“Side Hustle” Jobs for Military Spouses: Part 2, Finding a Match

By Carol Church

In our first installment, we went over the definition of a side hustle and their pros and cons. Today, we’ll review considerations military spouses will want to keep in mind when deciding how to make this situation work for them.

Here are some questions military spouses may want to ask themselves:

Photospin/Monkey Business Images

What are my needs?

Is the spouse looking for a position with extremely flexible hours, or can hours be more set? Do they need to make “good money,” or is a lower-paid job okay? Do they want a “passion project,” or just something to pay bills or build a nest egg?

What are my personal assets and liabilities?

Can they self start and motivate all on their own, or would it best to have someone else lead? Does the family have funds available upfront to start a business and purchase materials, or do they need something that is cost-free?

What skills do I have to offer?

It’s common to start out by thinking, “What can I do that’s similar to other jobs I’ve had?” But spouses should think outside of this particular box, brainstorming all their marketable skills and abilities. Regardless of whether you’ve earned money at it (so far), think about everything you know you’re good at or that people have told you you’re good at.

Photospin/Mykola Lunov

Do’s and Don’ts for Success

After coming up with a plan or business model, military spouses will still have a lot of work to do and some important caveats to keep in mind. Here are some do’s and don’ts for side hustles.

Do research taxes and legalities.

Although some side jobs will be typical as far as taxes (that is, the employer withholds), others will be a very different matter. Those who are self employed will need to pay taxes to cover Social Security and Medicare. Typically, they will also need to pay estimated taxes ahead of time. However, they will benefit from deductions related to the cost of running a business.

Don’t forget also that spouses who live in military housing may have restrictions as far what they can run or operate from home. If working overseas, many other laws may apply.

Do remember to market

Never assume that “if you build it, they will come.” Those in business for themselves need to market themselves. At times, it may be wise to pay someone to help with this.

Don’t fall for a scam

“Earn 15,000 per month at home in your pajamas! No experience necessary!” Sound familiar? There are many scams out there targeting those who want to work from a home or start a business. Here are some potential warning signs of a scam that you may wish to pass along:

  • Requires a deposit for training, access to information, “processing”, etc.: This is something to be wary of.
  • Markets itself as something “anyone can do” with “no experience” yet there is “mass earning potential”: If it’s so easy and lucrative, why isn’t everyone doing it?
  • Has poor reviews online: Research companies first at the Better Business Bureau. What do others say?
  • Sounds too good to be true: It probably is.

Do take advantage of social networks

Contacts and social networks are hugely important resources. Work seekers may discover that someone else they know is running the same type of business, or has wisdom to offer on the idea they’re considering. Those who are new to the area or who feel their social circle is small should consider attending Meetups, volunteering, or joining a professional or military network.

Don’t expect instant success

A self-owned business typically takes some time to take off. They may need to be patient for a while before seeing results. If this is not financially sustainable, they should seek a different opportunity.

But: Do know when to move on

It’s easy for many to charge too little for services or to put in extra hours that are uncompensated. Of course, for most, there may be a startup period with low profits. But after a few months, it’s important that they be honest about earnings per hour. Is it sustainable?

Do consider dedicating earnings to a specific goal

What’s the financial goal of this venture? Are they looking to pay off debt, save for a house or car, or put more into retirement or college funds? Rather than sending earnings into the general pot, consider directing them to a specific account. This can really help workers to stay motivated, and prevent them from simply raising their standard of living because of the “extra money.”

Don’t forget about retirement

Unlike many “regular” jobs, most side hustles are not going to do this for you, so they’ll need to keep this in mind and set aside some of the funds.

In our next installment, we’ll offer a list of side hustle ideas and their pros and cons.

“Side Hustle” Jobs for Military Spouses: Part 1

By Carol Church

It can be tough for military spouses to maintain an active and productive career. As inventive, determined, and hard-working as these wives and husbands are, they face some roadblocks, including:

  • Wary employers. Though it shouldn’t be a factor, some people shy away from hiring someone they perceive as a “short-timer.”
  • Isolated locations. Sometimes spouses may be living in “the middle of nowhere,” with few good opportunities within commuting range.
  • Additional family and child care responsibilities. When a spouse is deployed, every home, pet, or parenting emergency tends to land on the spouse at home. Jobs with long or strict hours may not work.
  • Variable job markets, licensing requirements, or work landscapes. After a move, it may be the case that old skills don’t apply, can’t be transferred, or require more training, testing, or investment.
  • Emotional stress from deployment. If the spouse’s job is mentally, physically, or emotionally demanding, combining this with deployment stress may just feel like too much.

Taken together, these challenges can be enough to make it hard or even impossible to find a full-time, salaried position. It’s also true that many military spouses don’t want to work full-time, particularly when raising children.

However, there may still be a need and desire to make some money, get out of the house, or experience the other benefits working can bring. This is where the creative “side hustle” can shine.

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What is a Side Hustle?

While there are a lot of ways to define this and many possible opportunities, we’re thinking of a side hustle as a job or money-making venture that is not your typical long-term, daily, paid position. For some, it may be an additional money-maker on top of other work; for others, it will be their only job. Side jobs could include starting an independent business, offering services or goods through an established marketplace (such as Etsy or DogVacay, among many others), short-term part-time gigs (such as assisting with catering at events), selling items, and many other possibilities.

Why Try It?

The right side hustle can help a military spouse bring in extra money while also working well with the military lifestyle. This type of work is often:

  • Flexible. They may be able to set their own hours, work only when desired, or work unconventional hours.
  • Location independent. Depending on the type of work, they may be able to bring the job with them anywhere.
  • Rewarding. Many who start a side hustle choose something they feel especially excited about or interested in. Though not every project will be a success, the side hustle can be a great way to do what you love
  • Self expanding. A good side hustle can diversify a resume and build new skills.

Why It May Not be the Right Choice

However, “side hustling” isn’t for everyone, and starting a business, especially, is not as simple as some would like you to think. Here are some cons military spouses should keep in mind:

  • No benefits or retirement pay: Very few of these positions will provide medical benefits, paid time off, or retirement. While the military offers many benefits, the loss of these perks is still significant.
  • Risk: Business involves risk, and often, upfront capital as well. If the venture fails, they may be out money.
  • Overwork and underpay: It can be very easy to undervalue one’s time, especially when personally invested in a project and working for oneself. And burnout is real.
  • Variable income: As any freelancer can tell you, working for yourself is often a “feast or famine” situation. Some families need a reliable check every two weeks.
  • Difficult clients or customers: When you work for yourself (and sometimes even if you don’t), you may encounter strange, demanding, or difficult clients or customers. Some of them may give you poor reviews or refuse to pay you.

In our next installment, we’ll go over finding the right side job, and do’s and don’ts for success.