Starting a Home-Based Business
Tips for Military Spouses
January 24, 2014 by Mark Dye
If you’re a military spouse, you already know the deal when it comes to finding a job: it’s tough. Some employers are hesitant to hire you because your spouse is likely to be relocated. Or maybe you’re younger and lack professional work experience. While this might be an unfortunate reality for some out there, you do have some options. And one is starting a home-based business.
Working from home has many perks, but there are also a lot of scams and swindlers out there looking to make a profit at your expense. Being prepared can help you avoid them and find the right opportunity. Here’s how:
Before you even look into options, decide what exactly it is you want from your new enterprise. Is it to supplement your spouse’s current income, or eventually replace all of it when he or she leaves the military? Do you want it to just be you, or to eventually see it expand into multiple employees? Will it be a long-term effort, or just for a few years?
Setting these goals now will make it much easier to narrow down what kind of business to start—one that brings in a bit of income, or that is the start of something bigger.
If your dream of working from home involves getting up whenever you want, sitting around in your pajamas doing a few things online, and then watching the money roll on in, you might wake up to a nightmare.
This will be your business—you’ll be the boss, employee, HR department, accounting, marketing…all of it. So you have to start by realizing it’s going to take a lot of hard work, consistent effort, and many hours outside of the traditional 9 to 5 schedule. Also keep in mind that you might not see any financial gain from it until you’ve been at it for a while.
You’ll also need to find a balance between something you’re passionate about and your actual skills and education. After all, you might love something like photography, but not have any experience with what makes up a good photograph. This isn’t to say that you can’t learn a new skill or branch out—just be realistic with what that will take versus doing something you’re already familiar with.
You’ll need to get yourself ready in several areas:
- Investment required—Some jobs, like data entry or other administrative work, might not require much more than a word processing program, email address, and Internet connection. Others, like the photography example used above, will require much more of an investment, such as a high-quality camera, image editing software, a computer that can run that software (and do so well), a website to feature your work, a way to make prints for those who want them…quite a lot, isn’t it? Additional education might also be necessary—say, a class to learn how to use that image editing software like a pro.
- Market need—Maybe your current market is flooded with photographers, or there are already thousands of Avon reps in your area. Unless it’s a 100% online-based business, you’ll want to check out your competition to make sure you can be successful, not crowded out.
- Company stability—If you’re going to be part of another company, such as an independent contractor doing translation services, you’ll want to dig deep into who they are and how they do business. Check the Better Business Bureau, read through posts and comments about them in online forums, even call the attorney general’s office in whatever state the business calls home. The simple truth is that there are many, many scams out there. The last thing you want is to fall victim to one of them.
While it’s your business, that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. Family members could be willing to help you stuff envelopes, or friends could pass around your business cards and spread the word. There are also professional organizations you can join, such as the Military Spouse Business Academy, which provide you with the opportunity to network and get your business’ name out there to a wider audience.
You can find groups in your area to join, too. Your local chamber of commerce, small business alliance, and Better Business Bureau can all give you the chance to meet other small business owners and network within your community.
Depending on where you live, there could be a number of laws and regulations you have to follow. Things like licenses, zoning ordinances, permits and, if you live on post, installation housing rules can all have an affect on what type of business you can run. You’ll also want to keep in mind taxes you’ll need to pay, so speak with a tax expert to find out how much you’ll need to set aside to pay your bill to the IRS.
The type of company you start can also have a big impact on how you run it and your liability. While setting up something like a limited liability corporation (LLC) can cost some money up front, it can help shield you personally. For more information on the types of business available and their features, visit the “Starting and Managing a Business” section of the Small Business Administration’s website.
FINALLY: BE YOURSELF!
No matter what type of home-based business you start, the key to its success will be you. If you have the drive, are doing something you love, and make sure you have researched and prepared yourself for the ups and down most home-based businesses go through, you can have an enjoyable—and profitable—business of your own.
Small Business Administration [www.sba.gov]
Military One Source