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Self employment for the mature professional

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

Mature professionals moving to self employment

Thus a growing number of 50 plus Australians consider 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 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 entreprenuer 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 uncertaintly 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 careeer is about working in a handful of jobs, maybe smaller ones, but doing meaningful work for maybe a number of employers, freelancing or outsourcing your services, so to speak. With the word ‘job’ meaning 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 just have one large client. Not a good idea.

The ideal here 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 really passionate about in your younger days. As most baby boomers know, 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 think about just starting a business or buying one, think about the market opportunities for what you can do with the knowledge and skills you already have.

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

As companies outsource more work, you could provide services that they don’t need on a full time basis. Even skilled trades employees who worked for the vehicle manufacturers may have skills that 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, 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 home or have some 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, be able to sell it 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 work out your pricing or how much to spend on your marketing and promotion along with 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 a range of other skills and knowledge.

Many of these skills are available to be learnt online in your own time. Not necessarily in a classroom. Nowadays you can learn from the 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 of the apps or software is cloud based and not very expensive or free, such as Gmail and all the other goodies Google offers.

The downside

It can be stressful and lonely. It takes a bit of time to get work, unless you can freelance back into your previous employer or network to get some work. There will be downtimes where there may be 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. In fact it may pay to seek out some part-time work to ensure that you are earning 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 will need to spend money to get started, develop your business model and systems, and to promote your services or products to generate sales.

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