The Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College has some not (to me) surprising news: more “seniors” are apt to start businesses than their younger counterparts.

I’ve started a bunch of businesses in my life: at 22, 33, and 46. Counting my latest production work and consulting, add to that list a start at age 65.

Why would seniors– many hitting retirement age– decide to go out on their own? There are a lot of obvious reasons.

  1. They’re out of work. Young people (mostly) don’t hire old people. And young people, thanks to forced retirements, “rightsizing”, downsizing, and good old fashion layoffs / firings, are indeed today’s management– except for the billionaire CEO / COO.
  2. They’re bored. Whether financially comfortable or not, they’re not intellectually challenged. Especially now that Lost if off the air.
  3. They want to explore another talent, and the discipline of “work” will kick their butts into exploring it seriously.
  4. They need the cash, but not too much of it. Combine social security with a part time or full time income and low overhead, and you have a low cost, low tax situation.
  5. They want to try working all by their lonesome.

There are benefits to working on your own, and there are definite downsides, too.

It’s Never Too Late for Seniors

Benefits:

  1. Set your own schedule (this can be a disadvantage too). I know a lot of people who work against the grain, working from 2am to 6am, or a half day, or three super-days. He internet makes this more possible.
  2. The internet. You can sell, promote, communicate, and make friends and clients on the internet (but you’ll still have to press the flesh occasionally.
  3. Low overhead. Play your cards right, and you can work at home, or in cheap real estate. If you make money, working at home is a legitimate deduction. It also saves on gas, phones, office machinery, and everything from rent to electrical bills. And you can use your own coffee and food.
  4. No distractions. If you are really committed, you can get more done in an hour than an office worker can get done in five. 
  5. Quick path to profitability. The above factors can add up to quick profitability. Low overhead and a good grasp of technology means you can create products from scratch, do most of the work yourself, and charge as little or as much as you want. Pricing is a big issue today. If you’re customers are corporate types, it’s going to get tough to get them to buy anything that requires a purchase authorization. On the ther hand, they know value when they see it. If your customers are consumers, all they care about is a perceived bargain, and your services or products will need to be value-priced. A $10,000 corporate video or website might only garner a grand or two from the less sophisticated buyer. But low overhead puts that money in your pocket, not in the pockets of suppliers.

Downsides?

  1. You can set your own hours. If you are undisciplined, this can be a problem. I remember in high school, we took a class on study habits. The one thing it took from it was “Take frequent study breaks.” I did.
  1. Distractions. Like the internet. Fantasy Football and YouTube beckon. You have to use the web to your advantage, not as a time waster. And if you’re living with someone, that other person may become a distraction of their plate isn;t full. And of course, you’re “unemployed status” makes you available for road trips, errands, and visits (which I love.) Just schedule them correctly and say no when you have to. Convince yourself that working for yourself is still work.
  1. A little success can lead to hubris. Spending all your income; forgetting to market the same way you did when you started; taking risks that can not be rewarded. Don’t let the pink cloud become a black hole.

But the fact is, it can be done. 

To succeed you need laser focus, commitment, and a very positive attitude. Your product and it’s market– not your business– must be your mission. You must believe– and become– the best at what you do. Anyone can do this– including Seniors.

More on that next time.

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