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Jeremy has been successfully trading himself for many years. Rather than promoting a product which can change the world, his service is closer to home: it’s his own identity. Jeremy is widely known for providing valuable skills in the field of home tutoring. He’s travelled near and far, coaching and mentoring students from his home in Glasgow and across Scotland and has generated a useful income which helps him sustain his collection of birds of prey.

The challenge that Jeremy has faced as a sole trader is something that faces all of us: Anno Domini. He’s getting older by the day (like all of us) and as the years go by, he’s facing competition from younger tutors who are able to enthuse and entertain in a way that is proving irresistible to Jeremy’s clients.

In years gone by, tutors were valued for their ability to do just that: tute. This may had involved coaching, mentoring, guiding and some advice giving, but fundamentally the success of their work was defined by how good a tute they could give.  These days, in common with the expectation that full time teachers face, tutoring is no longer enough. These days, tutors also have to be project managers, entertainers, performers, odd job facilitators, welfare managers, credit specialists and mind readers. To tute is no longer enough.

Jeremy is waking up daily to the uneasy realisation that not only is his skill set out of date, but that his customers are looking at him and saying to themselves, “He’s great Jeremy but…” And there they will add any phrase which points to their belief that Jeremy is too old to carry out the work any longer.

Ageism in any walk of life is an appalling way of relating to people; but when it’s apparent in business with customers steering clear of your services because of their perception about the implications of the older work force, this is particularly hard.

This is a key moment when sole traders need to trade up and reinvent themselves as a business. The creation of a new business identity which can put out in the market place is an ideal way of countering customers covert ageism.  A new business identity will allow Jeremy to reinvent himself and his economic activity by presenting his activities to customers in a way which emphasises his youthful energy whilst simultaneously being able to draw on the maturity of his experience.

Setting up a business if you’re a sole trader is a bit like joining Second Life with an avatar you have created. It allows you to present yourself as you want and can confound people’s stereotypes and expectations. It can allow you to reform and perform your identity in lots of new ways, as well as providing an umbrella for future collaborators to join you under.

Jeremy has jumped into the equivalent of second Life with a vengeance this week and is promoting his tutoring skills in all their glory and diversity through his identity of the Golden Eagle.  His customer base has jumped up almost overnight. The fact he is 86 is neither here nor there; Jeremy’s second life identity has knocked any number of years off his customers perceptions and he’s out there again, trading, touring and tuting. His birds of prey can rest easy in the aviary. They’ve been spared a future back in the wild for a few more years to come.

More Tips for Business Start Ups here.