When you think of an entrepreneur, you might immediately picture a kid from Stanford or some other top-notch tech school. But the fact is that the majority of the self-employed and entrepreneurial aren't young at all. As of 2010, only 2% of those under 25 were self-employed.
Among those 65 and over, the rate of self-employment was 23%. And they're doing well: A survey by AARP found that 75% of older self-employed workers made a profit in 2011.
What does that mean? It means that if you want to start a business, being older might be one of your biggest assets. Here's how to do it.
No matter your current job description, the sky's the limit when you build your post-retirement entrepreneurial plan. If you have a bit of expertise on a subject and some business sense to go with it, you could start any number of enterprises.
So ask yourself: What is it you want to do in retirement? Now is the time to really ponder your dream job -- just like you did back when you were in your 20s. For the first time in decades, you could have the flexibility and the time to pursue something you want, rather than spending all your energy making ends meet or advancing your career.
Whether you want to continue your current career as a consultant or contractor, become a moonlighter at nonprofits that match your interests, or turn a hobby into a moneymaker, form a picture in your head of what that will look like. From there, you can start testing and executing.
Build a foundation
Whether you want to freelance or build a business empire, you need customers. So your first order of business is to identify whom you're selling to and what exactly they want. Put together a list of potential customers and outline your ideas for what goods and services you can offer them.
You might have a number of potential customers among your friends and business relations already, so reach out and talk to them about your idea. Whether you're targeting other businesses or individual customers, test out your idea on people you know or can easily get in touch with. Your goal is to find out 1) whether people want your product or service and and 2) whether they're willing to pay for it.
From there, you can start tailoring your offerings for your potential customers and finding the best ways to reach them.
If you're married, this is the time for you and your spouse to talk about your respective goals for retirement. If you're thinking of working but your spouse is set on a permanent move to a cozy village in Costa Rica, you may have a problem.
This is important because starting a business takes time. You'll need to do background research on customers. You'll need to register your business (if applicable) and decide on a name (which can be agonizing). You'll need to manage the books and expenses, and you'll need to ensure that you have the requisite tools in place to support you. And of course, you'll actually need to deliver your product or service. This means you may have to put other retirement plans on hold.
So be sure to talk about your retirement dreams and do your best to reconcile any differences you may have. This shouldn't be rancorous; use it as an opportunity to have a meaningful discussion and make some compromises in order to make sure both partners are as happy as possible.
Starting a business or even freelancing is an exercise in creativity and meeting new challenges head-on. In other words, it's a fantastic way to keep your mind active in your golden years. However, a business can also blindside you with unexpected challenges and setbacks. To avoid that outcome, get in the habit of continuously learning.
For example, if you've never had to do bookkeeping before, now would be a good time to investigate some accounting software to help you keep the books. If you're going back to a field you haven't worked in for a while, take a class or read up on the latest research and trends.
You might even consider joining a networking group for your industry or for business owners. These groups can be a great source of ideas and wisdom about managing a small business. And once you start learning, don't stop. As an entrepreneur, you'll be constantly challenged to rethink your assumptions and come up with new ideas.
So don't hesitate: start your business and show all those kids how it's done.