How my maternity leave was my best season for business (+ free maternity planner)

 
How my maternity leave was my best season for business (+ free maternity planner) from Paper + Oats

Babies. Babies are hard. Babies are sweet and precious and cuddly and a blessing, but babies are really really hard. Add maintaining a business, and babies get even harder. BUT, the cool thing about babies is they give you some lead time before they get here. My pregnancy, albeit an emotional one, was an instrumental period of time for my business. I knew I had nine months to build P+O into something that could help sustain a life for my daughter and me. Thankfully I had a full-time job as a steady income and a guaranteed maternity leave, but I didn’t want to trade my paycheck for a daycare payment once that maternity leave ended. So as my belly grew, so did my determination to take P+O full time as soon as I could. I learned a ton about business in those 9 months, and I want to share today some of the things that helped me make the most of my pregnancy to prep my business for maternity leave, and eventually working for myself full-time.

After 9 months of working hard on my business (as well as growing a tiny human INSIDE MY BODY — still such a wild thing to me), I was able to spend my maternity leave truly relaxed and [mostly] stress free. I set up systems and a plan to keep my business on auto pilot so I could spend most of my days snuggling the tiny human and learning how to be a mama.

Before I dive in, a disclaimer: every woman's pregnancy and maternity leave will look different. Please don’t feel like you need to complete a laundry list of tasks in order to be successful. You may have more sickness than I did, you may not have the flexibility to experiment with your business during this time, you may not have the support to pursue something for yourself. I totally get it. Hopefully the things I discuss here can at least spark some ideas and motivate you, no matter what stage of business or life you’re in.

How my maternity leave was my best season for business (+ free maternity planner) from Paper + Oats

 

How to prep your business for maternity leave

 

1. Diversify your revenue streams

This phrase gets thrown around a lot and can turn kind of cliche, but it really is a vital part in my business – always has been and always will be. What it means is this: creating different facets of your business that allow you to make money in different ways. For me, Paper + Oats earned money two ways during pregnancy:

  1.  printable planners / digital products
  2.  freelance work for clients

One of these streams was able to continue on (and even grow) during my maternity leave: digital products. Lots of people call it passive income, and while yes the selling part is pretty passive, the creating part is not so passive! It took me many many hours of work to create each of my printable planning kits and calendars with high attention to detail and a strong desire to keep them original. I’ve been on Etsy for several years, but launched my own website a few months before I got pregnant to move all my eggs out of the same basket and create another stream of income. Same products, just in a different place, that might be found by a different group of people. Diversifying your income doesn’t always mean creating something new – it could simply be multiplying what you already have or repackaging it for someone else. 

The great thing about diversifying your income is it allows for the natural ebb and flow of your business, without it stinging your bank account too much. If one stream is slow for a season (like my freelance work during maternity leave), then another can help pick up the slack (like my digital products which required almost zero upkeep once they were created). As I’m sure you’re aware, nothing is guaranteed in this life, your business included. It’s important to keep evolving your business and making adjustments as you grow to accommodate your personal life and the constantly changing world of online business.

Further reading on this topic:

  • This post and this post about selling on Etsy (and off Etsy!)
  • And this post that shares some other women’s stories about keeping their businesses afloat when their personal lives made them feel like they were drowning.

 

2. Automate your business

It’s no secret, kids are time suckers. If you’re expecting a baby soon, you’ve probably been told already that you won’t have time to shower or sleep, much less run a business. But, guess what? You can totally run a business with kids, even with a newborn. My digital products were my saving grace during my maternity leave. I was off work from my full-time day job for 12 weeks (only six of them paid), and my income from my printable planners was the highest during those 3 months than it has ever been in the entire lifespan of my business so far. How crazy is that?!

Setting up your business in such a way that it’s able to scale and grow without your direct involvement can be such a game changer. You’ll have way less free time with a kid in the picture, so why not make the changes now to set yourself up for success once the little bundle gets here?

Further reading on this topic:

  • This post and this post about some programs I use to help me automate my process and keep it all straight.
How my maternity leave was my best season for business (+ free maternity planner) from Paper + Oats

 

3. Re-evaluate goals + priorities

Fact: newborns sleep A LOT. This leaves you, Mama, with a lot of time to think, brainstorm, and re-evaluate your priorities. Pregnancy and maternity leave can be a great off-season from your business to step back and make sure you’re happy with where it’s all going. Is it going to scale? Is it sustainable during rough seasons of life? Is it fulfilling to me or does it suck me dry? Does it bring me joy or does it stress me out? 

For me, I’ve been slowly transitioning my business to be less reliant on freelance client work, and more centered around digital products so I’m not tied to trading dollars for hours. As a single parent, it’s my income alone that provides for my daughter and me. I tend to make my business decisions based on the numbers – not because I’m greedy, but because this is how I put food on the table. For you, maybe you have a wider safety net with a spouse’s income and you can make decisions based more on your passions or your interests and be less worried about how much money it makes. Neither way is better than the other, it just depends on your current state. Nothing like a major life change like having a baby, to decide if the direction you want your business to go is actually what you want and what’s best for your new family, right?

Further reading on this topic:

  • This post about how I totally changed my business model earlier this year.
  • And this post with my number one piece of advice for creative business owners looking to make a change.

 

4. Huge life change can spark new product ideas

This was an unexpected result of having a baby – new products! I created some of my most popular printable planning kits based on my experience as a new mother. My Bundle of Joy collection includes 4 planning kits centered around pregnancy and motherhood: the Pregnancy Journal, the Pregnancy Planning Kit, the Baby Keepsake Journal, and the Newborn Planning Kit. These four kits will probably always be my favorites because they were born (pun intended) out of a necessity for myself as a new mom. This huge transition in my life sparked new ideas and gave me a new perspective on a massive part of life that I had never been exposed to. Motherhood comes with a whole mountain of new experiences and conversations and priorities, and I loved getting to channel all that new information into products that could help other mothers navigate the same journey. 

Is there some new perspective from your journey to becoming a mother that could spark a new idea for your business? It could be a new product, a service, an adjustment to something you already do, cater to a new audience, or something else? Again, take this season of change as an opportunity to bring something new to the table.

Further reading on this topic:

  • This post about battling the inevitable mommy guilt that comes with being a mompreneur.
  • This post and this follow-up post about how I balance motherhood and business on a day-to-day basis.

To wrap all this up, motherhood obviously changes things. It’s a crazy season of life, and I totally understand if you’re overwhelmed with even thinking about your business at a time like this. But take it from someone who has been on both sides now – I’m so glad I put the time and effort into making changes to my business while the tiny human was still trapped in my belly. Because now that she’s out, she’s way more fun to play with than reconciling Quickbooks… can I get an amen?!


Download my free maternity leave planner!

So you’re due to pop out the little person soon, and you’re probably already suffering from baby brain, so I thought you could use some help. Drop in your name + email below to download a free maternity leave planner to help you plan out those few weeks with your new little one, and what a working mom's schedule and/or childcare might look like after you go back to work. This planner page focuses a lot on childcare costs and planning, but even if you plan to work from home with your little one, it can still be a good way to simply run the numbers and make sure you're making the right decision for your family. Or pass it along to a new mama friend who needs it!


Photos above by Adie Gateley at Salt & Sky Studios


 

Kelsey Baldwin

Graphic designer + blogger providing design resources to help creative entrepreneurs navigate the world of design + branding for digital products so they can share what they know.

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