Growing older comes with many surprises— some good, some not so good. The Fine Line, a digital magazine created especially for women over 45 who are interested in fitness, wellness, beauty, fashion, and more, explores the surprises of aging in the 21st century in a series of essays called #RealTalk. In this essay, founding editor Sue Cowie reflects on launching a new career for herself on the precipice of her 60th birthday.
When I launched The Fine Line last fall, I was 59. I had zero experience in publishing. I’d never worked at a magazine or website. I didn’t have a blog. I didn’t have an Instagram account. And I’d been on Facebook only about 10 months. I certainly didn’t know about content marketing, building an online audience, Google Analytics, Double Click, deep links, or any of the approximately 10,000 other things I’ve learned in the last year.
Many people may feel like 59 is too old to start over. I felt like I had no choice. And what I knew was this: I’d aged out of the creative workforce. I also knew I had way too much energy, brainpower, and creativity to just wither up — even if I didn’t know my way around a YouTube channel.
I discovered the sad fact that I likely wasn’t going to get a job interview — much less a job — after I applied for a few positions I thought fit my skill set and areas of expertise. One morning, while researching a company with an open position, I clicked on an “about us” video. What unfolded before my eyes was a reality check: The entire staff was in their 20s!
I studied all those young faces and wondered how they were old enough for full-time work. And then BAM! It was like my age was standing naked in the middle of a baseball field under hot stadium lights. I knew right then why I would never hear from the 10 or so companies I’d already reached out to: They’d taken one look at my resume and metaphorically stamped it “OLD.”
MANY PEOPLE MAY FEEL LIKE 59 IS TOO OLD TO START OVER. I FELT LIKE I HAD NO CHOICE. AND WHAT I KNEW WAS THIS: I’D AGED OUT OF THE CREATIVE WORKFORCE.
It took me a few days to come to terms with the fact that I was no longer a desirable job candidate. I think I bounced off the walls a couple of times until I pulled myself together and announced to myself that I really was in my late 50s.
So what would I do?
Prior to creating The Fine Line, I created a line of sportswear. When I launched myself into the garment industry in the ’80s, I had only my passion for exercise and fashion to guide me in making a line of beautiful, functional, and sexy workout wear. I didn’t know anyone who sewed Lycra or even how hard it is to do, and I drove around with bolts of the material in my car looking for someone to help me create patterns and sew them. Eventually, I built a brand. My clothes were sold to major department stores in the United States and overseas; they were featured in Shape and Self magazines! And when someone offered to buy the brand, I sold it and moved on to my next venture.
Colcha was a home design studio on one of the coolest streets in Los Angeles, Venice’s Abbot Kinney. I saw a need for something different in furniture and home accessories. So I scoured the globe for companies unrepresented in the United States and brought them here. That caught the attention of editors at publications such as Elle Decor, DailyCandy, and The L.A. Times. It earned me movie star clients. And it was a blast! When the business ran its course, I closed the studio.
That’s how I found myself staring at a video full of smiling millennials doubting my chances in the job market. That’s how I found myself back at the drawing board — which for many days and weeks held not so much as a scratch.
And then I noticed something. Women at my gym were talking about aging. I had a lightbulb moment. I started searching the Internet for something that spoke to me as an older, urban woman with a strong interest in health and wellness — and I came up with nothing. I began to wonder if I had the moxie to create something online with no experience in writing, editing, advertising, social media, or the Big T: technology. Whenever I pushed the idea aside, it popped back up like a ball in a pond.
THE LEARNING CURVE HAS BEEN FIERCE, ESPECIALLY WHERE TECHNOLOGY IS CONCERNED. WHAT COMES EASY FOR MILLENNIALS IS HARD FOR SOMEONE NEARLY 60.
As I did more research, I realized there were many women moving through the decades of their 40s, 50s, and 60s, experiencing some of the same struggles I was going through, and they were hungry for content that spoke to them. And so, I took a deep breath — and a deep dive into the world of blogs and online magazines. Before long, I assembled a team to help me design the site, strategize content, and climb the marketing ropes.
The learning curve has been fierce, especially where technology is concerned. What comes easy for millennials is hard for someone nearly 60. There are days that I feel like my head is going to explode because of the technical data that goes on behind the scenes. During our first marketing meetings, I would tune out. Terms like Google Analytics, SEO, and SEM were literally a foreign language to me. And social media!? I initially dismissed the bloodline of an online publication’s traffic as too young for the audience I was planning to reach. But I was convinced that I was wrong, and the prospect of my first Instagram post struck terror through my heart. You put that image in that box? With those words? And what the hell is a hashtag? At times, I’ve felt so stupid. Just as it had never occurred to me that I was too old to compete in today’s creative job market, it didn’t occur to me when I decided to start an online publication that I was heading into unchartered territory.
But each day it gets a little easier. When I get the hang of one more technical function, it feels like a cause for celebration. When I manage to correctly put an affiliate marketing link into a story, I think about hosting a party afterward. In the beginning, there were times I felt so overwhelmed that I wanted to run. There were times that the technical aspects of online publishing began to erode my creativity and passion for The Fine Line.
But here I am today, 12 months after the idea for The Fine Line was born — and I’m doing it.