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May 09, 2011

Is age an issue?

It seems Laurel Black caused a stir with her recent post, Too old to be a designer? on the Creative Freelancer Blog. She’s received more comments on this post, than any post has received in the history of the Creative Freelancer Blog.

At the age of 61, Laurel says:

The design profession seems to have a youth bias that is not working in my favor. Whereas other professions (medicine, law, etc.) value experience, the design and marketing fields seem to think that if you no longer fall into the coveted 18-34 demographic, you are too old to be relevant or useful. Experience is often seen as a sign of being “out of it.” Read more.

The Freelancers Union is also dealing with the topic of age, in What’s age got to do with it?, saying, “More than any other age group, older workers have remained unemployed for ninety-nine weeks or more, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and one in every three seniors earn less than $22,000 a year, according to the National Council on Aging.”

On Friday, in his post, In-house Interpersonal: Designers & Fine Wines, Andy Epstein wrote:

Recently on the Creative Freelancer Blog, designer, Laurel Black, wrote a post, Too Old To Be A Designer? in which she worried aloud whether, at 61, she could continue to get work as a designer. She pointed to a youth bias in the design and marketing professions and wondered why experience isn’t always valued by the people who hire designers, whether for freelance or salaried positions.

Black is not alone in her worries; she clearly struck a nerve. Her blog post received more comments than any other post in the history of the blog (and they’re still coming)! Most were long and thoughtful, some optimistic, others plaintive. They came from across the spectrum, from designers who had recently lost their jobs, from those who’ve recently gone back to school for design and from independent or freelance designers who can’t imagine retiring but, like Laurel, worry about the “youngins” taking their place.

With age getting a lot of press these days, it seems to be more top-of-mind than we might have thought. What do you think about the effects of age on being a creative solopreneur?



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Age is an issue, but I don’t see it as a negative one. I am 57 and graduated 2009 from Chico State with a degree in graphic design. Many would say this was a very risky thing to do, I had a good paying job, but I was miserable with it. My dream and a passion was to be a designer, I went for it. Since I live in a very small community, to work in a larger firm I would have to commute an hour both ways. As a junior designer I found the pay not so great anyway, so I am pushing forward into freelance. Last year at this time I had no clients, as of right now I am working with over a dozen. There are many businesses in need of our services especially in this economy. I have much more to learn and to accomplish but I am enjoying the process as I move forward even though it is a bit scary at times.

I agree with many of the comments on Laurel’s post that it is about finding your niche and how you position yourself. Are you reliable, a good communicator, a good listener, a good collaborator? I have found these to be valuable traits to have no matter what your age.

I believe there is enough work to go around for the young or the older designers. Technology and culture are always changing. It is a must to keep up with them as well as with your target market.

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