A new generation of entrepreneurs is emerging onto the market, and it’s not who you may expect. Baby boomers are starting to become a huge part of the entrepreneurial world. Full retirement is becoming less and less popular, and many seniors are opting to earn their own income after they officially retire from their “day job by taking on independent contract work.”
According to Forbes, “people over 55 are twice as likely as people under 35 to launch a high-growth startup.” For some, this may mean a brick and mortar business. For many, this means considering the freedom and flexibility of an online business.
In fact, online businesses are increasingly popular among seniors looking to run a business from home. Smartphones, website builders, and social media platforms are becoming simpler to use and more intuitive all the time, making it easier to use online tools to reach a wide audience.
If you’re a retiree looking for business ideas or ways to leverage your skills and experience into a new project or business opportunity, consider the following online opportunities:
Building an online store or selling products online through a marketplace or platform like eBay, Amazon, or Etsy is a great option. Whether you start your business after years of retail or sales experience, or you’re building a new area of expertise, ecommerce can be an exciting venture that doesn’t require a retail location.
Building your own ecommerce site is usually a heavier lift than using an existing marketplace, but you should make that decision based on your goals and the audience you’d like to reach and the resources you have at hand. Here’s a guide for thinking through how to build your first website.
Writing and editing
If you enjoy writing and editing, blogging is a great way to share your expertise and build an audience for your own company or as a freelancer for another business.
When a company is serious about blogging, they look to professionals to ensure that it’s done right. Again, Upwork and Elance can help you get started if you’re looking to blog for other companies. If you’re thinking of starting a blog for your own business, look into monetization opportunities—selling ad space on your blog to generate a secondary source of income.
Think about what you want your blog to accomplish. Will it be part of your sales funnel, the way to lead people back toward making a purchase on your site? How often will you update it? How will you make sure it reaches your audience—through a newsletter, your social media accounts, search engine optimization?
Business and life coaching and consulting may be great options for highly-skilled and experienced retirees. Who better than someone who has worked in the industry or had experience in the area of need to coach others?
Services like Zoom, Skype, and Voxer have made it easier to have personal-feeling one-on-one or group video calls, making it possible to run a consulting or coaching business without a formal office.
Online courses and instruction
Most seniors have something valuable to teach. Creating an online course or webinar can become a lucrative career for seniors, and allows them to create their own schedule and work from home.
In fact, entire platforms are dedicated to creating online products. Kajabi, Udemy, and Teachable are course platforms where you can build your product in an easy-to-use format for your audience. After you’ve finished creating your course, it becomes a mostly passive income stream, meaning that with little additional work on your part (beyond promotion), the course continues to be available to new customers.
How to get started
Knowing that these opportunities are available is great, but how do you get started? For seniors looking to utilize online tools and technology to build a business or work from home, here are seven tips to help you get started:
1. Have a business plan
If you are starting any type of small business, it is important to have a business plan—you may not need a full, traditional plan, but you should at least put together a Lean Plan. Don’t let planning be intimidating. It’s possible to work through a basic plan in less than an hour.
Make sure that you truly think through your next steps. This applies even to those who are looking to primarily specialize in gig (temporary) or freelance work. Your overall goal might be financial freedom, sharing your skills or expertise, or to create an entirely new and innovative product or service. Use your business plan to help you map the steps you’ll take to achieve your goals. Here’s a free, downloadable template to help you get started with Lean Planning.
2. Create an online presence
If you plan on working independently and capitalizing on current technology, you need to have a presence online. Think of your presence online as your office. It is a place where potential clients or employers can visit you. It should lend credibility and seem trustworthy to your audience.
Where you build your online presence will depend upon the type of exposure you are looking for. This guide can help you think through whether you want to use a simple website builder like SquareSpace or build your own site yourself or through a web design firm. The stronger your online presence is, the larger an audience you will accumulate.
For example, you are looking to market digital projects, you will want to create a strong social media presence, and start building your email list. If working freelance is what you prefer, you may want to focus more on building a strong online resume on major freelance sites.
As an aside, make sure your website is mobile-friendly. You want people viewing your site on their phone or tablet to have a great experience—no super tiny text or impossible to click links. Plus, Google is making it harder for people who are searching for to find you if your site isn’t mobile-optimized.
3. Learn the right skills
If you’re intrigued by work from home or entrepreneurship opportunities but aren’t sure if your computer skills are up to snuff, don’t let that stop you. Many of the available platforms that will make your dream lifestyle a possibility are easy to learn, and offer free training.
For example, Wix, a popular website design platform, offers training on how to use their platform and make the most of it. MailChimp offers similar training for those looking to reach their audience through email. So do other platforms we’ve mentioned, such as Kajabi and Zoom. Don’t forget those course platforms—for example, Udemy offers a valuable course on entrepreneurship. It’s never too late to continue your education, and learning new interfaces and products can prove invaluable to your quality of life.
4. Invest in the right equipment
If you are going to be working through technology, you need to have the right equipment. A computer with a good webcam and sound system and access to high-speed internet are good investments for those looking to conduct meetings online.
Your smartphone can get you started, but it can only take you so far. An external webcam or enhancing lens can give you a more professional look, and a higher quality external microphone will help with conference calls and videos. For those looking to build an online store, a camera that takes quality pictures is a must.
5. Be smart about social media
Social media platforms are a resource for building an audience and looking at those in similar fields. Depending on your target market, different social media platforms can be used to reach different audiences. It is best to start with just one platform and focus on building your audience there.
Keep in mind that it’s increasingly difficult for businesses to get benefit from social media platforms for free. Most were built as platforms to serve advertisements to users. That means if you really want to leverage social media, you should treat it as an advertising opportunity.
Some popular platforms for entrepreneurs to take advantage of:
Facebook reaches a wide age range and varied demographics. It’s possible to reach really targeted audiences with Facebook ads—you can make sure your ad is seen primarily by people of a particular gender, age, and location who have demonstrated certain interests, for example. Other platforms do sometimes steal the limelight on occasion, but Facebook keeps advancing to try and keep up.
Twitter can reach a large audience faster than other platforms, but it isn’t quite as targeted. It’s a great way to reach millennials, but the overall demographic reach isn’t quite as wide. However, baby boomers are quickly catching onto Twitter, using it both in their personal and professional life.
: Those in the creative field will love Instagram. Ask yourself, is a picture worth a thousand words when it comes to explaining your product? If so, Instagram is a great platform to start with. They also reach a narrower, young demographic, but if your business is particularly photogenic, it might be a good fit.
: This platform allows you to snap photos and short videos of your day, so if your business is a lifestyle brand or is travel-based, this can be a great platform for you. Snapchat is unique in that after your recipient receives your photo or video, it disappears, but they offer some unique advertising opportunities for brands. Right now, it is still somewhat limited in audience and appeals more strongly to a younger crowd, up to mid-thirties.
6. Use virtual hiring tools
With the ability to use online tools to build your best team, you don’t have to rely on local recruiting resources anymore.
If you’re looking for an expert to help with a project, like building your online presence or designing a logo, look to freelancing platforms like Upwork orto find talent and request bids on your job from around the world.
If you’re looking to hire regular employees, posting your job online through platforms like ZipRecruiter can also expand your reach and help you find the right talent.
7. Check out the AARP Encore mentoring program
In addition to online resources, mentoring events can help seniors take advantage of small business opportunities and continuing education. The Encore Entrepreneurs program through AARP and the Small Business Administration is designed to help Americans over 50 get the resources and information they need to start a business. They host counseling and mentoring events across the country, and offer access to online resources.
Some of the most successful people in business started their careers later in life. Retirement is a brand new opportunity to pursue the career you’ve always wanted or to start your own endeavor. With the technology available today, these opportunities are easier than ever to take advantage of. Start thinking about the endless possibilities still available to you, and try the tips in this article to make your dreams a reality!