Military spouses often find it difficult to pursue a career while they move across the country — or around the globe. Setting up a home business is one way to earn extra income and have a career that will move when you do. In the last few years, new technologies have made it easier for military spouses to work at home. If you're thinking of starting a home business, the following information can help.
Is a home business right for you?
A home business can be the perfect solution for a military spouse on the move. But starting a home business is hard work. A career assessment can help you determine if starting a home business is right for you. Career inventories and assessments are offered free through your installation's Family Employment Readiness Program or education office and through the Military OneSource Spouse Career Center at 1-800-342-9647.
As you consider home business opportunities, you'll want to ask yourself these questions:
- What are your goals? Think about what you want to get out of your home business. Home businesses can be time consuming, especially in the beginning. Writing down your goals will help you focus on what's important.
- What are your abilities and interests? Do you have a skill that can translate to a home business? Do you have experience that is marketable in a home business?
- Can you market yourself and your business? Whether you're selling products or providing a service, you'll need to market your business to potential customers.
- How much can you afford to invest? Most home businesses require at least some investment. Your start-up needs will vary depending on the type of business and may include a computer, a printer, a phone line, and high-speed Internet access. You'll also want to budget for advertising expenses and for equipment specific to your home business, such as age-appropriate toys for a child care business.
- Do you have a support system? Your decision to start a home business will affect your family members. Before you get started, you'll want to talk with them and explain what's involved. Having the support of your family will go a long way toward making your business a success.
Types of home businesses
The type of business you choose will depend largely on your skills and experience. Computer-based — or virtual — businesses are popular with military spouses because they can take the business with them easily when they move. But don't ignore a traditional business if your skills and experience are better suited to that type of work.
Virtual work. Computer-based businesses have become more common with faster Internet connections and better computer technologies. There are many virtual work opportunities available, including:
- administrative services, such as scheduling, data entry, and bookkeeping
- computer programming, database maintenance, or website design
- medical transcribing
- test grading
- writing, editing, or proofreading
- graphic design
- translation services
- call center services
If you're looking for virtual work through the Internet, beware of work-at-home scams. Be suspicious of anyone who asks for money up front — you shouldn't have to pay for work.
Traditional services. With traditional services, you probably won't be able to take your client base with you when you move to a new duty station. But if you can make your business successful in one location, you'll have the tools to make it successful again. These businesses can include:
- child care
- housecleaning, lawn care, or painting
- lessons, such as piano, dance, or a foreign language
Getting started with your home business
Starting a home business requires a significant amount of time and effort — often long before you see your first paycheck. As you set up your business, you'll need to understand the rules that regulate home businesses and create a plan to market your business to potential customers.
Policies and regulations for home businesses
Before you begin, you'll want to research the regulations that govern your home business:
- Licenses and permits. Depending on your business, you may need a license or permit. For example, if you're opening a catering business, you will need to check on local health regulations. A child care business may require a state license. Check with your local Small Business Administrative (SBA) office for information on local requirements.
- Taxes. As a business owner, you'll need to withhold taxes from your income. Your tax liability can include federal taxes, state taxes, self-employment taxes, and local or usage taxes. Your installation's financial counselor or your local SBA can provide more information on the tax requirements for your business.
- Zoning. Local zoning regulations may restrict signage and the number of visitors to your business. Your local SBA office can provide information on zoning ordinances in your area.
- Installation housing regulations. Policies that regulate home businesses in military housing vary from installation to installation. In overseas locations, a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) may affect the type of business you can operate. However, requests are usually approved as long as they don't jeopardize security in the housing area or compete with existing installation services.
- Types of business ownership. A majority of home-based business are operated as sole proprietorships. As a sole proprietor, you use your Social Security number for the business and assume all the liability. Some businesses are set up as corporations or Limited Liability Companies, often called "LLCs." These types of businesses can be more expensive to set up, but will limit your personal liability. For a detailed explanation of types of business ownership, visit the SBA's website and follow the links under "Starting & Managing a Business."