There are many aspects of the job market that can make it difficult for an older individual to find work, but some industries definitely display a more overt level of ageism than others. Freelance design and development is a field that is typically filled by younger individuals, but the main objective of any company that hires a freelancer is to receive quality work in a timely manner at a good price.
Due to this, the door is potentially wider open in this particular line of work to people of all ages, but there are still definitely some issues that an older freelancer might face.
Ageism In Freelancing
Why Do Companies Assume A Freelancer Will Be Young?
Most people have the unfortunate and often untrue assumption that only younger people have any interest in computers. Even those who acknowledge that older generations have also embraced the internet age will often repeat stereotypical jokes about the over 50 crowd using AOL as their internet service provider (ISP) because they have not yet moved into the so-called real internet.
As with any other stereotype, there is some truth to this line of thought, but the reality is that the number of AOL subscribers continues to dwindle. Most of their former subscribers have clearly moved on to other ISPs, and this indicates not only a willingness to leave the safety net of AOL behind, but also an increased level of comfort utilizing computer technology.
Why Does Society Assume That All Freelancers Will Be Young?
One of the negative aspects of freelance work is that there is no such thing as a steady paycheck. Although many freelancers are extremely successful, they cannot predict in advance exactly how much money they are going to bring in over the course of a year, unless they happen to accept an assignment that lasts that long. Due to this, a lot of people have the assumption that freelancing is more suitable to individuals who are young and better able to take on financial risks.
The truth, however, is that the older generation is often more financially stable to begin with, and they can therefore withstand longer dry periods than their younger industry contemporaries. There is no reason for the word freelancing to be synonymous with people who have less financial responsibilities.
There is also no reason for the common misconception that freelancers are unable to hold down steady jobs. For many freelancers, regardless of their age, going into work for themselves is the best way to receive good compensation while doing something that they are passionate about.
Does an Age Limit Exist in the Freelancing World?
Although some companies may specifically look for a young freelancer, one of the perks of becoming a freelance designer is having the ability to do work without having to meet someone face to face. A lot of designers and developers are hired sight unseen off of the internet to handle projects for companies all over the world. Due to this, the only thing that really matters is the strength of a freelancer’s portfolio.
If a freelancer is concerned about being a victim of ageism, though, they can take some simple steps to minimize this possibility. First, their resume does not need to show the last 40 years of their work history unless it is all relevant to their freelance career.
Modern resumes also often do not specify graduation dates, so if someone wants to include all of their education without making it obvious that they are older, then they simply need to list the schools that they attended along with whichever degrees they obtained.
Dealing With Ageism From Other Freelancers
In some instances, a freelancer will have to report to an office in order to either do their job or to participate in a project meeting. It is important for an older freelancer to maintain confidence and to allow themselves to blend in to their temporary work environment.
Even if everyone else in the office is 20 years younger, it will most likely not become an issue unless the freelancer’s level of discomfort becomes obvious. Having said this, though, an older freelancer can expect to occasionally deal with immature individuals.
If a younger freelancer tries to goad an older freelancer by making derogatory comments about them being slow or not with the times, then it is best to simply answer these comments with high quality work that is completed on time.
Dealing With Ageism From Clients
If the client shows obvious ageism, however, then things can become more complicated. Freelancers do have the ability to decide who they will and will not work for, so anyone who experiences issues with ageism has the ability to leave a project. This should not be a freelancer’s first response, however. Instead, they should ask for a meeting with a member of management to discuss the issues that they are experiencing.
A good manager will not only listen, but they will also utilize the opportunity to provide important sensitivity training to their staff members. If they scoff at the issues, however, this is a freelancer’s cue to look for a better opportunity. Unfortunately, there will always be some companies that place an emphasis on age over talent, and there is nothing that even the most skilled older freelancer can do to change their minds.
What Issues Do Older Freelancers Deal With?
Aside from the potential for ageism, there are some other issues that can naturally accompany an older freelancer. As people get older, they typically have families, begin to experience health issues and become committed to several different things and people. This is part of the reason people erroneously believe that the older generation would not be interested in working as a freelancer.
It is true that all of these things can present hurdles that a freelancer will have to deal with, but none of them will prevent a skilled freelancer from performing quality work.
In fact, freelance design work is especially well suited to creative individuals who need to have the flexibility to work from a home office. Older individuals who are married, caring for children or grandchildren or dealing with health issues will find it much easier to stay in the workforce if they are able to do so without the need for a daily commute.
Some companies and younger freelancers will associate older freelancers with less creativity and a lack of interest in current trends, but this is usually not a real issue that older freelancers deal with, especially if they are dedicated to their field.
What Advantages Do Older Freelancers Have?
The younger crowd may resent this phrase, but a lot of people do believe that wisdom comes with age. Another advantage of working with an older freelancer is that they have more life experiences to draw from as inspiration. They have also seen the rise and fall of many more trends, and this may enable them to more successfully predict what consumers will be looking for in a few months.
One thing that is true of any industry is that it is influenced by outside factors. For example, designers often take their inspiration from the colors that are currently the most fashionable. Fashion trends do become predictable over time, especially as the fashion styles of previous decades begins to repeat themselves.
After all, those who are old enough to clearly remember the trends of the ’80s are much more likely to have a firm grasp on the color schematics that are prevalent in the current ’80s revival.
A Success Story
Although the definition of older can vary from person to person, most freelancers are typically believed to be in their 20s and 30s.
Neil Bartlett is a successful freelance writer who has an impressive resume that is filled with examples of the fruits of his labor.
Rather than give specific dates that would pinpoint his exact age, however, he only lists articles from the last five years and makes a reference to writing for a specific group for 17 years. It is clear from the wording of Bartlett’s resume that he is older than the typical freelancer, but it is also clear that this is not preventing him from finding work.
There are countless other freelancers who share a story that is similar to Bartlett’s. Some of them have achieved this success by working as a freelancer for several decades, but just as many of them are relative newcomers to the world of freelancing.
How Prevalent is the Older Generation in Freelancing?
According to the editor of Creative Business, the annual Creative Freelancer Conference is seeing an increased amount of freelancers who are in their 50s and 60s. Due to the current economy, freelancing is often the easiest way for an older individual to find work, so it is highly likely that these numbers will continue to rise.
What’s Your View?
How does the prevalence of the older generation impact freelancing? There is no cut and dried answer to this question because everyone has their own opinion about this topic. What is your personal opinion, and are you basing it on actual experiences or on things that you have read?
If you are a member of the older generation, are you currently a freelancer? If so, have you experienced any issues with ageism?
The question isn’t about how old are you but how good you are. Have you worked with an older freelancer before? How old is the oldest freelancer you have worked with?
Do you have any advice for other budding freelancers? Sound off in the comments section below!