It’s that time of year again, the run up to summer. While the temperatures change and the nights start to lengthen, there’s one thing in the back of the mind of every military spouse.
Female entrepreneurship is the new ‘thing’, and I love it. After years of fighting for equality in the workforce and struggling for equal pay (spoiler alert, we aren’t there yet – check out this) women are making great progress and some of it has been fuelled by a recent explosion of female lead businesses.
I am one of these new generation of female entrepreneurs, but not the only one in my family. While my dad went out to work at his ‘real’ job in a ‘real’ company (you know the ones with a canteen, Christmas party and a pension scheme?) my amazing mum was running her own design business and acing it!
Fast forward 30 years and I also find myself married and running my own design business, Design Jessica but with one main difference. You see I didn’t marry an ordinary man who has a ‘real’ job in a ‘real’ company. My husband works in the RAF. Amazing you say! And yes, the uniform does have a certain appeal, but the reality of being a military spouse is very different to what you see in an Officer and a Gentleman.
As a business owner and wife of my RAF husband I chose to relocate every couple of years as his job dictates. I have become what is known as ‘the trailing spouse’.
Making my business transient is crucial if it’s going to survive this crazy military life. I need my business to be accessible and open to my clients no matter wherever I find myself living, or what time zone I find myself in.
But as a military spouse how can you do this?
Here are 5 handy tips for those of you with service businesses like Design Jessica.
1. CRM Systems
I couldn’t be without my CRM (customer relationship management) system. It’s where I keep my clients details and work streams in one place and it’s the first place I head to in the morning after my coffee. Personally I use Pipedrive but others include Asana, which I have heard amazing things about and Basecamp but there are loads out there. Most of them offer a month’s free trial which you can try out before choosing to sign-up. It’s a great way to keep in touch with those clients that you have made a good relationship with before your move.
2. Lost Clients
One of the saddest parts about moving location is that some of your clients forget you. I try to counteract this by sending them the odd email or even a Christmas card each year, but usually if you aren’t around and reminding them of your existence you sometimes get forgotten. I don’t let this happen to my most important clients and quite often travel quite a way to see them in person and I have also been known to send them flowers on their business birthdays. It’s a great way to keep in touch and in the front of their minds.
3. Social Media Apps
Social media is a nightmare when you’re in the throes of moving, especially when the internet isn’t switched on for a couple of days or the router is somewhere in a box beneath a pile of other boxes. My tip? Schedule ahead.
There are lots of apps out there to help you with scheduling posts for later on. Facebook has one built in and Later, previously Latergram is a god send to Instagram. Hootsuite can even sync your multiple social media apps. The first three are free with the app download and there’s a small monthly charge for more platforms. They are really handy in the long run too when you find yourself too busy to post. I often plan a whole month’s social media posts in one go and then add to it when something relevant pops up or I publish a new bit of work to my portfolio.I even schedule months of posts in the Business Community I run for the Forces Enterprise Network Hubs which leaves me plenty of time for commenting and Facebook Lives without coming up with daily content.
I find the best way to find new clients and helpful local businesses once you arrive is through networking. There are hundreds of these available and it does take a bit of trial and error to find the great ones, but it is one hundred percent worth it. I love my networking groups. Not only is it great to find new clients it’s also nice to talk business with like-minded people.
5 Take Time Off
Finally, the most important one. I found this out the hard way! Being posted is tough and tiring. More tiring than I was expecting. I swear the boxes breed and multiply.
The most important tip I can give you if you’re due posting is to book some time off and away from your business. Yes, it might seem like you can’t and yes, posting dates often change, but as long as you give your clients enough notice to send you work and you have some systems in place for that time you will be fine, they are human too.
Make sure you have an out of office on for your emails explaining that your internet may be a bit limited, and email your most important clients personally so they know you will be away for a bit. I always exaggerate how much time I will be away from the office just in case it all takes a bit longer, then if it doesn’t they’ll be happily surprised and impressed that I am back already.
Making your business transferable is a must if you’re a military spouse. Hopefully some of these points have helped you. If you have any others you think I should add, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org