The Road to Retirement for Professional Experts

Here’s Why you can’t rely on having a job anymore! This is the age of freelancers and consultants and investing in becoming one might be your only option for a healthy retirement.

I have two sons. One works for a very large corporate industry and it’s hard to imagine his life ever taking a turn where he can’t get work.  Or for that matter, that his current job might ever become replaced by robots.  But as the old saying goes – yeah right!  Remember the last 30 years of privitisation, industrialisation, and mass redundancies despite fierce unionisation?  Not to mention the looming spectre of robotisation of just about everything we do…

My other son is talented, creative, works in a job that is typically transient, and service oriented, and he’s working on becoming a ‘something’ in the performing, creative, or entertainment industries.  And in my opinion, he’s the lucky one.

How is that possible?  Well, he’s in a great position to learn and enhance those skills that make it possible for him to earn from a multiple range of income sources, freewheel his way through use of his entrepreneurial skills, and live by his wits.   And while I do hope he is more than a smiling barista or struggling actor in his dotage, I know that the freedom he gets to enjoy while making flexible choices will be worth it for him.

But remember when we as parents all hoped for our kids to grow up, leave school, go to college, then settle into a nice long term job with a solid company offering good prospects for promotion?  The sad reality it that the entire world has changed, and this is no longer possible for most of the kids coming through the universities and tech institutes these days.  Plus, add to that the ever widening range of choices, and the temptation to jump from one career path to another while finding your passion is an added complication.

So – what is the best course for anyone concerned about how the world works and how that work might dry up faster than a puddle in the desert for this millennium?  Find out how to embrace all your skills market them, and your Expertise, Wisdom, Experience (EWE) and get some leverage on those.  And if you think you don’t have enough EWEs to set even a small part of the world on fire, then go out there and get some.

Being a freelance consultant was once the option for only a few people, but these days we’re in the era of consultant-ization for most industries, hobbies, and in particular for management of those industries or hobby sectors.    Master a few different areas of something that other people want to know more about and add that to your resume.  Write a book about your stories, EWEs, or your own credible version of other people’s shared wisdom and make that part of your tool kit for being a paid coach or consultant, adviser or mentor.  Everyone has something to talk about, whether it’s better ways to get chickens laying larger eggs, or how to tackle a career change as retirement looms.

But – here’s where The Consultant’s Journey Towards Early Retirement gets tricky…and why only a few people actually make it.

1)  You have to harness what you want to share with others into a means of communicating it effectively.  You can’t just hang a shingle at your door anymore and hope the masses (townsfolk) flock to your place for a quick fix by you. How are you going to deliver your EWEs?  By download, over coffee, in a boardroom for a day, or by packing and sending a physical item.

2) You have to know how to market yourself as a EWE Thought-leader or specialist. This takes time, and there are SO many ways to do it really well or to get it completely wrong.  The people who fluke it or fake it till they make it are the exception – not the rule.  So find out what you have to know how to do yourself and what you can subcontract out to VAs or Employees, or contractors.

3) Writing a Book won’t make you rich – unless you are extremely lucky, clever, blessed by angels, or  somehow manage to beat the system that most people work for years to understand and perfect before becoming an ‘overnight sensation’.  By this time most authors or speakers are onto their 4th or 5th book, have also done a lot to develop their material into workshops and key note speeches, and rely on their book(s) to enhance their credibility and increase their fees, rather than simply relying on book sales to feed the family.

4) Most people don’t get that this is a journey – not a destination.  This ideal you may have of creating multiple incomes from various sources of places people put their money into is fraught with challenges, money pits, minefields, and time wasters.  You’ll go to conventions, sign up for courses, realise half way down the track that you missed a turning point or vital piece of the puzzle, and have to go back and learn something over.  You’ll spend a lot of money and time on becoming the serious entrepreneur you once envisioned yourself to be.

But if you are persistent, back yourself, get really really good at what you do and how you can best share it, you can reach a point when retirement looms, at any age – from 30 – 70 – that it was worth it, because you have finally got it.  You finally understood that while others around you are worried about their retirement savings, and what the heck they are going to do with their extra time off, you’ll be enjoying traveling and doing more of what you always loved to do, and getting paid to do it. ‘Time off’, will have become something you enjoy anytime you decide to just take a break, and there will always be someone else waiting to ask you for help and be happy to pay for your time.

My husband and I are now in our 50s – God that makes me feel old to say it – but we’re planning and working towards a non-retirement where we don’t have to rely on the savings we didn’t start out contributing to as young adults, or the inheritances from wealthy parents or aunties that we don’t have, and yet we’re on track to be more than ok as we age. Mostly this is due to having gotten our heads around the four key points above from early on.  But it takes time, and focus, and persistence, and learning from as many people as possible over the course of the journey.  Our lessons have included property, antiques, writing, publishing, social media and marketing, people management, and events.   And you can’t get the kind of knowledge that accumulates over time to become expert enough to really use these tools by going to university, getting a good job and sticking with that for decades.

You have to get out there and be flexible and get far better than ‘average’ at how you apply those lessons.  

Freelance work is one of the most consistently well paid options you can find.  Maybe it’s to support your ‘job’ or you want to do this to bring in extra money at home during the baby years.  The thing is, there are no limits to how you want to develop your  ability to bring in freelance income or take it further and become a high paid consultant.  Once you ‘get’ how it works, you can basically write your own ticket, work from anywhere, and enjoy the lifestyle.

But remember it just takes a lot more than deciding to hang your shingle out for the townsfolk now.  Becoming a freelancer might be one of your best career moves, but the journey towards it can be more expensive than earning a degree, and more frustrating than a dozen years in a going-no-where job.  The difference is, consulting and freelancing into your (early) retirement really does have a lot of light at the end of the endless tunnels.

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