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How To Prep Your Virtual Assistant Business For Maternity Leave

Michelle Dale - Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The title of this post is a little misleading... From my experience in the past running my company and having two kids during this time, there's really no "maternity leave" as such where you drop off the map for several weeks or months, but with expecting my next baby in 3 weeks I can give you some pointers on how to ease the pressure in preparation for your new arrival.

How My First Two Went...

Just to give you a little background of my experience, before I share my Top 10 Tips...

I've had my children at various stages of my business so with each one, it's been different. Variations primarily include number of clients and team members, for instance when I had my first child my client base was small, I ran my Virtual Assistant Business on my own, my son was born at home so I was able to carry on completely as normal and most of my clients had no idea I had a baby - it was that seamless.

The next child was born 15 months later, during that time I had increased my client base, and had team members which certainly helped, but it was a similar scenario, I had arranged a home birth, but last minute was told I had to go to hospital, however 4 hours after having my daughter I checked myself out (against the will of every doctor), took my baby home and was back tending to emails the same day.

It really was okay, I was a little tired but took it easy for a bit while I settled into my routine. The beauty of having an internet business is that there's no heavy lifting, commuting or set hours you have to be there ;-)

Fast forward to today - my son is 6, my daughter is 5 and my next baby is due any time now. My business is much larger in scale than ever, but surprisingly, I think this will be the smoothest transition because of it.

So what can you do to prepare your business for your baby? Well, here are my Top Tips!

#1 - Block out your calendar

As soon as you find out your due date block out 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after (at least). Babies are unpredictable when it comes to when they'll arrive and you don't want to be going into labour worrying about your 5pm client consultation the same day that's going to need rescheduling.

#2 - Close off projects

As soon as I know I'm pregnant I have a cut off date for intaking new projects, this generally depends on the project, but I would say don't start something like a website build less than 3 months before your due date. What you're looking to do is go over all your current projects and make a plan of action on closing them around 2 weeks (or sooner) before your due date.

#3 - Notify clients

Notify clients of your due date and your plans on how you'll work after the baby is born, ideally you want a cut off date for new tasks to be 2 weeks before the due date, so politely request your clients try to look ahead and anticipate if anything new will need doing 2-4 weeks after the due date and see if they can either get that into you no later than 3 weeks before, or if it could wait until 3-4 weeks after. This should be ample time to settle back into your work routine with your new baby.

I don't stop working after the baby is born, I carry on knowing I've laid a good foundation for keeping things as light as possible, but if you would like to take some time off, make sure you give your clients plenty of notice to make other arrangements, and give them a date as to when you're going to be back to help manage their expectations, or give yourself time to get some help on board for handling tasks and enquiries while you're off. 

#4 - Notify subscribers

If you have regular marketing activity such as social media, blog posts or newsletters, announce a week before the due date that you'll be off for a while. This is so you don't just drop off the map in your blog or newsletter. People will understand why their weekly post isn't coming through or they didn't get their newsletter that month if you do a final "I'll be back soon" notification telling people of your absence.

#5 - Autoresponder

If you're solo have your "out of office" auto responder ready to switch on the moment you feel your contractions, this should explain you're out of the office and will respond as soon as possible. If you have a team or VA helping you, make sure you give them your pre-defined reply to send to incoming mailers, such as clients and new enquiries, depending on their level of experience they may be able to help, or will need to notify the people that you'll respond as soon as you're back in the office and thank them for their patience.

#6 - Working While Feeding

If you intend to breastfeed and would like to do some light work at the same time, a baby sling is what you need, it cradles the baby against the breast, hands free, this allows me to sit at a desk or recline in a chair with a laptop and still work, and feed the baby. It's a bit of working mum multitasking, often the baby will fall asleep and when they wake up, they'll be all set up for another snack.

#7 - Automatic Swing

I've used both a baby rocker/bouncer and an automatic swing, and I'd choose an automatic swing every time. Babies do a lot of sleeping, and that's a great time to work. Set the swing up next to your desk so they can swing to sleep and you'll be able to work while you're sat next to them. You can then easily put fallen blankets back on, put dummies back in, and also when they're awake, sit and chat to them until they need changing or feeding. It's a great way to get some desk time and be close to your baby.

#8 - Find a new routine

One thing you won't be able to predict is your baby's routine. I had 2 very big babies (the third is predicated to be even bigger than my son who was over 10lbs when he was born) so I've found that they sleep well at night from a very young age. But this isn't always the case, so once you have spent a couple of weeks with your new baby, you'll see their rhythm of life and you'll then need to look at your task schedule and work out how you'll adapt. 

#9 - Make Adjustments

Finally try to adjust your business, having a baby will change your life quite dramatically - if this is your first, you can't expect yourself to carry on working as you used to, but you can still create a fantastic business and be a great mum, it's just that you'll have to anticipate things will be different now and you'll probably have to adapt to putting less hours in on the computer.

Think about what needs to happen, and what's best for the business, you and your clients. Is it time to take on a bit of extra support in the business, or could you do with getting a cleaner once a week to come in and take some domestic responsibilities off your hands? Whatever you think will work for you, don't be afraid to try it out.

Obviously, trying to stick to the pre-baby work schedule probably won't work, so be flexible and make some adjustments, for example, do you need to adjust your calendar for starting appointments again, when are the best times to schedule those around your baby, and what hours should you now be blocking out?

#10 - Anticipate and Prepare

Don't try and multi-task all your baby's requirements within your work day, do as much preparation in the morning or the night before as you can for the next day. If you bottle feed, get the day's bottles ready to go, get the changing station ready for quick nappy changes, have lose fitting, comfortable, easy to get on and off baby clothes on hand for quick changes at home. Anticipate your baby's needs and then prepare as much as you can for them in advance.

Embracing change is the best way to ease into your new life with your little one - it can be done, it doesn't have to be difficult, just stay organised, accept help where you can and try not to stress about how things used to be in comparison to now. You can do this!

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Hi I'm Michelle, an entrepreneur specialising in virtual assistance, a digital and real world nomad, and a down-to-earth mother of three.

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