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Self-employment has had a rollercoaster ride among older workers in the last few years and may well see an increase as redundancies rise.
The Covid pandemic put many self-employed people off going it alone. Our workingwise.co.uk annual survey for National Older Workers Week showed 67% of self-employed people said they had had to use their savings to get through the Covid period and the aftermath. 60% said they wanted to move to employed work and half said their work had been negatively impacted by Covid and the cost of living crisis, for instance, they had lost work. Nevertheless, 65% of those polled had become self employed in the last three years. This may in part be due to losing jobs during the pandemic and difficult finding new employment.
Nevertheless, we are now teetering on the brink of recession, with fairly large-scale redundancies being announced every week. Job vacancies are slowing and we know that it is harder to get a job as you get older. Our survey shows a widespread perception of ageism in the recruitment process and also that a significant number of older people are taking several months to find work. For those who had found a job in the last five years, 17% took over seven months to find it, with 7% taking over a year. 58% felt age played a part if they encountered difficulty finding a job. Just 13% said they didn’t think age played a part.
In such a scenario, it is likely that self employment will rise. Older people generally find self employment opportunities by exploiting their existing network and experience. Many freelance or work as consultants or advisers. But some move into new areas. One way of starting a business with less risk is to become a franchisee. A franchise offers the benefits of striking out on your own, but in a tried and tested business with the support of other franchisees and the franchisor. This week we spoke to Liz and Phil Gabriel, for instance, who became franchisees for children’s swimming franchise Puddle Ducks. Despite testing times during the pandemic, they have no regrets and really enjoy being in charge of their own futures.
Another way of managing the risk of going solo is to build your business alongside of your regular job. Growing numbers of people are doing this. Technology advances in the last few years mean it is easier than ever to set up a business and to run it from home. This provides maybe the best of both worlds, although it can be hard work effectively doing two jobs. But it means you can grow your business slowly until you feel ready to go all in. Many older workers – and many others – are looking for greater work life balance. Running your business can be very full on, but it also means you are in charge of when and where you work. That can be a big draw for those seeking greater autonomy.
Workingwise.co.uk has a lot of resources for those seeking self employment as well as budding franchisees. Suzanne Noble, co-founder of the Start-up School for Seniors has also blogged regularly about the support her school offers would-be entrepreneurs.