15 Money Lessons I Learnt The Hard Way
Insights & actionable tips (without the cliche 401k talk). Promise.
Let me start by saying the thing I’m not supposed to: I like money.
Quite a lot, actually.
Money is wonderful. It’s the difference between having choices and having none. It’s the difference between worrying about bills and having the mental space to think about more creative things.
I’m not saying you need to be balling on Instagram, by any means.
But quietly and gracefully enjoying your own money? Now that’s "#goals".
Here’s how to get started. Disclaimer: there’s no cliche, irrelevant or overly complex advice here. Just actionable and relatable tips I’ve learnt along the way.
- Being creative doesn’t mean you have to be broke. Many people whose work you know and love fund their creative pursuits by having commercial clients on the side. (Whether they admit it or not.) Making money alongside or from your creative pursuits isn’t selling out, it’s sustenance. Take George Clooney for example, who will produce a brilliant indie movie and then have to do a blockbuster like Gravity. Or Martin Amis who, despite being a best-selling author, supplements his income by writing newspaper articles. As soon as you make peace with the divide between your creative and commercial pursuits, your career becomes a lot more fulfilling.
- Always negotiate your salary before you accept a full-time job. It might feel awkward, but you know what feels worse? Working hard in the same job 18 months later and wishing you had. Accepting the first offer without a (polite) fight is a disservice to yourself. Because, no matter how hard you work, budgets change, managers change and promises get broken. You can’t guarantee you’ll be given a pay rise, but you can ensure your salary is the best it can be from the beginning. Go get it.
- Freelancing is fantastic. It gives you options, more cash and more possibilities. Everyone should freelance or have a side hustle that pays. But don’t call yourself a "freelancer". Consulting, advising or even having your own agency all make you sound more impressive, and therefore more expensive. You’re welcome.
- Speaking of freelance work… When you’re asked what your daily or hourly rate is, always ask for more than you expect to receive. And then add 10%. I’m not kidding. You’d be surprised by what people are charging out there. If you have some great experience and know you can do an amazing job, charge accordingly, invoice proudly and feel absolutely no shame.
- As a general rule, working for free is NEVER ok. The small exception is when you’re starting out and the brand is so big it’ll have a direct impact on your portfolio and, in turn, your earning potential. That. Is. It. No other exceptions apply.
- Saving money is hard. I know it, you know it, and yet we all need to do it. I've skipped the lattes, left my bank cards at home and even had a "one in, one out" wardrobe policy. What I know for sure about saving is this: Start small and increase your monthly goals. Think of your savings account as another bill that has to be paid. Sophia Amoruso said it best: “Money looks better in the bank than on your feet”.
- Having an emergency fund — whether it’s £100 or £1000 — will help you sleep better at night. Fact.
- It’s ok to spend money on things that make you feel better about “showing up” in life. New work clothes, books and fitness classes are all investments in yourself. Rounds of drinks for people you don’t even really like? Not so much.
- Research your market value often. I regularly use websites like Glassdoor and PayScale to check if I'm being paid fairly. When fighting for a raise, it pays to back it up with facts.
- Also, never feel too “grateful” to ask for more. If you’re earned it, you deserved to be paid it. It’s that simple. Most men have been asking for more for years… isn’t it time you did too?
- Don’t be held back by inherited ideas from your parents or beliefs from your socio-economic background. Don’t be afraid to think big.
- You're allowed to be wealthy. You're allowed to like money. You're allowed to want more money.
- Quit comparing your financial situation to other people's, especially those on the internet. Never assume how much money someone may have. The reality is often startlingly different. Life lesson: the people who shout the loudest about having money, usually have the least.
- You have nothing to prove to anyone, financially speaking or otherwise. Remember that.
- Take the taboo out of money talk. Ask your friends what they earn over dinner. Do your research. And, above all, always know your worth.