Preparing your business for baby!

Written by: Lidia Varesco Racoma

Like many moms-to-be running a small business, as the big date approaches, you may start to wonder: what to do about maternity leave? When you don't have an employer paying for time off and providing work coverage, it can be overwhelming. But fear not: as a small business owner and first-time mom, I’ve put together useful tips to prepare for Little One’s arrival.

Preparing your small business for maternity leave:

  • Alert your clients: don't feel you have to tell everyone at once, but instead consider each client's individual project schedules. TIP: look at the previous year's timesheets or calendar to assess when recurring projects will occur.
  • Slow down your workload: as difficult as it may be, you may choose to decline projects or pass on to a colleague if they don’t work with your new schedule. Be honest and upfront with clients (and yourself).
  • Determine timing of your maternity leave: this could vary from client to client, based on your relationship, upcoming projects, etc. TIP: You may choose to return to work part-time to make the transition back to full-time easier.
  • Schedule work coverage: if you anticipate ongoing projects during your time off, arrange for a trusted colleague to cover your maternity leave. TIP: contact them well in advance to discuss project details, hand off files, introduce them to clients, etc.
  • Decide how available you’ll be during maternity leave: If you leave your clients with realistic expectations, everyone will be happy.
  • Organize your workspace: organize and purge old files, file work samples, and store unneeded equipment. TIP: Being organized will also help you return to work post-baby more effortlessly.  
  • Tidy up your accounting: invoice current projects in a timely manner and follow up on any outstanding invoices and bills before your time off.
  • Ease up on scheduled commitments: eliminate non-essentials to free up your schedule for pre-baby office preparation. Catch up on business socializing after baby arrives—you’ll be ready for adult conversations by then!
  • Send an out-of-office email reminder: a few weeks before your leave, send an email with dates and details to your contacts.
  • Create a client/vendor contact list for your replacement: if you have someone covering your maternity leave, provide them a list of important contacts.
  • Be prepared for setbacks: take it in stride—but also make sure to remind them of your schedule to avoid any surprises.
  • Tidy up your email inbox: delete old files, unsubscribe from unread newsletters, and create filters to automatically file emails into folders. Make it easy to scan your inbox in a free moment during your leave.
  • Research childcare options: if you work from home, consider whether you'll be able to work with your child/caregiver there or if you prefer daycare. TIPNPN Forum is a great place to get started!
  • Enjoy the pre-baby time: try to take some time to relax, exercise, have some fun—and most importantly, catch up on sleep!
  • Get ready for surprises: babies are not aware of your schedule. A smartphone/laptop and hospital WI-FI makes it easy to alert clients of last-minute schedule changes (as was in my case, when baby arrived 2-1/2 weeks early!)

Lastly, try not to worry. After some initial apprehension, I was pleasantly surprised at how receptive and accommodating my clients were to my temporary (and unexpected) schedule changes. Good luck!  Check out the NPN Moms in Business Group to get connected with a great group of moms sharing resources and support.

Posted on January 16, 2012 at 9:21 PM