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Business know-how and shifting to self employment

you're never too old to start a business

Necessity or late-career, starting up a business when over 50

If you’re a mature professional, over 50, and want to start a business; you’re an entrepreneur, no matter your age, and a start-up at that.

The over 50 entrepreneur is often more successful at starting up a business than their younger counterparts. And in Australia more and more businesses are being started by this age group every year.

Recent research found that older entrepreneurs are more capable of starting a business than their younger peers.

There are many reasons for this. When you are over 50, you don’t always feel that your working life is over; you’re healthier than earlier generations; and still have things you want to accomplish. Or maybe you want to give back, influence the world, or help your local community, in some way.

The idea here, again taken from the research linked above, is that self-employment is often seen as a viable, more interesting, late-career option.

Having a range of skills and experience developed over many years also helps, and for many, they will have sufficient capital to invest.

Through necessity you may find that you need to start a business because either you cannot get work, or work that pays a similar amount to what you were accustomed to, or your retirement funds are insufficient.

At this point you may think that starting a business might be a good idea.

What will you do and how will you go about doing it?

Having a better idea of how a business works helps clarify what you can do and provide you with a better picture of what might be possible over the long term.

If you have a professional qualification or specialist knowledge, it might make it a bit easier deciding what to start. It could be as simple as setting up a private practice. Though my advice is to try and specialise away from the mainstream, to work at the edges where there is less competition.

If not, you will need to explore some further possibilities.

No-What to Know-What

If you are not sure about what business you would like to start, or would like to try something new, you are in the position of having No-What. Not having a clear idea of what sorts of products or services you can sell to earn a living.

You may need some help clarifying your ideas about what might work for you, in doing so, you move towards a position of Know-What

That is, having a better idea of what you would like to do, and can do, in terms of a starting a business that suits your interests and abilities. One that customers or clients will pay you for.

But that is not sufficient in itself.

The basis of every business is that you need a product or service sell, to find a customer to sell it to, deliver it so that you can be paid, and to do that profitably ie. to make more than it costs you to produce. Gaining Know-How to do this helps.

No-How to Know-How

This is about recognising that you’re not really sure about how it all works. That you will need a better understanding of how a business works. How to develop products that sell, and how you can actually sell them in a digital world and turn your idea into something that makes you money.

To make this shift there are a number of steps to consider:

Practical Strategy

We are talking simple here, not huge plans, almost back of the napkin stuff and not much more than that. We want to create a picture of what is possible, to get a clearer idea of what you want to do and how to get there, but also what you don’t want to do. There is an element of guess work involved, and you will need to be comfortable with this.
How to sell your products or services

This is where you plan out how you’re going to connect your idea, products or services with the customers or clients who will want to pay you for them.

This is where the rubber meets the ground and will be your number one task once you start a business. It’s also where you will need some money to spend. No marketing = no revenue, so you need to be smart here and get the best bang for your buck.

Networking is important, sometimes going along to meetings and shaking hands, but more so in terms of the professionals who need your help. That might mean conferences, even International Conferences in your field. The idea is to become an influencer, that means hanging out with them.

Business Basics
Strategy and marketing are all critical steps, but there’s more. You still need to get your head around how it all works together; what it takes to run a business if you haven’t run one before.

You will need to gain a better grounding of how all the parts of running a business fit together. Remembering that you’ve got a whole lot of other things happening in your life. Things happen.

There are actually 5 things involved in running a business:

  • Generating revenue (by selling your products/services)
  • Making or buying your product/service (to sell or deliver)
  • Selling your product or services (marketing and sales)
  • Administration of the business ( finances/banking etc)
  • Trading Profitably

All are important components of running your business and all dynamically work together.

And more: Structures, tools, systems

I started out 20 years ago and it was much more expensive and harder to start a business. I needed an office, equipment and more and it was expensive.

Nowadays there are some fabulous, reasonably priced, co-working spaces where you can get a desk and access to a range of services and facilities for a low cost, with the internet and web there are far more resources available.

I am often in Melbourne and work out of the Hub, just close to the Southern Cross Station. Alternatively, if you have a business account with the National Australia Bank you can freely access their NAB Village in Melbourne. This keeps you in contact with other entrepreneurs as it can get lonely working for yourself.

Many of the tools and systems that can streamline your work and business are free, reasonably priced and easy to use.

Summing Up

Be positive about what motivates you. It really is about the art of the possible and deciding the sort of future you want. It can be a portfolio mix of paid work, your own business or volunteer work. You have a choice. It’s your future and don’t let it get away. You’re never too old!

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About the Author Nigel Rawlins

Owner of 13th Beach Marketing Services Pty Ltd, working out of Geelong and Melbourne, Australia. I provide marketing services to a range of companies in Geelong, Melbourne and Brisbane Australia. I am now working more with professional women who are making the shift to self-employment.

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