If you run a business providing services for clients and you live in the United States, you may think that taking time off for a new baby isn’t an option. Don’t sell yourself short! Freelancers are resourceful, creative, thoughtful, and independent. How maternity leave works for freelancers may be different from how it works for someone working for a large corporation, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy it. And really, having the freedom to design it yourself may give you the ability to enjoy it in different ways than those at large companies do. And you will always be thankful for the time you spent with the new member of your family.
I encourage people to think about trying to take maternity leave and parental leave regardless of how they worked pre-baby. If you haven’t thought too much about it yet, here are some things to consider and the basics of how maternity leave works for freelancers that might get you motivated to make it happen.
How much time off should I take?
If you have never thought about how maternity leave will work with your lifestyle, you might not know where to start as far as how much time you should take. And if you think you can start working at home again after a few weeks, you might want to think it through a bit more!
Typical, or “traditional” maternity leave time in the U.S. is 12 weeks, but this is only because that is the amount of unpaid medical and family leave time covered by the FMLA (I’ve got a lot to say about that!). Add to this the fact that only those employed by a company with over 50 employees qualify, and it is hard to understand why this benefit has set such a standard for the entire country. Research and evidence suggest that six or even twelve months is ideal. This evidence is reflected in the maternity leave policies of most western countries, many of which also allow parental leave time for two parents.
All that being said, as a freelancer who likes to do things their own way, how much time should you plan for? I recommend freelancers and self-employed parents take a minimum of 12 weeks following the birth. With additional weeks of leave beginning at 38 weeks into pregnancy if at all possible.
I also highly advise that you lean on the side of overestimating how much time you will need. Infants and new parenthood are so unpredictable and as much as you’d like to get back to your clients after the first month, it is highly likely that you will find that a LOT comes up that will find you wanting more time. Plus, from a business perspective, it is a lot easier to ask for less time away than to extend your leave once it’s started.
Want to know how this can possibly work for your business or client base? Contact me to learn about my one-on-one coaching.
What will I do with all of my time?
First-time parents often want to know what they are going to do with all that time off. After all, three months, or one financial quarter, is a big chunk of time! Freelancers know all too well what it means to hustle, and it may be difficult to wrap your head around so many weeks away from work.
Healing and adjusting
The truth is, healing from pregnancy and birth, adjusting to new parenthood, and meeting the needs of a newborn quickly fill the day. The first several weeks will simply be a matter of recovering, attempting to get caught up on sleep, and keeping the little one fed. Their schedules develop with time, but in the beginning, they eat every two or three hours.
Time to enjoy the process
There is also the priceless opportunity to bond with your new baby while also getting used to caring for one, or another one. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of taking substantial time off after welcoming a new baby into the family for both parents.
And of course, there is the simple matter of getting used to all of the coordination that having another human in the home takes. There is a lot to figure out and learn, even if it isn’t your first child. Make things easy by not rushing them.
Visits, visits, and more visits
Do you have a lot of people outside of your home who are looking forward to the baby? Regardless of how much you are looking forward to extra time with everyone, it is often something that simply comes along with a new baby. Planning visits on top of trying to do work and care for your baby can quickly become anything but fun. You will enjoy it a lot more if it is happening during leave from work.
Transitioning back to work
One of the great parts about how maternity leave works for freelancers is that you can ease back into things rather than being on leave one day and starting back up full-time the next. It is the return to work that often makes things so hard for new parents and as a freelancer, you have the ability to prevent a lot of the drama by taking several weeks to transition, even up to a month.
Want more ideas? Check out this blog post by Pretty Passive.
Maintaining a client base even when you’re away.
One of the most important parts of how maternity leave works for freelancers is that a plan be in place for maintaining communication with your clients and making sure that they feel supported as you prepare for leave and have resources while you are away. This will look very different for different types of businesses and it will pay to think in advance and even get help in coming up with creative strategies. A few ideas that may apply to your work as a freelancer:
- Schedule semi-regular newsletters to go out during your stay. These can include an inside look into your maternity leave as well as helpful information and promos for when you return
- Scheduled social media posts (keeping your social media accounts going during your stay is an easy and important part of being away as a freelancer)
- Courses and content on demand
- Having a VA respond to emails while you are away
- Offering special discounts for clients who extend their work with you once you are back
There are many ways to do this that will be unique to your business. If nothing comes to mind right away, put on your thinking cap and try to think outside of the box. The ability to get creative will serve you well as a parent!
It does take planning ahead and a lot of organization, but the rewards are there. If you have been wondering how maternity leave works for freelancers, worrying that you won’t be able to take time off after your baby, and are already exhausted; remember that crafting your own leave is a perk. Freelancers often say that they love their freedom and there is no reason this shouldn’t extend to your parental leave time as much as anything else.