9 Tips for Freelancing and Maternity Leave


Guess who’s due in October? Me. This time, I’m determined to plan maternity leave better than I did last time. When I had my son, Quinn, I learned all too quickly that I can’t do it all. Crummy planning left me dealing with running-late-projects when he was 3 days old. I want to get back to work quickly, but not that quickly! So this time, as soon as I got the good news, I started to plan ahead. And since daycare doesn’t have an opening until January, I’m taking 3 entire months off. My approach has been to:

Freelancing & Maternity Leave: Pay, Clients, Contingencies & More

  1. Stash money away. Since Jill Lynn Design is an S corp and I’m an employee (the only employee), I get a set paycheck every month. I knew I’d need to save 3x my monthly salary to cover life’s expenses while on leave. I also decided to save a little extra for maternity leave pay in case it takes a bit to get business back on track.
  2. Notify clients early. I started telling clients in the second trimester. I didn’t tell everybody—just those it would affect most. Then a few weeks ago, I told everyone on my newsletter list.
  3. Move forward. Sure, I was nervous to tell some clients. Yes, I’m worried that the break will affect business. But it’s necessary. And with good planning, anything is doable.
  4. Set expectations. Right now, I’m booking projects for January. When I took projects in recent months, I realized I could do the design but wouldn’t be around for the development part. I explained this to clients and brought on a partner to handle development—which leads me to…
  5. Ask for help from awesome people. I can’t leave my clients high-and-dry. If waiting until January isn’t doable, or current clients need help with maintenance, I need somebody I trust to fill my role while I’m not available. Fortunately, a long term colleague (who’s amazing!) was willing to be the go-to.
  6. Keep the pipeline running. I won’t be working on projects for three months, but I do want my pipeline to be there when I come back. That means my content marketing machine needs to keep running while I’m on leave. I’m planning it now.
  7. Leave a cushion. I’m wrapping up in early September—just to be safe. Just like I’m saving a little extra money, I’m also leaving a little extra time.
  8. Establish schedules. To make sure everything gets wrapped up, I’ve created strict project schedules that I’m sticking to! (I’m usually more laid-back about scheduling.)
  9. Arrange childcare. Yes, I have a home office. But I can’t watch kids AND work. That means I’d be 50% mom, and 50% designer —neither is good enough.

designer-mom2

Now, I just hope all this planning works! Only time will tell. Until then, I’m going to keep on planning.


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One thought on “9 Tips for Freelancing and Maternity Leave

  1. Genevieve Margherio

    EXCELLENT POST, Jill. Thank you! I wish more women solos were talking about this. Your plan is EXACTLY what I did for both of my maternity leaves. The first one was scary because I had no idea if it would work or what the repercussions would be on my business. The second one was a breeze because I already knew the first one worked out GREAT! My kids are 3 and 1, business is better than ever, and hubby’s in charge of the kids full time now.

    I really appreciate your note that you need childcare. Stigma, begone! I have never worked and watched kids at the same time – as you say, you can’t do two full time jobs simultaneously. If you are running your business well and making the money you need, childcare should be one of the expenses you cover – along with health care, retirement, etc. All the things that a “regular job” would give us. This IS our regular job and we deserve (and need) to earn the benefits that come with it. (Check out The Freelancers Union for more great info on benefits.)

    I’ll offer two additional pieces of practical advice for anyone reading this:

    1. If you can, budget for not just a few months off, but also time to ramp back up to full time (or whatever full time is for you). At 3 months, your kid is still likely to be not sleeping through the night – which means you’re not functioning 100%. With kid 1, I took 2 full months off, then did a couple months of part-time, which really helped. With kid 2, I was brazen and took 3 months off plus some ease-in time.

    2. When you are working while your kids are in childcare, and you happen to be breastfeeding, you’ll need to budget time “off” for pumping. Which can be a significant time investment that cuts into your billable hours. Not to mention throws you out of “the zone” of productivity.

    So go easy on yourself, ladies. Plan for time to ease back in, if you can. With both my kids, I got back up to my usual full time capacity after about 3 quarters (9 months). And there is truth to the statement that once you have kids, you start using your time more wisely. I bill more now than I did before kids!

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