Paid sabbatical? Check.
But paid maternity leave? As an entrepreneur? With a team? Ay yi yi.
Y’all have been asking how I’m prepping for Baby Carter, so in this post, I want to tell you what I’ve done each trimester along the way!
Whether it’s extended leave, maternity leave, or just sabbatical, I hope this helps you get prepped to peace out well.
Okay—I’ll just hit it: it’s kinda the ~thing~ to write a post like this, and I’m SO glad others have done this!
The first few months—those months when I was adjusting to the concept that this was really happening (if you read here, you’ll see how uh, this was a bit of a surprise!), but still not able to really say anything—I watched others/read these posts and felt like their maternity plan was so simple.
They were just whizzing through and getting things in place, talking about creating content for 12 weeks, and booking a few more clients to cover expenses.
That wasn’t my experience.
We grew to more than a half-million dollar business, grew a team, and was part of a big mastermind the same year I got pregnant—NOT how I had planned things in my head. I wanted to build this year, and THEN have a quiet, slow year to get pregnant.
That didn’t happen. The Lord is GOOD in his timing, and I learned that my 9 months of preparation were going to be MY 9 months of pregnancy.
More on how that impacted my neat little organized content plan (rriiiiight) below, but I traveled to speak 8+ times, including international speaking and teaching with Creative Live between feeling like I was going to completely lose my cookies.
My natural Type A efficient processes flew out the window. I was exhausted constantly. I needed naps daily.
Again, I want to mention that because I want you to know that this plan wasn’t beautifully executed, but came with plenty of learnings—give yourself grace when you read up on how others planned … they have a different business model than you.
Your business is YOUR business.
That said, please hear my heart: this “plan” below meandered, adjusted, and was ALL over the place …
… give yourself GRACE in your pregnancy and in your business!
That said, reading how others have prepped and planned is helpful.
Just remember that all businesses are shaped differently, business size/team/revenue size makes a BIG difference, and your own pregnancy will make a big difference.
Bottom line, here’s what I learned: with prep, creatives like us CAN take a paid maternity leave.
It just takes a jam-up finanicial plan, a chunk of delegating, and a dash of lowered expectations, wink.
What I Did in Trimester One
1. Decide financially if your goals are still workable
When I realized I was pregnant (aaaand as you noted above, came as a bit of a surprise!) the first step was realizing that the year’s revenue goals MAY need to shift—I totally didn’t want to take unpaid leave, but I also didn’t want to cut back on my team.
So, this meant getting really one-track-mind towards our financial goals. I use Shanna Skidmore’s Blueprint Model curriculum to create our business’s revenue plan and determine what to pay myself: my bookkeeper (heyo, Steadfast Bookkeeping!) keeps me in the loop each month and makes sure all expenses are tracked.
I’m blogging in a few weeks about HOW I actually pay myself, but this was step one. Here are some things to think through:
- Will our client work and launch plans make enough moolah to cover me STILL paying myself and my team when I’m out, or do we need to make adjustments?
- Do I need to build up my cushion?
- Do I want to take any kind of pay cut? What if I DO have to take a pay cut … will we be okay as a family?
- Can all team members continue to roll during leave, or do I need to delegate even MORE time/money to them?
- If you’re fully solopreneuring it, do you need to look into delegating while you’re out?
… I didn’t realize I would need to spend money on maternity clothes/stuff. HA! Told you, I’m clueless. I didn’t realize exactly how big I’d get (or how much more comfy maternity clothes are than pulling your skinny jeans below).
In the second/third trimester, I’ve spent a chunk of change on clothes for speaking and heck, even just being comfy working in, as well as random Amazon orders for things for our hospital bag and post-delivery needs.
Just heads up.
2. Scope out how others have prepped for maternity leave
Re-read the blog intro, ha.
Like I said, I kinda had some issues reading other people’s blogs until I reminded myself every business is different (duh, but I’m slow to that concept sometimes).
YOUR business revenue …
… YOUR solo/team size …
… whatever is ENOUGH for YOU …
… that all matters.
The way other people prepped isn’t gospel truth. Some people can churn out 12 weeks of content and schedule it in a week. Some people have teams where 4+ people touch content and that’s going to take 4 times as long.
It’s ok. You do you, but read posts to get an idea.
These are the posts I found helpful:
3. Tell your team or any contractors you regularly work with, if you have one
It’s weird to tell in that first trimester because you’re still not sure what all will happen, but I realized I QUICKLY had to tell my team—we were a couple of days before a product launch, when I found out. HA!
Letting them know why I was shadily stepping away to sleep after webinars—and just letting them know I may get nauseated in the MIDDLE of a webinar—felt like a relief.
Don’t be surprised if your team or contractors are worried about what the future holds for them—I had to realize that too, and DUH, I would have felt the same way if someone told me they were going on leave!
What I Did in Trimester Two
1. Think or journal through what you want maternity leave to look like.
My speaking coach Jessica asked me this, and I loved it. What do YOU want month one to look like? Month two? Month three?
I went from wanting to being completely off the grid for 3 months to realizing that if I wanted to crack open my laptop and work after a few weeks, it’s ok.
Here are some things I had to think through:
- What do I want those first 2 weeks to look like (ahem—NOTHING! I want to be off the grid!)?
- How often do you want to stay in touch with anyone supporting my business those 2 weeks? That first month? The second month?
- When do I want to be available?
- Do I want to be contacted if a dream opportunity comes up?
How should your team conquer problems while you’re out?
- How will client work be covered in your absence—more on this below!
- What will client or customer funnels look like?
- When someone reaches out to work together, what will that process look like in your third trimester? What about when you’re out?
- When will YOU take back on client work, and how will your team handle client work in the interim, and having it reviewed by you?
2. Start communicating with clients (& followers).
I told clients first, because—again, I’d be working at weird hours and just not myself … I wanted them to know it was a ME problem! I asked them to keep it private.
Tactically, this meant adding a footer to both my email signature AND my team’s email signature, and here’s what that looked like:
3. Begin to get a written plan in place to prioritize tasks.
Okay—THIS IS THE BIG ONE, Y’ALL!
I personally began to write out EVERYTHING in my head in my Powersheets each month (I talk about how I do that here!), and got really big on brain dumping.
Personal, baby-wise, things we needed to do to the house, business ideas … you name it.
I share a brain dump list inside my The Art of Efficiency™ program, and—welp, this guy came from me learning to brain dump well during these months!
Started to make a big list of personal to-do’s around this time.
Same with your business.
Business-wise, I had 2 tools that helped a ton: our Get Shiz Done Asana board that Kate—the integrator/project manager here—manages (essentially it’s our big rocks/goals and steps) and a big content spreadsheet that I made. It walks through each week of the 4 months around my delivery, what content’s going out on what date, what promo we’re in, etc.
It goes in tandem with the one below, so …
4. If you have a team, plan a fun team meeting or retreat.
Having the 2 women on my team that are most involved (we do Traction style over here, so I had Kate—my integrator—and Sarah—who’s all over client relations) fly in for a few days of giggles, snack-runs, yoga pants, and post-it noting everywhere.
I love these ladies so much and how they love our clients, customers, and students … plus, we got to bond!
Kate and I followed Amy Porterfield’s total immersion weekend podcast episode, and then when Sarah got here, we moved more towards following some of the team meeting ideas inside Traction.
Either way, this REALLY helped solidify what our operations will look like, both in the coming year and while I’m out. I don’t think I’d feel at peace if we hadn’t made this investment!
5. Start sketching out the quarterly goals for when you will return
That’s kinda in #3 and #4, but it’s important. 🙂
6. Start documenting EVERYTHING.
Workflows I usually didn’t want to document, I learned I needed to pause and document.
What I Did in Trimester Three
1. Fine tune (and communicate!) your departure date.
It may work for some people to pick a “drop-dead” date. It didn’t work for me.
I just said “mid-December to mid-January” until closer to time—then I decided what date I’d be officially wrapped up with my tasks.
With about 2 weeks before my actual due date to go, I know I’ll feel less frantic!
I also began to communicate with clients, partners, and students at this point—saying often in emails/videos/etc. that magical date when I had 2 weeks to go.
2. Content prepped.like.crazy.
As Simone Biles said in this blog on Think Creative Collective, “write a shiz ton of content.” There’s really no better way to say it.
Emails, blogs, YouTube scripts/filmings, social media posts, and imagery … I followed that plan that we’d pieced together, and started to stick to a really buttoned-up editorial workflow (mostly because it wasn’t going to be me running it constantly any more!).
Foldering system in GoogleDrive screenshot:
Here’s a peek at CoSchedule:
3. Start NOT doing things … and asking for help.
This is tough and I’m learning it sloooowwwly. But I’ve had to realize that when I have those moments of “I can do this quickly” whether in our home or in my business, maybe I don’t need to be the one that does it.
Maybe the person who will be doing it here in two weeks needs the practice with me still available.
Maybe my husband can handle it so I can keep getting ready for leave.
Maybe I stink at asking for help and need to learn to do that. 🙂
I said YES to my church’s meal train, to people offering to mail me books about infant sleep training … just all sorts of things I usually pass up.
4. Tidy up!
This is on my to-do list, but cleaning up digital files, my desk, and spring cleaning a few things will help me feel less stressed when I come back!
5. Schedule out those regular meetings with any contractors or team members.
I know after a few weeks “off,” I’ll jump back in my team’s weekly calls, so I made sure that those are on my schedule (but we all decided that if we have to adjust, we’ll be flexible!).
6. Decide how you’ll share the news.
For us, we decided that while I can handle an Instagram, I’m leaving it up to my right hand girls to get an email out to our list—I don’t want it to come from me … I’ll be OFF! 🙂 I’m glad we’ve thought through this in advance.
7. Implement your email plan.
No matter if you’re the one in your inbox (hopefully you outsource some of this!) or not, buttoning up our:
- standard operating procedures (ex. what happens when a potential client emails? etc.)
… was really helpful.
Here’s the autoresponder I’ve gone with (look at Nancy’s and Kat’s—they were great!)
8. Disconnect and take care of YOU!
This is the fun one. 🙂
Prepare to disconnect, so you can write those final thank you notes, finalize your hospital bag, get that mani/pedi, and maybe do a few last fun things (I’m trying this whole eyelash thing, ordered a pretty new robe, and hopefully getting a foot massage soon for my super swollen feet!).
Nesting also set in, so getting the house super organized made me feel ready, too!
That was a big one. I hope that helps, whether you’re taking a sabbatical or just your first maternity leave as a business owner, like I am.
I’m telling you, going into this with the confidence that I can pay myself while I’m out really makes me feel like a boss.
Blueprint Model has truly helped me refine that financial plan, and I lead a group of women through the program each year. Click here to hop on the waitlist and join me when we kick off again at the first of the year!