The first time I was pregnant I was an employee. I was working for someone else and other than scheduling PTO for regular OBGYN appointments and filling out the appropriate paperwork for leave and short-term disability, there wasn’t much else I had to worry about. I wrapped up my projects, cleaned up my desk on that final day before I started my maternity leave and set my Out of Office reply.
This second time around though I am a solopreneur. I am not only the only employee, I am the boss. So as soon as I found out I was pregnant I started thinking about how I could “baby proof” my business for my maternity leave. While I love what I do, I knew I wanted to carve time out of my year following the birth of my second child to bond with her, just like I did with her older sister.
As I have prepared for this special time in my life, I’ve learned just how much planning goes into maternity leave when you own your own business. But in the end, it really boils down to five steps. Keep reading for how to plan maternity leave as a solopreneur.
Consider Whether or not you Should Outsource during your Leave
Depending on your product or service, it may make sense to hire a contract worker to take on your duties while you are on leave. If you are a social media engagement specialist, hiring help to take over your accounts is probably a must. You also wouldn’t want to pause sales on your site if you sell jewelry or other products.
But if you are a photographer, it may be best to send out a list of other photographers you would recommend to your clients if they need to shoot while you are on leave. As a freelance writer, I worked to make sure that all of my clients’ content for the months I planned to be on leave was written, edited, and formatted into their sites prior to my maternity start date.
Set a Date and Stick to it
This may be the hardest step to take, but it can make or break your maternity leave and your business. Once you have developed a maternity leave plan and set a date, it is imperative that you stick to it. This isn’t just for your own good, since it can be so easy to push things off. It is also to ensure that you plan your time wisely in the months before it comes so that you get what you need to do done. It isn’t fair to you or to your clients if you change your date and it may make it seem like you’ve been procrastinating or have taken on too much which will not look good for you.
Also, what happens if you end up going into labor early? Making sure you plan those months before your maternity leave wisely and ensuring that you get everything you need done by that date can be a lifesaver.
Be Realistic About How Much Time You’ll Need to Take
If you’ve already had a child, you may have a better idea of how much time you will need for your leave than if this is your first. When you are an employee, short term disability for those who undergo a c-section is typically eight weeks, while those who give birth vaginally are usually given six weeks leave. You should consider these as rough guidelines when you are planning your leave.
But many things can happen during the childbirth and recovery experience. There could be complications, you may have planned for a natural birth and it resulted in an emergency c-section. I’m not trying to scare you but these are things that need to be taken into account.
When I developed my maternity leave plan, I left my return to work date as more of a time frame than an exact date. Then I followed up by promising to keep in touch with my clients around that time so they would have a better idea of when I would be back in the office.
This brings me to my next point and this may be the most important if you want to preserve your client/service provider relationship …
Communicate as Much as Possible with your Clients Prior to your Leave
You should start to communicate with your clients as soon as you feel ready to share your big news with them. While in my first email to my clients I admitted that I still had yet to come up with a formal maternity plan, I let them know that I was pregnant, that I would be taking a leave, and that it would start a few weeks before my June due date.
A month later when I had a date set for the beginning of my maternity leave, I sent out another email detailing how I planned to ensure their content would be completed prior to my leave and approximately how long I planned to take.
A month prior to my “maternity leave start date”, I sent out another email, reminding them that I would be going on leave and asking for all materials to be sent over as soon as possible so their content for the next couple of months would be drafted and ready to publish.
If you keep in contact, informing your clients about your plans and assuring them that as long as they are willing to work with you that you can get what they need done, you will not feel as if you are leaving anyone hanging. You’ll also know that you did as much as possible to keep that client/service provider relationship strong so that when you are ready to return to work, your clients will be there for you.
Set Your Out of Office and Enjoy that time with your new Little One
Now that you’ve come up with that maternity leave plan, you’ve either hired help or have everything done for your clients ahead of time, you’ve communicated everything with them and know that they are aware of how the next few months will go, it’s time for you to set that Out of Office. Make it clear in your reply the time frame of when you plan to return to work, as well as the happy reason for why you are away from your desk!
Then all that’s left to do is make sure you are ready to welcome your new little one and finally enjoy this special time that you are going to remember for the rest of your life. While it is difficult as a solopreneur to take any time off, nevermind several weeks, I promise that you will never regret it.