#071: Should You Go Freelance If You’re 55 or Older?

Over the past seven years, I’ve had hundreds of conversations with new and aspiring freelancers who are 55+.

Perhaps the most common concern I hear from this group is, “I’m afraid that my age will prevent me from getting clients.”

I can understand this fear. Especially if you’ve experienced age discrimination in the workplace … or been laid off or downsized because of your age (something an employer would never admit).

Here’s the good news—you have more to offer your clients than you realize. In fact, you have a serious competitive edge over younger freelancers — experience, wisdom and perspective.

And that’s not just me saying that. I’ve heard this from several freelancers who launched their solo business later in life.

In fact, you’ll hear from one of them in this week’s episode. Her name is Katherine Andes, a California–based web content developer and SEO writer who went solo 12 years ago at the age of 54.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes or on Stitcher to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

Tell us about yourself

Katherine started working as a web content developer in 2008. Her core skills are website writing and SEO. She started her freelance writing business in 2003.

We first talked to Katherine on an episode about charging hourly rates for SEO copywriting.

What made you go into freelancing?

Katherine spent a number of years in the corporate world. When she had children, she decided to stay home with them. When her husband passed away, Katherine knew she would have to start generating some income.

She launched her business with only a vague idea of what she wanted to do. She wrote newsletters and resumes and did some grant writing and magazine editing. She also started doing some web writing.

At first, she was afraid she wouldn’t land any work. But she knew she was a good writer, and she figured there had to be a way to make money writing.

How did you find work? How did people respond?

She emailed everyone she knew to tell them about her business. Work started to trickle in.

She did get some blowback. A relative told her she should get a permanent job instead of working freelance. She received lots of unsolicited advice, but she found it best to go with what works for her.

When starting your business, follow your instincts and go with what feels right to you.

Are business periodicals looking for writers these days?

Business and trade publications will accept anything that’s well written. They’re hungry for content. You won’t get paid, but it’s a good way to get exposure, credibility and a link back to your site.

How did you grow from your first set of clients?

Katherine thrashed around for a number of years. The grant writing work dried up. She did some magazine editing but the pay was low. Eventually, she got a gig with a flooring company. She helped them develop a website, but it didn’t do well in search. She realized she needed to learn SEO.

She ended up hiring SEO coach Nick Usborne. He encouraged her to narrow her focus to SEO copywriting. Her confidence grew, and it was a turning point in her business.

Someone WILL hire you if you’re good and you make some effort to market yourself.

Have you experienced age discrimination as a freelancer?

Not as much as she anticipated. You can write without showing your age. Most of her clients are seasoned business owners who appreciate her maturity. They trust her. She’s not a SEO hotshot who sells fast and overpromises.

Some of young web developers get snarky with her—but not all. She attracts clients who don’t want the “young and cool” establishment.

How do you position yourself?

Katherine positions herself as a consultant, not a writer. She describes herself as a merchandiser of content.

She uses her age and maturity to her advantage. She’s not pretending to be someone she’s not.

What advice do you have for people who don’t have enough for retirement and are considering freelance work to pay the bills?

Just do it. Network and don’t overlook the local market. Get some training. Put up a website.

Get a coach. Coaching cuts down on the amount of time it takes to ramp up your business.

Katherine has met many people who’ve had to start over in their 50s and 60s. Starting a new business is hard work and can be frustrating, but it’s doable.

Where can listeners learn more about you?

Katherine’s website: Betterwebsales.com

Katherine’s viral video on Youtube:
A little off-topic, but this video went viral on Facebook and is an example that even a post about something “everyday” has the potential to boost your business — it’s received just under 3 million views on Facebook, which is pretty remarkable.

The link below is the same video, now posted on Youtube.
Click to Watch: Lady Stores Plastic Bags in Tissue Box