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Transitioning portable careers for global military families

Mention virtual business or portable careers in the military community and typically you think of the military spouse, veteran, or military retiree jump-starting their own business - - keeping in touch with clients, colleagues or a combination of both. How? Electronically of course.

The evolvement of home office technology presents a wealth of opportunity for the military spouse to develop businesses that can be operated from virtually anywhere. Examples of the types of businesses that could fall under the virtual or portable realm could include the following:

- Technical or business writing
- Editor
- Proofreader
- Web Developer
- Secretarial Support
- Travel Agent
- Translator
- Interpreter
- Graphic Illustrator
- Freelance Writer
- Researcher
- Technical Support Agent
- Consultant

Deciding which business is right for you could seem a little challenging at first, however, a wonderful exercise to help get you started is called the self-awareness and skills evaluation. In this exercise youíll ask yourself a series of questions. Note: itís important to be honest with yourself.

1. Are you a self-starter?
2. Do you enjoy working independently or as part of a team?
3. Are you trust-worthy and honest?
4. Are you comfortable communicating by email and telephone?
5. Have you always dreamed of starting your own business?
6. What are you passionate about?
7. Do you enjoy serving others?
8. What software proficiencies do you possess?
9. Can you set goals and follow them through to completion?
10. Are you comfortable with rejection?

If you answered, Yes to the majority of the questions chances are youíve got the skills, attitude, and motivation of a business owner.
Starting a business in general, regardless of the type requires much planning, research, patience, and preparation. Working for yourself means making decisions on everything. An example:

- Equipment purchases hardware to run your virtual business efficiently
- Software purchases required to serve clients and run your business efficiently
- Business structure setup - (sole-proprietor, corporation or LLC)
- Hours of operation establishing the hours which youíll work
- Loans preparing loan packets (if youíll require startup capital)

Do you plan to operate your virtual business from government quarters? If so, youíll need to contact your base housing office for authorization to operate a business from government quarters. Note: regulations on operating a business from government quarters varies base to base, be sure to verify with your local housing office first.

Working for yourself doesnít mean youíre all alone, there are organizations that can provide assistance and support in the startup phases and during expansion:

Small Business Administrationwww.sba.gov

Service Corps of Retired Executiveswww.score.org

Small Business Development Centerwww.sba.gov/sbdc/

SBA Womenís Business Ownershipwww.sba.gov/womeninbusiness

Weíve covered the preliminaries of setting up your business now letís focus on the virtual aspect. Developing a presence on the Internet will be a key factor in the launch of your virtual business this can be done by conducting a domain name search and purchase.

Maintaining your site by keeping the content up-to-date will be just as important. An Internet presence allows clients and prospective clients access to information about your virtual business 24 hours a day.

Building sustainable relationships with your clients will be critical to the longevity and success of your virtual business. Regardless of where your military transfers take you, youíll always be connected to your clients and industry colleagues through use of the Internet, email, instant messenger and telephone (cell phone).

For VBO program participation and eligibility visit: http://www.vsscyberoffice.com/vbo.

About the Author

Victoria Parham is president and chief technology officer for VSSCyberOffice.com, a forerunner in the virtual support services industry, an advocate of portable careers for trailing spouses and family members. Its web-based Virtual Business Owners Training Program(tm), the first Virtual Careers program for Department of Defense ID Cardholders, is available and accessible at military bases around the world.

Victoria Parham