I’ve been on maternity leave twice. Both times, I’ve managed to keep my freelance business alive.
I’ll admit that in 2012, I didn’t have that much of a business to keep alive. There wasn’t as much pressure on me to return back at the same point I left. In 2016, I took my second baby break. This one was shorter than the first for various reasons, but it was also riskier.
I went back to my business as if nothing happened. In fact, I was able to grow my income.
How did I do it?
Well, I did move country and the exchange rate worked in my favor, but that isn’t the only reason I grew my income. I was able to keep my freelance business alive during my second baby break. This meant returning was like just being away on a two-week vacation.
Here are four things that I did to make the prolonged break possible.
I let my clients know in advance
I didn’t want to let my clients down, so I let them know about the planned time off as soon as I could. Luckily, the planned time off started over the Christmas season in 2015, so this helped to keep the time off for the clients to a minimum. They were already planning on me taking a couple of weeks off at Christmas like I usually do.
One of the things I did was be very honest. I made it clear just how long I was planning to take off and how much I would be available via email during that time. While I was off work, I was willing to check my emails regularly. The last thing I wanted was to come back to thousands of emails in my accounts!
Being in touch didn’t mean I would do work. It was more to discuss any changes to the plans for return and any changes they had in mind for their business.
While some clients found new bloggers to permanently replace me (I expected that), others hired temporary bloggers and waited for me to return or they cut down on the amount they would post.
By letting the clients know in advance, they were also able to hire extra work beforehand. This meant they had the content to post and wait for me to return.
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I set up my email responses
My website was still live, so that meant clients could still get in touch. While I could have put a marker on the front page to say that I was away, I didn’t want to confuse anybody. After all, I still had blog posts going live because I’d scheduled them throughout my break.
So, I decided to set up email responses. I made it clear when I would be returning and even shared the exact reason why I was away.
At the same time, my emails from my professional accounts were forwarded to my Gmail account. I was able to read everything that people were sending me to stay on top of any new potential clients. Those that sounded the most interesting and the ones that I would want, I got in touch instantly and discuss their needs.
While I wasn’t going to return to my freelance business immediately, I did want to make my plans clearer and see if there was an option for the clients to hold out. This was especially important towards the end of my baby break to help build the client base for when I returned.
I always recommend setting up your email responders if you’re going to be away for more than a week. People expect responses within 24-48 hours during the weekday.
I jumped on the job boards
Two weeks before I returned to work, I jumped onto the various writing job boards and reached out personally to a few businesses. This was my chance to put out feelers and find out if there were people looking for freelance writers.
There certainly were. And two weeks before my return was the perfect time to get in touch with them. It would take roughly two weeks for the initial email conversations, deciding if we’re right for each other, and getting the first project out.
By the time it came to returning to work, I was back into my freelance business. In fact, I was better off than when I left for my baby break.
Job boards aren’t my favorite place to look for clients, but they are beneficial.
I also followed the exact same tips as I did the first time round to help get my freelance business back to where it was before I left.
There was also the passive income side of my business. My blogs were still up and I scheduled posts to be shared across my social media platforms to help keep the money coming in. These did help to keep my name out there and to attract people to my sites.
Are you planning on taking a prolonged break? You can keep your freelance business afloat with my top tips above. The next time I need to take a break, I have no reason to worry about it!