Planning for maternity leave when you run your own business
There’s no better deadline than your baby’s due date. It’s an event that’s going to happen - there’s no going back - so procrastination is pretty futile. As ominous as this sounds, when you run your own business you can use your due date to give you momentum. You can even achieve things in your business that you may not have thought possible!
I had terrible morning sickness for the first 5 months of my pregnancy so during that time I did the bare minimum of work, and even that was done whilst lying in bed. Once the morning sickness fog had lifted (with the help of a prescription from the doctor) I began to plan, plan, plan. Planning is so key when you, and you alone, are responsible for the success of your business. Plan well and you can maintain (or actually increase) your revenue. Plan poorly (or not at all) and you may well not have a business to return to.
Here are the 5 things I did in the run up to having Izzy:
Conversations with clients
I was genuinely worried my clients would ditch me as soon as I told them I was pregnant. I began to think I’d need to start from scratch once I finished my maternity leave, which was rather daunting. However, my clients were absolutely lovely when I told them the news. They immediately said they’d want me back if I was planning to start working again, which was fantastic. I realised that I had underestimated my value to them and their businesses, and how much they appreciated me. Plus, as relatively new start-ups themselves at the time, they go with the flow a lot more than a traditional employer, and they also appreciate the flexibility of hiring freelance workers.
As well as being open about my return-to-work plans, I promised my clients I was in the process of finding my own maternity cover for them. I did this by finding someone in my existing network – someone I knew would cover my role well and keep things ticking over until my return. Even if you don’t plan on having a baby it’s really helpful to build relationships with other VAs. You can find cover when you go on holiday and pass overflow work if you have too much on your plate. Just be sure to have an agreement in place so you are both clear on finances and responsibilities etc.
As a self-employed woman in the UK, I’m afraid to say that Statutory Maternity Allowance won’t allow you too many indulgences. Your eligibility depends on several factors, including how long you have been paying Class 2 National Insurance Contributions. You can find out more information here.
Aside from the maternity allowance, I would highly recommend putting money aside as soon as you find out you’re expecting. As a self-employed person this should be one of your habits anyway, as you will also be saving for your tax bill.
Blog posts and social media
My blog on my old website definitely wasn’t as active as it is now, but I planned in advance and scheduled a number of blog posts to be published while I was out of action. I also scheduled regular social media posts. This way I knew I would maintain a certain level of visibility while I was off.
Looking back now, I would also recommend continuing to reach out to potential clients while you are off on mat leave. This may sound like an odd thing to do when you’re not able to work, but it’s always a good idea to have potential client conversations. If you are planning on taking 6 months off work, you could start initial contact via email / LinkedIn etc a few months before you are planning on working again. ‘I’ll have an opening for a new client in September, so if you would like to have a chat about how we could work together perhaps we could have a call this week?’
Let my creativity flow
I read somewhere that while you’re pregnant and have a new baby the creative part of your brain becomes more active (no idea where I read this, and I can definitely put this memory lapse down to baby brain. Which I’m adamant I still have…) I’m sure I became more creative when I had Izzy because the idea of this website was born while I was on mat leave. I began to think of ideas outside of the day to day running of things, even when utterly sleep deprived. There’s a great Stylist article showcasing women who went on to reinvent their careers and/or businesses while they were on maternity leave. Very inspiring reading.
Do you have any top tips for planning for maternity leave? I’d love to hear them!