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Freelancing Gaining Popularity Amongst Baby Boomers in New Economy
By Sherril Steele-Carlin

If you're over 40 and thinking about freelancing, there's good news and bad news. What's the good news? When they were 49, George Washington defeated the British at Yorktown in 1781, and in 1985, Andrew Grove recreated Intel. He closed memory chip plants, and focused on more lucrative microprocessors. In 1910, when she was 43, Marie Curie discovered and isolated pure radium. Many studies show that most people do their best work in their 40s, including a comprehensive look at turning 40 by U.S. News and World Reports. That's the good news for those over 40 who may be considering a jump to freelancing.

By the year 2005, there will be 44.9 million "40-somethings" in the United States. That's over 15 percent of the U.S. population. Many of these over-40 professionals will be freelancing, or thinking about freelancing. They may be facing downsizing at their company, and hope to strike out on their own. Or, they may have always wanted to freelance, and don't want to wait any longer. Perhaps they are simply burned out, unwilling to put up with corporate politics anymore. Whatever the reason, more and more of the baby boom generation look toward freelancing as they grow older.

But, in today's Internet culture, experience and age aren't necessarily what companies are looking for. Can those over 40 make it as freelancers, when their wisdom and job knowledge aren't as welcome in the corporate climate? One 40-year-old said he removed his college graduation date from his resume, and toned down his experience level, because he was unsuccessful finding work after a lay off. Another was told he was "too demanding for this New Economy. You expect people to be accountable for their actions, and that is not good today." That's the bad news for over 40 workers, they are seen as old, archaic, and stodgy.

More good news -- freelancing is open to anyone. With the growth of the Internet, freelancers can not only continually find work, they can also begin their "second" career as a freelancer. This is one area where experience does matter. If you have experience copy writing, programming, graphic designing, or in just about any area, freelancing may be open to you. Why? Because even as companies downsize, they'll still have plenty of work that needs to get done. They may opt to lay off their permanent staff, and hire freelancers to complete these jobs. They may even bring back some of their staff on a freelance basis. Freelancing saves money for the company, and is also very lucrative for the most successful professionals.

While those over 40 may be considered "over the hill" in many startups today, for freelancers it's a very different story. Most jobs demand experience, and the more the better. Corporate America might not want to hire older workers permanently, but they certainly want their knowledge and expertise when they are hiring them as freelancers. They want someone with the experience to know what they need, and get it done quickly and efficiently.

There's a joke about the Internet that says, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." That's a real boon to freelancers who are looking for work online. You may never meet your employer in person. You can tailor your resume to your current experience, and the needs of the position. No one needs to know you're over 40, and they may never know, if you complete your assignments via email or online.

The U.S. News study finds that people tend to be more stressed in their 40s, with the demands of job, family, and friends. They may be dealing with the deaths of friends and loved ones for the first time in their lives. However, they also found most people in their 40s also have more confidence in themselves and their abilities. That makes it the perfect time to make the jump to freelancing. If a freelancer is confident and sure, and believes in what they can do for others, they're at the perfect place in their career to go out on their own, and take on their own clients.

Today, 30 percent of the population freelances in some form, and the number is expected to rise in the next 10 years. That means more older workers will be freelancing, whether by choice, or by circumstance. Will society begin to look at age and wisdom differently, or will over 40s still be seen as less than useful? That remains to be seen. Whatever happens, freelancing will remain a viable option for those workers who have reached a crossroads in their careers, and want to take a new path.

Sherril Steele-Carlin is a freelance researcher, writer, editor, and proofreader.
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