How To Take Maternity Leave As An Entrepreneur

How to take maternity leave as an entrepreneur #womeninbiz #entrepreneur #business #success #mompreneur

As I’m writing this, I’m 8 months pregnant and Robin and I are so excited about our little bundle of joy on the way. By the time you read this post, I’ll be taking maternity leave as an entrepreneur…

I have a few friends and relatives who are expecting and having babies in my home country of Canada, where the maternity leave policy is 1 year off from work. And while I envy the option of taking a whole year off to learn how to be a mom, I also know that my entrepreneurial drive will have me thinking about my customers, my team, and our projects again before the 12 month mark.

That being said, I really believe that it’s possible to set up your business to give you a chance to take maternity leave as an entrepreneur, and here’s how we’re approaching this task.

The first I need to mention is that I’m in a special situation, because both myself and my husband work in the business… so we’ll both be feeling sleep deprived and learning how to become parents at the same time.

But the silver lining is that Robin will get to spend more time at home with the baby, especially during those precious first weeks and months.

Now let’s take a look at how we’ve been structuring our business for maternity (and paternity!) leave.

Reverse Engineer Your Due Date and Keep Commitments Manageable

Although not all pregnancies can be planned or scheduled into your calendar, we knew we wanted to start a family, so in early 2015 we started to make decisions with that plan in mind.

For our business, that meant reducing the amount of one-on-one coaching and mastermind retreats that I was leading, and also not putting on our annual event in 2016.

As soon as we found out I was pregnant, we really put all of our energies on building out our software product suite… because that’s a form of income for the business that doesn’t depend on me as much.

More Resources: The folks at The Simple Dollar make a great point about figuring out your cashflow, and setting money aside before the baby comes. Being a female entrepreneur comes with challenges, and having a cushion in the bank can help you feel more prepared for when baby comes!

Find Out Where Your Bottlenecks Are

We took a look at what the business really needed from me on a regular basis… and then we went on a hiring spree! We hired a project manager to keep everything running smoothly if I couldn’t be there to oversee our projects and our team.

We also hired a writer, who has been able to increase our content production and free me up to do some of the things that only I could do.

Now, you might not feel like you can hire full time employees yet in your business, but you can definitely hire on a project basis in preparation for your maternity leave.

One of my biggest mindset shifts around hiring amazing people to help you keep growing your business is this: when you invest money into a stock or real estate, you generally need to put up a big chunk of money up-front… and you’d expect a few percentage points in return.

But when you’re hiring, you only need to pay someone on a monthly basis – and you can usually expect a much higher return on investment, sometimes as high as double what you’re paying them. Pretty cool, right?

More Resources: My business colleague and founder of Meet Edgar, Laura Roeder talks more about how she removed the bottlenecks in her business in this episode of the Off The Charts podcast.

Maternity Leave for Business Owners
Photo credit: Snapberry Photographs

Bring Your Team Up To Speed On Your Maternity Leave Plans

After we got more support on board our team, it was time to have a meeting and find any holes we might need to plug. I’m sure there will be things that we didn’t anticipate that will come up, but taking the time to sit down and write out what potential things our team would deal with was key.

Here are some of the things we found we needed to prepare in order to take maternity leave without freaking out:

  • Plan out our editorial calendar, newsletters, and content for the next few months ahead of time
  • Record updated tutorial videos for how we do certain things (think Facebook ads, setting up campaigns, etc.)
  • Create an escalation plan for support requests, so that most support requests can be handled by the team unless Robin is needed on the “tougher ones”
  • Writing more canned responses and beefing up our Knowledge Base to answer questions more proactively
  • Set clear goals for everyone on the team, so they know exactly what they’re working on and responsible for

More Resources: Natasha Vorompiova from Systems Rock has a great post all about getting your systems maternity-leave ready.

Maternity Leave As An Entrepreneur

Automate, Delegate, or Delete Anything That Can’t Happen Without You

This is a big one! It’s actually a process that we’ve been applying since we found out that we had a baby on the way… and one that you can also use even if you don’t have a little one on the way.

When you start to automate things with tools and processes, you can remove yourself from the day to day operations of your business. Now, many times you’ll still want a human being there to make sure that everything is working as expected and to handle special circumstances – and that’s where delegating comes in.

One of the big realizations for my business is that we run launches for many of our programs, and these launches take a lot of my focus and energy. So we’ve begun to change our focus towards our evergreen product sales, instead.

Finally, being more strict about what’s really “necessary” in your business helps you delete tasks that might not be bringing in any benefits. Sometimes we get into a business groove, but end up losing sight of the big picture and the outcomes that we were after in the first place.

You’ll notice we started making this shift with our move from video to podcasts, and also with our automated software tools.

More Resources: My business colleague Denise Duffield-Thomas talks about how she simplified her business and automated the revenue generating activities in her “baby-proofing my business” post here. A prime example is her excellent Lucky Bitch Money Bootcamp program, which is available for purchase on an evergreen basis. (I highly recommend it, and I’m a proud affiliate and alumni myself!)

Set Firm Boundaries For Yourself + Prepare To Say No More Often

One of the biggest realizations I’ve made since starting on this motherhood journey is the need to be clear about what you want to create for yourself, business and lifestyle-wise.

I’ve had to say no to many speaking gigs, fun-looking networking events, and other activities that would have been a “yes” a year ago. And while part of me is sad that I won’t be doing a ton of speaking in 2016, I know that when I’m ready to get back on stage and share my message, I’ll have a lot more experience to pull from as a new mom.

A side benefit of being pregnant and taking maternity leave is that it really helps you filter through opportunities that might seem like a good idea but could be a distraction. It’s like a hyper-focused laser, because your time is so much more scarce and you can only do so much before the baby comes.

More Resources: Daily Worth writer Natasha Burton highlights the importance of not taking on more work than you can handle. This includes taking on more clients, projects, or expectations… and I couldn’t agree more!

Get The Support You’ll Need In Place Early & Test Your Systems

We had a “test run” of being disconnected from the business when we took an unplugged vacation a few months ago… and we discovered a few places where we would need to shore up our resources.

It’s also been a big priority for us to find local support in the form of a postpartum doula, our families coming to visit after the birth, and then finding childcare options once my maternity leave wraps up.

While women have been having babies for thousands of years, I think that running a business and having a baby brings a whole new level of complexity… and we don’t need to do it all alone!

More Resources: Meg Keene from A Practical Wedding shares her dismay at people who seem to think she does “all the things” herself. Instead, she enlists the support of her team members, childcare providers, and her husband.

Over To You Now… Did You Take Maternity Leave As An Entrepreneur?

Did you take time off for maternity leave as an entrepreneur? What tips do you have for other moms and business owners? Leave a comment below!

 

20 Responses to How To Take Maternity Leave As An Entrepreneur

  1. Hi Nat! As of now you must be already smiling to your baby and not having eyes for anything else, so congratulations to you and Robin!

    My Edna will be 5 months old next week, and I’m planning a year maternity leave although the rule in Spain is 4 months. But I couldn’t imagine myself being hours away from my baby yet!

    Well, it’s not a total maternity leave because as you say, being the boss means not being able to completely unplug, but my team takes care of most of the work and only come to me whenever they need my advice.

    In any case, I’m able to stay wih my daughter and stress-free most of the time.

    And that’s all thanks to you and your blog. From you I learnt the first skills and tools I needed to take my biz online, and thanks to you I discovered Marie Forleo and B-school that helped me boosting it and growing revenue and team.

    5 years ago I would not have been able to stay at home at all! And now look at me: taking a year off because “I’m the boss: let’s have the team work is trad of me”.

    So thanks a lot for crossing my path and I hope you get to enjoy your maternity as much as I am.

    Love from Barcelona!

    • Oh, a fellow Spaniard :) Congratulations Marta for doing so well and being able to spend so much time with Edna and relax a little :) I can’t say I’m there yet but I’m working on it!

  2. This is great info! Not quite ready for this, but keeping this all in mind for when the time comes. Good luck with your time off!

  3. This is definitely an interesting topic. I’m also on the path to motherhood, but I haven’t really worked out the details of maternity leave. I’m guessing I’ll have plenty of content scheduled, podcasts recording, etc.

  4. Great post, Nathalie! Congratulations!

    I think maternity leave would be all about savings for me. Nothing relieves the fear of needing to take on a client like knowing I’m “covered” on a cash-flow basis for the next few months.

    I’ve also been experimenting with compressing my schedule so I’m already working on client work only a few days a week, and taking regular breaks/vacations. It also helps that as a writer my clients don’t need access to me, per se, it’s more about when I can schedule my work and focus on it.

    I’m not pregnant, but that could be a blessing at any time. I hope you’re enjoying your new baby and resting!

  5. We actually started our business BECAUSE our son was on the way. My husband & I had full-time jobs and already had 3 boys when we found out #4 was on the way. I panicked (because – that’s what I DO at first) and he said “Wait – we’re going to be fine. I’m going to quit my job and we’re going to start our own business.” He didn’t quit right away, but our first client was a co-worker of his, so we worked at night after the boys were in bed. By the time my son was born, we had 2 more clients and we took on my husband’s boss as a client, too! Did I get a maternity leave? Nope – I went right back to work the day after I came home from the hospital. I didn’t put in as many hours for awhile and we did eventually hire someone to help around the house, but I didn’t mind going right back to work because for the first time I was building something. My son is now 10 years old and all of those clients are still with us! It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done, but also the most rewarding!! I wish you the best with your little bundle of joy!!

    • Hi! I’m SO glad you wrote this post. It’s so key to plan for mat leave when you run your own business. You’re doing a great job!! I’m a business owner and doula- and when I planned my own mat leave 15 months ago I learned a lot about my own expectations of myself. I’m going to do it so much differently when I have a second baby. But it was a huge learning experience and now I’m better able to serve my clients.

      I love this: “Finally, being more strict about what’s really “necessary” in your business helps you delete tasks that might not be bringing in any benefits.” It’s so true- being a mom MAKES you prioritize *everything*, I’ve never said no so much, as I have now that I’m a parent. We only have 24 hours in the day- so it’s important to make every moment count.

      Best wishes to you and the rest of your pregnancy!

  6. As a mom of four ranging from 15 to 3, I think you’ve made some great suggestions! I’ll be honest, I have no idea how I would have done what I’m currently doing with a newborn (my business is barely 1 year old).

    Moms need support and encouragement, especially when they’re in that “tired newborn” phase. I hope any new or soon-to-be-new moms reading this get the help and support they need, or they’ll quickly lead themselves to burnout. And don’t feel discouraged if the road is bumpy. Hugs and love to moms everywhere! We need more encouraging voices on this topic.

  7. It sounds like the process you’ve already gone through will help you when you decide you do want to go “back to work”. Somehow I doubt you will completely disengaged because a business is very much like a baby – but you won’t have to do as much.

    Managing expectations is very important – it might seem like your baby sleeps a lot so when the time comes you’ll have plenty time to work. But the baby won’t necessarily sleep on the same schedule that you want to work so getting a person who you really trust with your baby is key.

    Best of luck – my youngest started college this year so I have seen how things change over the years. It sounds like you have a good support system so don’t be afraid to use it!

  8. Congrats on the new baby! I love how intentional you were about planning to take time off. I think a lot of entrepreneurs and freelancers feel too much pressure to work all the time, and they lose out on one of the greatest benefits of being your own boss- flexibility.

    As a freelancer I’m so grateful that I have control over my maternity leave plans. When I was pregnant with my daughter I started scaling back in the 3rd trimester so I could rest more. I had so many friends who had no choice but to work up until their due date, no matter how exhausted and uncomfortable they were. I also had control over how I re-entered my work, unlike most of my American friends, who were limited to 3 months off, assuming they could even afford that. I started working on small projects when my daughter was 4 weeks old, and didn’t ramp back up to full-time work until she was 9 months.

    I firmly believe that freelancers and entrepreneurs deserve to have work-life balance and take advantage of the flexibility of their career choice. Why work for yourself if you can’t set your own rules? It’s awesome to see you set an inspiring example of balancing family and business!

  9. Hi Nat !
    Great post as it is indeed a very important topic as entrepreneur. Baby’s arrival is planned for next week and i’m still working…at home I must say. I thought I would be more laid back as much as I would arrive to term but it ain’t so easy. I’m in France and maternity leave is supposed to be well organized but I have to admit, the “fear” of staying in the movement of business is strong.
    Running the business and being concerned/ busy with baby’s arrival can be overwhelming!
    I guess I will take some time off soon !

    Good luck.
    xxx Love from France

  10. So excited for you! And yes this is a big important subject. I am going to think about it and reply again, but for now I will just say that finding a way to take time now for yourself (selves) is worth the effort. In our case we chose to just have less money but be there more for our baby. I was the main baby-manager and my husband worked, which in the middle of the night helped as it was clear who was getting up to take care of our guy…I think that helped keep stress low in our house and babies like that. I totally prioritized his (the baby’s) sleep, and I truly believe that is the most important foundation for my now super awesome polite and kind 9 year old! Sleep rules the school. But I am also an at-home entrepreneur so that bit…I may need to consider what I want to say, I basically shut down for 4 years! Not kidding. Then cranked back to work. If I could go back I might work a bit more to keep my savvy self image (I felt a bit mom-frumpy and that still kind of follows me)…but if I ever feel like being hard on myself I remind myself of how excellent our kid is and how I know the extra effort I put into his first few years really, really, resulted in a calm well behaved smart nice guy. Good luck, you have many people across the globe cheering you on!

  11. Hi there
    I love this post and I have forwarded it to a few clients who are business owners and want to have a baby or a second baby but wonder how they can do it and keep the business momentum going.
    It’s such a precious time for parents and baby, I love that we are making it a reality that it’s a priority that the family needs bonding and resting and learning time. Big transition both physically and emotionally and even spiritually.
    So much happens for baby and Mom in that first year. Yay for freedom of choice to make it work for all types of families.
    Thanks for sharing and congratulations with your new baby!!@@

  12. Hi Natalie. Warm wishes to you and Robin as you become parents. Just a quick word to say thank you for your genuine authenticity and enthusiasm. I work from home too, and have fitted in two babies. It’s a great way to live. Anna

  13. Thanks for this thorough look at maternity leave for entrepreneurs! I decided to stay in my current job, and delay starting my own business until I started a family (first baby due this summer!) because I just didn’t think it would be workable for us financially to not receive maternity leave payments (E.I.) during that first year.
    I think small business owners can pay into EI in order to get maternity leave, but you need to apply something like 14 months in advance, which requires some serious planning!
    It sounds like you’ve found systems to really make it all work for your business and your lives…I will definitely be holding on to this article. Please keep us posted on how things go, balancing parenthood and entrepreneurship – and congratulations on your pregnancy :)

  14. Enjoy your maternity leave! I was very excited to listen to this podcast. For me, I have a fire under me to monetize my 18-month old business as soon as possible, so I can be a full-time entrepreneur by the time we bring our baby girl home from her orphanage in China. We have another 9-18 months to go in our “paper pregnancy,” so for me, preparing for maternity leave means moving heaven and earth to not have to return to the corporate world! And if I’ve grown my business enough to take a partial mat leave when we get her? Even better!

  15. Thanks for the very detailed explanation. I intend to get pregnant, but had not thought how to reconcile work with pregnancy, especially after the baby is born.
    It helped me think about my organization.

  16. Hi Nathalie!

    I’m planning to have my baby, I got married three years ago and only now decided to get pregnant, but despite all the preparation and care, I’m a little afraid, mainly because of the fear of failing to reconcile motherhood with my work .

    Thanks for the wonderful post.

    Andrea