January 11, 2016

Mompreneurship, part 8: Maternity Leave

FILED IN: Business

Mompreneurship Maternity Leave as a Small Business Owner_0152

Previously on mompreneurship:

Maternity leave is a tricky topic to a female small business owner because on the one hand, you just birthed a child and your body needs the recovery time and you also need to (and want to) spend time with your new baby, but on the other hand, you need to work in order to make money. In a normal career job, you’d get somewhere between 6-12 weeks of maternity leave. When you own your own small business, you realize that those weeks off are potential money lost. You have to weigh what works for your business and your financial situation.

After having my first child, I realized that I was in neither the physical or mental state to photograph a wedding within 6 weeks after having a child. Everyone is going to be a little different with this time frame. That was certainly my case though.

I had my son in November. I shot my last wedding at 36 weeks (the end of October), and used those last weeks to finalize all of my blogging, edits, album designs, and communication with all of my brides so they’d know my maternity leave plan and how to contact me if something urgent came up. I also prepped all of my year-end tax information so I wouldn’t be sorting through that as a sleep-deprived, foggy-headed new parent. Basically, I buckled down and got my stuff in order. I even pre-designed our Christmas cards and printed out the labels so that I’d only have to insert a photo and have them printed after Henry was born.

For my email, I put an auto-reply/vacation response on for 6 weeks. (Again, I told my existing brides how to contact me if needed during this time.) For all new inquiries, they were told I was on maternity leave until ___ date, but that my 2016 calendar would open for booking in January 2015 (Henry was born November 2014) and I would respond as soon as I was back in the office.

Since I get email on my phone, but can’t stand having an unorganized inbox (see my email folder organization), I created several temporary folders specifically for my maternity leave. One was “To reply: new inquiries”, another was “To reply: existing brides”, and yet another was simply a miscellaneous “To reply” folder. That meant when I got back to my desktop in my office, I had a clear path of how to tackle my emails. Because of this system, I was able to respond to all of my waiting correspondence within the first day I was back.

Since I have the luxury of working from home, even after I was officially back in the office, I could still ease in as slowly as I wanted, especially given that winter is the slowest time of year in the Midwest for wedding photographers. Having a winter baby was perfect for wedding season as I didn’t shoot my first wedding post-baby until Henry was 5 months old. It was pretty ideal. I know that peak wedding seasons vary across the States due to various climates and, more importantly, that you can’t necessarily schedule when your child will be born. My entire maternity leave would’ve looked much different had he been born in August.

So here’s the short tips:

  1. When is your due date? Block off a few weeks before (for non-rescheduleable shoots like weddings) and at least 4 weeks after, 6 if you can (especially for your first child).
  2. Set up an auto-reply in your email and be specific to clients, both existing and potential, about when you will be replying. Inquiring couples are more likely to wait for a response if they know when they can expect it.
  3. Touch base with existing couples to let me know your maternity leave plan and also to assure them you are available to them if an emergency arises. (My brides were so understanding and would always preface their emails with, “This is not urgent! Don’t reply until you’re back from maternity leave–snuggle that baby!”)
  4. Organize you email inbox with some new, temporary folders so you know specifically which emails need to be responded to when you get back. You can code them by type or by urgency. When they pop up on your phone, simply move them to one of those folders and forget about them until you’re officially back in the office.
  5. Rest. Having a baby is a big deal. Forget about work for a while and soak up this little gift. You’ll find you won’t have much time emotionally, mentally, or physically to do anything besides sleep, feed, eat, shower, and repeat anyway. So rest knowing you put in the prep-work and everything will be there for you when you get back. Until then, it can wait.

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