Your Career Plan B: Self-employment
If you’re approaching (or over) age 50, it can be a tough job market out there. Maybe you’ve been laid off and can’t find jobs in your career fields with positions or pay commensurate with your experience. For those with an entrepreneurial spirit, the best option may be to launch your own solo or micro businesses.
I asked Doug Freeman, who has studied and written about the transition by older workers to self-employment, for his advice. Freeman, founder of Ideascape, Inc., and author of Workarounds: 50+ insider tactics for age 50+ entrepreneurs, offers practical business-building advice for Boomers and Gen Xers considering “Plan B” or self-employment.
“My overall approach is based on creatively and strategically working around age-related barriers by re-purposing deep knowledge, skills, and experience to focus on solving problems,” Freeman says.
A big challenge for mid- to late-career entrepreneurs is exactly how to repurpose and repackage their value to sell as consulting or services. “Older entrepreneurs must deconstruct their knowledge, skills, and experience so they can package their most marketable assets as services—sometimes as products—designed as solutions,” he says. “It’s really a marketing exercise, to customize services in just the right way to offer exceptional value to niche markets or the organizations they previously worked with. For example, a former public relations professional could turn networking skills into strategic partner matchmaking services or written communication skills into courses to train startup founders.”
What’s the most underappreciated asset that mid- to late-career entrepreneurs have as business-building tools? Freeman says it’s their powerful networks of contacts. “Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs don’t understand how to convert those relationships into referrals and uncover opportunities for contracts,” he says.
Here are three tips Freeman offers regarding contact-based marketing:
1 – Approach contacts to initially have conversations with them, not to pitch them directly on your services. Ask about their current work, the challenges they face, the needs their company has, and trends regarding mutual interests. Share your work interests and thoughts about industry trends or issues.
2 – When natural opportunities arise to pitch your services, focus on your prospect’s needs or pain points first—it’s not about you and what you want. It’s all about them. Then, frame the solutions you could provide in terms of those needs or pain points.
3 – Inquire about contracts available directly through your contacts, but also ask questions to reveal opportunities with your contact’s team and other departments.
Launching your own business to avoid employment barriers makes sense in many cases. You’ll find plenty of books, courses, and coaches to get you up-to-speed on weak areas and help you create the business that best fits your goals. There are no age barriers to stop you from building your own successful enterprise.