The other day I was contacted by a woman who's been out of the workforce for a while, but wants to get back to work. She's an expert in purchasing, marketing and administration, but says that employers write her off because of her age. She asked whether I thought she could make it as a consultant.
Here's what I wrote back:
I think you are in good shape, consulting-wise. Today we're seeing more and more companies contract out specialist services such as marketing, and even purchasing. You just have to find clients who value your experience.
You need to get the word out about what you can do. Why not attend some meetings at the local chamber of commerce, and meet local business owners? Make sure you prepare a 10-second "elevator pitch" to explain clearly and quickly what you do. Example: "I'm a consultant who helps local business owners manage two areas that usually keep them up at night: marketing and purchasing." Be prepared to cite examples of some of your marketing successes, or anecdotes about how you saved money or accomplished other miracles through savvy purchasing.
You'll save time by choosing a target market. Do you want to work for big firms, who pay well but are often difficult for outsiders to crack? Or do you want to tackle startups and small businesses, which may not pay as well, but offer you a chance to make a real contribution and get more satisfaction from your work?
Invest in yourself. Read a book on running your own consulting firm. Buy Google pay-per-click ads in your local area to let prospects know you're out there. Get some professional-looking business cards printed (not at Staples or Office Depot!). Consider taking out an ad in local business papers or magazines. Brush up on your networking skills and attend more local business events. Consider volunteering in a not-for-profit to demonstrate your skills and build up your confidence.
It may not feel like it now, but the business world needs you. It needs your skills, experience, judgment and common sense.
Best of luck.
What would you have told her?