As a business owner, how does one take a vacation, much less an extended leave of absence? I have been pondering that very question for years while we’ve waited for our turn at parenthood. Now, as we are on the doorstep of that becoming our reality, I thought I would share with you how I am approaching maternity leave prep for my business.
First, this will likely look different for everyone, depending on your circumstances, team size and many other factors. For me, I’m a one woman show with amazing support when I need it. So, the prospect of taking 3 full months off to soak in our first season as parents is daunting and a bit scary for me.
I’ve read other peoples’ posts about how they prepared*. They had good points, but they have all been in different seasons of business. I’m still working a full time (plus) corporate job and running my passion business on nights and weekends. So, I have two leaves to prepare for and need to get extra serious about what both will look like after baby arrives.
That has required a lot of conversations with Adam and refining the vision behind HHE. It’s also made me focus on needs versus wants and prioritizing more. I alluded to a few of the things I have been doing in my last post. However, today, I’m excited to share 5 ways I’m preparing for maternity leave and our new normal.
1. Work ahead
Working ahead and planning are staples in my work. In preparing for maternity leave, though, that has to be put into hyperdrive! I emailed a handful of wonderful industry friends in July to ask if they would be willing to guest blog for me. I always love to share our friends’ expertise with readers and this is the perfect time. It also has taken a lot of pressure off of me and allowed me to pre-blog more content.
Speaking of pre-blogging, I have been writing my little heart out over here. I have posts scheduled through the end of March, including social media scheduling. I have never worked this far ahead, but I am so excited! Task lists are dwindling, templates & contracts are getting updates, I’m creating a social media image bank and so much more. Since 99% of my business expenses have been paid and I won’t have any expenses while on leave, I’ve also had Adam help me finalize our budget for the year. That means, tax season will get done early next year! Any loose ends that can be tied up this month are being completed. That way, I hope when I come back in January, it will be time to get right back into client focused work and find our new normal without worrying about everything else.
2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!
First of all, it’s paramount that you discuss your plans and goals with your spouse. You will be entering this new season together and should be on the same page about expectations for your family. Next, it is equally as important to communicate what to expect to your clients, vendors, and at every touchpoint for new prospective clients.
I have had my maternity leave dates noted in my email signature for two months. When I book a new client, they know up front that I’ll be unavailable during that period of time. Like any other boundaries in your business, setting the expectations and new boundaries (and sticking to them) is important. This will help everyone involved and allow you to focus on your sweet new darling, guilt free! I’m also very open about the fact that, despite my best intentions and planning, January might be a hard month for our family to find our new rhythm. So far, everyone has been so gracious in accepting and understanding that. After all, we are brand new at this and have no idea what to expect.
3. Systemize and Prioritize
If I can automate it, I have. If I don’t need to do it to have an ROI or value add to the business or our couples, it’s on the back burner or has been eliminated. I should have done this a long time ago more vigorously. I have been taking small steps the last year to really focus on must do’s. However, this leave planning has catapulted me into action!
I already use Trello and HoneyBook for the day to day of my business. Both of them keep me on track. However, there are a lot of things to be improved and areas I still need to automate. So, I started doing so these last few months.
One of the ways I’m doing this is by using CoSchedule! I’ve been wavering about the decision for two years and finally signed up. Let me tell you, I don’t know what I was waiting for – it’s such a time saver! I’m also super visual, so it’s amazing to see everything planned out on all platforms in one view. Once I’ve used it longer,I’ll post about how it streamlines my marketing and blog schedule.
I’m also working on revamping my detailed lists for every function of the business into templates. This will take all of the guess work out of what needs to get done. I have a feeling that this will be a God-send with mama brain in full force! I’m also finalizing our HHE Operations Manual, so that if I need help, I can hand it to someone and things will get done (post coming on that!).
Now, for prioritizing! It’s so hard, isn’t it? As creatives, we are constantly thinking up new ideas. Pruning that list to something manageable and realistic can sometimes be like choosing your favorite ice cream flavor, right? Well, my big list is still there, but I have gone through it with a fine tooth comb and created separate lists. There is one I want to do before the end of 2017, items for 2018 and another for big dreams beyond next year. I will never stop dreaming up new ideas and creating lists, but putting them in these buckets has allowed me to feel less overwhelmed by them all. I’m sure once I get back into a groove next year, I’ll revisit what is noted in which list.
4. Be flexible
I went into this planning process with grand ideas of ‘logging off’ but still doing a laundry list of things behind the scenes. HA! The closer we get to my due date, the less I want to worry about those things. This goes hand in hand with working ahead. However, I don’t want to feel guilty if I do decide to work on some things at any point. Giving myself the grace and flexibility to do what I feel like has been a way for me to not feel so pushed to the ‘finish line’ with that working ahead. There are some lower priority, bigger picture things that I can do when I am inspired, without the mom guilt!
5. Ease back into things
I’m obviously a total novice at this, but I anticipate it being an adjustment coming back from leave, just as it is to step into this new season. So, in addition to the above 4 points taking me through March, I am also setting myself up to slowly ease back into work. So far, that looks like having all of my client work prepped in templates as much as possible, not taking on new projects until Q2 and learning to be ok with slow growth. Now is the time to focus on our new family. I am trusting that everything else will fall into place as we become ready.
Of course, this is what I have done to date. Having never been a parent before or taken an extended leave from the business, I’m hoping it is enough. I will report back early next year on whether I was overzealous or have additional suggestions. What are ways you have prepared for either maternity leave or a sabbatical?
Images via SC Stock Shop