Entrepreneurship & Self-Employment

Phase 2: Prioritizing Professional Options

You’ve decided to take your skills and expertise on a path to entrepreneurship or self-employment. Making this decision is half the battle, but your brain is immediately going to all of the details you need to have nailed down before you can pursue this career path. You want to develop a business model that is both profitable and portable, which includes identifying the benefits and gaps in your existing network so you have a client pipeline, as well as all of the start-up costs associated with your new business. 

Phase 2: Prioritizing Professional Options


Milestone 1: Choosing entrepreneurship or self-employment

As a military spouse, you need flexibility that allows you to balance work and family. Having that flexibility doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice fulfillment and earning potential. Entrepreneurship or self-employment can help you find the balance you seek while allowing you to move forward in your career. You can create the career you want with the work-life balance you need by assessing the requirements of business ownership and learning how these responsibilities fit into your military lifestyle. To assess whether entrepreneurship or self-employment are right for you, start by asking yourself a couple assessment questions:

  • Has your experience as a military spouse required you to seek flexibility with your current employer, and/or impacted your search for future employment? 
  • Do you want to find a portable job that matches your experience, skill or simply your interests?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, self-employment or entrepreneurship may provide the continuity and flexibility you desire in your career. In addition, the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program provides the Entrepreneur EDGE assessment that dives further into entrepreneurship and whether it’s a fit for you.

Key Findings

Our military spouse survey respondents mostly chose freelancing and independent contracting work, and largely for the added benefit of flexibility in work schedules. Parents were more likely to say that flexibility was closest to the main reason they started their own business (42% as compared to 24%* for non-parents).

We asked military spouses to choose among 4 possible reasons for starting their business. A plurality pointed to the need for more flexibility in their work schedule (37%); followed by 28% who say they had trouble finding a job suitable to their interests or skills, 17% who wanted to earn more money, and 13% who had an idea or product that they wanted to turn into a business.

Reasons for Starting Their Own Business
Had the need for more
flexibility in their work schedule
Had trouble finding a job
suitable to their interests or skills
Wanted to earn more moneyHad an idea or product that they
wanted to turn into a business
Military Spouses37281713

Expand All Steps

Evaluate entrepreneurship vs. self-employment

Entrepreneurship and self-employment are often used interchangeably, but it’s worth noting not all self-employed individuals are entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is associated with creating, organizing, and maintaining a business venture, such as creating and selling a product online or opening a storefront. A self-employed individual provides services on behalf of him or herself. Common examples of self-employment include freelancing, independent consulting, or 1099 employment.

Quote from Blonde Woman

I started my own business because at all of my other jobs, they couldn’t understand the lifestyle… I just needed to be able to help support my family but do it in a way that is consistent with how our life is set up and not feel bad about it.

2019 Military Spouse Survey Respondent
Person at a Military Spouse Event

When we moved here to Hawaii, it was either ‘I’m going to keep complaining about moving and having to start from the bottom…or take the route of becoming a licensed independent contractor. … You’ve got to have the drive. Now the next place we’re moving, I won’t have to worry about finding a job. I know it’ll be ok.

2019 Military Spouse Survey Respondent

Key Finding

Most military spouses who choose this journey are self-employed with no employees.

Types of Entrepreneurship and Self Employment
Freelancing, independent contracting, or 1099 work Small-business owner without employeesIndependent distributor or multi-level
marketing (e.g., Stella and Dot, LuLaRoe) 
Small-business owner with employeesNone of these
Military Spouses614528113

All done with this step?

Seek small business assistance

Are you ready to explore the resources available that can help you take the next steps toward entrepreneurship or self-employment? There are a variety of military or government, non-profit, and non-government resources and supports that can help you start, maintain, grow, or move your business. If you’re at this point, then you’re ready to do what you do best – jump in with both feet and find out what you need, to get you where you want to go!

Key Findings

The level of interest in private, public, and non-profit resources varied among potential, current, and previous business owners. Educational attainment and the service member’s length of service also impact which resources a spouse accesses.

Resources Illustration
Finding Resources Illustration
Entrepreneur Illustration

Entrepreneurial spouses are more likely to look toward non-governmental programs for support when compared to non-entrepreneurial spouses 

Those who have previously or currently own a business or are self-employed are more likely to rely on non-military government organizations (44% as compared to 34%)

As both years of service and educational attainment increase, spouses are more likely to rely on military or veteran non-profit organizations (e.g., Hiring Our Heroes)

All done with this step?

Locate mentors and peer support

You’re used to taking charge. Asking for help doesn’t always come easy for you. But a mentor who has experience as an entrepreneur – someone who started a business from the ground up and fostered its growth, or navigated the self-employment journey through independent contracting or freelancing – can offer sage advice and valuable insight. What’s more, a mentor has contacts you can leverage to grow your network. There are resources available to help you discover your perfect mentor match.

Key Finding

The 2019 Military Spouse Career Journeys study showed that military spouse entrepreneurs are more aware of others who have started businesses


58% of military spouses overall were
aware of others who had successfully
started their own business. 


Of those who started their own business,
awareness goes up to 68%.

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Next Milestone

Up Next: Milestone 2: Develop a business plan