Most business owners have a plan for their business or try to have a plan when they go on maternity leave. The thing is, there is a huge element of “the unknown” - what will my baby be like? Will she sleep enough for me to do anything productive? Should I create a routine? When should I be present on social media? Should I schedule my social media and have my blog posts ready to be published on time?..For me, the list went on and on…
I had so many questions and no answers. In the end, I did it my way. I definitely made some mistakes, but I also learnt so much. In case you missed it, all the juicy details are in this post - 5 Lessons I Learnt After Going On Maternity Leave - Part 1 (It’s definitely worth a read!)
Obviously, adjusting to a new member of the family will be a big change for all of us, not just me and my business.
And so, I kept it simple and did the following 3 things to prepare for my maternity leave.
1 | Set a “back to business” date
This was the first thing on my mind. How much time should I take off?
I didn’t want my business to fall apart whilst I enjoyed my maternity leave. I didn’t want to come back to crickets - I’ve worked hard to build my business and I was afraid I would lose it all if I disappeared for too long, but at the same time I wanted to enjoy not doing any work.
So the solution - I decided I would take a few months off, and set “the end of Summer” as the date I will be back to business. Notice I was vague and didn't set an actual date. This was because I wanted to know and see what life is like as a family of 4 before committing and giving everyone - me, my audience, and my clients' false hope.
2 | Communicating my absence
1 | Out of office autoreply
Once I had set my “back to business date”, I realised I needed to put an out of office autoreply in place that was informative but friendly, and so after reading a few articles I put my own one together, here it is:
Thanks for reaching out!
I'm currently on maternity leave and plan to be back to designing beautiful brands and websites by the end of Summer 2018.
I will still be checking emails at irregular times so please bear in mind, I will be around to answer any messages/emails you have but I will be slower to respond.
If your email is about one of my service packages... You're on the top of my list and I would never want to leave you waiting. So, bear with me, I'll be in touch with a reply as soon as possible!
If you're sending a friendly hello or asking for advice... I get a lot of emails so you may not get a reply, but don't worry your kind words will be read and saved in my happy folder!
Ohh yeah, one last thing: All email response times exclude weekends, evenings and national holidays. Thanks for understanding!
Looking forward to speaking with you soon,
I thought this was a great way to let anyone who sends me an email the real deal. And, in all fairness, it also helped me manage myself when I felt the need to instantly reply to any inquiries.
2 | Social media
Ok, so autoresponder done. What was next? Well as I am on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and I have a Facebook page for my business as well, I wanted to inform people through those channels as well. The easiest solution that came to mind was to create some simple graphics and “pin them to the top” where possible which would explain my quietness. Here’s what I shared —>
3 | Email to clients
At the same time as communicating my maternity leave on social media and via my autoresponder, I also wanted to inform my clients. This was a biggie for me as I wanted my existing and repeat clients to know that I wasn’t disappearing and that I am still available to contact, but I will be slower to respond.
This was one of the best things I could have done for my business, so many of my wonderful clients wished me well and noted in their diaries that I will be back, which was not only heartwarming but reassuring as well.
3 | Take a proper break from blogging
I specifically remember thinking I will write XX blog posts and have all the graphics ready so that every week I can auto-schedule the post to go live.
That didn’t happen.
As much as I thought it was a good idea, it dawned on me I was again adding unnecessary pressure to constantly keep my blogging game up. I love blogging and sharing my knowledge, but I also knew I may not be available (or free) to communicate my blog posts, reply to comments or engage with my readers all the time and so I decided to put blogging on hold.
This was really hard to do as I had pretty much written and shared a blog post every week for the past 3ish years. BUT, I knew it was the best thing to do as I didn’t want to damage my brand or business and that was more important.
So there you have it, the 3 things I did to prepare my business for maternity leave.
What did you do in your business to prepare for your maternity leave or a sabbatical? What plans do you have if you are going on maternity leave?