thing to do if you’re in credit trouble is to stop digging that hole you’re in and start working to get out of it. That means stop using your credit cards. You’ll never fix your credit if you keep adding to your debt. So, switch to using your debit card. If you can’t afford to pay for it with cash on hand, you really have to consider if the purchase is essential or not.
Secondly, you’ll want to make sure that all payments are always on time. If that means paying the minimum on your credit cards that month, so be it, but even the minimum payment is far better than no payment or paying less than the minimum. Making that payment means helping your payment history—which will only help your score. If you can afford it, pay far more than the minimum or the entire balance. If you stop using your card and put all available cash toward paying it down, you’ll be able to get that balance down a lot faster, and you’ll see your credit score go up as a result.
Another objective is to get your utilization ratio below 30%. Keep track of how much of your credit limit you are currently spending so you know can make sure it is always below this threshold.
A number of apps exist that can help keep you focused on your journey to build credit by offering ways to help and letting you know when you may be close to doing something that will damage your credit – such as spending too much of your available credit. Seeing your progress—even if it’s only a few points at a time—can help keep you motivated when you’re tempted to use your credit card.
Being a young professional is difficult. There’s a lot to learn. There’s a lot of ways to get on the wrong track, even if they aren’t immediately apparent.
Paying attention to your credit is one of the most important habits to get into. To build credit is one of the most critical ways you can set yourself up for future financial success. Building a solid credit history now will ensure that when you do need a loan or need to rent an apartment, you can. It’ll also help you look good to employers, landlords, and others.
Don’t let your credit stand in the way of your life. Build credit or repair it now. Start letting your credit score show you to be dependable, trustworthy, and an excellent manager of your own finances.
Tom runs FIREd Up Millennial – a blog about his relentless pursuit of Financial Independence so he can Retire Early. You can stay updated with his latest articles and random thoughts by following him on Twitter.
Earning cash back makes any shopping experience more enjoyable. This post is all about my absolute favorite way to earn cash back when shopping. It’s a free website called Ebates! If you’re not using it, not to worry. This post will show you how to get started, earn as much as possible with each transaction, and even get a sign-up bonus today!
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own.
If you already are using Ebates, find out my five tips for making even more cash back on it.
If you’ve read my site for a while, you may have already caught onto my love of Ebates. It’s extremely passive and it costs me nothing. Not using is it like throwing away free money. My CPA father would never have it!
I’ve been using it for less than a year and you can see how much cash back I’ve already earned below. So, I thought it was the perfect time to tell you more about it and explain how you, too, can get extra money passively (yep!).
All About Cash Back
With credit cards, apps, accounts, etc., there are so many ways to earn cash back when shopping. While it’s hard to find cash back programs that give you huge discounts, I believe every bit is important! Especially when it’s as simple as it is with Ebates.
All About Ebates
Ebates has been around since the late 90s. They started with a commitment to be free to their users. So, unlike credit cards and many other cash back programs that require some sort of strain, risk or qualification of the user, Ebates is free and always will be with no catch to you.
Once signed up, you’ll have an account on the Ebates website. There, you can search any online store or website that you’d want to shop from (including Amazon and other common websites!). Ebates will show you the percent of cash back they’re currently offering at the given store. Enter the website through Ebates and you’re done! You’ll automatically earn that cash back from shopping at that website.
Ebates issues your cash back payments every six months. You have the option to receive this via check (their default) or via PayPal, which is what I prefer.
That’s it! It takes less than five minutes to sign up. Do so here and you’ll receive a $10 sign up bonus. You’ll be earning cash back in no time!
5 Ways to Increase Your Ebates Earnings
Once you sign up with Ebates, there’ s a couple simple ways to increase your earnings.
1- Add the Google Chrome extension
This has been the biggest factor in my Ebates earnings. It sounds simple enough to go to the Ebates website and enter online stores through it. And it is. However, it’s easy to forget to visit the website store. Sometimes we shop on a whim, sometimes we do via clicking on an ad, and that all surpasses Ebates. Plus, there are some online stores you might not even know are eligible for Ebates. The Chrome button will help you with that.
You can download the Ebates button here. It will alert you when you’re on a website that’s eligible for cash back with Ebates. Follow the prompt to activate Ebates and you’re good to go!
2- Keep a wishlist spreadsheet
I’ve always loved to shop and I don’t try to fight it. For a couple of years, I’ve kept a spreadsheet of the clothes or items that I’m coveting at any time, and then I also keep another tab on that spreadsheet that records clothes and items that buy. If I buy something and go 30 days without wearing it, it makes me think I actually don’t need it all that much and I’ll usually return it. This helps me stick to high-quality pieces and streamline my wardrobe to avoid clutter- necessary in my tiny New York City apartment!
I’ve found this spreadsheet super effective to couple with Ebates. I check Ebates to see what stores might have double cash back at any one time and pick up items on my wishlist then. I also can see if items that I’ve recently bought are on a good promotion with Ebates, buy it through Ebates, and return the previous purchase in store.
3- Create a favorites page
Going hand in hand with the tip above, Ebates makes it easy for you to create a Favorites page. This has all of my favorite Ebates stores in one place. It lets me know when these stores have high cashback deals. Below is a screenshot of my favorites page right now. As you can see, now would be a great time to pick up anything that’s on my wishlist above from Saks! 10% off is really helpful.
4- Use in-store cashback
In a relatively new addition, Ebates also lets you shop in-store and receive cash back. Simply click the “in-store” cash back on the Ebates menu website. There, it’ll show you what stores currently offer cash back. Enter the credit or debit card into Ebates that you’ll use while shopping in the store. Ebates will recognize the transaction and give you cash back from there. Keep your receipt- but ta-da! You should receive cash back just by using that card.
The free Ebates app can make this process easier.
5- Tell everyone you know
One of my favorite parts of Ebates is it’s “refer a friend” offer- it’s one of the best referral programs I’ve seen. Unlike most referrals (like Groupon), the “refer a friend” bonus comes in the form of credit to the company. So, you refer a friend to Groupon and then receive $10 in Groupon dollars. I’ll still take it! But, I do love that Ebates referral program pays you in cash.
What’s better? They don’t only pay you for referring the person. The person you refer also gets an extra bonus for signing up through referrals that they wouldn’t get by signing up on their own. It’s a really good deal.
I tell everyone that will listen about Ebates. Friends, co-workers, relatives over holiday dinners, and so on. It’s just too good of a deal not to sure and has absolutely no cost to the person signing up through my referral program. Only gain!
So with that, if you’re not an Ebates member, sign up here through my referral link. You’ll receive a $10 sign up bonus with your first purchase made through Ebates. And, from there, you’ll be able to not only earn cash back but start referring your friends, too!