Dear Aunty B,
My husband and I own a small graphic design business. I have recently found out I am pregnant and I’m getting increasingly stressed about what will happen when I take leave. I only plan to take a month or so off and luckily the baby is due on Christmas Day (not so lucky for the baby), so many of our clients will be on holiday. We have one freelancer who has agreed to take on extra responsibilities while I’m away.
Do you have any advice about smoothly navigating the period of leave without upsetting or worrying clients? I am getting stressed about how some of the more demanding clients are going to react.
Dear Worried mum-to-be,
Congratulations on your happy news. I am the first to appreciate the (often literal) headaches that come with navigating your business and parenthood, but seeing as you’re not being woken up at 3am just yet, it’s worthwhile remembering this should be the stress-free part!
The good news is, with some really good planning, you’ll be able to navigate this transition relatively easy, leaving you to focus on those 3am feeds.
Rebecca Knight recently wrote about the topic of planning maternity or paternity leave for the Harvard Business Review. She recommends writing out a plan for both your exit and re-entry, detailing how each of your projects will be handled and any issues that may come up along the way. If you can show your clients you’ve considered all the possibilities, they will have faith in your ability to take a step back.
I’ve pulled out Knight’s dos and don’ts below and adapted them for business owners.
- Talk openly with your clients about how you’ll cover your responsibilities
- Consider how you would like to structure your return to the office and explore options before you go on leave
- Let clients know how to reach you while you’re away
- Wait until the last minute to find high-quality childcare – research options as soon as possible
- Forget to make a plan for your transition back. Without a plan you could return to either too little work or an overwhelming amount of it
- Keep tabs on work projects while you’re away – even as a business owner, you need to let go sometime!
In my experience, people these days are a lot more accepting of someone’s ability to handle the pressures of parenthood and professional life. Just keep your clients in the loop – they are probably mostly business owners too and just similarly concerned about any bump (literal or figurative) that may come up along the way.
Your Aunty B