I don’t really see myself actually retiring in the sense that one who reaches a certain age quits working. This is probably why I have never really considered retirement as part of my future plans. If I told you what both my wife, Brenda are currently doing in our lives, you would likely say we are working two full-time careers, even if we happen to be working for ourselves.
That’s the ways it has been for at least the past year. Brenda has been spending a lot of time in the kitchen and I have been spending a lot of time upstairs in the home office writing. We both realize that what we are doing are perfect fits for our skills and commitment levels. You could say we are probably doing what we should be doing with our lives at this point.
This is the specialty food product line we developed in 2014. Brenda has a knack for creating some pretty awesome jellies, jams and salsas and this has really taken off. Our original approach was to sell the produces from our downtown storefront location on Bridge Street in our hometown of Princeton, British Columbia. That worked out for the first little while.
Eventually, JamBusters! took over the front entrance to our office. When we closed the downtown business in mid-2016, JamBusters! was already in the process of establishing a regular vending schedule. Without the storefront we shifted to vending as often as we could. In August 2017 we added vending at the Oliver Indoor Flea Market in Oliver, BC on weekends.
The regular exposure, combined with a few key seasonal outdoor and indoor vending events has helped to elevate the JamBusters! brand to a full-time job for Brenda who still makes each and every product by hand in our kitchen. Summertime is intense with all the produce ripening at about the same time so inventory gets expanded and replenished at this time.
Looseink Freelance Ninja
I launched my ghostwriting career in early 2014 to help increase our household income when things slowed down with the newspaper. I quickly gained a handful of clients and cultivated business through them and actively pursued other writing jobs. I started writing full-time in September 2016 as the newspaper had been closed by this time and freed up some time.
Over the course of the next year I built my clientele to the point where I had been hired as a staff writer for two different marketing firms and had several other regular customers. Instead of writing a few days a week, I had built the flow of business up to the point where some weeks I am writing every day. My plan is to keep it to no more than five days a week when possible.
Where’s The Semi-Retirement Part?
That’s a good question. We were too busy going through our midlife career changes to slow down, I guess. Regardless, the home-based businesses we have give us a lot of freedom, even if it doesn’t sound that way. As long as both of us stay organized, we can shuffle our workload to the point where we can get partial days off to focus on other things that need to be done. To me, that’s what semi-retirement looks like. I know I’d rather keep doing this.
I sometimes find it hard to believe that we are where we are today. I remember more than one conversation with my wife, Brenda where we were not too sure what was going to happen once our newspaper business was closed. It was two years ago this week when we finished printing our last issue. It was intentional, not accidental, either. Business was no longer booming and a combination of things just added up to us choosing to quit trying to tread water anymore.
I’m not sure that I’ve actually looked at it in that way. Not the treading water part but the part where we were intentional in closing the doors to a business we had worked so hard at for well over a decade. I like to think that we picked the date of our last issue (July 26, 2016) because it has some significance. However that was not the case, it was the final Monday of the month and we printed the Similkameen News Leader early on Monday mornings without fail.
More Than Just One Anniversary
The unusual thing about the date was that it happened to be an anniversary for me and I didn’t know it when we first chose to finish our run at the end of July. The date of our very last issue was the sixteenth anniversary of my first day on the job for the weekly community newspaper. It was three and a half years later when I bought the business and took over the day-to-day operation of it with Brenda. But for now I’m marking the second anniversary of our career changes.
The Plan Without An Actual Plan
I can’t say we had pre-planned our midlife career changes because that was not how it happened. Brenda was two and a half years into JamBusters! (her home-based specialty food business) and I had already spent the same amount of time as a freelance writer “on the side” when we closed the paper. Neither of our part-time hobbies was generating a lot of money, but they were definitely showing potential if we could only dedicate more time to both of them.
By ceasing publication of the one career that took up most of our time, we freed up the space we needed daily to attempt to make our hobbies slightly more than that. Again, none of this had been planned but when we started talking about the possibilities, it sounded far more than just plausible. It sounded like a doable plan. So that was pretty much what set us in motion to see if maybe we could convert something we were already doing into something worth doing.
Your Opportunity Awaits You
As it turns out, our midlife career changes started with that very logical next step. It wasn’t long before both of us realized that we had the answer to our future already in hand – we just had to use it. If you are contemplating a career change in your midlife, it is not nearly as scary as it may sound. Yes, we did lose some sleep early on as we were worried about whether or not we could pull it off. However, some things worth doing have an element of risk involved.
You won’t know until you take that first step.
I don’t normally think about it but I sure like talking about it. I’m talking about the answer I like to give when I get asked about what we are doing now. I had an opportunity to do that just the other day in the checkout lane at the local grocery store. I had gotten in line and shortly after I unloaded my shopping cart at the till a fellow I knew as a former customer of mine got in the lane behind me and unloaded his groceries. We shared pleasantries and some small talk.
Then he asked what I’ve been doing.
This was a local business owner who used to advertise in our newspaper when we had it and I used to have as a client when I worked at the local radio station. I proudly announced that I am a full-time ghostwriter and that my wife and I also vend her business out-of-town at the Oliver Indoor Flea Market. He seemed somewhat impressed and made a comment about how much more relaxed his life had become once he got out of business himself.
I explained that I’m probably busier now than I was when I had the paper.
Then he said something I often hear when I get into this kind of conversation. He said that it’s a lot different when you are busy doing things for yourself. I knew what he meant by that and I had to agree. There is a lot to be said about having control over your future and not being tied down to the schedule of something that you can’t control. Brenda and I ended up discussing this further in the days that followed. I know we are at that place, but it is nice to be reminded.
Although the ghostwriting and vending fills our days, it’s because we are letting it.
We are not being forced to meet certain timelines or commitments and that is easily the best thing we have identified about having home-based businesses. Where it becomes even more fun and relaxing is that our home-based businesses fell into place as we entered our third quarter transition. We were not pushed into making career changes, we changed with the closure of our business and discovered other opportunities that presented themselves to us.
Sometimes we really do have to remind ourselves of what we’ve done.
I think that is probably why I enjoyed the short conversation I had the other day in the grocery store. It gave me a reason to explain what we’ve been up to since we closed our business. It also gave me a reason to more or less celebrate our accomplishments. There is much more to celebrate than just getting through a third quarter transition. We made it on our terms and converted hobbies into new careers. And it actually worked.
My name is George Elliott. I have been in the Media Industry since 1978. I spent 23 years in Broadcasting and worked in a total of six different radio stations located in southern British Columbia Canada during my career. In 2000 I switched gears and moved into the Print Media Industry at a small town, local weekly newspaper. In 2004 I bought the paper and operated it with my wife, Brenda until July 2016 when we closed it. I launched a freelance web content and article writing business from my home in January 2014.