In February, I wrote a post that cited statistics regarding the high percentage of small business owners who are Boomers. "Small business" is a deceiving term because its definition varies by industry sector. In professional services, for example, "small" could be a business with just a handful of employees, while in manufacturing, "small" may be a business that has several hundred employees. The United States Census Bureau reports a statistic that may shock you: The majority of U.S. businesses have fewer than five employees.
From an entrepreneurial Boomer's perspective, "small" could mean a one-person business. At that size, such a business is likely to be in the professional services sector -- accounting, business consulting, law, marketing and so on. There are many obvious advantages to a one-person business, not the least of which is low overhead. In fact, in today's networking economy, a one-person professional services business can offer even more services to clients simply by sub-contracting other professionals. One person could also operate as an independent contractor, taking on project assignments or filling in as a contracted worker when an employer has a specialized or short-term need. This particular aspect of business is what the "gig economy" is all about.
For older Boomers who draw monthly Social Security benefits and must take Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from their retirement accounts, a one-person business can be an attractive way to leverage work experience and generate modest additional income. For the most part, the primary goal of these Boomers is probably personal satisfaction rather than income generation. On the other hand, there are sure to be a substantial number of older Boomers who have no intention of "retiring" and continue to work in their own businesses, either part-time or full-time, with the goal of making some serious money. Younger Boomers not yet ready to draw retirement benefits may be even more motivated to use self-employment for financial gain.
The "X" factor, in my opinion, is how much drive you have to be your own boss. I'll use myself as an example. I owned and operated a direct marketing agency for two decades, starting out as a one-person business and growing it to more than fifty employees. After leaving that agency, I went to another advertising firm for a few years. Honestly, working for someone else was not something I enjoyed, so my next move was to operate a small business with my spouse for seven years. Then I transitioned to a part-time writing business.
Even though the size of each of my own businesses was dramatically different, I have basically been a small business owner all along. That has helped me understand what it means to be self-employed.
Should you or shouldn't you consider working independently? Obviously this is a very personal decision that involves an assessment of your own experience/capabilities as well as your income goals. But if the drive to be on your own isn't a fire in your gut and you still want to work, you might be better off pursuing a part-time or full-time position with another employer rather than working for yourself.