Your First Steps to Taking Maternity Leave
I’m gearing up for maternity leave and that means that we’re having a bit of a movie day today! Daniel’s all snuggled up next to me, we have a bowl of fruit for a snack, and I’m writing content for the blog and our JB email insiders so that you’re well taken care of while I’m away.
I’ve been telling Daniel for two months now that I’m working so hard right now so that I don’t have to work at all in January. We’ve been talking a lot about having Mommy + Daniel + baby sister days for our “family leave.”
Why? Because I felt a ton of shame around the extra work I needed to do. I was sick for the first four months of my pregnancy and could hardly work, so there was some catchup that had to happen there. And on top of that, I needed to get ready for maternity leave.
There was just no way to do that in 9 hours each week.
But we don’t have to live under shame. When it creeps in, we can take that shame captive and throw it off of us. No, really! I visualize tying up the shame in a rope and throwing the shame off.
We decided to enroll Daniel in a preschool program two days a week for a few hours so I could get some big maternity leave pieces in place. Things like the new website and career shift, automating the educational side of the Light & Airy presets (both on Instagram and for our email insiders), and our big launch with the presets.
And then, you know, the stuff that actually has to happen while I’m away on maternity leave. Things like blog content, email content, social content, and taking care of the JB Insider facebook group.
Your First Steps to Planning for Maternity Leave
So today I want to give you a big-picture look at your first steps to maternity leave. When you find out you’re pregnant or you’re ready to start thinking about maternity leave, this is where you need to start.
I’m going to talk about business money and what you need in your business checking and business savings. I’ve found that this is the most stress-free way to run a business while on maternity leave, but if you’re reading this just weeks before your maternity leave, just keep it in mind for next time.
No fear or shame allowed here. This is about freedom! And snuggling that baby you’ve been growing.
1. Know Your Numbers
If you’re not already familiar with your business expenses, now’s the time to get to know those numbers. Whether you’re a service-based or produce-based business, give yourself a fixed paycheck.
When you’re familiar with your numbers, you’ll know the percentage you get to take home from your business. Convert that percentage into dollars and that’s your paycheck each month.
Then, when you have a great sales month and you make a little extra, you can decide to give yourself a little bonus or - and this is what I’d suggest - you can put it in savings for a different month when sales dip a bit.
Over time, as you see your business income increase, you can recalculate your percentage, convert that to dollars and decide if it’s time for a raise.
2. Manage Every Dollar That Comes In and Goes Out
In 2018, one of my business goals is to bring on someone to handle every single dollar for my business — like a CFO.
But I decided not to do that this year because I knew I was transitioning to a different career and with that comes a different cash flow. I needed to be looking at the numbers each week so I had a really good grasp on where we were, how we were growing, and if there were any financial pitfalls we needed to overcome.
This decision paid off. I’m well-aware of my numbers now and when I get back from maternity leave, I’ll be able to delegate my finances to someone else. Bringing on a CFO of sorts is going to give me the freedom to really step back and look at my business finances with a birds eye view so I can make decisions from a CEO perspective (instead of a bookkeeping/accounting perspective).
3. Hire a Virtual Assistant
When I was pregnant with Daniel, I had a limiting belief that I couldn’t take maternity leave. Basic small business rules…
You sit down at your desk = you make money
So if you aren’t sitting at your desk, you aren’t making money. If I could tell the Jordan from 2015 anything, I’d tell her to have someone else sit at her desk.
Let someone else sit at your desk.
Your virtual assistant will be able to handle emails, customer support, and even help you get ready for maternity leave. The reason I’ve been able to write so much content while I’m away on maternity leave is because I just have to focus on writing the content.
I write the content in a google doc and select the images for the blog post and my virtual assistant proofreads everything, double-checks the links, creates any graphics that we need and handles the formatting, SEO, and setup for each blog post.
Make a list of everything that will need doing while you’re on maternity leave and create a team that can support those areas of your business while you’re away.
Trust me, it will be worth it. Because… baby snuggles. Also, a woman needs her sleep and it will be a miracle if you get any. So hiring a virtual assistant might mean that you actually get to take a nap each day.
Or start a new hobby that has nothing to do with your business.
4. Decide If You’ll Need to Have Team Check-Ins
You own your own business. That means that unless you have a large team in place and haven’t onboarded anyone in the last six months that certain things still fall to you if something happens in the business.
Because of this, I’ll do occasional check-ins with my virtual assistant. She’ll be able to ask me questions and fill me in on business happenings and I’ll give myself a specific amount of time to handle business-related things.
This doesn’t mean I’ll be responding to emails, writing blog posts, or jumping in to order prints for my 2017 wedding clients. My VA will be able to handle the inbox, make changes to blog posts (if needed), and direct my clients to their online gallery where they’ll be able to order prints.
So think of a check-in for your maternity leave looking something more like a conversation. It’s a delegation conversation. And if there’s something that pops up that absolutely has to be done — no questions asked — then you look at the clock and see how much time you have left for your check-in.
Because you have a baby you get to snuggle and take care of. There are memories to make and you’ve built a business that will not come crashing down in a few months. So whatever might feel pressing because you haven’t been sleeping can probably wait until you return.
5. Answer This Question: Will Your Business Still Make Money While You’re on Maternity Leave?
If you’re a service-based business, hiring a Virtual Assistant to handle bookings and onboard new clients is a great way to keep your cash flow. But if you need to be more hands-on with your bookings to make sure that each client is a good fit and it’s just not something you can fit into a formula and delegate?
You know, because you need face-to-face interviews? Then I’d suggest doing a major launch three months before you’re supposed to go on maternity leave to book what you’d need to be booking while you’re on maternity leave.
Something that service-based businesses don’t always get to utilize is deadlines. You have the advantage of scarcity because you only have so much time, but you don’t always have a “closed for bookings” period of time.
Although… I think that could be a pretty brilliant strategy to implement.
So you could create a deadline for the last day they can book you before you go on maternity leave. Obviously, you won’t be doing any work on maternity leave, so this is going to look like extra work beforehand, extra work afterward, or both.
Wedding photography didn’t require face-to-face interviews, so if I was still pursuing that career, it would be easy to make a list of what I’m looking for and the red flags that make me turn down any wedding. I could toss all that info in a google doc, share it with my VA before maternity leave, and make sure she felt comfortable handling the process.
If you’re a product-based business, will your business still make money while you’re away? If all you have are courses and none of those are automated, it will be hard to keep a consistent cash flow while you’re out of the office.
But if you have a product or a shop, you might be able to automate the process so your income doesn’t take a hit while you’re on maternity leave. You could set up email funnels, record tutorials for your team to use in case there’s a glitch with one of the programs you use (email marketing, course delivery, checkout process, etc).
6. Decide How Long Your Maternity Leave Will Be
You own your own business. And while one possible down-side might be having a team check-in while you’re on maternity leave, a definite upside is that you get to decide how many weeks you want to take off.
I decided that I wanted to take 14-16 weeks off for maternity leave and if all goes according to plan, I’ll have 15 ½ weeks with Daniel and baby girl.
You don’t have to take a long maternity leave, but I’ll say that I’ve never heard anyone complain about a long maternity leave. It can be really hard to transition back into work after any amount of time away, but I think it’s especially true after maternity leave.
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Whether you own your own business or work a traditional job, going back to work can be an emotional thing. Hormones are real and I think there’s also a ton of shame centered around working and being a mom.
We’re going to change that.
I’ll be back to talk about your last steps before you take maternity leave! There’s so much joy ahead - a thriving business to return to and a little one to get to know through lots of snuggles.
What are you most excited about for maternity leave? What are your biggest questions when it comes to taking care of your business?