After spending decades working in a field and accumulating experience and knowledge, you may feel like it’s time for something different. The good news is there may be a market for all of your hard-earned wisdom, and you may be able to sell your skills as a consultant or service provider to other businesses.
Recent years have seen a substantial shift toward older adults starting businesses. In 1996, roughly 15 percent of entrepreneurs were ages 55 to 64. That number jumped to nearly 25 percent in 2020, according to a report by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. And a study published in the January 2021 issue of the Journal of Business Venturing found that when people launched businesses in their 40s, 50s or 60s, there was a positive effect on the firm’s size and financial success.
When you start a business doing something you already know well, you may have a built-in specialization and network that can help you get rolling, says Fernando Nunez, a certified SCORE mentor. “You’re starting with more of a specific goal.”
If you’re ready to take the leap into entrepreneurship, here are some steps to get you on your way.
1. Research the market
Before you declare yourself open for business, make sure there’s a market for what you want to sell. “The number one reason that people go out of business is because they run out of money. The number one reason they run out of money is because they don’t find a market fit for their product,” says Ross Buhrdorf, CEO of ZenBusiness, a business-information website. Look at your potential competitors and assess the potential number of businesses that would pay you for your service. What advantages do you offer over the competition? Speak to knowledgeable colleagues, friends, family members or potential customers to get feedback about your idea and what the market for it might be.
2. Find your target
It’s often a good idea to focus on a niche market or two, Nunez notes. A niche gives you a specific type of prospect to target and allows you to learn a certain market sector inside and out. For example, if you’re a public relations pro, you might find clients more easily — and make a name for yourself faster — if you specialize in doing public relations for a particular industry than if you’re a generalist. You can always branch out later, he says.
3. Get good advice
As you formalize the plans for your business, seek reliable, professional advice. You’ll need to make important decisions such as what business formation to choose — in other words, will you operate as a sole proprietor, limited liability company, partnership or corporation? — as well as understand any federal, state and local laws or regulations that pertain to your business. Nunez suggests consulting an experienced attorney or business consultant.