As far as I can tell, there are two ways to view employment as a military spouse:
- The constant moving of military life is keeping me from doing what I want to do.
- Military life is giving me connections, opportunities and interests I might never have realized without it.
You don’t have to be one-sided in the debate. I, myself, have argued both sides just over my first cup of coffee this morning. So, it’s safe to assume that you’ll — at some point — roll your eyes each time you have to start your next job search (again), but also say a silent “thank you” for a fresh start once or twice.
One way to escape the routine job hunt hanging over each move is to become your own boss. It sounds pretty tempting in a mandatory Pajama Tuesday sort of way, but it also sounds a little intimidating in an every other thing sort of way. It can be done — but how? One of my personal favorite ways to learn something military spouse-related is to hear it straight from a spouse who has been there, done that.
She is a military spouse and a talented, self-employed photographer with roots in the military community. Her business started back in 2010 when her friend’s husband was returning from a deployment in Iraq. Her friend wanted pictures of the homecoming, but shied away from hiring a photographer. So, she asked Brittany. Brittany agreed, and then she posted the pictures on Facebook. The homecoming pictures were a hit, to say the least, because many more requests followed, and — to quote Brittany — “Before long, I needed a business license.”
Sounds easy enough, right? I imagine it was for her. I’ve seen her in action, and I’ve seen her photos — she has a natural talent for photography, and she’s easy to work with (both important components of a photography business I would think). She found a way to channel her talent into a business: “I enjoy expressing my creativity through photography. I feel like I can let my mind wander and my imagination run wild with no limits.”
It’s hard to learn that kind of passion, but learning the business of being in business can be taught. And if you’re interested in learning more about that, Spouse Education and Career Opportunities can help you. Once you’ve finished reading this blog post and you’re inspired to take the leap to entrepreneurship, hop over to the SECO page for more entrepreneur info.
Brittany’s biggest challenge in the beginning was figuring out how to legally set up a business (acquiring a business license, taxes, etc.). Maybe you can relate. She says that her struggles have evolved a bit these days: “It’s been really hard having a successful business when we have to move every two to three years. Every time I move, I lose my network. It can take months for me to rebuild my business.”
Frustrating? Sure, but not any more so than reapplying for jobs every couple of years. Brittany says that creativity is the key to rebuilding her business at each new duty station, “I’ve learned that being normal will not help you, and thinking outside the box will.”
She’s currently making a name for herself after her latest move by leading a mommy and me playdate photography group. She’s sharing her gift of photography by teaching moms with “fancy cameras” how to use those fancy cameras to photograph their adorable kids. She teaches this class — drumroll — for free, and while that might not sound very profitable in the short run, she’s networking, which is a clever move for a long-running business, especially in the military community where everyone is connected through a friend of a friend somewhere. The photography group has generated a lot of buzz around the neighborhood, and it’s good for business when people know your name.
Am I qualified to be an entrepreneur? I feel like that question probably comes up a lot (and not just in my own head). Surely Brittany has a degree in photography, design, art or something in that ballpark. Nope, she has a degree in exercise science, and although she says constantly, “If I could go back, I would get a degree in graphic design because that’s a skill I could take anywhere…and it works really well with photography,” formal training didn’t hold her back. She trained herself using the tools accessible to her, and she just went for it.
Just for fun, I asked Brittany where she saw her business in five years. You can imagine that any military spouse would respond with a deep breath and a good laugh because we have no idea. She confirmed, “My business is continuously impacted by the career choices of my husband. So, in five years, I will literally have to see where in the world I am.”
And that could seriously be anywhere, right?
Take Brittany’s final words of encouragement (please read this in her upbeat, southern accent): “Try to always be different. It’s OK to make mistakes, and it’s completely normal to feel frustrated. No one ever said owning a business would be easy, but in the end, it’s totally worth it.”
Decide if it’s worth it to you; then, if it is, be like Brittany. Use the tools at your fingertips, whether it be instructional Internet videos or SECO webinars. Turn your passion into a profitable business that will follow you wherever the military sends you
Disclaimer: Publication on the Blog Brigade does not constitute official endorsement of personal blogs or websites on behalf of the Department of Defense.