As a military spouse I know that in the past my career has been put on the back-burner. I made the choice to follow my husband and his demanding job as he was posted with his work with the RAF. With deployments, tours, detachments, frequent postings and growing families it can be difficult to keep your career on track as a spouse as we move. But what if you could create a business that you could take with you?
Here’s a handy list to see if you’re ready to start your own posting-proof business.
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 assistant in your previous career, and you still have the drive to do this? These are strengths that can become commercial. Make a list of your strengths, what is it that you love doing and could it be transferred into something more commercial. What are you good at? What do you enjoy talking about?
Is there a need for your product or service?
A lot of start-up businesses fail in their first year for many reasons. One reason might be because people just don’t need what you are doing. Think long and hard about whether there is an existing market for the business you want to create. Research people in the same field that might be doing a similar thing, and check out how they are doing it. If you can’t find anyone doing anything similar the reality might be that there is no need for it. You might have an amazing idea for a product but the likelihood is if there isn’t an audience that interested in it, you probably won’t be able to turn it into a successful business.
However, if what you find is that there is an existing industry doing what you do then you’ll definitely have a market. Try not to be overwhelmed with what others 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.
Are you already working full time in a job that you could make 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. Now, 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 conflicts of interest then check your contract thoroughly. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of your employer, especially if they could be a future client.
Are you already doing it as a hobby?
Think about what you do in your spare time. Perhaps you’re into 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?
Could you make money from it?
Running a business can get expensive. You’ll probably have overheads and costs that you’d need to consider as your business grows, especially if you’re a product based business. Even if you’re a service business with very low overheads you’ll still need to think about how you’re going to make some income to pay for it. 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. 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. But don’t get disheartened, many businesses struggle in the first few years to make a serious income and most choose to put any profit they make back into building the business. But 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 we could be posted, sometimes every few years. If you build your business to be transient there should be no reason why you can’t keep trading no matter where you end up.
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? 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.
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. But with proper planning and communication you can run a business around many of the demands service life makes on us. 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.
However, 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.
Jess is the owner and lead designer at Design Jessica.
After graduating with a Graphic Design Degree and six years of designing for some amazing companies such as Transport for London, Disney and Tesco Jess launched the agency to create bespoke branding and marketing material in 2012.
Realising her love for all things branded Jess specialises in styling companies from start to finish. Whether they are a new business looking for their first designs or more established companies hoping for a fresh take on their brand and literature.
Married to her RAF pilot husband and currently living in North London with two cheeky cats, Jess is well known in the military community as the go-to designer.
Winning a Supporting the Unsung Hero Business award in 2016 and founding The Forces Enterprise Network’s Online Business Community she takes pride in her knowledge of ‘the military way’ and this has been showcased in her recent commissions for the military.
Jess is dedicated to achieving the optimum finished product for her clients, with a problem-solving can-do attitude, she will work with you to create something to really be proud of. Visit the website – www.designjessica.co.uk