When the military posts your husband and you follow – A business owner’s tale and handy tips for a transferable business
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 creative business, Design Jessica. Yet, despite being in the 21st century I find myself feeling more than ever the housewife.
You see I didn’t marry an ordinary man who has a ‘real’ job in a ‘real’ company. My husband is a pilot in her majesties Royal Air Force. 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.
The military spouse is a glorious thing. Urban dictionary (font of all knowledge) wonderfully describes us as ‘a hard working spouse of a military member, who keeps things safe at the home front where civilian wives would normally fail’. Now, the world is made of many different people, life is tough to all of us and I still am a civilian despite what Urban Dictionary says. I know that my husband’s job doesn’t define me and my ‘home front’ is normally a shambles. I am a pretty rubbish house wife. But what I do know is that as a business owner and wife of my RAF husband I chose to relocate ever couple of years as his job dictates. I had become what is known as ‘the trailing spouse’.
Making my business transferable is crucial if it’s going to survive. I need my business to be accessible and open to my clients no matter wherever I find myself living nor what time zone I find myself in.
But as a military spouse how can you do this? Here are a few handy tips for those of you with service businesses like Design Jessica.
I couldn’t be without my CRM (customer relationship management) system. Its where I keep all of 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.
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 everyso often 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.
Social Media Apps
Social media is a nightmare when you’re in the throws of moving house, especially when the internet isn’t switched on for a couple of days or the router is somewhere in a box. 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 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.
A new initiative recently launched is FEN HUB Networking. Based on the concept of the Military Wives Choirs, and to give us a support group in every base FEN HUB Networking will be nationwide and bring businesses within the Armed Forces community together. I have recently launched one in North London and we are planning our first meeting next week. If you’d like to launch a FEN HUB Networking chapter in your area just get in touch.
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 are breeding and multiplying.
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 the work and 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 might 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