Self-Employment for Veterans
Self-employment has long been an option for people unable to find an employed position in the mainstream job market. During difficult economic times, the number of self-employed people often increases, as people try and carve a little economic niche for themselves, rather than relying on the wider labor market to help them out. Self-employment can be great for those who want to be able to control their own working hours and to work in an area which is personally important to them. Successful self-employment requires motivation, determination and self-reliance: all qualities developed by military training. For disabled veterans, self-employment can be a great way of finding a career that is adapted to their needs, and can help them raise the cash to support their ongoing needs (such as care home insurance).
The unemployment rate in the US is finally starting to fall, and the economy is starting to show general signs of recovery. However, as we reported on January 12th, the unemployment rate for veterans not only remains higher than that for the population in general, but it has risen over the last year, rather than falling as it has for non-veterans. Self-employment could provide many veterans with a solution to the problem of unemployment. It could also provide veterans who are employed but not being paid what they are worth or who are only working part-time a way to find better-rewarded, more fulfilling work.
Self-employment is not without its risks, of course. But for those who are able to succeed, it can be the route towards an adaptable career with excellent prospects. Many people spend their lives sitting at their desks, staring out of the window instead of getting on with whatever routine task their boss has given to them, and dreaming of being their own boss. Sometimes, adversity presents an opportunity, and that may well be the case for many veterans who are struggling to find work. As well as having the right kind of ‘soft’ skills, as mentioned above, many veterans have the kind of hard skills that can form the basis for self-employment. Skills in engineering and communications, for example, could be highly valuable.
In order to be successful in self-employment, people need support (whether they are veterans or not, and whether they are disabled or able-bodied). The Veteranscorp offers considerable support to veteran entrepreneurs by helping them collaborate with each other and with others. Veteranscorp was established by federal government at the end of the 1990s as the National Veterans Business Development Corporation but had its federal funding withdrawn three years ago. The current organization is a reconstitution that relies on volunteers to provide support for its programs. If you are a veteran thinking of starting a business, they make a good first port of call. They can offer mentorship, information and collaboration programs to help veteran-owned businesses help each other. On a local level, it’s worth looking out for small charities and other organizations who might be able to provide some practical, on-the-ground help while you get your business off the ground.
Bridging the gap
One major problem faced by those wanting to set up a business is how they can survive financially while they get set up. If you’re currently receiving welfare benefits, then you need to speak to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration to see how starting a business might affect those benefits. Initially, you might not be making enough to live on, so if you lose your benefits, how will you survive? You may well be able to get a grant or loan from a government or charity organization which will help you through that initial period.
Then If you’re attracted by the idea of self-employment, but can’t think what you would do, then look first to your interests. We all work best when we are engaged and interested in what we’re doing. You need to find something that you can do that other people will want. It’s both that simple and that complicated. Talk to other veterans and to local business organizations to see what kind of businesses others have been successful with. Your business doesn’t need to be physical: many trade solely online, never needing a premises. The important thing is to find a happy medium between something you love, and something that will make you money. Find the right thing, and the sky’s your limit.