When I first began freelancing, I was looking for a flexible, part-time work option that allowed me to be home with my infant and toddler during the day.
Nearly two years later, I am freelancing from home full time and expecting the arrival of my third child within the next month.
As someone who took partially-paid maternity leaves from my job working for a large company for the births of my two older children, preparing for maternity leave while self-employed has been an entirely new experience.
Honestly, there were times during this pregnancy when I found myself wondering if taking a leave would even be possible, due to a short stretch of unemployment for my husband and the needs of some of my regular clients.
Knowing how important a little down time would be to my physical and mental health, I began asking around and checking with other freelancers who had recently welcomed a baby into the world.
I found a few helpful strategies for getting ready for maternity leave.
Apply for short-term disability coverage
When you are self-employed, you miss out on a lot of the benefits that come with working full time for a large business.
Don’t be too quick to assume there’s no way to replace some of the more attractive benefits that come with working a full-time job. Short term disability coverage is available to freelancers if you are able to make room for the monthly premiums in your budget.
This maternity planning option will only work for freelancers who are planning ahead — way ahead. Preexisting conditions, including pregnancy, are exempt from short term disability coverage; you’ll need to apply for coverage before you conceive.
To file a claim for maternity leave, you are required to have been paying for a policy for at least 12 months, so keep that in mind as you begin to make plans to grow your family.
Pay for your maternity leave with cash
With no sick days or paid vacation days available, most freelancers who are expecting a child will enter maternity leave without a cent of paid time off.
One solution is to work with your partner to create a baseline budget for your family for the time you wish to take off from work, and to begin saving as soon as you get a positive result on a pregnancy test.
Saving a large amount of money can be challenging if you are already living on a tight budget, but freelancers have the advantage of having a variable income.
Consider picking up extra freelance work during your pregnancy or asking existing clients if there are any additional projects you can take on to prepare to fund your maternity leave with cash.
Work ahead by negotiating discounts with clients
Personally, one of the biggest difficulties I faced when planning for my maternity leave was planning to continue to work for clients who required weekly work, year round.
Eventually, at the advice of one of my peers, I emailed one of those clients and offered a small discount if they would meet with me a few months before my anticipated delivery date to create an editorial calendar for my time off.
They were happy to oblige, and we worked together to plan out every blog post they would need so I could deliver them as a package before I took my maternity leave.
Keep working during your leave
Before you write me off as crazy, give me a minute to explain why working through your maternity is a realistic option when you are a freelance writer.
As freelancers, we enjoy a uniquely flexible work schedule that can be arranged around the demands of rest of our lives, including our children.
Outside of a week or two of adjustment and recovery, you can anticipate spending a lot of your maternity leave feeding your little one and napping. If you are a first-time-mom or your older children are in school during the day, it is totally plausible to squeeze at least part-time work into the margins of your new life as a mom.
In fact, many of the moms I spoke with reported they felt a unique burst of creative energy immediately following their child’s birth and created some of their best work during that time.
As for me, I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of my third child and feeling prepared to take some time off: I’ve set aside a small nest egg and arranged to submit my work for my two-month leave ahead of schedule.
Planning a maternity leave as a freelance writer may feel overwhelming — at least, it was for me — but the use of one or a combination of the strategies listed above should equip you for maintaining your career while caring for and celebrating your new baby.
Parents, how did you maintain your freelance-writing career after your little one arrived? Share your tips in the comments!