Best Military Spouse Jobs and Active Duty Military Side Hustles Around the Globe (2021 Entrepreneurship Guide)
(USFJ on- and off-base, work at home, and SOFA)
They say military spouse jobs are hard to come by. That military families have a hard time making ends meet. That you have to work for Uber, deliver food, or babysit and fill out surveys online just to make a living. Hooey. Making ends meet IS hard when you’re a military family, but you have the community and hustle that will help you get past those obstacles. Yes, there are rules, and obvious obstacles. But, there are tremendous advantages you possess as a military spouse or active duty member when it comes to making a living beyond your government pay. To begin with, you have that incredible network of military families a lot like you who share similar interests and obstacles. By tapping into that network, honing skills you already have, and developing new ones, you can carve out a living beyond what you’ve ever thought possible. Other military families do it every day. This year, you will join them. And, by the end of 2021, if not a few months into it, you’ll be ready to teach them how to do the same thing. Ready? Let’s go.
A quick note. I live in Japan, and have written this guide this beautiful country in mind. However, everything that follows applies to milfams recardless of their location. But, if you’re an active duty service member, military spouse, or dependent of active-duty personnel here in Japan you’ll find some of my tips even more tailored to your presence here in the land of the rising sun. Are you solely contracting with the government under SOFA? The same is true. So, whether you’re looking for a military spouse job you can do from the comfort of your own living room or home office, or you’re looking for a job on base, I hope this resource helps. Please reach out with any questions you may have my shooting me an email using the form at the bottom of this page. Thanks!
The Nuts and Bolts of USFJ work rules and opportunities
Supporting a military family doesn’t have to be a difficult process. And, earning extra money beyond your government salary doesn’t mean you have to babysit, or work for Uber Eats. You need good information, a system, and a plan. All the things you’re already used to working with, right? Let’s go.
The Right Tools for the Job
Professionals use the best tools to help them succeed. Learn about a few that can help fuel the growth of your side hustle, job, or business.
Fail to Plan. Plan to Fail.
Learning how to earn extra money requires a plan. No worries, though… it’s all here. Finally, “Put Your Side Hustle on Autopilot.”™
Navigate the Article!
- Rewarding Jobs for Military Families
- Seventeen Military Spouse Jobs for 2021
- 1. Blogging and Afilliate Marketing
- 2. Got Knowledge? Create a Course
- 3. Host a Podcast
- 4. Sell Private Label Products
- 5. Start a Dropshipping Business
- 6. Help Others Relocate
- 7. Learn to Code. And, Not Just Apps.
- 8. Translate Games and Manga!
- 9. Create a Membership Site
- 10. Photography, Video & Drones
- 11. Part-Time Recruiter
- 12. Do Web Design, BUT (!) Differently
- 13. Scale an Online Craft Business
- 14. Create a Private Slack Group
- 15. Real Estate Investing & Repair
- 16. Nutrition Counselor / Personal Trainer
- 17. YouTuber or Social Media Creator
Rewarding Jobs for Military Families
(17 Money Making Ideas You Can Start This Week With Permission from Your Provost)
Howdy, all, I'm Doc. I live in the beautiful port city of Kobe, JAPAN. I launched this site to help others interested in working with, or starting, a business in Japan.
We all wear different hats, my job is to help you find the one that fits you best. Thanks for reading, and go get 'em!
How to Work in Japan as a Military Spouse, Dependent, or if you have been granted SOFA status.
Last updated: January 10, 2021 (JST)
If you’re among the roughly 54,000 military personnel, 42,000 dependents, and 8,000 DoD civilian employees living in Japan, this article is for you. My aim is to help you get past the confusing details surrounding working here in Japan, and help inform you as to REAL ways to make extra money that adds to your bottom line. You won’t read about driving an Uber, delivering pizza, or babysitting on this site. I’m here to help you make money that actually supplements your income and life needs instead of padding your time with money sucking adventures.
So, whether it’s on the mainland in and around the Air Force installations of Yokota and Misawa, Camp Zama’s Army base; the Marine Corps’ Iwakuni; or Yokosuka, Atsugi, and Sasebo, representing the Navy I’m here to help. Of course, if you’re stationed, or living in Okinawa, this is post is for you as well!
My mission at Nihon Hustle is to provide information and encouragement for budding and already successful solopreneurs who want to contribute meaningfully to their family and their community here in Japan. If you already consider yourself a business builder, or want to get on course to charting your own business in Japan in 2021, I want to help you get there. And, by working together, we all win.
Howdy, I’m Doc Kane.
I’m a writer and English teacher in Kobe, Japan, and the co-founder of Maplopo—a Japanese literature translation company. I’m also an historian and was fortunate to have conducted the archival film and sound recording research for the History Channel’s Emmy-nominated six-part “Vietnam in HD” series. I’m from a family of veterans, even though I myself have never served. My uncle was a Huey pilot in Vietnam, and my Grandfather a Pacific Forces Navy Captain with the SeaBees in WWII. My father, a reservist. I’ve got several cousins who were in the Marines, and a slew of friends who fought in Desert Storm 1 and 2.
Why tell you this? Well, because I think it’s important to know I have a vested interest in helping support veterans. Many of my friends and relatives remain to me the embodiment of hustle, and I have learned much from them. I love systems. And, clarity of message. I pay the utmost attention to looking out for those close to me, and am always eager to correct my processes and viewpoints when they’re askew.
As you read through this guide, may feel this resource is inadequate to a degree. Well, if you’re reading it near the tail end of December 2020, it probably is in need of some sprucing up. And, it may be slightly inadequate for a period of time as it grows into maturity. But, with my continued research and your help it will get better and better like a damn good loaf of sourdough, or bottle of whiskey.
So, please feel free to reach out and re-orient me. I always appreciate any and all advice. With input from current active duty service men and women in Japan, former residents of this beautiful country, and the families and friends who support you, this guide will hopefully serve as a living document so everyone benefits.
In this guide for military families, I’m going to share a number of things that have helped me add additional income to my pockets over the years, and some that are beginning to change my life in 2020. We’ll talk about affiliate marketing, how to start a blog in Japan, copywriting, ecommerce, on- and off-base work opportunities, entrepreneurship, consulting, and a host of other things that will help you fuel financial stability for your military family in ways that does not have you trading time for money.
Okay, ready? Let’s go!
Disclaimer: This is a business blog focused on helping you create an income for yourself. And, because I try to do the same for my family, I team up other companies that can help us get our businesses off the ground. So, you’ll note that in the interest of business, we’re proud to be affiliates for many of companies we reference on these pages. If you happen to use any of these firms as we do, we both benefit. Me in the form of a commission from them that costs you nothing, and you in the form of a wonderful tool that helps drive your business. Then, once you fall in love as I have, you should do the same and partner-up. It’s the way business works. Have fun, and only invest in these tools when you’re financially ready to do so.
Can I Work in Japan with SOFA Status?
Yes. There is good advice on this online, but even better advice you can get from your superiors here in Japan. If you find the person you ask does not know, or says that you can’t because of Japanese law (or SOFA regulations) please speak with someone else. If they say you can’t because THEY won’t allow it, that’s a different story. But there are absolutely legitimate work opportunities for you in Japan, and online you can pursue with the right permission, and legal paperwork cleared. Go get ’em.
Are there off-base military spouse jobs I could apply for?
Absolutely. But (!) SOFA, right? I know. Have your active-duty military spouse do some legwork for you. There are more military spouse job opportunities possibilities than you may realize. Jobs on and off base exist for spouses, and there is a wealth of opportunity for spouses to start their own business working from home. In fact, given the amount of travel military families end up doing throughout their lifetime, work from home jobs for military spouses, can deliver the best of both worlds. Stability, and freedom. Not a bad deal, right?
There are also a bounty of military spouse groups that can advise you intelligently. “Soldier’s Wife, Crazy Life,” has a good guide to military spouse Facebook groups that might interest you, but, in general, if you’re serious about creating serious income for yourself and your family, I’d advise you to stay away from open online forums that go on and on about nothingness, and seek advice directly from those who can help you. If you’re going to be stationed in Japan, and you haven’t yet moved here, Ciara Skiles’ “Welcome to Yokosuka: A Practical Guide On How to PCS to Yokosuka Japan” is a wonderful guide should you be preparing for a PCS move to Yokosuka. There are many rewards for you off base (and at home!) when it comes to working in Japan. Ask and you shall receive, my friend.
Can I work off duty as an active duty military member in Japan?
Short story? Yes. More to come on this, but the best advice is to ask your superiors. There is all sorts of paper work for this, but it is NOT that difficult based on everything I have read, and everyone I’ve spoken with to date. So, go get ’em.
To whet your appetite a bit, here are a few military side hustles for you to consider from Coast Guardsman, Julian Sage Miyata. His YouTube Channel is great!
Many more money making side hustle to consider in the post below! Okay, let’s turn things over to Julian for a few minutes…
Can I work from home, or start a business as USFJ military personnel, a dependent, or DoD civilian employee?
Again, there is a much more detailed answer to come on this in 2021, but suffice it to say, the answer is yes. Seek permission from your superiors and see what they say. Depending on your branch of service, and contracting organization, the rules and paperwork will be different.
What paperwork do I need to work in Japan off-duty, or off-base if I’m a military spouse or on SOFA status?
All the paperwork you need differs depending on your branch of service, your status as a spouse, or DoD worker, and whether you’re subject to SOFA status rules. So, the best course of action is to not spend too much time looking online, but to request an appointment with the legal folks within your organization or branch of the military. They want to help you, so just drop in and let them know what you’re thinking. Okay? Ready? Let’s get to those military side hustles.
Seventeen Military Spouse Jobs for 2021
1. Blogging and Afilliate Marketing
(If you can write, research, and are a little tech savvy, the income you can earn as affiliate is meaningful, and a constantly growing industry. It’s also 100% remote.)
Affiliate marketing is the secret driver of our consumer economy. As an industry, it’s current market spend comes in at a hefty 6.8 billion dollars a year, and is forecasted to grow upwards of about 10.1% a year through at least 2022. (Source: Statista)
Companies deep within the Fortune 50, and to every little mom and pop imaginable use some sort of affiliate marketing to drive referrals and business to their operations. Rakuten, one of Japan’s largest, and most respected firms, was once again named in 2020 the #1, Best Affiliate Network in the World, by mThink, affiliate marketing’s leading research authority body.
So, what IS affiliate marketing?
Well, if you’ve ever purchased a book on Amazon after first clicking a link on someone’s blog or website, the person who posted that link on their website likely earned a small commission from Amazon as a result of that sale. Have you ever used a coupon code on the internet to purchase something? Been sent a referral code from a friend or family member to test out a new service? Each of these scenarios are examples of affiliate marketing at work. How about personal business referrals? Many business will credit you with loyalty points for such referrals… again… that’s essentially affiliate marketing.
In the B2B world, we call this type of arrangement channel marketing. Channel partnerships are one of the most successful and profitable type of partnership a company can arrange because in doing so, every partner a company recruits becomes an extension of the original sales team—helping to spread the message of the company, no matter how small at it’s base, to a wider audience. And, often to an already eager, and “warm,” customer base—that of the channel partner.
Prior to living in Japan, I was the marketing communications director for a Chicago SaaS startup in the medical space called RevenueWell.
When I joined the firm we had a handful of people working with us in the U.S. (maybe 10 at best) and a small team of software developers in Russia and Ukraine. Yet, within just three years or so, we were busting at the seams, building out new office space and hiring to the tune of about 100 employees. We were named one of Chicago’s Best Places to Work, and grew monthly revenue and profit at an impressive scale.
Much of that growth was because we sold an amazing product with the help of a much larger affiliated salesforce of our own through channel partnerships that included dental consultants, dental product distributors, and a other dentistry professionals and networks. It became an amazing machine that helped place thousands of dentists across the country on the fast track to better marketing, healthier practices, and patients that were more educated, and more in charge of their own health.
All of that was possible because we leveraged partner marketing. It works, and it’s worked forever.
This is the mindset I want you to embrace when you’re thinking about getting involved with affiliate marketing. It is a legitimate line of business you can pursue to earn money for yourself and your military family while contributing to the greater economy AND learning important sales and marketing skills that will benefit you throughout your life. So, let me help you dig in a bit more to learn how to get started in affiliate marketing in 2021. Ready? let’s do it.
- Rakuten Marketing’s Quick Start Guide: “How to Get Your Affiliate Marketing Program Going Fast”
A great place to start with Affiliate Marketing once you've got a website up and running is ShareASale. A number of the products I use in my business (like Animoto for video creation) are ShareASale partners. You can sign up for free, and then when people purchase from links on your website, you'll get a commission for referring business to them. Good luck!
2. Got Knowledge? Create a Course
(Whether you call it a masterclass, a bootcamp, or whatever else suits your fancy, the number of online teaching platforms available today makes NOW, the best time ever to sell your experience online.)
Have you ever found yourself at the center of a question storm related to certain successes you’ve had in life? Maybe your engineering experience in the military has contributed to you being an amazing mechanic, or perhaps you’re a master of the grill… or, a superb baker? Perhaps you’re the most fit mom or dad on base, or you’ve already got a side hustle that’s humming along despite your seemingly 24/7 obligations to Uncle Sam and family.
If people are continually asking you how it is that you do that thing you do, you can absolutely monetize that experience by creating a course, bootcamp or masterclass. Such classes can be written creations, audio only, and of course, video. It’s really up to you and your level of comfort with each platform. There are a host of ways to get your classes together though, and trust me, they’re not as intimidating as they appear to be at first glance. The trickiest thing is to first decide upon that one thing people ask you about, and go from there. Your niche, if you will. And, while “go from there” seems relatively straightforward…it’s hardly that, right? Creating a course—even deciding upon what that “one thing” is that people ask of you, can be torturous… if you’re anything like me and have more than one interest, you’ll understand precisely what I mean. But, deliberating is a good thing, and you can do it. And, you will be glad you did so.
Case in point: Navy vet, Austen Alexander.
Do you know of him? I just discovered him myself, this year (2020). But, at least 366,000 other people know exactly who he is at the time of this writing. Neat, right? And that’s not even the best thing about this story.
Check out this military side hustle video and see what his modest goal was for his YouTube channel on September 11, 2018. He states his goal in the first minute or so. How’d he do? Check it out.
Not bad, eh? Thinking about what people look to you for can yield exactly those sorts of results. That said, it becomes infinitely more likely with a plan and a system to follow. Over the years, I’ve spent far too much money on trying to figure out this sort of thing, and so at this point in 2020, I can recommend three hard-fought wins.
But, if I could only recommend one person, it would be Regina Anaejionu. Regina is amazing, insightful, honest, and packed with more business ideas than you can shake a stick at. I’ve proudly spent a lot of money on her programs. Programs from Marie Forleo and Amy Porterfield are superb as well, but a bit more costly.
If I were you and had a few hundred dollars to spend (note: I’m not suggesting you spend money, per se) and ready now to release a ton of hustle, I’d spend it with Regina. I’ve spent thousands with her so far. As I have with Marie. Either way, check out their offerings, and when you’re ready to create a course, consider if signing up might be right for you. Don’t spend the moeny unless you’ve got the flexibility to do so. PLEASE. Okay!
So, more on each of them, below. I’m not an affiliate for any of these wonderful teachers (even though I’d love to be some day!).
Not sure what courses are about?
Well, Courses are BIG business. And these days, because were looking to learn more and more from people like us, online teaching platforms have popped up all over the place to cater to that need. There’s no reason why you couldn’t get in on the action. I’ll share some of the big marketplaces for marketing and purchasing courses below as well.
If you’re trying to figure out what to teach, or how teaching an online course can set you up to earn extra money here in Japan or elsewhere, there are so many things you can learn on course platforms like Teachable, Thinkific, Kajabi, Udemy and Coursera (FREE!), your head will spin. Once you feel up to muster [don’t spend too much time or money on this step (if any!)], then, turn that knowledge it into a military family side hustle you can brag about on your next vacation. 😉
There is real money to be made in this sector. Have fun. This single effort alone could change your life, and you can literally get started in a weekend.
- Regina Anaejionu and Allie Smith’s “Beta and Beyond” The most FANTASTIC course creator team on the planet.
- Marie Forleo’s “B-School.” Marie is buddies with Oprah. Yes, that Oprah.
- Amy Porterfield’s, “Learn With Amy.” I purchased Amy’s Facebook Profit Lab years ago—wonderfully informative.
Create and sell your online courses with Teachable. Their training is top notch, and their user experience is just as solid. I’ve purchased numerou s programs that leverage Teachable, and loved the experience. In 2021, I’ll be building my own courses there as well.
3. Host a Podcast
(Earn extra money from potential sponsors, or via connections made through your podcast guests. Consulting opportunities abound with a podcast.)
If you’re a serviceman or servicewoman here in Japan, considering podcasting, you’re in for a real treat. Compared to just a few years ago, the ease of entry has seriously slackened, multiple channels for podcast hosting have popped up, and the marketplace for podcasting in general, is finally at a place where you no longer have to convince people they should check out a podcast or inform them as to where the podcasts app is on their smart phone device.
Comedian, Marc Maron had a lot to do with the poularization of the channel, as did Jocko and Joe Rogan. You may also be familiar with folks running podcasts in your own own world: military moms and dads, and vets of all stripes. I’ll list a few you may wish to check out if you’re researching money making and business building as a podcaster.
There are a number of military spouses with podcasts, but I think there is a void to fill for single servicemen and servicewomen, not to mention DoD contractors and others affiliated with the military both here in Japan and across the globe. So, why not start one yourself and corner the market? Not everyone has to be, or can be Jocko. Be YOU. Maybe G.I. Jobs will highlight you on their webpage in a year or so… right next to Jocko. 😉
What will you get out of starting a military podcast?
Well, if you’re single, podcasting can be a wonderful way to keep you socialized while off duty while simutaneously helping you build business connections for later consulting work either while still on active duty, or should you return to civilian life. Its a business you can scale relatively quickly by following the example of numerous others who’ve blazed the trail before you, and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. In fact, back in 2015 when I thought I’d take a stab at podcasting myself, I spent nearly 1,000 on a mixing board, microphone headset, boom mic, and a variety of software to run the damn thing. I ended up with more headaches and delays than anything else. The worst part was trying to get guests to be responsive.
Things are different in 2020-2021. You can literally get by with simple $15 headset mic (I’m not kidding) that will deliver great sound, quicker ramp-up time, and a product that sounds as smooth and lovely as anything else out there (outside the guys with full podcast recording studios in their homes, of course).
I recommend starting out small. And, that’s true, even though I could sell you the farm on this. There’s no need at this point to buy a lot of gear. You also don’t need to hire anyone to get you podcast guests (one of the biggest problems for me six years ago). Simply sign up for a free service like the one offered at podcastguests.com, and you’ll be well on your way.
So, save your money for now. If you want to spend a lot of money on podcasting gear, get 50 to 100 podcasts in the bag first, then spend the dough. Plus, if you’re here in Japan for only a few years, the last thing you’ll want to be doing is off-loading your gear on some sort of #MilFam Facebook garage sale group before you get a return on the equity you invested into it. I ended up giving all of my podcasting gear away to a buddy whose daughter used it. I couldn’t even sell it. Today, maybe. But just three years ago, nope.
Start small, and start quickly. Go for what’s known as a minimum viable product and just start.
What kind of podcast should you start?
Well, what are you interested in?
For me, podcasts are a great medium for the inquisitive more than expounding on ideas with which you’re already familiar. Sure, if you’ve already got a platform, and people know you by name, you’ll be able to approach guests intelligently and perhaps even get them to appear on your podcast more quickly. But this is hardly necessary. Especially in 2021.
If you’re naturally curious, instead of looking to promote your own interests, per se, you’ll ask better questions, inform your listeners more, and (I believe), gather a wider fan fan base. Marc Maron famously doesn’t prepare for his podcasts, and he’s considered the best. He’s event chatted with Obama. Not a bad deal for a guy literally recording out of his garage. Albeit, with a good podcasting setup.
Let’s take a look at who you should listen to in order to prepare for this podcast venture of yours, what kind of gear you might want to get (cheap stuff), and how to structure your effort for manageable growth. Oh, and I’ll share some links about monetizing that military side hustle of yours for maximum gain as well. But, remember… one caveat.
Podcasting, is for most a labor of love. The money you’ll make from it, will most likely—especially in the beginning—from business connections that may want to hire you for off duty consulting. Perhaps even podcast booking if you get good at that! Want to be a virtual assistant? Yes, that’s yet another thing you could try. See how all of these skills pile up and make you even more marketable than ever? That’s the goal here, really. Side hustles, military or otherwise, provide a base for learning that you can spin into other more concrete opportunities. Most in consulting (a fancy word for service businesses). You can do any of this.
As you transfer around the world as a military family, adapting to your environment and bringing with you skills that travel is so important. Learning the language is tremendously helpful, and if you’re living in Japan now, and beefing up on your Japanese, that’s a wonderful thing. But, if you’re transferred to Germany next year, how quickly can you pivot into to learning German and integrating with that marketplace?
Honing in on transferrable skills you can acquire and bring with you to any military base in the world will make all the difference while you’re abroad, and perhaps even more so when you’re stateside again without any governmental regulations like SOFA limiting your ability to work whatsoever.
Okay, let’s take a look at my recommended podcasting resources and tool box for 2021.
Podcasts For and About Members of the Military (or, just great podcasting examples!)
- WTF, with Marc Maron
- Drop and Give Me 20! (Conversations with Military Entrepreneurs), with Lyndsey Germono
- Military Dollar Podcast (just a few episodes… he appears on more podcasts, than he hosts of his own)
- Military Families Learning Network Series of Podcasts
- The Lifegiver Podcast: For Marriages That Serve, with Corie Weathers
- Male MilSpouse Radio Show, with Dave Etter
Podcasts For and About Members of the Military (or, just great podcasting examples!) …continued.
- Handle it With Humor (Parenting, Marriage, Stress, and Bullsh*t), with Mollie Gross
- Military One Click Muster, from milspousefest.com
- Military One Source Podcasts
- The Military Money Show, with Lacey Langford
- Military Veteran Dad, with Ben Killoy
- So Unbecoming, with Jamie Muskopf (Cool podcast about navigating the traditional workforce)
- The Money Millhouse, with Bethany Bayless and Ellie Kay
Podcasting Gear, and How to Monetize a Podcast
- 12 Ways to Monetize a Podcast, PLUS Nick Loper’s Actual Results from Side Hustle Nation.
- How to Monetize a Podcast—Four Effective Methods, from PodBean
- How Do Podcasts Make Money? Try These 20 Strategies to Monetize Your Show. —from Castos.
- BuzzSprout’s Awesome How to Start a Podcast Channel on YouTube.
- The Best Podcast Equipment for Beginners & Pros, from Podcasting Insights
Course platform, Udemy has a lot of wonderful courses that’ll help you learn just about anything. And, many many skills that can help you replace a military spouse job, and turn 2021 into your year of being an entrepreneur. Their courses are also extremely affordable, with most coming in between $10 and $50 USD. I purchased this “How to Start a Podcast, “Podcasting Made Easy” way back in 2015. It’s still a big seller, with over 32,000 students having taken the course. Might be worth your while if you’re wanting to start a podcast this year.
4. Sell Private Label Products
(E-Commerce platforms like Shopify, JVZoo, Clickbank, or Rakuten make it possible to sell information products, or physical products online with ease.)
Do you have an idea for a product you’d like to sell, but don’t have the first clue as to how to get it manufactured? Or, have you purchased a product you were disappointed with—one you believe you could produce that would be of higher quality? Maybe you’re a creator already and in the habit of researching and creating products you can sell without your branding on them… think: writing, photography, video, etc.
Each of these ideas can fall under the banner of private label product creation. There are a number of ways to go about getting involved in this aspect of side hustling, and there are some challenges to getting moving with things—particularly as it relates to finding a manufacturing partner if you’re considering having something made at any sort of scale. The opportunity to jump start a side business that could turn into a full time quit-your-job kinda’ business is really, now.
There is a a wealth of information out there, and several good tools that will help you narrow down vendors to help you white label, or custom design a product of your own making. I’ll cover a few of them in the breakout section below. So, after the jump, I’ll share a number of Shopify and Amazon FBA podcasts I’d recommend you check out, a few web pages on e-commerce to read, and tools to subscribe to if you’re serious about this adventure and ready to go.
Years ago, I played around in the online e-commerce space myself, as a drop shipper. I ran a store on Amazon selling kitchen equipment. This was around 2009. Right out of the gate, it was quite successful, but it grew a bit too quickly. So much so, that when Amazon thought my sales numbers couldn’t possibly be legitimate at 10K my first month of business, they shut down access to my deposits for two months. It killed me (also right out of the gate). I had wholesalers to pay, no money to do it, and a recession breathing down my neck. On top of that I had to halt my business for two months while I recovered, stopping all that momentum I’d gained initially.
But that’s not the worse of it. Shortly, thereafter, Amazon started purchasing my biggest and quickest seller (the one that got me that first 10K in sales) by the pallet load, undercut my price below what’s known as the minimum advertised price (MAP), and effectively put me out of business. MAP, by the way, is the price the wholesaler requires you to sell at so everyone competes fairly in the marketplace. It’s the reason why you see products priced at nearly the same price everywhere in on the ground retail. Amazon, however, plays by a different rules.
One way to avoid this problem, though, is to private label a manufacturer’s product as your own, OR create your own products and list them for sale on Amazon or Shopify to capture more of the profit for yourself. One place to try is Ali Express.
It’s a challenging, interesting, and entirely possible way to run a successful business out of your home here in Japan, on or off base, or elsewhere. Lets take a look at some of the resources I referred to earlier that could help you launch an ecommerce business right from your own living room.
- Spocket gives you access to the biggest dropshipping suppliers, wholesalers & distributors of high quality US/EU products to help you dropship products across the globe.
- Jungle Scout is the #1 product research tool for finding products to sell using Amazon FBA, white labeling, or other product manufacturing options. It’s product research, made easy, and probably the best way to uncover winning product idea in a host of niche categories.
5. Start a Dropshipping Business
(E-commerce platforms like Oberlo, and AliExpress make finding products to dropship dead-simple. Find competitive pricing, prouducts that sell, and outsource all distribution with dropshipping. A great, somewhat easy way to sell products created by another firm. Everything under the sun here.)
While I mentioned my experience dropshipping products with Amazon above as being not so positive, it’s worth noting that this was in 2009/2010. Ten years is a lifetime in internet commerce. At the time, I was running a store using Shopify, and the platform was so entirely new and buggy, that I actually was put in touch with the founder of the company, Tobias Lutke via Tim Ferriss, and had a phone chat with him for nearly an hour. That’s a damn good way to get customer feedback, by the way… I’d encourage it—especially in the beginning. Jump on the phone with as many customers as you can. Good AND bad customers.
Anyway, to get products to sell on Amazon, I attended trade conferences in Chicago and called and emailed wholesalers directly after sourcing them in trade magazines. I mainly sold baking equipment, but did also carry things outside the baking speciality. I was very focused on making it work, though, and was knee deep in spreadsheets and Amazon product descriptions, it was a full time business, and a lot for one person to do. In 2021 there are so many better ways to do things, and you can do it from anywhere—even Japan. Location matters, naught.
And these days, shipping is a breeze. Ten years ago, I was getting killed by shipping. There was really only one way to do it for a small operation, and that was to use the USPS, or UPS. Both of which ate into my profits. Then, toss in Amazon fees and drop shipping fees, and it was difficult to make things work, even when the sales were coming in like wildfire. Today, it’s a completely different ballgame. Platforms like Shipstation, EasyShip, Shippo, and Aftership make it dead simple.
Then, with platforms like Oberlo and Ali Express that help streamline product distribution, you can really start humming with zero inventory, little overhead costs, and a dream, almost. Back in the day, I was literally calling around for warehouse fulfilment space and buying Shopify apps to facilitate the eventual move to inventory. It was a TON of work. Now, not so much. And, that’s making me rethink my exit from dropshipping altogether. I think by the time the year is out, I’d like to experiment a bit more with it to see what works. I still own a number of killer domain names, and good connections to products I could switch on again as soon as I’m ready to dive in again. What do you think? Wanna join me?
With regard to Oberlo, I’ve yet to use it, but from what I can see it’s an amazing platform, and since I plan to resurrect my own storefronts either later this year, or mid 2021, Oberlo seems to be a wonderful tool to explore this year.
For more on dropshipping and this space in general, check out some of my recommended links and resources in the section below. And, hey! If you start an ecommerce store this year, please let me know what you’re doing, and reach out!
- Dropship with Spocket and get access to the world’s biggest dropshipping suppliers, wholesalers & distributors. It’s probably the best way to find what sells, so you can set up your Shopify store quickly and efficiently.
- Build a Dropshipping Empire From Scratch [Proven Blueprint] Turn a Few Dollars into Financial Freedom Using a Proven Step-by-Step System to Create Your Own Drop Shipping Empire, from Theo McArthur on Udemy (34,338 students have taken this class!)
- “How to Start Your Successful Dropship Business With AliExpress” [39 page, very thorough downloadable Free Guide after providing them with your email address]
If you’re a military spouse or active duty service member considering dropshipping as a way to increase your military famiy’s income, the first thing I’d recommend you do is set up a free account over at Spocket. After that, you can browse their listings of thousands of products you can consider carrying in your dropshipping venture. Give it a shot. If nothing else, it’s fun to play around in there and dream up what’s possible when it comes to your first, or second, or third (!) dropshipping business.
6. Help Others Relocate
(Helping other military spouses, and military families relocate to your base or another in your area, is just about the best military spouse job you can score with little effort beyond your own hustle.)
In the section above on creating a course, bootcamp, or masterclass, you may have wondered… could I create such a course for military families coming to Japan and sell it online? You’d bet your sweet bottom dollar you could. You could also do it in person as a consultant, or on the phone, or via Zoom, or any of the better web conferencing platforms circulating around these days. I use WebinarJam, and Zoom, but there are a number of other webinar software tools of course, and I’ll link to a few of the best below.
The opportunities for this sort of side hustle are endless, though, really. And, because the flow of military families, DoD employees, and SOFA status workers is constantly in motion here in Japan and elsewhere, you can set yourself up for a business that continues to bring dividends long after you’ve left the country, or the military for that matter. It’s not a stretch to think you could be advising people about moving to or from Japan, while you’e acquiring knowledge about your new PCS move, and up-ramping that consulting effort as well. There is SO much you can do in this space its almost silly. And, once you’re secure in how to create your own income, you’re just a step away from helping others looking for military spouse jobs as well. There are all sorts of things you could consult on: military spouse benefits, military spouse scholarships (do you know about those!?), even the military spouse residency relief act. Help others in your situation. You already have the knowledge. Consulting, is one of my favorite side hustles for military families, and one that can provide a very scalable income for you and your family if you’re supporting someone other than yourself.
Think about it. If you can create guides and other tools for families, you can really set yourself up as an invaluable asset to new AND departing families. Because departing is just as important as arriving, right?! Below, I want to take a look at a few ways you can structure your business, and a few resources for helping you get off the ground. For some helpful information and free course training that could get you going in the right direction, check out LinkedIn’s free program for military spouses and active duty service members.
This particular opportunity may very well be the simplest one for you to implement in as early as maybe… two months or so with the right tools, a decent budget, and a military sized amount of hustle. Ready?Go!
- The Expats Guide to Japan, Relocation Companies List. (Check out the companies on this site for ideas as to what relocation services can be offered, and how things are structured in general. Lots of things to glean from this page)
- ReloJapan’s comprehensive site is yet another idea bank worth diving into. Tons of useful information in here that can help you learn more about how to start a part time relocation business.
- “How to make $316 a Day as a Senior Move Manager,” from SeniorServiceBusiness.com (While this site is geared to helping seniors relocate, there is good information throughout about what to charge, and how the business generally works. )
7. Learn to Code. And, Not Just Apps.
(You CAN learn to code in your spare time. People around the world, of all ages, and backgrounds do it every single day. And this isn’t just about apps. You can code websites, databases, learn how to connect to APIs, build in excel… all sorts of things. Coding is a wonderful job opportunity not only for military spouses, but for active duty servicemen and servicewomen as well. Let’s code!)
There is no doubt, one of the most “packable ” skill sets in the world these days is computer coding. And, trust me, it ain’t as scary as you think. Each and every day, young children take up coding, as do retired grandmas and grandpas. Computer programming is not that difficult, and if you have any penchant for languages (even English!), you’ll find yourself ahead of most. Also, if you’re a good writer, or editor, you also have transferrable skills that work well in the software world. Software development is not that difficult to learn, and in fact, most of it is downright fun.
Sure, it’s not for everyone, and if there’re anything that’s a drain, it’s the screen time involved. But (!) if you’re curious, if you can write (as in take a pen to paper with some sort of skill), if you can think logically, and if like to build things, you can most certainly learn how to code. And, like pretty much everything else I’m detailing out for you here… you can do so in a relatively short period of time. Which, in turn will help you earn extra money more quickly.
The way to kick off a career in software development (even a part time one), is to use repeatable patterns of learning, copy the methods of others who have gone from no programming experience to full time programmers, and by and leveraging online with course platforms taught for free on places like Coursera, Udemy ( — top courses starting at $1,000), or edX. You could also sign up for any of the numerous coding bootcamps (like my “local” favorite software bootcamp here in Japan—Le Wagon, Tokyo) that will help get you up to speed fast.
In the past, one major drawback to bootcamps was that you needed to have a physical precence in the city offering the camp. This was costly, and time consuming for most people, but these days, particuarly in the wake of COVID-19, many more companies have wised up to the idea that they should be offering remote classes. Funny, that something built for online work required presence. But, that’s the way it was for many of these programs.
That said, there are a number of places you can learn to code (quite possibly on your own base, even), DO pursue these opportunities. Or, check out any of the fine resources below. I’ve used Coursera for numerous classes including their University of Michigan, “Python for Everybody” class, and love it. I’ve been wanting to bite the bullet on Le Wagon here in Japan for some time now, and Codecademy is extremely well respected as well.
I also love companies in the “deferred payment” bootcamp space like Lambda School that teach you how to code for free in exchange for 17% of your 50,000+ salary for two years after graduating. Have fun.
Large Online MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) Providers
Coursera, (Build skills with courses from top universities like Yale, Michigan, Stanford, and leading companies like Google and IBM.)
Alison.com, (Free online workplace skills training – 1500+ Certificate, Diploma Courses – 14M Learners – 2.5M Graduates)
edX, (Access 2000 free online courses from 140 leading institutions worldwide. Harvard, MIT, etc.)
FutureLearn, (From Short Courses to Postgraduate Degrees – Accessible on Mobile, Tablet, etc.)
Articles About Starting a Career in Coding
Tech Beacon’s superb, “Tech Bootcamp’s Won’t Make You a Coder, here’s What Will”
“Actionable Advice & Stories to Start Learning to Code” From TK on Medium.com
“The Ultimate Guide to Learning to Code and Getting Paid,” by Nick Fredman on Medium.com
For the last few years, I’ve used Coursera and eDX with much aplomb. Lately, I’ve been using eDX quite a bit, and am curently using it to learn things like Economics, Python, Japanese and Tableau. I love it. nearly everything is free unless you’re looking to earn a certificate, which while useful, isn’t always necessary. Check it out. If you’re a learner, you’ll love it as well.
8. Translate Games and Manga!
(You likely aren’t aware of the droves of people part-time and full time operating as localization experts helping to tranlate games, manga, anime, and websites into other languages. If you’re bi-lingual, and enjoy editing and writing, this can be a wonderful, and fairly unobstructed military spouse job.)
Dig Manga? Japanese movies? Games? How’s your Japanese in general? Don’t laugh if it’s horrible. If you’re a proficient editor of English, at least, you just might just find yourself on a localization team working to support the gaming industry here in Japan and abroad. Or, helping professionals, newspapers, and magazines fine-tune their work as a native-checker, or UX writer.
I do all of this… except gaming and UX writing (for now, at least!), and there are many people who work in these fields here in Japan, and full time to boot. These careers can provide a stable income, positions are mostly (if not always) remote.
Not everyone living in Japan is a fluent speaker of Japanese. Some, residents have very little to none. I personally know of people who have been here for nearly two and three decades who are can barely speak a lick, so don’t let the idea that you can’t speak japanese hold you back from being on a localization team. Why? Because there are a number of people on a teeam and usually before work makees its way to an editor like you, it’s been reeviewed and combed over by a Japense to English translator. And, believe it or not, in the case of native checking for newspapers, magazines and online press outlets, many of these publshing ventures actually prefer you don’t have Japanese skills, just like many eikaiwas and other teaching establishments prefer you haven’t mastered a single JPLT test as well.
In fact, most most preferred is having good chops as a proofreader or line editor. Developmental editors are less in demand, as product teams and newspapers don’t really want us fooling around with what has already cleared the translator… they simply want us to check for grammar troubles. They pay is good (sometimes around 10 yen a word), so, even if the work takes you some time to get though (and believe me, some of these first paragraphs you’ll proof in newspapers will make your head spin), the effort is well rewarded money-wise.
Lets’ take a look at how this world works a bit, and view some of the resources that can help you determine if this is the right sort of side hustle for you. Again, like many of the things I’m mentioning here (if not all of them), … they can (and almost should if you’d like them to) become a regular well-paying gig for you. Okay, saddle up… more after the jump.
9. Create a Membership Site
Membership Sites. I debated whether to include these in the section about military side hustle courses, masterminds and bootcamps, but decided to give it it’s separate section, because I see opportunity here for you to make membership sites based on a singular area of focus. In other words, how to create a membership site for one specific skill you can share with others. So, for example, I have a membership site for people who want to learn WordPress. There is a tremendously effective membership site/course on how to use Mailchimp, there are websites on things like rock climbing, knitting, making vegan food, all sorts of things. Essentially, if you can dream it up, and there is a paying market for it, you could crate a membership site.
The biggest difference between a course and a membership site is the overall goal. A course is generally designed to take you from point A to point Z over a specific period of time, while a membership site is more geared toward bathing you in all that is that ONE specific learning task.
So, if you’re in love with some sort of crafting, Cricut for example, you could create a niche membership site and join the Cricut affiliate program. Once you have a website that talks about crafting with Cricut, you could then set up a membership site. I use Kartra’s membership site maker for each of my membership sites. Jennifer Maker, whose Cricut website has 375,000 members on the mailing list… yes, 375,000 pulls in six figures a month. That’s insane. Of course, she tapped into the Cricut niche early, owns the space in a sense, and hustles her rear-end off, as you’ll hear about on the Side Hustle Nation podcast with Nick Loper.
But, if Cricut isn’t your thing, perhaps the military family relocation consulting service we spoke about earlier would be best suited to a membership site that you could add to from time to time and that would forster a community. Again, there are multiple ways to do this, the key is to hone in on an idea that appeals to you and start there. Then, engage in your learning, and put the proper plan into place. Set aside your budget, and then go. All of these things take time and energy, but in each of these scenarios where you’re productizing a service, you can create a membership site with results and rewards that will surprise you.
Marketing and promotion can become a time consuming chore, but, as that part of your online business ramps up, you should be bringing in enough income to offload that areas of operations just like folks like Jennifer have done. Perhaps you could create a little You, Inc., and recruit a group of friends and family members to help you… like these women entrepreneurs, and perhaps, even recruit your active-duty loved one!
Check out some of the courses, tools and resources to help you launch your first membership site today. Good luck, should you pursue this military side hustle. It’s a fun one, and once you get things humming it *almost* runs on autopilot. 😉
As I mentioned, I use and love Kartra for my membership sites. They created a tool I wish existed years ago—it’s intuitive, feature-packed, and comes with campaign templates (to help you offload all that marketing and promotion I talked about) built RIGHT INTO the system. I use the starter plan (which is more than enough), for only $99 USD a month. I LOVE it.
10. Photography, Video & Drones
A recent acquaintence of mine, a former USAF vet living here in Japan reminded me of this age old side hustle: photography. Not hobby photography, but commercial and wedding photography.
In thinking about how to spin it for those of you in the military, I got to thinking about how here in Japan there is a particular market for “western weddings.” Did you know that? Western weddings are weddings held in a western style for Japanese couples and their families. Sometimes people with a little extra money to spend have two weddings! One, a traditional Japanese wedding, with kimonos and yutaka, a Japanese dining experience… the whole deal. But, then, they’ll also throw a western wedding with western food and dress, spoken in English, with (get this) occasionally welcomed western “guests” to make it feel all the more real.
I have friends who are officiants, and here in Kobe at least, I’ve seen advertisements for wedding hall reservations featuring a western bride or groom in the photography in an effort to simply to make the particular advertiser’s effort a little more appealing if you will. My wife tells me that a western officiant is paid more than a Japanese officiant. What sort of craziness is that?!
Shooting weddings of this sort might be a good opportunity for you. If you’re non-Japanese, you have immediate advantage over local photographer in the sense that you’re already fitting the need by being said westerner, and if you were to grab a local friend to help introduce your business to those in the wedding industry around the base, you might really be able to have an impact locally.
The said, you’ve also got a tremendous opportunity to shoot weddings, portraits, drone footage and other types of commercial photography for, and within your own community.
And, you have several tremendous advantages in this space. First, on base you’ve got a built in community and an ecosystem ripe for promotion. In the larger cities of Japan (Tokyo, Yokohama, Okinawa) flyering and promoting in the city can be a competitive adventure. There’s a certain blindness to English promotional flyers that exists—even I miss them most of the time. Not so in and around your homes near the base.
Secondly, you likely have a little more free time than local photographers, because for part time hustlers in Japan, weekends still remain quite important. So, if you have weekends free yourself, either because a spouse is working, or if you’re contracting during different days of the week, you can capitalize on that time vacancy.
There’s also a certain economy of scale you can live with because of how finanacial arbitrage works here in Japan. A local photographer needs to make the yen go a bit further than Americans with a savings or extra income in U.S. dollars, so you may be able to charge a slightly lesser rate than a local photographer, or the same rate, and still come out ahead in a sense. At least it can “feel” this way.
Capitalize on this emotional difference to certain expenses here in Japan to your advantage. Want to see what this looks like in practice? Check out the site of the gent I mention at the top of this peice… Joseph Drotos. Say hello. Tell him I said, “hey.” It might be a great way for the two of you to network. Heck, maybe you’ll both get a course idea, or membership idea out of it! Okay… so, as is the case… below are a few of my resources for you, and platforms you can use to launch this particular military side hustle here in Japan.
- Maybe there’s an opportunity for you to team up with a shop like LA-VIE Photography who does “pre-wedding” photography. With an entire website in English, you can better they’ve either got native English speaking clilents, or Japanese clients with a desire to communicate in English.
11. Part-Time Recruiter
Consider yourself a good communicator? Got solid sales chops? If you’re going to be living in Japan for a few years, have access to a good internet connection, and perhaps a solid VPN to allow for unrestricted access to sites in the U.S. without dealing with endless English-to-Japanese redirects, you might want to consider work as a part time, remote recruiter or sourcing specialist. The difference between the two is significant, but the salary and commissions for both would likely surprise you. And, the best part is many recruiting jobs in Japan and stateside can be had without meeting any Japanese language skills whatsoever—particularly if you’re locating and commissioning candidates in the software, marketing, or management fields, so this sort of work can be an excellent job for military spouses.
In Japan, there is much recruiting going on behind the scenes for foreign talent, and much of that talent first arrives without much if any Japanese under their belt. Many companies place their staff in immersion Japanese language boot camps at local universities and YMCA programs to get them up to speed, and many more forgo the training altogether because it’s just not necessary in some fields, or, for some positions.
So, if you think becoming a recruiter while in Japan, or a sourcing specialist working on the front lines helping to build a robust Japanese economy sounds like a good idea, check out some of the resources below regarding how to be a recruiter in Japan to help get you started.
12. Do Web Design, BUT (!) Differently
I have a friend who is an amazingly talented designer. When I was the marketing communications director at RevenueWell in Chicago and writing hundreds of health articles a year, he really made my work come to life. So much so that when I first met him after working remotely for four or five months, I literally gave him a hug. And people who know me know I’m not inclined to hugs whatsoever. He was such a creative force in my work that I respected him that much. I still love the guy, but, these days…
… he’s no longer a designer. He’s a coder. And, he’s a coder because years ago he saw the writing on the wall. He saw design being templatized, outsourced—commoditized. And, so he made a choice to start studying Python after work at night, and working on a project he thought he might show to the founders of the company if he got it to work—a way to prove his chops and switch out of design and into coding. It worked. It was a smart move considering what designers and web designers were making when I first started out in the internet space in 1994, when compared to the rates one can charge now. When I think about them myself, I’m still shocked. Website builders, lead page creators (like Leadpages, and Instapage), themes, and full on marketing automation suites like Kartra, Active Campaign, Infusionsoft (now, Keap)… the list goes on, make the IDEA of web design seem simple to most people. In 1994 you could charge tens of thousands of dollars for a website that today looks great just off the Elegant Themes assembly line.
But (!) assembly line looks are deceiving. Good design is FAR from simple. And, NOTHING is as “drag and drop” as they say it is. Web design, web development, web creation… all the things you need to start a blog, or a small business, are a royal pain in the ass. And that’s where you can make a difference. Website design is hardly a set it and forget it experience, and it is hardly a “get your website up in minutes scenario as sites like Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace might suggest. These are all great tools, but they’re hardly simple. Weebly’s “Entrepreneur’s Checklist to Selling Online” is a good guide that outlines all the necessary steps you’ll take in the beginning setting things up. Even exclusively using a theme like Divi from Elegant Themes like I do, has a steep learning curve, and there are problems I run into every single day acting (currently at least) as administrator of my own website domains.
And, that is where the gold lies. Pick a platform, learn it well by starting your own blog. Then, hang out your own shingle, and consult with others who need the same sort of support. You can find them all over Twitter and in Facebook learning and side hustle communities.
There is a magnificent tool called BuiltWith that I’ll also share with you below in the call out box below that allows you to see what sort of technology a website is using. Leverage that tool to find out who uses the tech you’ve mastered, and reach out to those companies using another tool like Hunter.io which helps you find email addresses, to see if you can win their business. If they already have a website, they’re going to need maintenance.
The other thing you can do to make your self more than just a web designer, is to learn the other tools that make a website hum (Mailchimp, Kartra, ConvertKit, Rev, etc.) OR, have someone in your arsenal who is the expert. Then, like I did with my own agency back in 2005, you start contracting out to the pros that handle the things you can’t or don’t want to handle, and again provide a service that is far from a commodity.
What else do you need to know? Or, better yet, if you’re sub-contracting this stuff out, what tools help businesses most? These are all things I cover in my how to start a blog in Japan post, but simply, email software like Mailchimp, funnels and campaign creation from tools like Kartra, ClickFunnels, LeadPages, design (yep! important), from Adobe or Canva, and on the back end I exclusively use WPMDU to help with premium plugins and on call WordPress support. They are AMAZING.
You can really set yourself up as a remote mini agency. Label yourself as a virtual admin if that’s more appealing. Trust me this support is needed. Likewise, you could offer to refer this sort of work out by creating an Angie’s List of sorts for design in your area. Just find the contractors and build an online list. Sell it as a newsletter, maybe.
Help other hustlers on or off base, or do it remotely in the with clients big and small from the U.S. or around the world. This way, when you’re transferred to your next base, you just switch the phone number. Or, better yet, use a global number, and don’t switch a darn thing. As always… below are the goodies. Enjoy.
- Need some inspiration? How about this from StreetShares—the “Top Ten Most Influential Military Spouse Business Owners.”
13. Scale an Online Craft Business
Good with your hands?
Whether you’re a woodworker, a weaver, a knitter or a Cricut machine master, the online crafting world can indeed be your oyster if you’re looking to boost your military family income here in Japan or elsewhere.
There are SO many opportunities to boost your income with craftwork it’s startling. Like any side hustle, though, this sort of adventure requires persistence, but as far as a good work at home, military spouse job, selling your handiwork, or the work of others can be lucrative. But, half-assing things will cause you to just get lost in the shuffle among the thousands of other vendors pushing their own wares.
As my wife continues to advise me, stretching your efforts into many side hustles, instead of focusing on one, results in, well… lackluster results. So, if you’re serious about your talents with the needle and thread, with the paintbrush, with the pen… then get out there and crush it by being consistent. There are a number of marketplaces where you can ply your trade, and while I’m far from the expert in this area, I hope my research helps. My wife’s father is a 6th dan calligrapher, and creates the most amazing calligraphy for our Japanese literature translations at Maplopo. He could likely sell the bejeezus out of his artwork, but well… he’s focused too. On being a monk. So, for now, we get the distinct pleasure of being his sole collector.
Cheers, and GO!
After the bump… some of the amazing marketplaces that will allow you to sell your own crafts online whether you’re a military family living in Japan, Germany, the U.S. … or, wherever! Military families… go!
- Handmade artists
- Amazon Handmadde
14. Create a Private Slack Group
Familiar with Slack? It’s a communication platform used by many companies to keep teams in touch with one another throughout the working day. A kind of “business chat” tool if you will. Outside the walls of industry, though, it can be a great way to bring together disparate populations with a similar interest. It can be an amazing tool for sharing tips, leads, business ideas… anything you can dream of really. And, you can monetize it by creating a private paid group.
I like this model because unlike Facebook groups (which can help with generating traffic to your blog), a paid Slack group YOU own. You even own free Slack groups, but we want you to make extra money this year, so let’s consider options for a paid group. It cannot be taken away from you like a Facebook channel can, and the members in your private community are (and remain) your contacts.
It’s fairly simple to set up using a service like Launch Pass, and you can use various payment gateways to collect registration and subscription fees. But, if you can dream up a community that people will pay to be a part of—to get and give advice or other actionable information—then you can really make this solution work for you. Start small, seed the group with free members, then grow it with online promotion using Facebook ads (they can work), LinkedIn ads (even better!) and by starting a blog, and using Twitter, and perhaps Instagram or Pinterest. Below I’ve shared a number of tools and resources for you to help you get started so you can create your own private Slack channel. Have fun!
15. Real Estate Investing & Repair
When I was in high school, there were a number of teachers that rehabbed houses together. I helped them on the weekends tear out the lathe of old houses purchase for cheap because they were falling apart and abandoned. A few, I recall were bought from the city for only a buck. My history teacher was the main guy behind the operation… he’d take out the loan, buy the property and manage all the contractors (those other teachers)… it was a beautiful operation, and he slowly turned around blocks of real estate in my town, one house and one apartment building at a time.
I learned so much from him, and always wanted to do similiar work. I love getting my hands dirty, and the work is infinitely rewarding. In Japan there are a TON of opportunities to do this sort of thing. What you need is a team, smart investing, and time. All of which are possilbe to get if you know where to look, are interested in Japanese real estate and have the hustle in you.
Japan is one of the few countries in Asia were foreiginers can own property, and we have a glut of abandoned in the market place. So, where to start?
Well, my bet is there are countless men and women in your military network with the ability to team construct a house, and you could be up and running in no time. All you really need is someone to get you though the hoops of the investing part of things. The money. There are a few places to start, and brokerages desgined to help non-Japanese do this sort of work here in the country. I’ll get you off on the right foot a bit below.
- “What You Should Know Before Buying a Vacant House in Japan” —from Real Estate Japan
- “How Can I Invest in Japanese Property?” from Tyton Capital (Investing, and Financing… good advice.)
- “Why the Japanese Real Estate Market is ‘Different.'” from HouseKey.jp
- “Buying Land in Japan: What are the Types of Property Rights?” —from Sekai Property
- “Beware the Patter About Purchasing Property to Rent Out Around Tokyo,” from The Japan Times
- “You Want to Flip Akiya (Unused House, 空き家) Into a Rental Property in Japan?: Please Do the Math First” by Toshihiko Yamamoto, author of The Savvy Foreign Investor’s Guide to Japanese Properties
16. Nutrition Counselor / Personal Trainer
Adjusting to your new lifestyle as a military family living in Japan not only requires getting used to new routines, new friends and a new language, but also a new diet. You may have an abundance of opportunities for exercise on base, but what about off base? Are there opportunities there to explore a wider exercise regimen that takes into consideration the great outdoors, or novel ways of working out that exist in Japan that you’ve not experienced back home? Could you venture out onto the hiking trails of Mount Awadake in Okinawa, Mt. Hinodeyama near Yokota Air Base, or Bukkasan near Camp Zama? Could you take advantage of callisthenics opportunities in the multitude of local parks? Walk and run hills…. the sky is the limit, really. Then, could you structure those events into something you could sell?
And what of the food? Japan is a bounty of fish and vegetables—many that might be quite foreign to the average American now finding themselves wandering the local Japanese grocery store wondering what to purchase to cook for themselves, or their military family. Can you plug Japan’s national and regional diet tendencies into a one-on-one course offering for local families? Or, better yet, a one-to-many cooking course you could host in person, or online? Trips to the grocery store could be educational and worth an entry fee, recipes could be shared as part of a group forum remember my mention of Slack just a moment ago, or heck… even a paid newsletter that you could set up on the fly using Substack.
Or, you could even create a course, or membership platform using Kartra. You could even just a simple no-charge newsletter using Mailchimp to build a community at first, see where the community takes you, and then move it to Kartra. The wonderful thing about this is for though most part it’s largely a portable effort. With each new country or state you visit, you could help other transplanted military spouses, or service members with the same problem in their new hometown. It’s an easy to ramp up job for military spouses. And, if you’re in Japan now, working this side hustle, when you’re transferred to another base, you could also transfer your knowledge of Japan’s cuisine to other cities as well… if next you land in Germany, you could cover Japanese markets in Berlin, and do this sort of side hustle for the local German population, or again for transplanted expats and their trailing spouse and dependents. There is a TON of opportunity here, really… especially if you’re not prone to wanting to do a course, per se. Keep it simple and stick with one on one, or small group training (cook at home, maybe). Think like a personal trainer… that’s essentially what this military side hustle is in the end.
Speaking of personal trainers, if you’re an fitness aficionado, why not help others stay in shape in their new community? Offer morning “bootcamp” style workouts, schedule hiking trips and biking excursions. Bike touring companies get HUGE money for this sort of thing—there’s no reason why you couldn’t begin to offer your own service right here in Japan. Much of the expense of such trips is in dealing with the trailing bicycle van and lodging. But, being in country, you can develop better packages for people that don’t involve having to spend 10K for a trip to Japan to ride a bike around Okinawa. Offer it for all expats too. Restricting yourself to military, on-base families will initially be much simpler—particularly when thinking about grabbing a captive audience—but, there is a wealth of opportunity to connect with other expats in the area. Other moms, other Dads, other “everybodies” really, who would love to meet other folks from Stateside. Growing a network is pretty tough in Japan, especially if you’re outside Tokyo. Networking events are much more limited, and you’ve kinda’ got to take the reins on your own. But, there IS value in providing material for newcomers, and out-goers. So, lace up your shoes, get out your wallet and your Suica card, and get to hustlin’. This might be the easiest business to start in Japan yet.
Below, I’ve got some ideas for you about other folks selling fitness packages to provide for inspiration, and some other modeling exercises that might help when brainstorming.
Japanese Nutrition Ideas
- “Once Influenced by Foreign Foods, Japanese Food Now Influences the Diets of the World,” by Zenjiro Watanabe.
- “Fuel for the Future: Nutrition Tips for Each Stage in a Man’s Life,” by clinical dietitian Lieutenant Michael Kantar, U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, Japan Clinical Dietitian. From, NavyMedicine.com
Personal Training and Fitness Counseling in Japan Ideas
- “5 English-Friendly Yoga Studios In Tokyo,” from SavvyTokyo.com (The sparse listings here should give you many and idea for opportunity!)
- “Foreigner-Friendly Yoga Studios in Tokyo” (again, slim pickins)— from Plaza Homes Real Estate Tokyo
- “Can Japan Become a ‘Fitness Nation’? Aya Thinks So.” From The Japan Times
- Crossfit Asia (Sweet gum in Okinawa that started from scratch!)
Recommendations for Personal Trainer Qualifications, A Job Posting Example, and a Military Gym to Model
- “Is Your Personal Trainer Official?” Advice from Tech. Sgt. Franklin Guerrero, 18th Force Support Squadron, Kadena Air Force Base
- Personal Trainer Job Listing for the Toyko American Club (A good example of the qualifications you might need if you want a high end job like this one. Most people who want to hire a trainer do not require these skillsets, so don’t let that dissuaade you from feeling confident about your approach.)
- Torii Gym, Okinawa (What can you offer that is similar, or different? And, can you promote yourself around gyms like this near our base? Or, be a trainer or nutrionist at military gyms like this?)
17. YouTuber or Social Media Creator
Ah, social media…. what would life be without it, right? Probably better.
Actually, it’s not all that bad, right? There are platforms that are enjoyable, and despite their innate distraction, I’ve somehow been able to extract something positive out of places like Twitter and LinkedIn for over a decade now. YouTube can be very instructive and informative, but a huge black hole for many, especially, kids (on average, my ESL students spend seven hours a day on YouTube!), and I’m largely away from it as a result. When I was in college I remember quite clearly still being close to never finishing college because of a predilection to stay glued to MTV. I learned good lessons back then, so… YouTube… not so much for me.
But (!) There’s gold in them there hills. Not so much in the form of advertising, per se, as I think we’re fairly blind to it, the numbers required to get to a real number take time, and far more creative an effort than most people have time to expend.
What these platforms can do for you though, is get you in front of people. And that result, if extended over time, will bring eyeballs to your efforts. Don’t count on viral, count on hustle. If you’re creating course content for people to subscribe to, a guide to life around Camp Zama, a YouTube channel or podcast about life as a military wife in Japan… whatever military side hustle you decide to pursue, there are opportunities to create a platform for yourself using social media. The scale is whatever effort you wish to pursue, really. You could sell Cricut programs, and have a list of 375,000, or you could teach people how to bake the meanest mackerel in Okinawa and have 1,000 true fans. Run an Okinawan sweet potato channel! Whatever your game, getting started is simple, keeping up the momentum is most difficult. To do that, you need a few things: an idea, a niche, an editorial calendar, a mini website of sorts and that is it. My post on how to start a blog in Japan can take you from no blog to COMPLETE in no time flat. A weekend. Below are even more resources for you to get started, along with tutorials specific to starting a YouTube audience, growing your account on Twitter, and livening up your professional profile on LinkedIn. Login and enjoy the fun. And keep up with the hustle.
P.S. In the interest of getting stuff done, this website is now and always a work in progress. You may find dead links. You may find things I say I’m going to present that I haven’t had time to come back and visit yet. I truly apologize for that. But, that said, if I wait till things are perfect, nothing gets done, and I can’t help anyone. So, hopefully you understand that. This post is something like 13,000 words. That’s basically a small book. It’s taken me a ton of time to put it together. The words come first. Then the links. Then the images, and then I’m done (for the that week at least!). I’ve got much more to write. Stay tuned. Somewhere on this page is my signup box to get my newsletter. I hope you like that too.