Robin Carberry working in her office at her laptop looking up and smiling

9 things you need to know before starting your own business when you’re over 40

You want to start your own business. Yay!!! Here are the 9 things you need to know before starting your own business when you’re over 40…

The first step is soooo very important, though it might sound silly at first.

We’re going to begin with the why game. You know the why game, right? It’s the game your kids played when they were young… when every time you answered a question, they countered with “why?”  Annoying sometimes. But it does get you dialed in on the real reason for your answer. No fluff allowed.

Our version of the game is called Know your Whys:

Why this particular business idea?
Why me?
And why right now?

Let’s be real here. Starting a business is serious business, not an escape hatch. But it’s also a fun, rewarding, incredible adventure!

If you are a fellow Gen Xer, and you don’t already know why now is the best time for you to start a business, check out this post. I’ll be here when you get back :)

If you have your whys nailed, then you’re ready for the next steps…. 

Here are 8 more questions you need to answer before starting a business when you’re over 40:

First, what are you selling?

Let’s be clear. You will be selling something if you start a business. Whether it’s banana bread or consulting services, jewelry or website design, administrative services or relationship coaching, you must get really dialed in on what you intend to offer. 

And take a deep breath, all of my multi-passionate friends. I’m not saying you need to limit yourself to one thing for all of eternity. However, you do need to start by focusing on one thing and getting that thing dialed in so your business starts making money as soon as possible.

Second, who are you selling to?

Ideal clients, avatars, niches… all those terms are about knowing who is going to buy your product or service and why. What is the problem you are solving for them, or how are you helping them find or increase the fun, happiness, or pleasure in their lives?

The answers go deeper than might think at first. You might say, “well, my organic skin care line works for all women.” That might be true, but my skin care concerns at 50 plus are not the skin care concerns of my 20 year old niece. And if you try to speak to both of us at the same time, neither one of us will feel like your solution will work.

Third, what’s your USP?

USP is your unique selling proposition. In plain language, that means you need to understand what is different about you and your solution so you explain why your potential customers should buy from you. 

Why should they buy your cupcakes as opposed to the ones from the grocery store or the bakery down the street? Why are you the right personal trainer to help them get back in shape? Understanding your USP and your ideal client is going to make a big difference when it comes to marketing and selling. 

Which leads to…

Fourth, are you prepared to market and sell?

Here’s what likely is reality check number one when you start a business. You will need to market and sell. You must get “if you build it, they will come” out of your head. 

But you also don’t have to be all “eeeeewwwww! Selling is so cheesy and yucky!” If you know that your product or service solves a problem or brings joy or some other amazing thing, think about marketing and selling as the way you let your potential customers know you can help them. It’s not icky to help someone, right?

A friend of mine recently said, “sales is an exchange of energy, “ and I think that says it perfectly. You let your people know you have something they want or need and, if you are clear about the value they’ll receive or the transformation they’ll experience, they’ll pay you for it.

Fifth, what are your start-up costs?

You can start some businesses with a teeny tiny investment. If you are selling services based on your existing skill sets such as graphic design, administrative work, consulting, online business management (the potential list here is endless), then you may already have the tools you need to start finding clients. 

If you are planning to produce physical products or provide a service that requires equipment and a physical location, your start-up costs will be higher. For example, my husband is a fiberglass repair specialist who works on boats. He started his business based on his existing skill set, and he does most of his work at boat yards. But, he needed physical space to store tools and materials as well as to do some jobs. He also needs to continually invest in tools, equipment, and materials in order to serve his customers. His start-up costs were a lot higher than mine were as a coach.

Be smart and strategic when shelling out for your business start-up costs. There are a lot of shiny objects out there, and you don’t need them all. Thinking “Investment’ is the key. What must you pay for or buy to start making money? What investments will get you where you want to go faster and pay for themselves? Don’t get distracted by glitter or nice-to-haves right now. Because you need to think about number 6….

Sixth, how are you going to pay the bills while your business gets rolling?

Maybe you have money set aside specifically for this purpose. Maybe you have a 9-5 that will bring in cash and provide health insurance while you start your new business on the side. The point is, you need a plan. 

Even if getting laid off is the reason you finally decided to take the plunge and start your business, you can’t put blinders on and ignore the bills. Come up with a quick plan to get money in the bank while you are working on your long game. You didn’t get to 40 or 50 or 60 without learning how to do a LOT of things. Now is the time to leverage those abilities.

Seventh, what new skills are non-negotiable when starting your business?

I already mentioned that you have a ton of skills. But there probably are some new things you really need to learn to be successful. 

A good example is bookkeeping. Bookkeeping is critical to your business. But, unless you are a bookkeeper, you may know almost nothing about it. There are lots of online resources to get you started. However, I suggest hiring someone to handle the books for you as soon as you can. That leads me to… 

Eighth, what can you hire out so you can focus on what only you can do?

When you are starting out, the answer may be “I can’t hire anything out! I’m not making money yet.” But I want you to keep this question at the front of your mind. Doing all-the-things might be necessary in the beginning. However, if you don’t shift to a mindset where you focus on revenue generating activities and the things that ONLY you can do, you will limit your potential.

So, yeah, there’s lots of new things to consider. Scary? Maybe. But let’s reframe scary to exciting, ok? 

And here are some ways to make it manageable:

Start it on the side.

Maybe you hate your 9-5. I get it. But if you start looking at the J-O-B as the thing that will fuel your dreams, it becomes less of a chore to get up and go there. Create a transition plan that starts with your new business as a side hustle. Maybe the next step is your 9-5 becomes a part-time job as your business grows. Finally, you take the leap and your business becomes your full-time gig.

Always leverage your knowledge.

That doesn’t mean doing the same old thing, though. You can apply your lifetime of skills and experience to something new – something that is about passion and purpose. Need some help around figuring that out? I walk you right through that process in Your License to Shine, You can learn more here.

Talk to people.

Use your existing network for market research, to connect with potential clients, to look for learning opportunities and/or internships, to find mentors (of any age – be open to learning from relevant experts anywhere). And don’t forget to keep expanding that network. Your high school friend might just know someone who will change your life… or at least become a customer.

Finally be smart about spending both your time and your money.

Time is a more precious resource than money, so pay attention to the tradeoffs involved. There’s loads of valuable free information out there (yeah, I’m counting my blog). But, as I touched on above, sometimes parting with some cash on the right things that move the needle can save you in the long run. Here’s an example. You don’t have to have a website to start your business. Let’s get that out of the way. However, when you are ready for a website, consider how much time it will take to learn to build your own and then actually build it. What revenue could you generate in that same time period? Maybe it makes more sense to hire it out. And that logic translates to so many business activities. But hiring is a topic for another day :)

If you are ready to ditch the 9-5, but you aren’t quite sure how to take the next step, I’ve got you. In my course, Your License to Shine, I teach you how to leverage your current skills and knowledge into new opportunities you’ll love, and give you a step-by-step action plan to make it happen RIGHT NOW! All in just a few minutes a day! Click the image below to learn more….