On being 40 in business - not a boss babe

In February 2018 I started a new business, in an area that’s pretty new to me.  I’m a Squarespace website designer.  I also do modern calligraphy and sell cards and prints; make and sell lampshades; am a wife and mum to two girls, and just about manage to run the house.  Nothing unusual there really - we’re all juggling our lives to some extent or other.

I do a ridiculous amount I think sometimes but when I simplify it, I do whatever needs to be done/what I can fit in on any given day.  So, in essence, I pretty much manage to combine everything, just about.  I can’t devote all of my time to one thing though but of course I can’t, it’s not all about me and my business ambitions - there are my two daughters who need their mum every now and then!  That doesn’t mean it’s not frustrating quite a lot of the time when I just want to get cracking with my to-do list.

I’ve been working since 2001 and have been running my own business since 2010.  But starting out in a new direction this year, two months after I turned 40, makes me feel a bit old.  I’m not worried about being 40 per se but in the context of the web design world I’m now in, I’m pretty old!

In the last year or so I have immersed myself in a world of business blogs, online courses, Squarespace articles and a million ‘how to’ posts.  I’ve signed up to many email lists and unsubscribed from quite a few too, have downloaded a lot of freebies, some of which are genuinely useful and others just a waste of time.   But I love it.  I love finding out all there is to know (or as much as I possibly can) about a topic and easily find myself going down rabbit holes to something else I didn’t know about before (last week it was Vero…).

Many of the people that I follow online and to whose websites I return frequently are American, they’re mostly women and out of those, the majority are in their 20s or early 30s.  Of course there are lots of people in the UK doing similar things but there are many more in the USA (which stands to reason as the US population is about 5 x the population of the UK).  So they seem to be a lot more present online.

Don’t get me wrong, many of these women are amazing, have a lot of very useful advice and are clearly super successful.  I genuinely value what they have to say.  But it’s hard to escape the fact that they’re 3 or 5 or 10 years ahead of me and (in the case of many of them) THEY’RE STILL ONLY IN THEIR 20s! 

It’s obvious why in some ways.  When I was considering my career choices the internet was barely even a thing.  I think Alta Vista was the search engine of choice when I left school.  So off I went to university and eventually became a lawyer.  I was pretty academic and didn’t even know that I had a creative side to me at all back then!

I was 32 by the time I realised that I wanted to do something creative and start my own business.  Instagram wasn’t even launched at that point!

So I’m not exactly ancient but I’m definitely one of the older ones venturing down this new path as a Squarespace website designer.  It makes me take some of the advice that’s on offer online with a pinch of salt because the lives of the people offering it are so very different to mine.  Many of them have launched their businesses long before having children.  Also because they are no longer juggling two + businesses or jobs and already seem to have that elusive 7 figure business (which some seem to achieve in 30 days according to some posts on Pinterest!).

There’s no point in comparing myself to someone in that position - our situations are incomparable.

This is why I think it’s important to be very choosy about who you listen to online.  Everyone means well but you’ve got to be the right audience for the message that they’re spreading. Getting a shouty email that starts ‘Hey Louise, you gorgeous boss babe’ does not connect with me.  And why would it?  I’m 40.  I’m not a boss babe.  I’ve just ironed the school uniform for goodness sake.

So what am I saying?  When it comes to it, take all the advice and guidance you can find.   If you feel that the person offering that guidance is really speaking to you, then keep listening.  If not then just switch off.

If you don’t want to be talked at like a boss babe, then stop listening to people who use language like that.  You’re not their target audience anyway so they won’t miss you!

Find the right people to help you.  The ones who speak in a way you can identify with and who come from a place of understanding where you’re at in your life and business.

Don’t put pressure on yourself because you can’t keep up with the pace that the super successful people appear to have worked at.  Of course they can blog every day if they have no other responsibilities.  I could have done that too if blogging had actually been invented when I was 22 and that was my only job.  When you’re splitting your time, it will simply take longer.

And if you’re nearer to your 40s than your 20s, well then join the club!