Can Age Discrimination be Cured by Freelance Writing and Online Work?
Lots of women over 60 are looking for ways to make money, save more money for retirement, or perhaps start a new career. Unfortunately, age discrimination is all too real. Lots of people “of a certain age” get passed over for opportunities at work, forced into early retirement, or denied interviews for jobs that they’re clearly qualified for.
If you feel like you’re being held back in your career by the unfairness of the youth-obsessed corporate world, or if you don’t feel valued at your company, or if you’re looking for a new way to add value and earn income and feel connected, perhaps you should try freelance writing.
Is Freelancing an Antidote to Age Discrimination?
I’ve been a full-time freelance writer since June 2010, and freelancing is by far the best “job” I’ve ever had. It’s incredibly empowering and energizing to be able to earn money working from home, on my own terms, on my own schedule – and the work is much more fun, creative, interesting and varied than anything I got to do during my days in a cubicle.
Every month, I work for 8 or 10 different clients. I write about technology, marketing, entrepreneurship, consumer trends, and (my personal favorite) food. I write blog articles (like this one), website content, market research reports, corporate white papers, press releases, eBooks, and I’ve also served as a ghostwriter for a few different book and film projects.
I’ve met awesome clients and colleagues all over the world. I make a good living, I have lots of free time and flexibility (sometimes I stay up until 2 a.m. working, but I never miss my sons’ school activities), and I’m grateful every single day that this is what I get to do for a living. It’s been almost five years since I left my corporate job to freelance full-time, but I still can’t believe I’m “getting away” with this. I sometimes still wonder if the police are going to come knock on my door and drag me back to my corporate cubicle.
Here are a few reasons why freelance writing – other forms of online work – might be an ideal fit for women over 60 who are trying to make money and save for retirement:
Work On Your Own Terms
If you’re to the point in your career where you’re tired of corporate politics and sick of endless meetings, freelancing might be right for you. As a freelancer, I have very few meetings. Most of what I do each day can be managed via e-mail alone – or an occasional Skype call.
I love my work because pretty much every single hour I spend at my desk is devoted to actively creating new ideas and actively adding value – there’s no “busy work” and no “keeping up appearances.” And as a freelancer, you can work from anywhere that has WiFi – from home, from a coffee shop or library, or while traveling and staying in hotels.
With freelancing, you can design your own lifestyle, set your own schedule, and take on the projects that you choose. If you’re an independent-minded person with an energetic spirit, freelancing is the best career ever.
Define Your Own Image
Working online gives senior professionals more freedom to build their own online brand in a way that might be less susceptible to age discrimination. For example, if you’re over 50 years old, and you send a resume to apply for a traditional job, and they see what year you graduated from university, or they see your many years of work experience, they can quickly figure out that you’re “old” and “overqualified.” This is an unfair and self-defeating hiring practice, since experienced workers are often some of the best employees, but sadly, it’s the reality at a lot of companies.
Another great aspect of working online is that it gives you the power to build a new brand for yourself and perhaps reinvent yourself in a way that is less vulnerable to age discrimination. For example, you could set up a website that operates under the name of your business instead of under your own name. Instead of posting your full resume with all of your years of employment, post an experience summary that emphasizes your most impressive career achievements and highlights, without mentioning specific dates.
Invest some time in putting together a portfolio of work samples – do some free writing projects for your favorite nonprofit organization; write press releases, update friends’ resumes for free, or write a new website for a friend’s small business.
The best way to get freelance writing work is to demonstrate your abilities and share your work online – for the most part, freelance writing clients won’t care how “old” you are, as long as they can see that you do good work.
Learn While You Earn
Before I started freelancing, I had worked at several communications-related jobs – as a technical writer, a marketing/PR writer, and as a political speechwriter. So I was lucky to have had some really good experience that gave me a foundation to do the type of work that I do now as a freelancer. But even though I had some prior experience, the most important freelance writing skills are the ones I learned “on the job.”
Before I started freelancing, I had never written a “white paper” before, or done market research, or written about a lot of the technical topics that are now my main source of income. I learned how to do all of these things just by “doing” them. I learned how to calculate billable hours and bid on projects and budget my time and invoice clients and collect on late payments just by “doing” all of these things. The most important learning, for me, happened just by “doing” the work.
Women over 60 might worry that they don’t have the right skills or experience to be freelance writers. They might worry that they’re not adaptable enough to learn how to work online. Don’t worry about not having the “right” experience. When you’re working online, prior experience is less important than being willing to learn, being curious, and having an eagerness to “hustle” and put in the effort. Yes, of course you need to have some skills. But I believe that anyone can make a living working online – whether it’s freelance writing, independent consulting, graphic design, or any other web-based work skills that you’ve already used during your career.
You don’t necessarily have to learn entirely “new” skills to succeed as a freelancer – you might just need to slightly adapt the skills and expertise that you’ve already been using at your day job.
Freelancing is a great way to make a living, and a wonderful way to live your life. You can start small with just a few little projects on the side, and then build it up to a full-time business if that’s your goal – or you can use freelancing as a flexible way to make a few hundred (or a thousand, or more) extra dollars per month. The great thing about freelancing is that it gives you a powerful way to earn money – with as few or as many projects as you like – and that income can never be taken away from you by a sudden corporate downsizing, discriminatory hiring practices, or an arbitrary “retirement age.”
As a freelance writer, you can keep creating and contributing and making money for as long as you like. That’s what I hope to do for the rest of my career, and I wish everyone could feel the same sense of freedom and possibility that I feel every day by making money online.
How do you think that we can fight back against age discrimination? Have you tried doing any freelance writing? What was your experience? Please join the conversation.
LEARN MORE ABOUT FREELANCE WRITING
Watch my interview with Ben Gran and learn how to make money online as a freelance writer.