One of the Olive Fox core values is flexibility, and taking off a quarter in 2021 was a big flex! In September, we welcomed our first child (lovingly referred to as “my little kit” on social media. Kit = baby fox). Long before his due date, I was laying the groundwork to take time off to soak in those newborn snuggles. I did the following things to set expectations, have coverage while out of the office, and keep my sanity so I could have a successful maternity leave.
Sharing the News for Expectation Setting
I fretted for quite a while over how to share the news of our pregnancy with my clients and friends of Olive Fox Design. As much as it’s common to be an open book online, I trend towards keeping my family life more towards the private end of the spectrum. However, I knew I would have limited capacity (see boundaries below) and it was important to share expectations.
Client Communication of Maternity Leave
Four months in advance of my due date, I sent each of my current and past clients an email sharing the good news. It also included my out-of-office timeline and how they would be covered in my absence. Luckily, while design is important there are very few true design emergencies!
My email marketing friends would be so impressed, there was an 88.9% response rate to my announcement. The kind words, practical advice, and excitement from my clients were such a wonderful surprise! It highlighted once again how happy I am to run my own business where I can be selective with who I choose to partner with. These warm messages made me excited to share my personal news with a wider audience.
Social Media Announcement
Remember that fretting? It eclipsed my confidence gained from the kind client responses. I chickened out and kinda shared the news. In May, snuck in a sentence at the very end of this post mentioning a maternity leave. I updated my bio where it details my current booking window to 2022. My stories did feature my growing belly and a bit about pregnancy.
In August, I was
big confident enough to share the news on my main feed.
Due to the nature of advanced booking of signature services, my website already had multiple places where I communicate my booking blocks of time. So this was a quick update of my banner, social landing page, and contact page.
Automation for Coverage
I absolutely recommend to any business owner write out their processes and see where they can add automation to their processes. Streamlining and having the use of templates has made a huge difference in both my brand design and paper shop businesses. I was thankful to have most in place before taking my leave and just needed to tweak a few.
Out of Office
Taking a note from my corporate world days I made sure to put up an out-of-office, to be crystal clear on expectations for anyone landing in my inbox. This auto-response included how each email type would be handled. Past client requests and lead responses had one response expectation, while all other requests were treated differently.
Lead and Inquiry Workflows
My enneagram one, former auditor brain LOVES processes and streamlining things. In college, I had decided that if accounting didn’t work out supply chain would be a very interesting major. Shortly after I started taking on one-on-one clients I implemented a CRM to help with the flow of everything, but that is a post for another day.
Because I already had an automated process for lead management, this was already taken care of. That meant that while I was out leads were getting nurtured with little intervention from me. Meaning someone could reach out, learn more about my process + pricing, and book a discovery call without my involvement.
Boundaries for Sanity
The beauty of entrepreneurship is the ability to make it your own. I learned the lesson very early on to set firm boundaries or else I would burn out quickly. Here are the three boundary adjustments I made to accommodate maternity leave as a solopreneur.
Closing the Design Calendar
This was certainly a hard thing for me to figure out because I am a first-time mom and had no idea how the transition would go.
For the start of my maternity leave, a majority of my projects involve deep-dive research and heavy design uplift, so I closed my calendar to new projects 2 months before my due date. In theory. The stars aligned and I took on a fast-tracked brand refresh, subbrand, and 15-page website in the month prior to my due date. It worked out wonderfully, but I look back now and think wow!
My return date was a bit easier, I figured a slow cadence after 3 months would be good. However, because of how the holidays fell, I pushed my return to the new year. I have maintained a lighter than normal quarter one so I can sort out how the parent and business owner dynamic will go.
Popping into the “Office”
One boundary that I set shortly after becoming a full-time entrepreneur was removing push notifications for email on my phone. I realized it was a needless source of stress because I typically didn’t have the resources on my phone to handle the item *right then* it would sit open. Actually worse than sitting open, the to-do would become added to my mental list. So I established the habit of intentionally checking and responding to emails at specific times during the day on my laptop.
I didn’t want to get back into the habit of doing work from my phone and know it would cause me more stress to not check in on Olive Fox matters at all while away. So I carved out 20 minutes 2 times a week to open up my laptop.
It’s so important that my potential clients and I are the right fit for one another. To help determine this I do free 25-minute discovery calls. To facilitate 2022 bookings, I decided I would still hold these calls while on leave. I did reduce my availability to one morning a few times per month. Through each discovery call (except one!) my little kit slept the whole time!
If you are looking to take a break from your business, for maternity leave or for any other reason, I hope you found these tips helpful! Want to chat more about the nitty-gritty of taking a break? Send me an email or message on Instagram.