As a military spouse, the benefits of working from home are essentially limitless.
At the top of the list is the ability to make your own hours and move your business with every PCS order. Add in the opportunity to make as much money as you want, and it’s pretty much a no-brainer to get creative and open up shop.
But not so fast.
If you’ve never run a business before, there is some administrative work required. This is especially the case if you plan to run your business out of your home on a military base. You’ll also need to be aware of the do’s and don’ts of business life on base.
Below we cover how you can start a home business anywhere — including a military base — and some of the important things you’ll need to know to get started.
If running your own work from home business sounds appealing, read on.
Starting a Home Business Anywhere
Have you always dreamed of running your own business? If so, you’re not alone.
According to recent research, 99% of U.S. employers are small business owners. The benefits of having your own business as a military spouse mean you can move it with you wherever you go. When you move a lot, knowing you have job security can make the move less stressful.
Other benefits of having your own biz?
- No income cap
- Creative outlet
- Income supplement
- Schedule flexibility
- Can stay at home with kids
Once you decide what your skill sets, passions, and talents are, you can start officially building it. There are plenty of options for home-based businesses these days, so once you’ve decided what to do the next step is creating a simple business plan.
Some parts to include in a work-from-home business plan:
- Do market research
- Develop a solid product or service
- Know who you’ll sell to
- Calculate start-up costs
- Know how much you’ll charge
Search for federal, state, and local requirements for licenses or permits that you might need to apply for. The U.S. Small Business Administration website is a good place to start.
Military Entrepreneur Tip 101: Before you get too far into setting up your business, make sure it’s allowed on base. The military has additional rules and regulations you’ll need to follow.
Home Businesses on Base
Different branches and bases have their own rules on what is permitted for a work from home business. You’ll want to check with your base to find out if your business type is allowed. Your first phone call should be to the legal office. They’ll be able to clearly define local laws and regulations.
You’ll also have quite a bit of paperwork and appointments to make, too.
Here’s what to expect:
- Must gain permission – Generally, you can plan on having to send written notice and receive permission from the base commander to run a home business.
- Check with housing – Businesses run on-base housing should register with the housing office. In Hawaii, for example, you have to have a commercial solicitation permit to conduct business on base.
- Paperwork is required – Check with Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) for completing an application. You’ll need your sponsor’s information, a memo of authorization, and a memorandum from a community center. A letter of intent (with business goals outlined), business details (catalogs, handouts, etc.), consent to a background check, and proof of your business registration (if required).
- You’ll need to file additional paperwork if you’re overseas – You must follow Status of Forces Agreement or SOFA rules between the US and the foreign country the base is in. This includes paperwork that explains your business and operating procedures. Not doing so may be a violation of foreign law.
What You Can’t Do
Obviously the military is going to frown upon you trying to operate a mechanic shop out of your base garage. Most HOAs would, too. But if you’re making jewelry, selling online courses, coaching, etc. then your business is likely going to get approved.
As mentioned before, every single base is different. Some may allow personal training in your home while others don’t. Asking for clarification from your legal office on base is your best bet.
There are some set-in-stone rules, though:
- Your business can’t compete with the local exchange – Your local military exchange is for the benefit of the military community. Exchanges offer a variety of services like photo studios, salons, and retail stores. Those types of businesses may be refused for permitting to avoid competition.
- You won’t be able to market in your neighborhood – Most military installations maintain a strong no-solicitation rule. This includes signage, door-to-door selling, catalog distribution, etc.
- Watch where you ship from – Shipping from APO or FPO address for commercial purposes is prohibited.
- Don’t upset your neighbors – Businesses are not allowed at the expense of community safety or tranquility. Be respectful of your neighbors.
Aside from complying with military rules, make sure you’re also in line with the local and state regulations as well. You’ll want to assure compliance so you don’t get shut down. That’s why speaking with your command’s legal department is a good move before you make any large business investments.
What You Can Do
When your military life can be unpredictable, it’s nice to have predictability in how you run your own business. Sure, the economy may hit rough patches here and there, but that just gives you more license to be creative.
Some aspects you can control for your business:
- Set your own schedule – Work when you want. Your hours are yours to make.
- Work where you want – This is the best part of having your own business. You can take it with you when you move. Even day to day, depending on your service or product, you can work outside the home, too.
- Decide who you work with – It’s your business, so you can pick and choose your clients. If you grow quickly enough, you may also have the power to hire another military spouse to do bookkeeping, virtual assistant work, etc.
- Determine your income – You get to decide if you want this to be a side hustle or a full-time job. You can always start slow and build your way up. Or, you can go full-force into it. You get to decide how much you earn.
Work From Home Options
Before picking a business to start, consider what you’re passionate about and what skills you have. You won’t want to select a business that won’t hold your interest and fizzles out after six months. Brainstorm a list of what sounds appealing and financially stable for your situation.
A few ideas to get you started:
- Virtual assistant
- Childcare operator*
- Craft business
- Sewing and tailoring
- Cooking (cakes, catering or specialty foods)
- Teaching (i.e. art, music, dance, etc. lessons)
Note: Childcare settings have specific rules on most bases. You’ll probably have to become a certified family child care (FCC) provider and your pay rates will most likely be determined by the base. You may want to get additional certification to boost your credibility through the National Association of Family Child Care.
Start Your Work From Home Business Today
You don’t need a ton of resources to start a new home-based business. A solid business plan, a committed attitude, basic business knowledge, and some seed money are all you really need.
To keep yourself and your military spouse out of trouble, getting all your ducks in a row and checking guidelines is the most important step. Once you get past the red tape, it’s essentially smooth sailing and persistence that will keep your business afloat.
Need someone to light a fire under you to get started?
Check out the Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE). It’s not just for vets, but it is just for women. You can pick up business savvy skills to turn your idea or passion into a full-fledged business. Get access to the resource library and skilled entrepreneurs who started out with a dream just like you and made it happen.
Check out Meetup.com to connect with other military spouse entrepreneurs, too.
Best of luck on your new journey to being your own boss!
What kind of business would you like to start and why? Let us know in the comments below!
Feature image courtesy of Unsplash