Expert advice on how to become an older enterpreneur

If you watch just a few of the video interviews offered on Over 50 And Out
of Work, you'll quickly hear a common theme - in many cases corporate
employers are not inviting unemployed Americans over age 50 to return to
full-time corporate jobs.

But most of us in our mid-fifties and beyond are nowhere near ready to stop
working - we want to continue to feel useful in our work and we certainly
need the money!

If a 50+ corporate CEO loses his job he can immediately tap a "golden
parachute" of rich financial rewards to help him glide into the next phase
of his life.

But what do we non C-level managers have to drawn upon when we lose our

I'm happy to report that we have what I call a "silver parachute" - the
opportunity to sell our skill and experience in the open marketplace as the
CEOs of our own independent enterprises.

A growing number of Americans over 50 are discovering the entrepreneurial
opportunities in our economy. In fact, for the five years prior to the start
of the Great Recession, Americans over age 55 were the fastest-growing group
of new business owners in the U.S.

We're being attracted by the freedom to act upon our ideas as we see fit,
the chance to achieve much better balance between our work and leisure lives
and the opportunity to enjoy a source of income that's only limited by our
personal ambition.

But, as attractive as self-employment may appear at first glance, it's
important that you carefully consider the following seven criteria when
considering whether to take the plunge.

1.  Look for a business whose work will truly engage you. 

This is especially important if you're feeling burnt out emotionally from
the demands of your corporate career. A good starting point for identifying
the right business idea for you can be to visualize how you can turn your
favorite work activity in your corporate career into a business, or examine
a long-held hobby to see if you can turn it into a full-blown business.

2.  Understand the income potential and whether it matches your needs, and how
much you are comfortable investing. 

Take a hard-nosed look at startup costs, your local competition, and your
willingness to risk your savings. Take into account the fact that it takes
most new businesses at least three years to break even - if they last that
long. Later in life is not the time to shoot craps and risk your financial
security. It's worth sitting down with a reputable accountant who has worked
with lots of startups and who can help you determine how much of a gamble
you're willing and able to take.

3. Match the physical demands of your chosen business to your energy level. 

A business that requires putting in long hours every day, or hard physical
labor, may not suit you at this point in your life. On the other hand, if
you love the outdoors, planning and planting landscaping or working in one
of the building trades, by all means dig further into the possible business
opportunities, but be honest about the sustained physical stamina that will
be demanded to earn a steady income.

4.  If day-to-day variety is important to you, rule out businesses that
involve doing the very same thing for each customer. 

The idea here is to find something that will keep you passionately
interested. Not every detail of running a business is equally interesting,
but you want to assure that your business offers enough different
experiences so that you remain eager to get up every day and run your

5.  Consider: Do you love or hate technology? 

While most businesses require some computer use, consider the extent to
which you'll need to use other technologies - like wireless gadgets, the
Internet, and various types of software - to help you manage your business.
If you hate technology and would rather not bother with it, can you afford
to hire technical help?

6.  Consider if you're ready to learn a complete new set of skills or
primarily wish to build off of skills you already possess. 

Every new business owner has to learn some new skills, such as office
administration or Internet marketing. But, it's very important that you
honestly assess how well you know the "nuts and bolts" of your prospective
business idea, otherwise you face a steep learning curve your first year in
business, at the same time you face the daily demands of selling your
product or service. 

7.  If you find you're drawn to a franchise opportunity, make sure you
determine the total expected investment for the first two years. 

Be aware that, with a franchise, you will always have a business partner -
the franchiser - who takes part of your income. Proceed with caution when
considering a franchise: Talk with others who have bought outlets from the
same company; make sure you understand everything the franchiser will expect
from you (including how disputes, if any, will be resolved); and hire an
attorney who specializes in franchising to explain the franchise agreement
to you in detail.

I know that it can be scary to consider what it takes to turn a good idea
into a great new life as a business owner.

So, I invite you to join me on July 21st for my free teleseminar: "10
Reasons Why Running a Business Is THE Way To Work Now". Share with me what
makes running your own business after age 50 so much fun and so profitable.
Just visit and use the registration box at the top of
the page to let me know that you'll be joining me for this interactive
60-minute learning session.

Jeff Williams

After 20 years in corporate America, Jeff Williams launched the Go Smart Business Start-Up Center at the age of 39.
At age 50, he founded Bizstarters aimed at helping entrepreneurs, many of whom are 50-plus.

Jeff is also a board member on the Workforce Board of Northern Cook County, Illinois, where he specializes
in the employment issues that older Americans face.