Welcome back! To reward you for your return I have an interview with a lovely and very successful military spouse for you. I'm delighted to get the podcast off to such a good start and hope that you will send some feedback when you've had a chance to listen. Without further ado we will get right down to it...
Chloe married into the RAF shortly after she started her business, Clo's Line. She previously worked for a surface pattern design studio but had always had in the back of her mind that she may one day work for herself, and becoming engaged to a military man may have been just the catalyst required. She started out designing patterns and printing them on to wrapping paper and suchlike but has recently moved on to more freelance commissions and bespoke artwork. She works from home, from a studio, with only occasional meetings outwith the home or the reach of the internet!
Chloe reports, as many people who work from home do, that there is no real 'typical day' for her. Her days depend on her projects, sometimes she is free to produce designs for an agency she does some work for, sometimes she will have a specific project that she has been commissioned to complete. Being that she is not a morning person she tends to use the mornings to respond to emails, schedules an all important lunch break, then uses the afternoons for her maximum creativity. It is not unusual for Chloe to still be working into the wee small hours; such is the flexibility afforded to you when you are your own boss.
I asked Chloe what she felt was the biggest challenge to running your own business as part of a military family and her response was no surprise: the potential for isolation. It is not an office environment, there is no one there to bounce ideas off. You must make a point, as alluded to above, of taking time out for lunch or just a quick walk that allows you to see other people for an hour. She also noted that the potential for distraction at home can be great so it is important to stay motivated at all times. The flipside of this though is a very important and imperative message - that working from home can be a distraction in itself. It can distract from the loneliness and isolation of an empty home when your partner is deployed.
Flexibility is the biggest advantage of running your own business as a military spouse. When last minute leave comes up you can jiggle things around and give yourself that time off, too. Being your own boss also allows you to pick and choose the work that you want to do and to decide when the workload is heavy enough. You can be honest with yourself and others about where your strengths lie and not have to burn yourself out on projects that don't really suit your skill set. It also means that you save yourself the hassle and stress of having to seek new employment with every posting.
A lesson can be learned for most of us when Chloe recalls what she wished she had known from the start: that help is out there if you do your research and look for it. Grants may be available from various sources, such as The Prince's Trust in this example, and local facilities often run cheap or free courses on generic things like bookkeeping or even writing business plans to get much needed funding. Keep abreast of these things, the benefits are potentially endless.
What about when the removals arrive for the inevitable trek: what can Chloe just not entrust to them? Her computer, it must remain by her side at all times. She also needs her back catalogue on her hard disks and her sketch pads. A good piece of advice is to pack your own studio/office/workspace as you know where everything is and it will save you time and make transitioning easier at the other side.
Chloe also has some wise and pertinent parting words for all - just go for it, you could be waiting forever for the 'right time' in the military context. But choose something you love, it'll be your escape.
Where to find Chloe: Chloe's recommended resources: