National statistics confirm that the over 50’s these days are the new business start-up generation with the over 55’s now making up one fifth of the UK’s new business owners.
A recent survey by Barclays Bank reported a 67% increase in woman over 55 opening a new business bank account.
While I’m not (quite!) in the over 55 category, at 52 I definitely fall in line with the general trend. Sometimes referred to as the ‘oldpreneurs’ (no, I’m not thrilled about that one either!) we’re a force to be reckoned with and a clear indication that ambition and drive is not reserved for the young.
With life expectancy on the rise, we over 50’s can have a whole ‘third’ life to look forward to. The chance to be our own boss, make our own decisions and create something to be proud of.
Are you there? Are you considering starting your own business over 50?
Read on for a ‘behind the scenes’ look at my world over the past year and a glimpse of what you might be getting yourself into.
These days, if your new business is to stand even half a chance of success, you absolutely have to have an online presence. Whether your business actually involves any online transactions or not, you need to exist somewhere in that space. In days of old, we relied on the testimony of friends as well as the trusty yellow pages to find the product or service which best met our needs.
These days what do we do? We Google it.
Even a 'hands-on' business, such as a window cleaner, needs a website these days so that when someone Googles ‘window cleaners in Anytown’ they can be in the mix of contenders.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
As an over 50’s entrepreneur, you’d better be ready to embrace all things ‘interwebby’ if you’re to be in with a chance. There's no point burying your head in the sand and declaring yourself ‘not very tech-savvy’. Don't ever let yourself believe you're too old to learn and you’ll never be able to do it. Not true. It’s the perfect time in your life to embrace learning new skills and if I can do it, so can you!
At the start of 2017, my online experience consisted of -
- Booking holidays
- General research
Yes, I realise shopping is in there twice. Hey, we've all got a weak spot :)
While my social media experience consisted of a Facebook account I was reasonably active on.
I didn’t consider myself computer illiterate or completely non tech-savvy though. I was pretty proficient in Microsoft Word, Excel and Power Point. I knew what an ‘app’ was and used several regularly. I used to train travel industry staff in reservation systems, among other things, so I knew my way around an instruction manual and although the ‘try it and see’ approach didn't come naturally to me I could totally see it's merits. However, learning new technical skills definitely wasn’t my favourite way to spend time and the online world itself was a complete mystery.
SEO? What’s that you say? Never heard of it.
A Blog?? That’s just like an online diary isn’t it?
A website for an online store? Well you just get someone to build it, switch it to ‘live’ then people will find you and order from you, right?
I’ll admit I was pretty naive about the whole thing. Maybe it’s just as well but as I look back over the last year, I’m pretty pleased with how much I’ve embraced ‘all things interwebby’, the fears I’ve conquered, the new skills I’ve acquired, the knowledge I’ve gained to enable me to sail my little ship forward into year two.
Related Content: Hiring help with home decor - 5 common fears and how to manage them.
For any budding entrepreneur out there considering your own online presence (and as a thoroughly self-indulgent, personal reminder of how far I’ve come), this is your initial task list.
- Decide on a business name
- Buy the domain name
- Find a suitable website host
- Find someone to build and test the website
- Get them to teach you how to manage the most important bits of the website and learn the rest as you need to
These additional tasks will also probably include learning to:
- Update pages
- Take product photography and size it for the site
- Upload the images
- Write and upload product descriptions
- Process orders
- Upload blog articles
- Understand how payment through the site works - how you get paid!
- Open a pay-pal account and link it to the site
- Switch the website to ‘live’
Now I’m still no expert in any of these initial tasks. I found help to get the task done, as you will too. However, if you need more explanation on what the task even is before deciding how best to do it, just search ‘How to buy a domain name’ for example and there will be a slew of online help to explain and guide you through the process. That's why I love the internet :)
So now you’ve got a product or service to sell and a fully functioning website. You just need to let the orders roll in.
Yeah, if only!
I did realise pretty early on that I would need to market my business. I had great help close to home on the general principles of marketing but I knew I’d need more specific guidance in the ‘online space’ - more terminology I’ve adopted since last year!
Finding an online marketing teacher
My sister-in-law has a fabulous speciality cake business and recommended a marketing workshop she had attended, specifically designed to help you reach customers online. She got so much out of it and thought it would be perfect for me too.
I signed up and turned up, not quite sure what to expect but reassured that someone I trusted had recommended it.
What Chris at The Content Marketing Academy said that day made so much sense to me. It was also the realisation that there was a lot I needed to learn about this vital area. It was an area I recognised as being crucial to me connecting with my future customers out there, my tribe. At this point in the life of my business, I knew that I could do what the business ‘did’ i.e. provide fabulous seasonal home decor products and offer a much in demand home consultation service. What I needed to learn was how to let others know about it.
Initially, it seemed like a science I would never master.
Related Content: Why decorate seasonally?
Back in my training days we used a term that people often ‘don’t know what they don’t know’. By this we meant that if someone is in a new environment, they frequently won’t even be able to communicate what it is they need to learn as they’re still discovering all the stuff they don’t yet know.
That’s exactly where I was. I had to conduct my own Learning Needs Analysis. I needed to figure out my learning list first before lining up some teachers. Luckily for me (and maybe you too someday) I had just found a great bunch of people at The Content Marketing Academy to not only help me analyse my learning needs but provide the resources to bridge the gaps.
So in the past year I’ve been learning about:
- SEO (Search Engine Optimisation i.e. getting your website found by search engines)
- Building trust online
- Writing blog articles
- Writing copy (The words on the website)
- Use of social media and optimising it for business
- Building a customer database
- Communicating with the customer
- The importance of scheduling
- Automation -
- Website Design
- Keywords (The words or phrases that help with your SEO)
- Plugins (No, not an air freshener but some extra software you can add on to your website)
- Audio & Video creation
- Image creation - using the likes of Canva
- Interpreting analytics (The analysis of your website data - viewing numbers etc)
- Understanding the sales funnel (the customer’s buying process)
- Email marketing
- Data protection laws
- Connecting with industry peers
While I’m not yet completely proficient in all (or indeed any) of these areas, for each one I could rate myself on a scale of 1-10 and be proud that anything more than a zero is an achievement in itself. I also recognise that I’ll more than likely never get to a 10 in any of them as there’s always something new to learn.
Not bad for an ‘oldpreneur’ like me!
For us over 50’s, learning new skills can often be a daunting prospect. Maybe there are residual bad memories of school or higher education experiences. Perhaps we fear failure and worry we’ll never ‘get it’. Whatever the barriers are it’s time to break them down.
Related Content: Why we need to prepare to fail (and 5 tips to rock at it)
Maybe you’re not, as I was, launching a business online. Maybe you just want to find more interesting ‘brain training’ than sudoku. My advice? Go for it. There are so many online skills courses you could take. Check out the likes of Udemy or Virtual College for some inspiration. You only get one life and if current research is to be believed, continued active lifelong learning will give you a fighting chance of a slightly longer one.
Good luck and happy learning!