I DIDN’T KNOW I WANTED A JOB UNTIL I WAS OFFERED ONE

I turn 60 next week and I still keep pinching myself: I’m employable after all.

When you become responsible for creating your own income, with no financial safety nets, there are many hair-raising moments – but also satisfactions. At times being self-employed is genuinely thrilling. You’re living by your wits. You are free to explore opportunities and try different things. You might sometimes struggle to pay your tax bill, but everything you earn is down to you. And best of all, no one’s the boss of you. For the 16 years that I’ve made my living from freelance work, that’s how I’ve felt. Free to do what I want, when I want, and answerable to no one. Safe from the threat of redundancy – because if you don’t have a job, you can’t be given the axe, right? And I never thought that would change.

But since January I’ve been doing part-time freelance shifts on a newspaper. After a referral from an old boss from my magazine days, I found myself using long dormant editing skills in a newsroom. At first it was genuinely terrifying learning the tech system and unfamiliar processes, finding out the hard way whether my skills really are transferable. Getting used to strip lighting, colleagues’ desk food habits and being around loads of people all day when usually it’s just me and the dog. Being part of a team and working fast to tight deadlines.


At first it was genuinely terrifying finding out the hard way whether my skills really are transferable, while getting used to strip lighting and colleagues’ desk food habits


But while it’s stressful and mentally challenging, it’s also exhilarating. I’d forgotten how exciting it is to have people count on you and be under daily pressure. And – I can’t deny – having regular and reliable income is a total joy after the financial stress of the Covid years. I’ve actually been able to book a few days away and replace my tired old wardrobe. While I’ve always made a good income, the peaks and troughs – as well as the fight to get invoices paid – have often resulted in self-denial.

So when I was asked if I’d be up for formalising the arrangement, and become an actual employee, I found myself saying maybe. It’s still part-time, so I won’t completely lose that freelance independence – but most of all it’s some security. For 16 years I’ve managed without holiday pay, company pension and sickness cover – often working through bank holidays, Christmas and bouts of the flu – so now I’m tempted by the idea of some stability.


Somehow, to my absolute amazement, I’m bucking that ‘over-50s scrapheap’ trend. And if it can happen to me it can happen to anyone.


I read an article the other day about age discrimination being rife among the workforce and over-50s being forced to dip into their pensions in order to survive after being chucked on the scrap heap. Unemployment among the over-50s has rocketed, with more than 550,000 ­“silver workers” having left employment.

Yet somehow, to my absolute amazement, I’m bucking that ‘unemployable’ trend. And I do think that if it can happen to me it can happen to anyone. If you’re good at what you do, stay relevant and make old colleagues (who know how good you are) aware that you’re open to opportunities, all that experience and reliability can make you very employable to the right people. If you want a job, somebody out there will want to offer you one. It might mean being prepared to update your skillset and use your expertise in unfamiliar ways. But the scrapheap – or the vagaries of self-employment – are not the only options for us.

I turn 60 next week and I still keep pinching myself; I’ve just been offered a job. I still don’t know for sure if I want to give up my independence. But I’d be mad not to give it a try.

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