If you are over age 50 and thinking about starting a business, you’re not alone. In fact, entrepreneurs age 50 and up are one of the fastest-growing categories of small business owners, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA). At 50-plus, you’ve got a lifetime of work experience to draw on — not to mention the wisdom that comes with age — in launching your new business.
To help ensure your startup success, follow these tips:
- Tap into your experience. If you’re not sure what type of business to start, think back to your past work and life experiences, skills and interests. What do you like doing that could potentially become a business? Could your current job be the basis for a startup, or is there a hobby or passion that could make money? Think beyond work experience to life experience. For example, if you’ve always loved making gourmet meals for friends and family and they rave about your food, perhaps you could start a catering company or personal chef business.
- Look for a low-cost startup idea. Unless you have investors ready to finance your business, it’s smart to select a startup that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to launch. Getting startup loans for a new business is difficult, and lenders generally expect you to tap into your personal assets first before they will give you a loan. At age 50-plus, you don’t want to drain your retirement savings or put your home on the line to fund your business idea.
- Get smart about space. One way to keep startup costs down is by launching your business from home or working from a shared co-working space instead of renting a full-on office space. Bonus: Co-working spaces provide lots of feedback and stimulus thanks to the presence of other energetic entrepreneurs.
- Write a business plan. Even if you’re starting a consulting business in an industry where you’ve worked for 30 years, running your own business is different — much different — than being an employee. Writing a business plan will help you think through all the necessary steps to startup and plan for how to deal with any problems that might arise. If you’re in need of funds, a business plan will also help convince potential investors and partners that you have a well-thought-out game plan.
- Work your network. One of the advantages of being over 50 is that you have a lot of connections to help you get your business off the ground. In addition to previous workplace connections, people you know through friends and family, community organizations or religious affiliations can be valuable sources of ideas, resources, referrals and new business.
- Make the most of technology. If you want to succeed in business today, you’ve got to be comfortable with technology. A business website, social media presence and knowledge of online marketing tools such as search engine optimization and online advertising are essential to attracting customers, no matter what your business. If you don’t have the necessary tech know-how, find someone who does to help you. Organizations such as SCORE and your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) offer resources and free consulting that can get you up to speed.
- Choose the right business structure. At this age, you don’t want to put your personal assets at risk if someone sues your business or if your business ends up with unpaid debts. Do your homework to choose a business structure that will protect your assets, minimize your taxes and maximize your options.
- Don’t forget about licenses and permits. Even if you’re starting a business from home, you generally need to get a business license or you could get hit with fines. Contact your state, county and local government offices to see what types of business licenses and permits you need for your industry.
Follow these 8 steps, and your startup will be on the road to success.