How to start a business in your forties

Emma van Heusen Written by
Emma van Heusen

Ever since I watched a documentary about life in an advertising agency, I had always dreamed that one day I would work in one. The idea of spending my days doing exciting things like brainstorming concepts and working on propositions fascinated me.

Fast forward to age 22 and I had achieved my goal. I was working for the agency I had always dreamed of and I loved it. I was in my element and full of enthusiasm for whatever challenges were thrown at me. I embraced the fast-paced culture and late nights with a positive attitude. I had no family to worry about so was happy to do whatever it took to get ahead and earn my stripes as a valuable member of the team.

As the years passed, I joined new agencies and progressed in my role, and was lucky enough to work on some fabulous global brands. Before long I found myself with a fair bit of responsibility, heading up a team of some very talented young people.

That’s where the problem started.

At the age of 38, I went on maternity leave to have my son and took a year out to enjoy spending time with him. It was a joyous period in my life, but I also had a nagging feeling in the back of my mind, wondering how I was going to make everything work when I went back to my job.

When I returned, I was left feeling like dead wood. At the age of 40, I felt old and outdated, everyone around me was 15 years younger, thriving on the longer hours I had too once loved. My confidence had sunk so low that it was affecting my performance, I felt useless. The day I handed my notice in came with a mixture of sadness and relief, but I knew I had made the right decision for me if I stood any chance of clawing my confidence back.

My turning point was deciding to invest in my own development, taking a training course in Social Media Advertising to make me feel ‘more current’.  As a result, I found a way to blend my creativity with my 20 years of marketing industry knowledge, and successfully turned it into a career that suits my lifestyle. I am now a self-confessed Facebook Ads Nerd, agency founder, coach and six-figure business owner, working with other mums, and brands across the globe, helping to train women to become Facebook Ad Managers to give then more flexible working.

No longer do I feel like a washed up forty-something woman who needed to be put out to pasture. I feel like me again – Emma is back and here to stay, no longer defined by other people’s ideas about age and motherhood.

Obviously, success does not come without its struggles. Here are my top tips on how to start your own business in your forties….

Embrace Your Age

With age comes experience and wisdom. You are more comfortable with yourself and your goals and you have a breadth of knowledge at your disposal. You are never too late to chase your dreams, and your age should be seen as a positive rather than a hindrance. Be authentic and never pretend to be something you’re not.

Keep Going

It’s not always easy and it hasn’t all been plain sailing. At times, you will have found me crying at my desk gripped with overwhelm and fear, like all of us experience at one time or another. But the truth of the matter is, I’ll take that fear and overwhelm any day of the week over how life was before and more importantly, how I felt about myself.

Nail Your Niche

You need to establish exactly what you offer and who your ideal client is. Don’t be afraid to be specific – having a niche is key.

Map out Your Messaging

All businesses need very clear messaging about exactly what they do, to help cut through the noise and speak directly to their ideal customers. When someone visits your website, your Facebook Page, your blog or any other touchpoint in your businesses, they need to have no doubt in their mind about exactly what you do and who you do it for. Once you’ve secured your message and brand, remain consistent. Consistency with how you show up and what you say is absolutely key to the success of any business.

Demonstrate Authority

Demonstrate your expertise and authority by adding value wherever possible and getting in front of as many people as you Some people are frightened of giving too much away for free for fear that people would then not pay for their services, however I have found it to be the exact opposite.

Emma Van Heusen is a Facebook Ad specialist and can be hired to manage clients’ accounts or for coaching. To find out more please visit and