On Your Own

Your Child as Your Business Partner

OnYourOwnFor some Boomers, the dream of owning a business is a family affair. I have first-hand knowledge of this: My wife and I started a small service business together after we left our professional careers. We wrote a book about it: Let's Make Money, Honey: The Couple's Guide to Starting a Service Business. While not all couples have the ability to work together, we found it to be a good fit for us and a great experience.

Here's a different spin on starting a family business: Taking the plunge with your adult child. A recent article in The New York Times explores this possibility and cites a few relevant examples of Boomers who made working with their children work. There are solid reasons such an arrangement can be successful. For one thing, Boomer parents seem to have better relationships with their adult children than previous generations. For another, adult children ages 18 to 34 are more likely to live in their parents' homes, making working together a natural next step.

There is a practical aspect to a parent-child business proposition, writes Christopher Farrell: "Age discrimination can be a major hurdle to employment for those 50 years and over. At the same time, young people can find it tough to land a job that’s engaging and offers a career path. For both age cohorts, starting a business can often be a better alternative." Another nice benefit: If the business is successful, the Boomer never has to worry about a succession plan; the adult child simply takes over when the Boomer is ready to retire.

A Boomer-adult child business relationship is just one more way Boomers are redefining our retirement years.

 


Is Consulting for You?

OnYourOwnI remember a time when a professional became a "consultant" for a brief period of time while looking for full-time work; sometimes, in fact, "consultant" was a code word on a resume for "on my own until something better comes along." Nowadays, however, consulting is not only a legitimate career path for the self-employed, it is also a viable second career for older professionals.

There are numerous potential benefits to becoming an independent consultant, not the least of which is the very word "independent." Benefits include the potential to earn high income, setting your own schedule, and re-purposing skills you already have and expertise you developed during your first career.

Still, consulting isn't a "slam dunk" for everyone. Writing for NextAvenue.org, Jonathan Dison, author of the book The Consulting Economy, has some sound advice for you before you consider plunging into the world of consulting. He talks about four lessons he wished he had learned before he became a consultant:

  1. Trust is everything
  2. Become indispensable
  3. Know the skills that are in demand
  4. Know your tax write-offs as a consultant

This article is a must-read if you're considering becoming a consultant. If you'd like a copy of Jonathan's book, you can purchase it directly from Amazon below.


Boomers Serving the Boomer Market

OnYourOwnThe notion of being your own boss has great appeal for a growing percentage of Boomers who want to continue to work but on their own terms. Self-employment offers you freedom, flexibility and, potentially, higher income than a traditional and sometimes menial job.

Of all the self-employment options available to Boomers, one of the more intriguing ideas may be to concentrate your efforts on a business that actually serves Boomers. Due to the aging of America, services for those 65 and older are booming. As a result, the "longevity economy" could spell opportunity for an enterprising Boomer, according to Kiplinger. Contributing editor Susan Garland writes, "The inclination of many older individuals to take advice and help from their peers offers aging boomers a big advantage in the growing senior-oriented market. Just think of a service or product that you or your aging parents could use, and it may be a niche that you can fill."

Garland cites as examples a number of Boomers who have entered the market with services targeting the senior set. CPA Barbara Green started a business helping older Americans deal with "their day-to-day financial affairs." Freelance writer Cristina Pastor works part-time as a dementia-care coach. Psychologist Eloise Stiglitz started her own retirement coaching business. Tavis Schriefer came up with a novel way to screen calls from telephone scammers that resulted in a new business designed to protect the elderly.

Imagine what your parents have needed as they age, or what you will need as you advance in age, and there is probably a service opportunity awaiting you. Potential service areas include healthcare, finance, personal shopping, cooking, home safety, specialized organizational services, downsizing consultation, and more. In many cases, older clients will feel much more at ease dealing with a business owner who is older himself or herself.

If you've ever considered striking out on your own, don't overlook an audience segment you already know a lot about -- Boomers like you!


Freelancing at Any Age

OnYourOwn"Older but wiser" is an old adage that Boomers could put to good use when it comes to establishing a freelance career. Often, your background and experience can be a plus in freelancing, unlike in the traditional job market, where younger employees are sometimes favored over older ones. Freelancing is essentially a form of self-employment in which you offer your services on an hourly or contracted job basis, directly to a client company, or via "resellers," who provide you with work on behalf of their clients. You may have heard this referred to as the "gig economy," (working on specific assignments rather than as a part-time or full-time employee) but that's just a contemporary term for freelancing.

There are several attractive aspects to freelancing. Freelancing offers you the ability to be your own boss, set your own rates (although they must be competitive), and enjoy a flexible work schedule. Contrary to popular belief, freelancing is not just for creative types; it used to be that a freelancer typically was a writer or graphic designer, but these days, companies are looking for freelance workers with a wide variety of skills. There are, for example, freelance software engineers, legal assistants, accountants, marketing project managers, and so on.

Carol Tice is an "older" freelancer who worked in banking and law for more than three decades and transitioned into a full-time freelance writer. She has some great advice for Boomers who may want to consider starting a freelance writing career in an article on her blog, "Make a Living Writing." When I read it, I was impressed by the fact that Carol's counsel could just as easily apply to any older freelancer, not just a freelance writer. The five steps she suggests are:

  1. Take stock of your skills
  2. Step up your marketing efforts
  3. Keep learning
  4. Manage your time
  5. Plan ahead.

You can read the entire article here: http://www.makealivingwriting.com/older-freelance-writing-career/


The Leisure Retiree

OnYourOwnOne of the ways we Boomers are redefining retirement is by combining work and leisure in the pursuit of happiness. While not every Boomer is in a position to pursue this creative concept, it is certainly worth considering if you can make it a reality.

A good example of the leisure retiree, writes Claudia Dreifus for The New York Times, is Dr. John Siebel, a retired oncologist. Siebel decided at age 64 that he wanted to continue to see patients, but only part-time, and he wanted to find a way to combine that with his love for adventure and the outdoors. Dreifus reports that "Dr. Siebel’s answer was to become a kind of oncological 'temp,' covering for vacationing doctors with practices in interesting places — including Alaska."

This is how it works, according to Dreifus: "For up to three months of every year — the limitation is Dr. Siebel’s choice — a medical employment agency books him for short stints in remote parts of Alaska, California or Idaho. He will only accept assignments near wilderness areas.

Weekdays, he sees patients. On weekends, he heads to the mountains and explores."

Dreifus shares other examples of leisure retirees in her excellent article.

The point, I think, is that an ideal rewirement (I use the term to replace mere "retirement") is one that leverages your career skills into a flexible part-time position so you can pursue leisure activities as well. In order to do this, certain conditions must exist, of course:

  • You need to have sufficient retirement savings/income so that you can work part-time rather than full-time.
  • Your skills must be in demand, at least to the extent that you can achieve the kind of attractive work/leisure balance as did Dr. Siebel.

I have taken a slightly different but similar approach. I was a direct marketing professional who had started a direct marketing agency, and I also authored a number of marketing and business books. When I left the profession, I struck out as a part-time marketing consultant/part-time business writer. Nowadays, I write more than I consult. I combine that with volunteering for non-profit organizations, as well as enjoying some leisure time. In my case, the three-way balance of part-time self-employment, volunteering, and leisure work just fine. Perhaps that would work for you, too. 


Is Coaching or Consulting for You?

OnYourOwnThink about how much intellectual capital is lost when an experienced employee leaves a company. That person has developed a knowledge base, the expertise, and the stature to work as a high-level professional.

If you have been fortunate enough to hold such a career position, chances are your value in the marketplace can apply to a potentially lucrative, flexible second career: coaching or consulting. Writing for Harvard Business Review, Dorie Clark, author of the book Reinventing You, offers some excellent advice in "How to Become a Coach or Consultant After You Retire."

Clark recommends giving yourself plenty of time to make the transition from your full-time job to becoming self-employed -- as much as a year or more. She recommends conducting a self-assessment skills analysis to determine where you need to improve.

Clark says it's a good idea to concentrate early efforts on recruiting clients, even if some are volunteer efforts: "To gain experience as a coach or consultant," writes Clark, "take on a few volunteer clients on the side, while you’re still employed, in exchange for testimonials and future referrals (assuming it’s a good experience)." She also recommends a sensible attitude toward marketing: "Recognize the goal of your marketing," Clark writes, "[is] establishing a baseline of credibility for when a potential client checks you out." And taking a break between your job and starting a consulting practice is not a bad idea, either.

Coaching or consulting is not for everyone, but it is certainly a viable option if you have both the depth of experience and the desire to run your own show.

 


Partners in Life and in Business

OnYourOwnIf you and your spouse have some basic business skills and you are leaving the traditional workplace, you might consider running a business together. Partners in life can be partners in business, although it does take a clear recognition of the differences.

My wife and I ran a small service business together after I left my professional career as an advertising executive. We used that business as a bridge from full-time work to part-time retirement. An unexpected bonus was that we were able to sell the business after seven years.

So what does it really take to start a business together? One of the most important things is setting boundaries. In our case, we tried to be as specific and detailed as possible in divvying up who did what, basing the decision on who was best suited to which area and tasks. We agreed early on that each of us would have responsibility for certain areas, but part of our mutual responsibility was keeping the other person informed about our respective areas. 

It may seem mundane, but you and your partner should sit down and put on paper every single function of your business and assign one of your names to each. Both of you should keep copies of the list so there is never a misunderstanding. It is also important to determine which decisions can be made individually and which should be made together. For example, any decision about financing your business should be a joint decision; which bills to pay when, however, probably doesn’t require dual decision-making.

Another area where boundaries come into play is personal versus business time. Being in business together often makes it difficult to separate your business lives from your personal lives. It is a real comfort to know that you can talk about business matters with your partner after business hours, but that can cut both ways. Hard though it is, try to turn the business switch off when you leave the office for the day (especially if the office is your home). You both need some breathing room away from the business – time for yourselves to talk about other things, to spend time together having fun, and to re-connect as a non-business couple.

Cover openWe were so invigorated by our experience being in business together that we wrote a book about it: Let's Make Money, Honey: The Couple's Guide to Starting a Service Business.

As a reader of Happily Rewired, you can get a copy of the print edition of this book for just $10.95 -- $6.00 off the regular price of $16.95, a 35 percent savings!

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If you have ever considered going into business with your spouse or significant other, this book is a must-read. It has received rave reviews from reviewers and readers alike. 

Save $6 on the print edition when you order now!


Looking for a Second Career? Start with Questions

OnYourOwnPursuing a second career can be equal parts rewarding and scary. It may make sense to work in a field you're most familiar with, but it also might be that your goal is to do something completely different with your life during your "second act."

As with any research project (and that's what finding a second career really is), you won't have all the information you need to make a well-considered decision without asking the right questions. My retirement colleague Nancy Collamer, who I've quoted numerous times in the past, can help with that. Her article for U.S. News, "10 Questions to Help You Discover a Fulfilling Second-Act Career," is the perfect starting point.

Nancy says that the transition to a second-act career will be easier "when you build on at least a small piece of what you currently do." That was my experience: After I sold the direct marketing agency I started, I briefly worked for an ad agency in a senior marketing position. When I decided to retire from the agency, I leveraged my writing skill to become a freelance marketing writer and book reviewer. It was a relatively easy transition for me since I always loved to write. I also used my skills from starting and running a business to help my wife launch her own small business. (You can read the story of that business in our book, Let's Make Money, Honey: The Couple's Guide to Starting a Service Business.)

These are a few of the ten questions Nancy suggests asking yourself before striking out on your own.

1. What opportunities, services or products are currently being overlooked in your industry? 

2. Which of your skills could you market on a freelance and flexible basis? 

3. Do you have technology-related expertise that could help someone become more efficient or profitable? 

4. What tools can you create to make it easier for people to do their job, accomplish their goals or enjoy their hobbies? 

See the other six questions, along with some additional helpful advice, in the complete article, which you can read here:
http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/on-retirement/articles/2017-03-17/10-questions-to-help-you-discover-a-fulfilling-second-act-career


Done with Your Career? Consider Consulting

OnYourOwnAs Boomers transition from a full-time career to part-time work in retirement, they have a real opportunity to be a consultant, at least for a period of time. Depending on their field, some Boomers can even make consulting a long-term business. I can tell you from personal experience that consulting is a good way to ease out of a full-time professional career into part-time work during retirement. 

"Consultant" is a term that used to mean a professional with a consulting firm, but nowadays, a consultant can be anyone with professional expertise. Respected retirement expert Kerry Hannon shares these four tips for individuals who want to consider becoming a consultant when their primary career ends: 

  1. Become a member of a local industry association or organization. Join industry groups on LinkedIn. Attend industry and professional meetings and conferences. Keep an eye on the association job boards and let other members know you’re seeking consulting assignments.

  2. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce to help you reach small businesses in your town. These organizations often don’t have funds to hire someone full-time, but may need your expertise and experience. Also check out temporary agencies that specialize in placing experienced professionals in short-term gigs.

  3. Know your rates. Research what other consultants in your field charge. Many consultants have websites where they publish set rates or a range. You might also ask fellow consultants straight out what they charge. Whatever your source, set your rates accordingly based on your experience and skill set.

  4. Market your services to nonprofits which have a mission that resonates with you. They often hire project-based or contract professionals. Consider offering your services pro bono to develop your relationship and gain references for future jobs.

This is excellent advice, part of a longer article about "Working in Retirement" that you can access on Kerry's blog here: http://kerryhannon.com/?p=6125


Becoming an Over-50 Entrepreneur is Nothing to Laugh At

OnYourOwnI have long been an advocate of starting a business if you are over the age of 50. As I've mentioned in previous blog posts, my wife and I started a small, local service company in our mid-fifties and ran it successfully for seven years before we sold it. You can read about our experiences in our book, Let's Make Money, Honey: The Couple's Guide to Starting a Service Business.

With a new year upon us, maybe you have the entrepreneurial itch. If so, you'll be encouraged that at least one expert thinks older entrepreneurs have distinct advantages over younger entrepreneurs. Richard Eisenberg of Next Avenue interviewed David Deeds, the Schulze Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship of the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. Deeds is also editor-in-chief of the Entrepreneur & Innovation Exchange (EIX). When Deeds was asked about the advantages an entrepreneur over the age of 50 might have, here's what he said:

"As someone who just turned 55, I think there are a lot of advantages, and far more advantages than disadvantages.

"In your 50s, you have experience, knowledge and wisdom. You’ve seen a lot of things while you’ve worked in your career, or in a multitude of careers or jobs. You probably have some financial wherewithal. You’ve established a network over your career that you can get feedback from — maybe potential customers or engineers or designers you can learn a lot from over a cup of coffee.

"To be honest, the only serious disadvantage I see is societal perception that entrepreneurship is for wide-eyed twenty-somethings. That is wrong. One thing we know about entrepreneurs: They are as diverse as the population. There’s no magic test that says you can or can’t be one."

For those who are looking to start a business, Deeds advises:

"The most important thing: Do your homework. Talk to potential customers and people who have the problem you’re trying to solve with your business. Then start iterating simple prototypes. You’re not going to get it right at first and you don’t want to go all in until you’re close to getting it right. Don’t quit your day job until you’re ready. And don’t bet the farm.

"The other thing I’d say is to put together solid financial plans. You’re in an age group that wants to have a nice retirement and travel. So plan for yourself and for your venture. As you start a business, your personal and venture finances will merge very rapidly."

You can read more from David Deeds in the Next Avenue article here.