The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Starting an Online Business

baby boomers guide starting an online business

Most of us look forward to Retirement as a season in our lives when we will finally be able to sit back and reap the rewards of decades of hard work.

We’ve all seen advertisements promoting banks, investment firms and travel companies that show us happy couples walking on the beach, holding hands with huge smiles on their faces. It’s a beautiful idea, and it’s one that many people enjoy in retirement, but others quickly discover that kind of lifestyle is just out of reach.

Retirement is a time of transition, and it should be a time you enjoy. But it’s not uncommon to find yourself short on cash, needing a little more money to pay for some of those extra luxuries you hoped to enjoy when you stepped away from your full-time careers.

So, finding a way to increase your income beyond your savings and social security can make a lot of sense. In some cases, it can be a necessity. Today, there are so many ways to earn extra cash without working a traditional “job.” Even better, you can do these jobs without leaving your home.

If you have a computer your options are almost endless. In fact, if you have an online business, you can work from anywhere, even while traveling. Sound too good to be true? That’s what I used to think but today I’m writing this article from a beautiful beach in Mexico!

Why Starting an Online Business Makes Sense

Many Boomers find that starting an online business is the perfect solution for many of the financial challenges that they face in retirement. If cash flow is a problem, an online business is an excellent way to earn what you need to not only make ends meet but to reach your goals for travel, and to continue building reserves for things like unexpected medical expenses.

The best part is that you can run an online business from your home, or anywhere else that has Internet access. I’ve even written articles sitting on a bench in a State Park while camping using a Wi-Fi Hotspot, and no one ever knew but me.

For the most part, you can decide when you want to work and how much you want to work. You can work full-time, part-time, or until you meet a specific goal. One aspect that most people don’t even consider when they start an online business is that if you build a profitable one, you can sell it. There is always a strong market for buyers of online businesses and sometimes they’re willing to pay more than you might believe!

Of course, if you do decide to start an online business you will not have benefits like paid company health insurance. But if you’re already retired, you’ve almost certainly budgeted for these expenses.

Are You Ready for Retirement Emotionally?

One thing that many are not prepared for in retirement is the mental and emotional effect that retirement brings. If you did not like your job or coworkers, the transition can be easier. Even so, when you go into the same place nearly every day for decades, you form strong connections.

We become comfortable with the familiar, and the idea of not doing “normal” things can hit you hard after the first or second week that you’re not having to wake up to an alarm.

If you like where you work, and your coworkers are like family, then you can go through an unexpected period of grief when you’re no longer seeing them every day. You can still stay connected with them through social media and getting together now and then, but you are now a much smaller part of their world.

A big part of our identity is wrapped up in what we do for a living, and you can find yourself with a void to fill. Starting an online business can help you fill the void, give you a sense of purpose, and help you avoid falling into boredom.

Before Starting an Online Business: Cash Flow Considerations

The day you recognize an increased cash flow is the day that the benefits of running an online business become real. If you are finding that you miss your former income level, then an online business can be the answer. If you want to pay off debt faster or continue to boost your savings, then you seriously need to think about an online business.

Some people are afraid that income from an online business will affect social security or other retirement benefits. For some, even taking a part-time job is a risk. If you have no control over your hours, schedule, or how much you make, this can be an issue.

With an online business, you have some control over how much you make. You can make up to the allowable threshold and not cross it, which means you can max out what you earn without touching your other benefits. For these types of situations, becoming a reseller or craft business would be ideal because you can control when you stop making money in a certain month by simply not listing any more items for sale. It is almost like this is a way to beat the system and get as much as you can without crossing the line.

One thing to consider is taxes, too. You want to make sure that the extra income will not put you into a different tax bracket and end up costing you more in the end by benefits that you might lose. You will need to look into any penalties that might apply to you and your benefits.

The key is that for everyone, there is a financial sweet spot where you are making the maximum that you can without having any negative financial consequences. The potential for an online business breaks the old model for retirement and the idea of a traditional “fixed” income where you are not in control of your future.

Starting an Online Business: What It Takes

The types who are successful in an online business have a few things in common. The first is that they are not satisfied with the status quo and are not willing to accept things the way we have always been told they should be.

They want to be in control of all areas of their life and feel like they can depend on themselves to shape their future. They are also likely the first to become bored in retirement when there is nothing to do all day and no obligations to fulfill. All of them want to take things into their own hands and be the master of their destiny. If this sounds like you, then the next step is to decide what type of business you want.

A quick search will provide thousands of ideas on the types of businesses that you could start. If you want the extra income but do not want the hassle of running your own business, then you might want to look into online opportunities that allow you to work for someone else.

Some ideas include becoming a freelance writer, doing transcription, or taking customer service calls from your home. If you are the entrepreneurial type, then you can start an affiliate website, become a reseller, or sell your handmade items online. Now, you have many options, and you can find one that suits your unique personality and goals.

Your Experience Is an Asset

You have worked for many decades in a field. You have accumulated skills and knowledge that you can only get from years of experience. These skills are your most valuable tools when it comes to starting an online business. If you have a specialty, you might want to consider starting an online business while doing something you already know and love. Your years of experience can pay off significantly when you take this route because you have already been through the learning curve.

Maybe you have a degree or certification in something. This is the perfect foundation for launching your own business. The only difference is that now, you have more freedom over your schedule and how much you can make.

If you have been in insurance sales, an accountant, or have tech skills, you have something that younger people entering the field do not. You already know what can go wrong and how to overcome it. You also have an intimate understanding of what types of clients you need to attract and what they expect from you. This is the formula for online business success.

Steps to Starting an Online Business

Now that your ideas are flowing, and there are probably new opportunities that you have not considered in the past, you might want to know the practical steps that you need to take and how to do them. Here is a general list of where to start.

Decide on Your Idea and Branding.

The first thing that you need to do is to research the types of businesses and ideas that are available. Once you find the one that is the right match, then you need to learn everything you can about it. Google it, watch YouTube videos on it, and visit other websites to see what they have done.

While you cannot copy someone else’s website, you can get many ideas on what works and what does not. You can think about how you can do it better and offer something more to your customers. Write down your ideas, snip pictures of things that inspire you. Decide what your business will look like, who your audience is, and how you will reach them.

Get a Business License.

The next thing you need to do is to get a business license, apply for any permits, and register with IRS. You need to decide how you will track expenses and accounting or if you will hire someone to do that for you.

Look into the legal requirements for your website and the type of business you intend to run. One hint is that if you want to be an online reseller, you need to look into tax nexus and how it affects you. Many things laws have changed recently regarding digital products and taxes, too.

Get a Domain.

Now, you are ready to set up your domain and start offering your products and services. Don’t worry if you do not have any clue how to do this. You can use sites like Wix.com that have an easy web builder, or you can hire a developer on sites like Fiverr.com or Upwork. The cost of these services is quite inexpensive, and you can get your site up and running quickly.

Outsource What You Cannot Do.

The best part about the online world is that you do not have to have the skills to do everything yourself. If you want to take a hands-off approach or a partial hands-off approach, you can find many places to outsource tasks. This means that you can truly control your time and how much you want to do in your business.

That idea of walking on the beach at sunset is beginning to sound more possible all the time, and with an online business, you can run it from anywhere there is Internet access. Boomers who are approaching retirement need to seriously think about starting an online business as part of their retirement plans. It is the key to freedom and gives you more control than the traditional retirement model. You finally get to be your own boss and choose how you spend your golden years.

David Goldstein
David launched Boomer Buyer Guides with his wife Alice to provide Baby Boomers with trustworthy, well-researched information about products and services that Baby Boomers buy. Learn more about David Goldstein