When I found out I was pregnant, one of the first things that crossed my mind was: How in the world am I going to figure out maternity leave as a freelance writer? I know, it should’ve been more baby blankets and bottles than worrying about work—or taking time off of work—but I love what I do SO much, and I work with several clients on a weekly basis who I didn’t want to leave hanging just because I’m experiencing a huge life change.
So, I began looking around and researching what my options were. Obviously, I create my own schedule, so that works out in my favor. But I knew immediately I wanted to give myself at least two to three months of complete flexibility and freedom to be fully present with the baby after he or she gets here.
Even though I work from home and have a ton of leniency with my schedule, I still have people to report to, deadlines, and last-minute requests from clients. So I was torn between trying to figure out a way to still be there for my clients, while also completely unplugging from work so I can soak up first-time motherhood…
And, I found that there isn’t a whole lot of information out there for taking this more “traditional” approach to a maternity leave when you’re an independent contractor. Probably because the truth is, for most independent contractors, when you stop working, your income disappears and/or your clients go away.
Both of which I really, really didn’t want to happen!
It felt like my options were:
- Take a short leave from work (two weeks or so) to get used to having a baby before hiring childcare and getting back to work full-time.
- Or totally scale back on client work and step away from my career to be a more hands-on mom.
And, let me just say: There is NOTHING wrong with either of these scenarios. I think it’s what a lot of women in careers like mine end up having to do simply out of necessity. But I felt like there also had to be some kind of happy medium, where I can experience motherhood fully and still have a business to come back to when I’m ready. (Can’t I have my cake and eat it, too? Please??)
My friend and client Jenna Kutcher invited me on her podcast this week to talk about this delicate balance of navigating maternity leave as a freelancer. You can listen to the episode here or by typing “Goal Digger” into your podcast app and finding episode 398.
It was an interesting conversation to have because, truly (and I told her this), I’m soooorta (?) just making it up as I go. But so far, I think I have a pretty solid plan that will work out in everyone’s favor. *fingers crossed* And thank goodness that I have really incredible, trusting relationships with all of my ongoing clients, because when I ran my plan by them, I was only met with support and excitement.
(Which honestly, I was worried about! Not because I thought they wouldn’t be understanding, but mostly because I know they choose to invest in me and my services, and I didn’t want to let anyone down by disappearing for a few months.)
So, here’s the three-fold maternity leave plan I’m banking on:
Part 1: Hire someone to support me with client work.
I hired my friend Susannah earlier this year when I had juuuust learned I was pregnant (in fact, I think it was so early that I told her we were *trying* because I hadn’t announced to any family or friends yet), and the timing couldn’t have been better. She’d been teaching full-time for a few years while freelancing on the side and was ready to quit teaching to pursue writing full-time. I was like, “Perfect! I will give you literally *all* of my writing work!” (come January).
I knew I needed an writer *that I trusted* to help me work ahead, and to step in to work directly with my clients while I’m out on maternity leave. Sus is like my mini-me in so many ways (like, it’s almost strange): we have extremely similar writing styles and personalities, she’s ON TOP of her stuff, and she’s all about delivering the best for her clients. (Plus, we’re both obsessed with true crime, our dogs, reading, and Peloton… which weren’t requirements for the job buuut definitely make our almost-daily texts so much more entertaining and fun.)
Truly, hiring her was THE BEST MOVE I think I’ve ever made for my business. (I know I’ve only been in business for about 2.5 years, but still…) I think that’s just a testament to hiring someone you enjoy working with and completely trust. Her capacity and eagerness has allowed my business to take on a couple more clients and big projects this year, which I never would’ve been able to do alone. And now that we’re approaching my end-of-year due date, we’re starting to work ahead on client work for next year, which is the next piece of my plan…
Part 2: Get about 50% of projects/work that fall during maternity leave done ahead of time.
Okay, truthfully, I wanted to get e v e r y t h i n g done ahead of time when I first concocted this maternity leave plan. It sounded so dreamy: Finish ALL of my client work for January through March before this year’s done? And just feel totally relaxed and unplugged (you know, minus the whole newborn baby thing) for three months?? YES, PLEASE.
But, after digging into what that would actually look like (hell… it would look like hell for the months of October to December) and talking with some of my clients, it just wasn’t realistic. I run several of my clients’ blogs and newsletters, on top of creating podcast scripts and writing sales copy for launches and any other miscellaneous content/copy needs they have at any given time.
Trying to predict what one client MAY want to say in their newsletter going out some random week in February 2021 isn’t really possible right now. I mean, look at this year as an example… If we’d tried to batch and prepare all of the content for March 2020 in November of 2019, we would’ve been rudely awakened come March (aka, Coronavirus-and-unexpected-nationwide-lockdown time).
So, I’ve gone through all my clients and what they’ll need and split it into two sections of work:
- Evergreen content: These are the blog posts and resources that could be posted any time, no matter what’s really going on in the world. We can prep all of this ahead of time and it’s about half of the client load.
- Timely content: This is, as you might expect, content that is based around what’s happening in the world and my clients’ businesses. We can’t draft this until we know what’s happening around the time this content goes live.
Over the next few months, Sus and I are divvying up all of my clients’ evergreen content and getting it all prepped and drafted. That way, they have some content to work with, and if anything crazy happens next year (Lord help us), it should only take a few small adjustments or edits, if anything at all.
Part 3: Have my other writer step in for real-time client work while I’m out.
The third part of my maternity leave plan is to connect Susannah with my clients (whose work/voices she’ll be super familiar with by the time I’m stepping away, and who all already know she will be my stand-in when I’m gone). She’ll be there to manage all of the timely content they need, as well as any last-minute requests.
(Are you sensing a theme here? Namely that Susannah is, like, saving my life??)
I’ll probably check in with both Susannah and my clients throughout those few months, if nothing else than just to say, “Hey, miss u guys.” But I’m really going to try to avoid doing any project work if possible. Even if the baby is a great sleeper and eater (here’s hoping) and things are going amazing at home, I still want that capacity to be present with my family and soak in that new experience of being a mama.
And if things are *less than amazing* at home and I really need that time to figure it out? I won’t have to worry about anything slipping through the cracks with work while I’m gone, and that is a HUGE relief already.
Post-maternity leave, I’ll probably ease back into work in a part-time capacity and continue partnering with Susannah to tackle client work. John and I will likely hire a part-time nanny so I can have some chunks of uninterrupted time to work. At the same time, I want to be there for my baby and experience his or her milestones and development.
So… it’ll be another happy medium to figure out. But I think it’ll be worth it to continue with a career I love while also being present with my family. At least, that’s the plan! And we all know how plans go… 😉