Over 40? Unemployed? Underemployed? Feel Like Giving Up?
If you just read that headline and it resonated with you, then you are probably one of the millions and millions of people who were hit hard by the economic downturn.
After years of punching a time clock and working your butt off to move up the career ladder and get ahead, the rug was pulled out from under you and, again, if you are like many people in the same boat, it probably wasn’t a soft landing.
Now you ruminate at home, puzzle on the internet, and wonder if the world will ever be the same. Will you ever have a nice expense account-funded lunch again? Will you ever have something as basic as health insurance again? Will the next minimum wage job give you a path to higher earnings?
The work world has changed dramatically and not for the better for many people who are forty and older, but you can take control of your life and your income. It’s as straightforward as becoming a freelancer. Here’s how:
- Who? Anyone, particularly if you are: currently unemployed, underemployed, suffer from age discrimination, or have any other reason that you aren’t so much a “perfect fit” for the corporate world any more.
- What? Be a freelancer! Be your own boss! Pick a hobby or a skill and make money off of it!
- When? NOW! Whether you are unemployed and have loads of free time or you have a full time job but it is: not very secure, doesn’t pay very well, or you hate, hate, hate it yet see no other option than to stick with it, begin your freelance business now. Obviously, if you are employed, don’t quit your day job until your new business has launched and can support you, but begin now, this very minute!
- Where? Begin right where you are. After you figure out the how (see below), you can focus on the where, which may be in your own community. Or thankfully for the internet, your freelance business can literally be launched anywhere in the world.
Why? Because jobs are harder and harder to find, they pay less and less, and your future job prospects look…dim, for want of a better word. You are tired of sucking up to hiring managers that are barely out of college and you are really tired of being broke.
If you have to compete for one more job with 500 other applicants you will go postal, and you are working so hard now for meager earnings that your kids barely recognize you anymore. Maybe you are infinitely creative but have no outlet for your creativity, or maybe it is just time to try something new.
- How? Pick a hobby or a skill that can make you some money. Don’t say you don’t have any hobbies or skills because if you have been working for the past 20 years, you definitely know how to do something well. Don’t be too broad when you start, you want to market yourself as the go-to person for X service or product, not the guy who can do 25 unrelated things.
Put together a one-page business plan that answers the basics (what you are selling, who you might sell to, how you will sell your product/service, and your business name, what licenses and other pre-reqs you need, etc). Plan your marketing materials (logo, business cards, maybe a website). Also, create some samples of your product/service.
Now you need to find someone to buy your product/service. Just one person. This will probably be the most difficult thing you do but it only takes ONE customer to launch your business off the ground. Don’t give up. After you have sold your first product/service, review what you have learned. How can you improve your product/service for your next customer? How can you sell more of your product/service? Lather, rinse, repeat.
Don’t say you don’t have any hobbies or skills because if you have been working for the past 20 years, you definitely know how to do something well.
Mind these 3 Warnings
Selling your product/service is going to be hard. Most people who have had a boss all of their life are quite used to waiting to be told what to do. When you are a freelancer you are the boss and you have to actually put yourself out there and risk failure until you become successful.
When you are a freelancer you are the boss and you have to actually put yourself out there and risk failure until you become successful.
You have to do things you never thought you would do (public speaking anyone?) and you have to actually sell yourself and your product/service—something that many people have a hard time doing but which is, nonetheless, quite possible with a bit of effort.
- You need to continually learn more than you know now…about how to develop and improve your product/service, about how to run a business, and about your industry.
- Don’t give up too easily. Becoming successful takes a lot of work and a lot of effort. It takes some time as well so don’t throw in the towel if your first effort is a dismal failure. Keep trying. Eventually you will either succeed—maybe modestly or maybe spectacularly—or you will morph your business into selling a more lucrative product or service.
Now, go start your freelancing business this very minute!