As military spouses, we often end up putting our career dreams on hold to follow our serving partner. With deployments, frequent moves, and growing families, it can be difficult to keep great jobs or pursue careers that won’t move with us. In the MOD’s UK Tri-Service Families Continuous Attitude Survey Results 2018 surveying more than 5,000 spouses and civil partners of regular trained Service Personnel found that 50% of respondents said their family life was disadvantaged compared to the general public, especially when it comes to employment.
What if we could build a business that was posting proof? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a business that moves when you do regardless of when that posting notice arrives? It’s time to stop dreaming about working from anywhere and actually do it!
When deciding whether to go into business you need to have a good idea about what you’re going to do, how you’re going to do it and make sure you’re passionate about it. No doubt you’ve probably got an idea if you’re reading this, and you may have even started researching what you need to do. If you answer ‘yes’ to the above you’re probably ready to start.
Over the next few posts I’ll be sharing tips for developing a successful business that you can take anywhere before you even launch. You can also find free business printables to help with your ideas HERE
What is it that you’re going to do?
You need an idea to start a business. I was lucky, I knew from an early age that I loved to design, so it was an easy step for me to move into freelancing before launching my own agency. However, it might not be so clear to you. Maybe you’re a keen crafter that creates beautiful pieces that your friends have always asked to buy? Or maybe you have a flair for making birthday cakes for your children and have had a few friends ask you to create theirs? Maybe you were an accountant or an assistant in your previous career, and you still have the skills to do this? These are strengths that can be transformed into a commercial business.
Make a list of your strengths, skills and what is it that you love doing. What are you good at? What do you enjoy talking about? If you’re business idea is one of these then that’s a great start.
Are you already working full time in a job that you could turn into a business?
If you’re already working in an industry that you love and think that you could create your own business in that then you’re onto a great start. Many of the businesses I work with started their companies on the side of their main job and grew it during the evenings and at weekends. It means that you can build up your client list while you have the stability of a monthly income. This is what I did. I worked full time in a design agency and then took on extra clients in my free time. I must admit that this was incredibly hard work and I spent far too many hours designing, but with enough self-care and motivation I was able to build up my client list and go completely freelance.
But be warned – If you are in a job where you could have issues with client over-lap and a conflict of interest then check your employment contract thoroughly. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of your employer, especially if they could be a future client of your new business.
Are you already doing it as a hobby?
Think about what you do in your spare time. Perhaps you’re into health and exercise and think that you’d enjoy starting your own running or training business. Or perhaps you’ve been into calligraphy for a while and want to monetise it. If you’ve already unknowingly started your business as a hobby then you’ve probably got enough experience and knowhow to move it into a profitable business, especially if already have a demand from friends asking for your service, why not get paid for it?
Is there a need for your product or service?
Sadly, a lot of start-up businesses fail in their first year. One reason might be because there isn’t a need your product or service. Think long and hard about whether there is an existing market for the business you want to create. Research companies in the same field that are doing a similar thing. Not only will that give you a great idea on how successful they are, it also means that there is a market for your new company to sell to.
Try not to get overwhelmed with what other companies are doing, you’ll be able to apply your own special knowhow or product to this industry. This is what will make you unique and what your clients and customers will come back to you for.
There’s a chance that if you can’t find a company doing anything similar the likelihood is that you probably won’t be able to turn it into a successful business. However, if it’s a new product or service that doesn’t exist, and you know that there is a gap in the market the there’s no reason that it wouldn’t be successful, you’d just need to do some more detailed research and product audience testing.
Could you make money from it?
Running a business can be expensive. You’ll have overheads and costs that you’ll need to consider as your business grows, especially if you’re a product-based business. Even service business with very low overheads still need to think about how they’re going to make some income to pay for their expenses. Have a good look at others doing similar to see the kinds of prices they’re charging for their products and services and see that it’s still something that you can make an income from when you’ve considered your overheads, production costs and time.
I hate to say this but if your business doesn’t make money then it’s really just an expensive hobby and also a bit of a waste of your time. But don’t get disheartened, many businesses struggle in the first few years to make a serious income and most owners choose to put any profit they make back into building the business. With hard work and a bit of courage you can certainly create a business that will not only be transient but can pay you a wage.
Does your idea get you excited?
Running a business can sometimes be a bit of a lonely existence. When I am working on a deadline in my studio I often don’t see another human for hours! It’s very different from working within a big company. What makes the difference is that I completely love what I do. I get excited everyday about working in my business and on my business. It’s so different to working for ‘the man’, and although it’s really hard work sometimes I wouldn’t have it any other way.
You have to be really excited about what you chose to do as you’ll probably be doing it every day, so now is the time to really think about whether you could spend a large chunk of your time doing it.
Could it be transient?
Here’s the best part! Military life means that our partners could be posted often, sometimes every few years and some of us could choose to follow them. If you decide to build your business to be transient there should be no reason why you can’t keep trading no matter where you end up.
It’s definitely a bit easier for service companies to relocate if your clients are happy with you working virtually. If you’re in need of a bricks and mortar business you might struggle and you’ll probably have to think of a clever way to move the company if and when you’re posted. But it can be done so don’t rule it out without having a good think about it.
I specifically set up my business to be transient so that I could follow my husband and his job. I have enough systems in place to mean that if we had to move next week all I would need is my mac and some wi-fi – Could your idea do the same?
Is it practical to start your own business?
Running a business is time consuming. If you don’t think about when you’re going to work in your business you’ll have clients calling at all hours and making demands of you when you aren’t available. If you have children you might need to consider child care, especially if your serving spouse is operational, and your business should be making enough money to cover this expense. You might have to think about the location that you might be posted in the future. If you’re expecting a foreign posting you’ll have to look into the legalities of running your business abroad, and if you’re running a business from your married quarter where you will be expecting a lot of clients visiting you’ll need to research whether you’ll be allowed that sort of business running from your quarter. You can find details HERE.
With proper planning and communication you can run a business around many of the demands service and family life makes on us. Don’t be disheartened. As long as you’ve researched, planned ahead and checked through the proper channels you should be able to keep your business running no matter where you’re posted.
Running your own business can be very hard work but so very rewarding, especially if you’re a military spouse who has chosen to follow their serving spouses’ job. If you are thinking of starting a business then think seriously about what you want to do and get researching. It’s not something to be entered into half-heartedly, but it is something that can give you an amazing buzz and let you experience some great things.
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