Anybody Really Make It On Their Own?

#1
Hi everyone.

The 12 year point is lurking and I am looking at getting out and becoming a full time sign maker. I already make signs and graphics in my spare time and earn a nice extra bit of cash from it. But! Trying to juggle two jobs and have a family with twin babies is beginning to get on top of me. It has really got to the point where the Army is getting in my way. I have always loved the Army but i feel now that my time is up and i should start doing something that i really enjoy.

My question is this, Ive heard of a lot of people getting out but staying in and around Army life and this is what i would like to do. Ive also heard of people being able to donate some of their profits to forces charities. Surely this can only be a good thing for bringing in more military customers and doing my bit as well?

Has anybody done this? or going through the process? I would love to hear from you!:)

Better still, Does anyone want a signmaker posted into thier regiment as a signmaker? Then id be a very happy man!:excited:
 
#2
I did 5 years service in the REME and went straight into university to do a proper degree, of which I am about to complete. My advice was that if you wanted to leave the army, then damn well sign off when you are young. However being in your position, with 12 years service and probably 10-12 to go (depending how old when you joined) is highly stupid. Not only you are giving up your pension pot at 40, but also you will be unemployed in civy street when you get out. It is tough out there, and civy street doesnt give a sh*t about your army history, what they are looking for is qualifications and direct experience. You got 2 kids and a wife, do you really want to gamble your steady income job for something you just started? its madness mate. If you signed off and want to go back in, bear in mind the army will make you wait 2 years or so just to sign back on, they have tons of young 16 year olds joining up and its overflowing. Just do your time and look to do some qualifications outside of the army, i.e. evening colleges to do HNC or HND. Dont bother with open uni, its a waste of time.

I wish you all the best, and my advice is dont sign off, stick to your steady income army job, the job market is about to get worse in civvy street!!
 
#3
I'm with Honeymonster on this one - 10 years to go, might seem like a lifetime now, but if I was still in, I'd have 6 years left and have a pension - which for someone like you, would be an ideal position to be in if you want to start your own business.
Civvie street is crap at the mo, no pay rises, no economy, nothing really to fall back on money wise. Leave at 40 (or so) with 22 year pension and you're laughing mate.
As someone once said to me - "I've done 12 and I'm over half way, I may as well go the full distance.
Trust me, in 10 years time you'll be sitting there thinking "Pension, plus the possibility over another 20 or so years of another pension if I want it".
 
#4
I'm with the last 2 posters as well. I terminated at the 12 point, realised within 3 or 4 months I'd made a mistake and re-enlisted. (Back in the 1970's when it was easier.)
Served the next 10 for my pension and it was well worth it. Nice to have a monthly amount coming in which has allowed me to retire early.
 
#5
I signed off after 13 years, left at the 14 year point. Contrary to popular "military wisdom" civvy street is easy and there are plenty of jobs out there.
You may take a pay cut, and a job unrelated to your service, but with discipline, and a 'can-do' attitude you are unlikely to be down for long.
The people who find it hard are:
1. Those who cannot make the transition from the forces to civilian life, expecting things to land at their feet rather than getting off their backside and doing things themselves.
2. Those repeating the horror stories spread about by people in 1. above, but have no personal experience.

Don't look for a free ride, or think that anyone cares about your previous service. As soon as you realise that it's your life, and your responsibility which paths you take, you are on the way to success as a civvy.

Remember, if civvy life was that hard, the civvies would fail at it.

Sent from my Desire HD
 
#6
I signed off after 13 years, left at the 14 year point. Contrary to popular "military wisdom" civvy street is easy and there are plenty of jobs out there.
You may take a pay cut, and a job unrelated to your service, but with discipline, and a 'can-do' attitude you are unlikely to be down for long.
The people who find it hard are:
1. Those who cannot make the transition from the forces to civilian life, expecting things to land at their feet rather than getting off their backside and doing things themselves.
2. Those repeating the horror stories spread about by people in 1. above, but have no personal experience.

Don't look for a free ride, or think that anyone cares about your previous service. As soon as you realise that it's your life, and your responsibility which paths you take, you are on the way to success as a civvy.

Remember, if civvy life was that hard, the civvies would fail at it.

Sent from my Desire HD
Lol where have you been? You must have been the lucky ones that wasnt made redundant (yet?). The civvies DO fail at it, so many jobless civvies out there and many are HIGHLY QUALIFIED people, they get made redundant and many lost their homes.

Civvie street is tough for anyone, ex army or not, remember when you are ex army, thats all you are; ex army blokes are the same as any dick tom and harry when they are in civvy street, and the fact you are ex army that might disadvantaged you. This is certainly the case in muslim towns. There is no easy transition from being in the forces to civvie street, even when you want to join the police or other public services you still need to go through the same recruiting process as anyone else.

I dont know what experience you had, or what qualifications you hold, I think you are a bit bitter of not staying on the rest of your service time and thus giving misleading pieces of advice. Maybe, just maybe, 4 years ago during the boom years you might find a job more easily, these days you will not find the same luxury.

My advice remains unchanged, stay on and get your pension! Civvie street is NOT better for most soldiers.
 
#7
I'm definitely not bitter, I have no reason to be. Civvy street IS easier than Army life, as long as you realise that you are the master of your own life and prepare accordingly. Expecting to have things handed to you on a plate is a route to failure. I personally found the Career Transition Workshop to be a waste of time beyond getting my CV sorted.
I started off in a job with an £11k paycut, and way below my capabilities, but I needed a job. Not long after starting, my wife was made redundant from her job. In a few months our household income dropped by £36k. Life wasn't easy for the next 2 years, but I was home almost every night and weekend, and when I wasn't I got paid overtime.
I also learned how to say "No" to my Bosses when my job plans conflicted with personal plans. I get to watch my daughter grow up in real time, not via photos and the welfare phone.

I loved being in the Army, and not a day goes by where I don't think about it. I love being a civvy more though, with the autonomy and freedom it brings. In my present employment there are 2 REME tech's (I am one), 4 ex RAF, 1 marine, 6 ex Navy, 1 apparently ex THEM (he doesn't talk about it), 1 Saffa grunt, and3 ex MOD apprentices that I know of, out of 40 engineers. All my mates that left are working, many in Oz, or America, or in the offshore industry. Not one of them regrets leaving before their pension for those that did so.

Scaring people about civvy life is doing them a disservice. There are people who can't cope with the move, and fall by the wayside, but it is their own fault if they stay there instead of dusting themselves off, and moving forward.

As you said, Army service counts for little, but the experience and (usual) attitude are invaluable. Remember that the people you are competing against in the job market are civvies, and we all know how shite they are.
 
A

Aleegee1698

Guest
#8
Its all easy street, dependant on who or how you are. To the OP, sorry if I may sound so honest, but you sound somewhat naive, i.e., basing your and that of your familys future into the hands of a "Squaddie-based" client base. It wont happen, firstly, no one in camp has the authority to contract to or employ a Sign-maker, (or other Contractors for that matter) and secondly, (in our case) most 16 (Sandhams Coy) Bty signs were plastered out by those of us on ROPs.

I ve seen it here in the last 10 years, and it will get even worse for the likes of Grant and Green Tax free cars in FRG,when BAG goes for good. Bods or companys dependant on one clientele, when they go, you go.

Civvy St s not a lions den.Start small, stay smallish. Think bigger, get slightly bigger. Consider all eventualities, **** em off, cos none of those will happen, only the ones you did nt think of will happen, and thats when you start to learn. You need 3-5 yrs minimum as self-employed/company Boss, after then it will become apparent if the journey is worth it.

I d never envisaged running my own company after getting out, it just came about after a certain number of factors, (luck being 50% of) all came together. Knowledge, and the will to succeed in what you enjoy doing most (hey, we work 50 yrs of our life, so it should be enjoyed) are the main factors.

Good luck, the other 50% is in your court.
 
#9
Blimey, in your imagination you are doing so well you are already planning to give away some of your profits.

In the real world you'll be lying awake at night wondering how the **** you are going to make your next mortgage payment.

For a married man with very young kids to be thinking about pulling out of a decent job with rock solid financial security 10 years short of a pension in order to make signs for businesses during a recession whose end is definitely not in sight is just madness.

I work for myself and it's hard, hard collar with no security whatsoever.

I wouldn't change it, but I'm single, my mortgage is paid off and I'm hoping to win the Euromillions lottery some time soon.

Best advice, keep it as a pipe dream for the next 10 years and have a go then by which time you'll have your pension and the recession should be over.
 
#10
I'm definitely not bitter, I have no reason to be. Civvy street IS easier than Army life, as long as you realise that you are the master of your own life and prepare accordingly. Expecting to have things handed to you on a plate is a route to failure. I personally found the Career Transition Workshop to be a waste of time beyond getting my CV sorted.
I started off in a job with an £11k paycut, and way below my capabilities, but I needed a job. Not long after starting, my wife was made redundant from her job. In a few months our household income dropped by £36k. Life wasn't easy for the next 2 years, but I was home almost every night and weekend, and when I wasn't I got paid overtime.
I also learned how to say "No" to my Bosses when my job plans conflicted with personal plans. I get to watch my daughter grow up in real time, not via photos and the welfare phone.

I loved being in the Army, and not a day goes by where I don't think about it. I love being a civvy more though, with the autonomy and freedom it brings. In my present employment there are 2 REME tech's (I am one), 4 ex RAF, 1 marine, 6 ex Navy, 1 apparently ex THEM (he doesn't talk about it), 1 Saffa grunt, and3 ex MOD apprentices that I know of, out of 40 engineers. All my mates that left are working, many in Oz, or America, or in the offshore industry. Not one of them regrets leaving before their pension for those that did so.

Scaring people about civvy life is doing them a disservice. There are people who can't cope with the move, and fall by the wayside, but it is their own fault if they stay there instead of dusting themselves off, and moving forward.

As you said, Army service counts for little, but the experience and (usual) attitude are invaluable. Remember that the people you are competing against in the job market are civvies, and we all know how shite they are.
Alright I see your point. I have met quite a few blokes who are ex army and homeless. Though I found the majority of them tend to be ex infantry with little to no qualifications. Quite worrying really, but as you said if they had the correct attitude then perhaps things would have turned out differently.

I think advice given here needs to be more accurate based on their branch of career in the army. You obviously was a tech, as an ex reme myself (vm) I know that techs are highly employable outside of the army, this is not the case for someone, say who served in the tankies. So the advice given should really be pertinent to which cap badge he belongs to.

If someone had done their tiffy course, and awarded their Ieng by the engineeirng council, then I would strongly encourage that man to sign off for he can earn much bigger cash in civy street, particularly the middle east. I was interviewed for 6k a month job in Iraq last summer, before I graduated, I didnt get it because I didnt know what I was talking about and it was by luck that I even got interviewed, never mind, but thats just the level ex reme and the like may picth themselves at with more experience than me. You cannot give the same advice to a fullscrew from the royal artillery, that wouldnt be fair and quite misleading entirely.
 
#11
To the OP

Unless you are from a technical capbadge with technical skills up to the required standard (HNC/HND, BSc with engineering council accredidation like EngTech or better still Ieng), and endevour to carry on in that line of work, then maybe sign off. But for heavens sake, you seems a bit naive in wanting to do that job you suggested. If you are not from a technical background, then deffinetly stay on, you got kids and a wife to feed, dont give up your guaranteed income job yet!

So there you have it, 2 pieces of conflicting advice from 2 ex remes. Good luck!
 
Z

Zarathustra

Guest
#12
To the OP

Unless you are from a technical capbadge with technical skills up to the required standard (HNC/HND, BSc with engineering council accredidation like EngTech or better still Ieng), and endevour to carry on in that line of work, then maybe sign off. But for heavens sake, you seems a bit naive in wanting to do that job you suggested. If you are not from a technical background, then deffinetly stay on, you got kids and a wife to feed, dont give up your guaranteed income job yet!

So there you have it, 2 pieces of conflicting advice from 2 ex remes. Good luck!
So only people from a technical trade have skills and qualifications to get a job on civvy street? I take it during your 5 years service you stayed in the LAD and never spoke to any of us uneducated types then?
 
#13
So only people from a technical trade have skills and qualifications to get a job on civvy street? I take it during your 5 years service you stayed in the LAD and never spoke to any of us uneducated types then?
Yeh sorry about that, I didnt mean to sound rude, it didnt come out as well as I intended. You know the answer to that, obviously you do not need a technical trade to do well in civy street!

In my experience, those who really struggle, and I mean struggle and ended up homeless, are the ones who has nothing in particular to offer to civvie street. These guys tend to be those who didnt do a trade, joined up with no to little GCSEs, and then coming out with nothing. Yes undoubtedly they may stand a better chance than the average dick tom and harry of civvie street, but the job market is now that bleak with no prospect of improvements, you really do need to have some kind of formal qualifications at the minimum just to get an interview. There are just so many jobless folks and so many qualified candidates to chose from. Im not talking down on the guys who has nothing, but what we can take from this is that those who are still serving to really do their homework and really do stuff beyond what the army offers, i.e. go to evening colleges or some sort. Perhaps thats the job of the older guys to tell the younger guys as they usually need mentoring and direction. Just a thought.
 
#14
I was medically discharged in 2006. Since then I haven't spent a day off work that I didn't want to take. I worked a few different security cleared IT job roles & have been in Afghanistan as a civvy since 2008. Since 2006 I have not earned less than a £1,000 per week, I had a halcyonic 6 months in Northern Ireland & the Republic when I was earning over £20,000 a month!

One thing I discovered, is that a lot of civvys are not willing to go the extra mile (no pun intended). When I was contracting back home, we had guys on our projects who weren't willing to travel outside the county they lived in! A lot of folk wouldn't work overtime either (at the time overtime rates for us were in the £90-£100 per hour region!).

It's hard work but not impossible, it has allowed me a lifestyle I would have never have been able to afford in the Army; I have a nice house with a tiny mortgage, two new cars, my wife, son & myself can afford whatever we want (within reason (no private yachts or jets though!)) & most importantly the last week of every month is not subsidised by Mastercard!!!

Due to the nature of my job, I do keep in touch with a lot of mates who are still in, so I do still get all the craic. I was an average soldier, perhaps a quite intelligent but still average soldier. I've managed to make a reasonable success of my life, even with a fucked R knee & back.

It is not all doom and gloom, just be willing to work hard. Oh by the way, try and keep your security clearance; it really is your "Golden Egg"!

If I can do it, any bugger can. I don't understand why the country isn't ran by us!
 
#15
One thing I discovered, is that a lot of civvys are not willing to go the extra mile (no pun intended). When I was contracting back home, we had guys on our projects who weren't willing to travel outside the county they lived in! A lot of folk wouldn't work overtime either (at the time overtime rates for us were in the £90-£100 per hour region!).

...

It is not all doom and gloom, just be willing to work hard. Oh by the way, try and keep your security clearance; it really is your "Golden Egg"!
I'd echo what KI's saying, to a reasonable extent - the effort you are used to putting in, ex-service, does make a clear difference to some of your civvie counterparts. And, when and where there is work, there is money to be made. But things are relatively tough at the moment and working for yourself does put a lot of pressure on you (and a lot of unfamiliar admin.)

I banged out at 30 because I was fed up of not seeing my kids - I earn far more now than I would have done if I had stayed in (and rarely have to go anywhere near Abbey Wood - which would probably have been my fate ...)

Although I'm not sure how useful a security clearance would be to a professional signwriter!
 
#16
Do sums before looking at leaving. Finding out your capitation rate (I.e. What you cost MOD in the round rather than what they pay you) can be rather sobering.
Basically to have the same standard of life as now in the army, in civvie strasse you may need to earn twice your current salary.

My penny's worth: stay in, buy a house, griz it out doing the sign writing as a second income, leave in 10 years with a part paid mortgage
 

Alsacien

MIA
Moderator
#17
Anyone who stays in just for the pension is a bell end. My pension pot increases per year by double the amount I had at the 12 year point. Of course if you don't have the balls and self confidence in your own ability to adapt and achieve, it may be the best can could hope for.
Whether you make a success of a civvy career depends on a combination of skills, ability and luck. One thing that seems consistent though, is that most folks need a "transit" phase of 1-3 years to change their way of thinking and outlook. That is easier at 30 than 40. After that time the majority of folks are more limited to roles that their mindset can cope with.
 

TheIronDuke

ADC
Book Reviewer
#18
I know nowt about the pension deal so take advice from them as do. But a mate of mines Dad is a traditional signwriter and he cant retire - too much well paid work coming in so he can be picky.

Reason is, it is a dying art but still needed in some niches. Pub signs still need to be hand made. And he gets loads of work from circuses and fairs who want their wagons / rides painted. Canal narrowboats too. Good luck.
 
#19
I left at age 30 after 12 years in 2000. The way I looked at it was that back-to-back Balkan tours were not my bag, my trade group had an average to to make Cpl of 14 years at that time, and that at 30 I was young enough to start again. I did find it easier than I though as I generally worked harder and realised that I would have to take an intital pay drop when starting again. Since then I've done very, very well for myself, but as has been said already, be prepared for a 3 year transition period to 'adjust', and enjoy being able to plan for holiday, concerts and as many weekends off as you like :)
 
#20
Guys,

Thanks for all of your feedback a lot of very interesting points. I don't think i have explained really how busy i have been so ill give you an example,
This week alone i have earned on the side 400 pounds from a paint-ball company and been paid 400 pounds for a mobile disco company. On Thursday i deployed on exercise for a week meaning that i had to turn down another company wanting me to do the livery for 3 cars and a burger van (minimum of a grands worth) that would of been 1800 for just over a weeks worth of work (bearing in mind when i say a week i mean from 1900 to 2300hrs every night once i have put the children to bed.
If i was a civvie i would of achieved this in just over 2 days leaving me to do other smaller jobs that have been mounting up.

I am not Naive, I know that i will not always be flooded with work like i am now but that is where good financial management comes in and i know full well the responsibilities i have as a father and to be able to provide for my family. I am also not some guy that has bought a machine from ebay and taught himself, i have been doing it since i was 15.

As per the comment about the economic situation, i know a hell of a lot of sign writers and the majority have not been affected. What is something you need when you are closing down? a closing down sign. what happens when you close down? somebody else rents the shop. what do they need? new signage. -of course these will not all be purchased from me.

What is wrong with trying to target the military as a customer base? they all have vehicles that they want to have things done to. (three motorcycles to wrap in carbon fibre -if it ever arrives!) they all require special leaving gifts glass engraved tables and such like. and they still have military communitys that require signage eg, community centres, brownies etc. There are contracts held by the units to sign makers and believe me out here in Germany the Germans really take the piss on the pricing. Honour boards, do you think they update themselves? i know the companies that have the contracts and they are 4 times as much as me. most of the time i do the bloody things for free!
 

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