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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.

Photospin/Monkey Business Images

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.