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Welcome back to another episode of Office Talk, my friend. In this episode, I thought it would be fun to kind of pull back the curtain a little bit, and let you in on some of the things I’ve been doing to prepare for maternity leave.
Now before you think, “Well Annette, I’m not pregnant. I’m not going on maternity leave anytime soon.” If you’re planning on taking a big break, or you want to go on an extended trip or vacation, maybe even take a little bit of a sabbatical. I thought these would be really helpful tips for you as well. So definitely listen in.
Now if you don’t know, my husband and I are expecting our first little girl at the end of the year, and it is a true ,true blessing and it is something that I have been looking forward to for a very, very long time. But I have to admit, it also makes me really anxious when it comes to what is my business going to look like after I come back and what am I going to do with my business while I’m on maternity leave. So I have been really conscientious and tried to be very deliberate in preparing for maternity leave.
I’ve talked to some friends who also run service-based businesses and gotten some of their tips and have applied them and basically I started off by thinking well, what is it that I want to really feel when I’m away on maternity leave. And my goal is to be really present for this stage of my life. And for the season in my life, I would like to be very present with my baby and not be super worried about what’s happening in the business. Having to balance that against the fact that you know, I pretty much run a one-woman shop. I do have some help and so I don’t want to also lose what I’ve worked so hard to build when it comes to my business, you know, it’s kind of like my other baby, my business baby.
So keeping that in mind, about what is it that I want to feel, how do I want my maternity leave to unfold in an ideal situation? I kind of took that as my starting point and took steps to create that and hopefully have that come to fruition. Obviously, we all know you can’t really plan when it comes to babies. I don’t know what I’m going to expect but I’m going to try and do my very best.
My first tip is to start preparing even before you’re ready. So here’s what I mean. My husband and I knew we wanted to have kids, and we knew it was probably going to be coming up in the next year or so in terms of our attempts to get pregnant. And so I reached out and started working with a VA with that in mind. So I had worked with VAs in the past, you know kind of on and off, but I brought this VA on-board knowing that. And I told her during our interview that this is kind of what’s coming down the pike for me. Ideally, I want to be able to take some time off when the baby comes and so I’m going to need your help and getting me ready and also just kind of manning the ship while I’m gone.
So we have spent a lot of time slowly documenting our processes. I’m pretty organized. I have a lot of it already documented, but there’s always things that you, as a business owner, do that you probably shouldn’t be doing that somebody else can do, but you just have never taken the time to create some sort of manual or training or checklist for them to do it or some sort of communication. So over the last few months, as different tasks have come up, we’ve been really diligent about creating videos, and then that she then takes and creates step-by-step checklists into what we call or kind of our virtual team handbook that has a lot of the step-by-step actions we take for various tasks in our business.
I also started delegating certain tasks to her and, like, slowly where I would give her one area of responsibility. So she is, for example, solely responsible for X, and then I would give her a month or two to really take ownership over it to really become comfortable with it. If there are questions, if there are things that we hadn’t anticipated, to get those things resolved and then I just handed it to her.
So the goal there has been really to get her acclimated with things so that she can handle a bulk of the tasks and the requests that might come in while I’m on maternity leave. So at this point, I would say she is probably well-equipped to handle about 90 to 95 percent of kind of the operations in my business so that I don’t have to worry about that.
My next tip is to have a communication plan in place with your support team. So let’s see how this goes. I’ve heard babies are really demanding. I’ve heard I’m not going to get a lot of sleep. I’m going to be super tired. But my VA knows that she has a direct line to me through, you know, the different tools that we use. We use Voxer, we use Asana. She knows that if she needs to get in touch with me, she can reach me. She also has my phone number, obviously, so if there is anything that is somewhat of an emergency that needs my attention ASAP, I have set that expectation that she can reach out to me and I will do my very best to get back to her as soon as I can.
So my goal, let’s see what happens, is to carve out a little bit of time each week to check in with my VA, to skim and read my emails, to kind of make sure everything is running smoothly, with the goal being that I can really spend the bulk of my time and my attention caring for myself and for my baby.
The next step is to go through any current projects and contracts and aim to get everything done a few weeks before your due date. So babies apparently have a mind of their own and they can come at any time. And so I think it’s been helpful for me to really push back that date of when my actual cut off is and so I have set up to-dos and tasks to get certain things done several weeks before the baby’s due date. Because we don’t know when she’s gonna come and if she comes on my due date or later great, I can, you know, spend that time doing work or relaxing. But at least I’m not under the gun to get things done up until the very last minute or have been a situation where she comes early and I haven’t finished things. If you are a service provider, you want to let your clients know ASAP about your maternity leave. Give them deadlines to follow in terms of the last day that you will be accepting any new work, or the last day you need certain things in by in order to complete the project.
So I work mostly on a project-by-project basis, but I do have clients who come back to me, time and again. So several months ago, I reached out to the clients who I work with the most and I let them know, ”Hey, I’m going to be going on maternity leave. The last day for any new work is going to be X date and how long I’m going to be gone. This is what I plan to be back.” Just really keeping those lines of communication open.
And before I get back, or when I get back, also reach back out to them to let them know that hey I’m back. If you need anything. I’m available. Obviously, if you have anything that is due contractually, you know, if you have committed to getting something done, make sure to get that done before you go on leave.
One of the most stressful things about going on maternity leave when you work for yourself, is obviously you don’t get like a, you know, guaranteed paid paycheck every month, if you’re not doing the work. So unlike a kind of more traditional corporate job where you might get maternity leave and you might continue getting your paycheck every month, in this situation if you’re not working, you’re not getting paid. So one of the things I did was to think through saving so that I had enough money for operating costs while I was gone. But also going through all of my costs and expenses and seeing is there anything a that I can cut or that I could somehow put on pause or on-hold while I’m on maternity leave? I usually do this exercise at least once a year. Anyway, I keep really good records of what my different expenses are and I re-evaluate particularly with the softwares. I mean those things add up and so I will go through and you know, I know when things are due, when the annual fee is coming, due and will re-evaluate well in advance. Do I still need the software? Am I going to terminate this contract? Am I going to continue with it or not?
But what was unique here was there are certain softwares and memberships that I do use that I do want to continue using but I don’t necessarily need them while I’m on maternity leave, and so I reached out to the account managers, the sales team and I told them, “Hey, I’m going to be on maternity leave. Would you be willing to just pause my membership during those three months?” and I was very surprised that they actually agreed because they didn’t have to. Contractually, I was obligated to pay during that period but they were kind enough to pause that for three months. And so I actually saved a lot of money there.
A related tip: if you don’t already have it is to put everything on automation. All of my expenses for softwares that I will continue to use or for services that I continue to use, are automatically charge on my credit card, so I don’t have to worry about having to pay invoices and kind of getting the, you know, the electricity cut off so to speak.
Speaking of automations, I’ll be setting up autoresponders, once I am actually on maternity leave, letting people know, communicating with them about where I’m at, how you know if I’m going to be checking, what they can expect in terms of me getting in touch with them, and when I’ll be back.
And the next thing that I’m doing to prepare for maternity leave is to create content for you. And this has been, you know, it’s probably something I should be doing in my business, but batch creating content because I am nervous about just falling off the face of the Earth and then, you know, all of a sudden re-appearing months later like, “Hey, I’m here.” And so I have been trying to be very diligent about creating content in advance for you that can be scheduled and go out so that we’re still staying in touch that you’re still seeing me. You know, I’m still around. I’m just on a little kind of hiatus for a little bit, taking care of a little human being. You can hopefully expect to receive new episodes of the podcast every two weeks, new content coming out on Instagram every other day or so, and then hopefully some sneak peeks about just life, and motherhood and the new baby.
With that said, those are my tips for getting ready for maternity leave or a big break, but I’ve never done this before so I would love to hear from you. I would love for you to tell me if you have gone through something similar, what has been something that has worked for you, or that you wish you did before you went out on leave? Find me over on Instagram @annettestepanian and let me know, send me a DM, send me a comment, because this mama has got to get ready for this baby, and I can’t wait to actually do kind of maybe like a post-baby update to let you know what it’s been like since the baby has come and the transition back into work. I think will be kind of an interesting episode.
So with that said, thank you so much, and I will talk to you next time.