As I head into my second maternity leave while being self-employed, I’ve been thinking a lot about the lessons I learned last time and how I’m taking a completely different approach to maternity leave this time around.
I was really anxious about my first maternity leave. From the moment I found out I was pregnant up until I had my daughter, I spent the majority of my time prepping my business for leave. This time though, I’m a lot calmer because I know what to expect and I know my business can run without me.
I originally had a lot of questions about what I should be doing and how I could make sure my business wouldn’t die while I was taking time off. I didn’t find a lot of resources out there at that time, which is why I wanted to put together this post! Here’s what you can do to prepare for maternity or parental leave if you’re self-employed:
Get help and make a plan
You don’t want your business to come to a complete stop while you’re away, but you also don’t want your clients or customers to have the same expectations of you.
One of the first coaches I ever worked with was answering client emails just two hours after giving birth. That’s not why I started my own business! This is why you need to get help so that your clients and customers are taken care of while you’re out.
When I was prepping for my first leave, I had a contractor start taking over my clients’ ads accounts months before I had my daughter. That way, they could understand the strategy behind our work so if anything came up while I was out, they would know how to handle it without having it come to me.
I also introduced my clients to their point of contact months before my maternity leave so that they could get comfortable with that person and know that they would be taken care of while I was out. Yes, hiring a contractor to cover for you costs money, but here’s the thing:
That money you’re spending is going to continue to make your clients happy. Not only will they continue to work with you, but you’ll also have peace of mind since you’re not trying to balance a newborn while also running a business.
You don’t want to be the person answering client emails two hours after you’ve given birth!
For my digital programs, I hired member mentors to help answer member questions and host support calls while I was out. This time around, I’m doing the exact same thing. I’ve actually expanded my core team of contractors since my last baby was born and they’re going to keep things running behind the scenes. We’ve even put together a plan for who they need to contact if they need help instead of having to come to me, and how to contact me in case of emergencies.
So the very first thing you need to do is get help — pay people so your clients stay happy and you can have time off, and make a really good plan. Don’t have a contractor come on two weeks before going on to leave, have them come on three months beforehand so they can become familiar with your clients and the type of work you do.
Once you have a plan in place, you need to share it with your clients and customers. Let them know when you’re planning on being out, who their main contact will be, and your game plan for completing any projects you can before your time off. Do this months ahead of time. Don’t be afraid to tell your clients and customers that you are having a child and taking time off!
If a client doesn’t respect the fact that you are taking time off to be with your new child, then they’re not the type of person that you want to be working with anyways. Most people are going to be excited for you and completely understand that whatever is happening in the few months that you take off is not more important than spending time with your new baby.
In the corporate world, you’re given a certain amount of time off for parental leave, and then when that time is up, you’re thrown right back into where you left off, like you’re magically expected to go from full-time parent back to full-time employee the day your leave is over. That’s just insane!
First of all, parental leave in the United States is absolutely pathetic.
No one, absolutely no one should be forced to go back to work after just 12 weeks. For my first maternity leave, I planned it like a corporate leave: I was going to take a certain amount of time off and then I was going to dive right back in. This was a terrible idea.
I actually found myself thinking about work before my leave was over and I wasn’t ready to come back either. I think sometimes we forget about the best thing about owning your own business: you get to make the rules, you get to do what works for you.
It’s okay if you want to start working a few weeks after your baby is born, and it’s okay if you never want to go back to working the hours you were before. It’s also okay to just go with the flow and not have a perfect plan. Be flexible and follow what feels right for you and know that it’s okay to change your plans.
For this maternity leave, I’m being super flexible. I don’t have a specific date that I’m planning to return to work, and I’m also okay hopping on a call when I feel up for it. I’m just going to do what feels right instead of having a perfect plan put together, and I’m able to do that because I have the help in place to do so.
If you have plans to launch something new, do it before your maternity leave, not after
Learn from my first maternity leave! Leading up to my leave, all I was doing was preparing for my time off, which meant that I put all of the projects and ideas I had for the business on the back burner until after my daughter was born. This was a terrible plan.
Less than four months after having Lauren we launched the podcast. A few months later, we launched Successful Solopreneur School. I’m so glad we launched both of these things, but I wish I had done it before my daughter was born. My brain was very much still in mommy mode, and to be honest, it was really hard to give these projects the attention I wanted to give them.
That’s why this time, I’m completing all of the new things that we have coming out this year before baby number two is born. Already this year, we’ve updated our branding, completed our new website, and launched our brand new program Powered by Passive Academy. That way, I can spend the rest of the year making updates to things, which is a lot easier than trying to launch something totally new.
Evaluate your business before you take time off
Before the baby comes, this is a really good time to evaluate your business and financially prepare for time off. Having a baby changes everything, and if your business is not where you want it to be, this is the time to reevaluate and figure out how to make it what you want it to be.
If everything in your business relies on you to manually do things, now might be a good time to set up automated processes, hire the help you need, or think about turning your offerings into digital products. You want your business to work for you. You don’t want to build your life around your business, so in the months leading up to your leave, reevaluate your business and make sure it’s giving you what you want from it. If it’s not, make the changes now, and financially prepare for taking time off. Make sure that you’re saving and giving yourself that wiggle room so you can enjoy all of those baby snuggles!
I’m so excited for baby number two to be here very soon, and I feel so confident going into this leave because I know my business can run without me. I have great help and contractors who make sure that it does! I’m also being flexible this time so I can come back when I want, work as much as I want, or not work at all if I don’t want to.
I know when I was first trying to figure out how to plan a leave being self-employed, I was really overwhelmed. If you’re feeling that way right now, just remember: get help, have a plan, be transparent with your clients and customers; be flexible, do what works for you, be okay with changing your plan, launch your new ideas before your leave, and really use the time to evaluate your business and prepare for your business to give you the life you want even after your little one has arrived!
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