Due to massive downsizing, forced early retirements, and job burnout, more and more people aged 50+ are looking for alternatives to corporate jobs to continue working in the next stage of their lives.
You may have read about all of the 50+ boomers who are starting their own businesses—Parade magazine ran a feature on older entrepreneurs not long ago. In fact, in 2014 almost 25% of all new businesses in the U.S. were organized by an owner over 50.
But, you may be thinking: is this really for me? It seems so complex, and what about the risk I’ll be taking?
As a coach to hundreds of new 50+ business owners each year, I’d like to share with you 10 reasons why you should be your own boss and combine passion with profit to enrich your personal and professional life.
1. Your age doesn’t matter when you run your own business
Whether you sell products to large corporations or services to consumers, your customers don’t care how old you are. They only care that you deliver what you promised when you promised it.
In fact, in some businesses, like corporate consulting, a bit of gray hair can strongly communicate experience and wisdom and give you the inside edge on winning contracts.
Now, of course you need to be honest with yourself about your level of physical stamina and schedule your work to fit your desired pace. I am not embarrassed to tell you that I take a nap occasionally during the day!
2. You can combine working for mission and for money
Often, while you are climbing the corporate ladder you have to give up volunteer and charity work in order to keep up with the long work hours. When you become your own boss, you can combine giving back to your community while making a nice living.
While attending a meeting of a hometown charity recently, a fellow volunteer and I did a quick, informal census of who was there. Out of fifteen volunteers attending the meeting, ten were local small-business owners. And, I suspect that you will see this proportion in many communities across the U.S
3. You can work from almost anywhere
Whether you work with your customers at a distance (as many business and career coaches do today), deliver your consulting advice at your client’s location, or sell a product via an online store, the physical location of your your office doesn’t really matter much to the success of your business.
Using a tablet or smart phone linked to the Web, you can better enjoy your desired lifestyle while staying in touch with your customers from almost anywhere in the world (a warm-weather place in the fall and winter, and a cool-weather place in the spring and summer).
Living in Chicago, let me tell you that I really look forward to our time in warmer weather each winter!
4. You can avoid getting a pink slip ever again
In the corporate world, one person can get you fired. But when you run your own business, your ability to survive and thrive comes from finding a group of customers who want what you are selling. Keep them happy, and many will not only buy repeatedly from you, they’ll also tell their friends.
And I will tell you from first-hand experience that over my twenty-seven years as a business owner, I have found it much easier to keep my customers happy than was the case with some of my corporate bosses. Know what I mean?
5. You pick the people you want to work with and the one’s you don’t
It is uncommon in a corporate career to be able to choose your boss. But, when you are an independent business owner you can often choose which clients to pursue and from which vendors to buy.
Now, when you first open your business you may end up choosing to work with a person or company that later becomes the “customer from Hell”. But, you will learn quickly how to ask the right questions before you take someone on as a new customer so as to avoid this.
And, of course, if you are selling a product through an online store, you can’t really select who your customer is. But, these customers don’t want to “pal around” with you anyway; they just want you to ship them what they bought.
6. You can have multiple sources of income
Serial entrepreneurs are individuals who have launched two or more businesses. But there is an even larger group of small business owners today: “sequential entrepreneurs”. These people use the financial foundation of their original business to permit them to extend into three, four, or more ways to make money.
For example, a career coach may build her business around one-on-one tele-coaching and then add a self-published book for sale, a fee-based live workshop, and paid speaking gigs talking about job search techniques to institutional and corporate audiences.
Having multiple sources of income gives you much more security as the economy flexes up and down.
I sit down each January and ask myself: what new product or products do I want to bring to life this year? I then create a mini-marketing plan to accomplish this goal and spend the remainder of the year implementing my plan. Many years this has worked well for me; some years not so much.
[Earn an online business degree with a focus in entrepreneurship.]
7. You can enjoy more flexible work hours
Corporate employees often work punishing hours, partly due to endless meetings and starts and stops on projects. When you run your own business, you’ll be plenty busy, but you can try to streamline your work process to get the job done in under 40 hours a week.
Plus, if you work from a home office you eliminate commuting time. The hours you free up can then be used for family-oriented activities, such as visiting your grandkids, or just for more “me” time.
I often tell listeners at my presentations that it may surprise them to hear that during my first year as a business owner I picked up at least ten additional hours of free time each week—I had worked long hours as a corporate manager, plus I often traveled twice per month, which really sucks up your time!
8. You determine your financial progress
Corporate salaries have been pretty flat for a while, and substantial bonuses are rare for most employees. However, entrepreneurial business owners can enjoy a very different financial reality. When you’re your own boss, you can set a personal compensation goal at the beginning of the year and then roll out a sales and marketing plan to help you achieve the goal.
Your earning ability as a business owner is limited only by your hustle and determination
It does often take a year or two to get your marketing and selling process working to the point where you’re continually growing your income, but working from a home office, you can easily run your business for less than $500 per month which means that the vast majority of each dollar of sales is available for your personal use.
9. You can really boost your retirement savings
You don’t have to stop contributing to your retirement plan just because you leave your corporate job. The IRS gives you a number of ways to legally put away up to 40% of your self-employment income in deferred income vehicles, such as Solo 401(k) and SEP/IRA funds. And the real beauty here is that you can continue to put aside money, tax-deferred, for as long as you are running at least one business.
I know from speaking with a lot of my boomer peers each year that many of them are lower in their retirement investment accounts than they would like to be. The ability to continue putting tax-deferred self-employment income into your retirement fund can be just the financial boost you’ve been looking for.
10. You can become known as an expert
Did you ever come up with a clever idea only to have your boss take credit for it? If you share your insider knowledge and experience with the marketplace through blogging, social media sharing, and speaking engagements, you can fairly quickly become known as the “go-to person” for your specialty.
When a reporter or freelance writer in your niche needs an expert opinion, you’ll be the first person she calls. This provides a deep sense of satisfaction and builds your company’s competitive advantage.
If talking to reporters is not quite your cup of tea, you can build a reputation for reliability through regular blogging or posting useful articles on Facebook or LinkedIn.
The Wonderful Truth
The wonderful reality today is that is has never been less expensive, and therefore less risky, to start an entrepreneurial venture.
Many new businesses today are launched for well under $10,000 and often can be run for less than $500 per month.
When you consider the ten advantages of doing entrepreneurial work shown above, it may well be that the greater risk is to rely solely upon a corporate employer to provide you the opportunity to do meaningful work.
Jeff Williams has been coaching new boomer entrepreneurs since 1998. He is a CEO of Bizstarters.com, selected by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine as “The Best Entrepreneurial Guide for People Over 50”. Jeff’s new “Start Your Business NOW!” online course is featured on Learning Advisor. Jeff is from Fairfax, Virginia and has an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and a BS in Commerce from the University of Virginia. He had an eighteen-year career as a corporate marketing executive with such companies as Corning, Sears and Rand McNally. Jeff lives in Chicago with his wife Marianne and their loving cat, Princess.