• Advice

Framing your professional value: Tips for older freelancers

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Discussions with my peers and especially with younger businesspeople often turn to questions about the professional relevance of freelancers over 50. This is a pain point we all should be prepared to address.

An associate who’s a top corporate sales executive framed this situation perfectly at the conclusion of our discussion on the relevance question. He said that questions—and the associated biases and misconceptions—about the relevance of older workers is an opportunity to make a business case for hiring age 50-plus professionals as contract service providers. In other words, he likes to flip the discussion 180 degrees.

In the spirit of building that business case, here are some specific benefits we came up with that apply to professionals like us in a wide range of services and industries:

• Skills as a leader of people and organizations.
• Experience developing products and services, along with lessons learned in the process.
• Proficiency in marketing products and services, internally to stakeholders and externally to customers.
• Sensitivity and skills in being an advocate for customers.
• Experience with project management.
• Life experience in coping with adversity and success.
• Perspective about business trends, management philosophies and cultures.
• Experience with business, product and service life cycles.
• Skills related to forming and sustaining partnerships and alliances.
• Appreciation for responsive and value-based customer relations.
• Capability to analyze and identify valid evidence to evaluate products and services.
• Experience pitching startups and legacy businesses to strategic partners and investors.
• Understanding about business growth issues and solutions.
• Access to extensive networks of relevant contacts.
• Patience and perspective responding to change within organizations and in industries.
• Professional resourcefulness from business and life experience.
• Credibility within the industry or a related one.
• Cultural sensitivity from experience and values.
• Appreciation of loyalty and commitment.
• Understanding of the power of actions, not just talk.
• Knowledge about the value of planning and knowing that all plans are dynamic.
• Experience with failure and turning lessons learned into positive actions.
• Skills collaborating with diverse teams.
• Capability to mentor clients with regard to institutional and industry knowledge and business skills.

This list should serve as a reminder to you about points you can make if you’re in a situation that requires you to defend your relevance to your industry and prospective clients. However, the real value of these points lies in you relating them directly to your business profile. Match your skills, knowledge, and experience with each point to re-frame your business relevance.

Career coaches and advisors often have their clients perform analysis exercises like this. The objective is to help their clients shape their business ventures and develop messages to convey during pitches and in proposals. It’s also a way to remind their clients of what they have to offer in the marketplace from their long-time industry or work experience. Too often, we don’t appreciate these value points unless we make an effort to explore them directly.

Doug Freeman has been a freelance technical/business communications consultant and service provider for over 35 years. His clients include SpiderOak LLC, Intel, HPE, NASA, U.S. Dept. of Energy and other startups to Fortune 200 companies. Secret to success: His services continually adapt to changing market needs.