Holding a steady job may be tough if you are married to a member of the military.
Since military families generally move every two to three years, the spouse finds herself or himself in several new homes throughout the service member’s career.
“You move so frequently that you either face gaps on your resume or you have to constantly be reinventing yourself at every new duty station,” said certified financial planner Tara Falcone, founder of the financial education company ReisUP. She is also a former hedge fund analyst and is married to an officer in the U.S. Navy.
That’s why starting your own business may be the answer.
It was for Falcone, who began ReisUp after her husband was restationed in Japan at the end of 2015.
“Being an entrepreneur as a military spouse gives some control over my professional trajectory and allows me to maintain professional stability, even though our personal lives can be chaotic,” she said.
Here are Falcone’s five tips for those who wish to follow in her footsteps.
1. Join a co-working space
When Falcone started her business, the only real option for her was to have an office in the military house she shared with her husband. That created some tension, she said.
By working outside of the home, you can put some separation between your personal and professional life.
It also helps being around other people.
“Being an entrepreneur, in general, can be very lonely. When you aren’t around like-minded people and are working a lot during the day, it can be even more isolating,” she said.
There are a number of companies that rent co-working office spaces. They usually include things like desks, chairs, printers and Wi-Fi. Look to see what is offered in your area, compare prices, and see what works best for your situation.
The costs vary depending on location. Globally, the average price for a desk in 2019 is $187 a month, according to CoworkingInsights.com. The cost dropped from last year’s cost of $205 a month because of price competition in mature markets and the expansion of the spaces in second- and third-tier cities, the website explained.
However, expect to spend a lot more in U.S. cities. For example, a “hot desk,” which is an open, nondedicated seat at WeWork, can go for more than $500 a month in New York, while one in Kansas City, Missouri, runs $190 to $340 a month.
If it isn’t cost-effective to rent space or there isn’t anything available in your location, consider going to the library or a nearby coffee shop.
2. Take advantage of financial assistance
You may want to go back to school or need to get certain certifications in order to start your business. If that’s the case, make sure to look into different options that can help you cover the cost.
Programs like the My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) Scholarship help pay for certifications, which Falcone said could give you more credibility in your industry. She paid for the education requirement of her CFP certification process with a MyCAA scholarship.
“These types of programs or initiatives are meant to lessen the burden military spouses when it comes to maintaining or continuing their career as they move around the world,” she said.
There are more than $300 million in military and veteran-related scholarships and grants available, which are often overlooked by spouses, according to Military.com. Websites like Fastweb.com can help you sort through what’s out there.
LinkedIn also offers a free premium membership for one year to spouses through the Military Spouse Education & Career Opportunities (MySECO) portal, Falcone noted.
3. Design your business to be mobile
Life in the military means things are constantly changing, so you should build your business to withstand the moves and retain professional stability.
That could mean making your business completely online rather than one that is locally focused. For example, Falcone dispenses advice on her website through online courses and a blog. She also works with colleges around the country.
It can also mean selling creations through an e-commerce site, hosting live workshops or events or offering your skills in person to people at your current duty station.
“As any military spouse, we know orders can change in an instant. What you think may be happening six to 12 months down the road can look very different,” Falcone said.
Being as mobile as possible “allows you to role with the punches and not be negatively impacted by last-minute changes that the military may make.”
4. Set time-bound goals for each location
Use each deployment or assignment as a steppingstone for your business by setting a goal for each location that could be snaring more customers within a set time period. Try to meet it before you move on to the next one.
That will help keep you on track, Falcone said.
“I like to leave every duty station feeling like I accomplished something or made a certain amount of progress,” she said.
5. Hire other entrepreneurial spouses
If you are looking for help with your business, look no further than other military spouses.
They “have such incredible talent knowledge and skills they can contribute to the workforce,” Falcone said.
That may include things like graphic design or legal assistance.
Not only are you helping your business grow, you are supporting another military spouse in the process, she said.