Mature professionals, often baby boomers, shifting to self-employment.

The baby boomer generation between 1946-1964 is retiring, taking redundancy packages or sadly, being retrenched. Their lives will change, but many are not yet ready to retire. They are healthier than previous generations, live longer and want to ensure they have the financial means to support themselves for another 20-30 years.

Mature professionals are moving to self-employment.

Thus a growing number of 50-plus Australians are considering creating a business. They are opting for self-employment. Especially after the rude awakening many receive after applying for a job post-retirement or retrenchment.

In the US, the percentage of the 55–64-year-old age group starting a business grew from 14% in 1996 to 25% in 2013 (Kauffman Foundation). I would suggest something similar in Australia. Contrary to popular opinion, this age group is also twice as successful in establishing and growing their business than those aged 20-34, for many reasons. These are good signs for the older entrepreneur considering starting their own business.

Work is no longer guaranteed.

The nature of work has changed. Heavy manufacturing jobs are in decline in Australia, with every Australian vehicle manufacturer closing in the next few years, along with many of their suppliers. For many workers, this lack of job security leads to uncertainty about their financial future. With Australian companies off-shoring work, reducing their workforce, or in some cases bringing in cheaper overseas workers, it creates uncertainty in the minds of the employed. Again good reasons to consider self-employment.

Portfolio careers

Charles Handy wrote about portfolio careers in a book called ‘The Empty Raincoat‘ in 1996. The portfolio career is about working in a handful of jobs, maybe smaller ones, but doing meaningful work for maybe several employers, freelancing or outsourcing your services, so to speak. The word ‘job’ means a client. The idea is to sell your knowledge and capability as a product rather than sell your time. Losing one client won’t lead to financial distress unless you have one large client. Not a good idea.

The idea is to develop your capability as a specialist knowledge worker with high in-demand skills.

However, to do this demands actively keeping up to date with a range of skills such as computer skills, IT, marketing, accounting and more. You will need to make time for continuous learning.

Creating meaningful work

Self-employment, often from a home base, might involve starting a business based on your hobbies, skills or something that suits your interests. Or maybe it is to reconnect with something you were passionate about in your younger days. As most baby boomers know, the time has gone fast. So it doesn’t hurt to reflect on past interests, provided it leads to satisfaction.

As the knowledge (Know -How) economy continues to outgrow the industrial economy, your capability to do ‘stuff’ can lead to meaningful work.

Market opportunities

Rather than just starting a business or buying one, consider the market opportunities for what you can do with your knowledge and skills.

Who will want these skills, or what else can you do with them.?

As companies outsource more work, you could provide services they don’t need full-time. Even skilled trades employees who worked for the vehicle manufacturers may have skills they could outsource to smaller companies needing their help, even as mentors to their skilled employees.

Older professionals generally have a stable home life, are capable workers with a good deal of business experience, are often well networked, motivated and have a range of processes and skills to help them focus on a business. This is why they can be more successful than younger entrepreneurs who may have a young family and other distractions.

Baby boomers are often more financially secure, maybe owning their own homes or having retirement savings. Things may not feel so scary if it takes longer to start getting new clients.

Business skills

If you’ve been reading my articles, I am going to repeat a few things:

At its simplest, every business needs a product to sell and deliver it at a profit.

A product could be a physical service or object, a digital download such as a ‘how to manual’, online training, mentoring or coaching, quilting patterns – just about anything.

Selling starts with marketing decisions. Who are your customers, where are they, and how do you connect with them online through a mobile-friendly website and social media or offline through media advertising or direct mail etc.

Delivering means being able to deliver the product – that you have the time, resources, or systems in place for this to happen. If you can’t deliver, you don’t get paid.

Profitable means selling your product for more than it costs you to make or buy and allowing you to cover all your expenses, including marketing, wages and more.

Then you need to keep doing it.

Lifelong learning

You will need to learn new skills on an ongoing basis. Such as choosing a business model to design your business. One that helps you determine your pricing, how much to spend on your marketing and promotion, and a reasonable revenue target.

You will need to learn how to use a website, update it, write blog articles and promote your business using social media and other means, along with various other skills and knowledge.

Many of these skills can be learned online in your own time, not necessarily in a classroom. Nowadays, you can learn from experts from anywhere in the world. You can do the same if you are an expert.


This is one benefit today in that most technology to help you be more productive is available in the cloud. While you’ll need a good laptop, tablet and smartphone at a minimum, most apps or software are cloud-based and not very expensive or accessible, such as Gmail and all the other goodies Google offers.

The downside

It can be stressful and lonely. It takes some time to get work unless you can freelance back into your previous employer or network to get some work. There will be downtimes with no work due to seasonal factors. It can take time to get paid, leaving you out of pocket. If you are worried about an irregular income, it may be too much of a risk to do without resources. The financial uncertainty can be overwhelming for some. It may pay to seek out some part-time work to ensure you earn some money.

The upside

You are not alone.

There is good help available to either help you make the right choice in what to do and how to do it. But take your time assessing what they offer. You must spend money to get started, develop your business model and systems, and promote your services or products to generate sales.

You must be much more careful with your funds, as you have less time to recoup them if things go wrong.

Suggested Reading
Freelancing for the over 50s

How not to start a business

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